WEEK OF CHAMPIONS BIBLE STUDY - 2019
“WE CAN ALL BE CHAMPIONS!’
PART 1 - PRE-CAMP STUDY FOR LEADERS AND VOLUNTEERS
This pre-camp study is intended for you to do before the Week of Champions begins to prepare you for what will be studied and taught during that week. It’s not divided into days, but it’s intended for you to do over several days, taking time to study and reflect on what God says to you. It is our prayer that God will work in each of our hearts in a mighty way as we prepare to share Christ and His love with the children, including His will that we and they live lives of faith in Him.
The goal of this year’s study is to help the children gain an understanding that they can be champions every day of their lives through a relationship with Jesus Christ if they learn to live by faith in Him. We want to instill in them how to live a life of faith, of simply trusting God with every aspect of their lives and every step they take.
To prepare us to do this, we will first look at Hebrews 12:1-2, which we will incorporate into the study with the children each day of camp. We ask that you go through this passage and narrative and ask God to speak to you personally and apply it to your life in whatever way He wants to do that. Then during the Week of Champions, the daily studies will blend portions of this passage with portions of chapter 11, using a “champion of the faith” each day as an example of living by faith.
FOCUS PASSAGE: Hebrews 12:1-2:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (ESV)
There’s a word in the first line of this verse that is easily overlooked. It is the word “also.” The reason for this word is that the preceding passage, chapter 11, presented what is called “Heroes of the Faith” and the writer is encouraging us to follow their examples of living by faith. These are Old Testament men and women who demonstrated their faith in God and were commended by God for it. We can learn much from looking at them and putting the same faith to practice in our lives so that we, too, can be commended by God. We may desire approval by many people in this world, but when all is said and done, all that really matters is what God thinks of us; His approval will be all that counts. During the Week of Champions, we will look at a few of these men and women and consider their faith that was so pleasing to God, considering what changes we need to make to be able to follow in their examples.
Before we do that, though, let’s break down Hebrews 12:1-2 above and get a firm grasp of the instructions given us.
First, the “great cloud of witnesses” is made up of Christians who have gone on before us, such as the ones discussed in chapter 11, and I believe also includes our family members and friends who are waiting for us in heaven. This should encourage us to press on because these witnesses are already seeing the fruit of their labors and they know better than we do that it is all worth it; they are truly our biggest cheerleaders other than God. This should encourage us to live life with an eternal perspective, focusing on what will matter to us in heaven when our race is finished and with the prayer that we have as few regrets as possible. List below some of the people who influenced you in your walk with God who are cheering you on from heaven even now. Consider what you think they might say to you now.
Second, as we prepare to run the race set before us, we’re told to “lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely.” I believe that “every weight” refers to things that aren’t considered sinful, but those things that we do or we have that end up weighting us down or distracting us from our main goal of the race God has set before us. We’re told to lay them down—an active verb done from a conscious decision. Then next we’re told to lay aside “sin which clings so closely.” If we are in close fellowship with God, He will reveal our sins to us and lead us in confession and repentance, enabling us to lay aside our sins, as well. This also is a conscious decision and an active verb. We cannot rightly run the race God has set before us if we are engaged in sin because sin derails our focus and, therefore, our heart and actions. These two categories make up baggage that takes up precious room in our heart that should hold our love and devotion to God. Take a few minutes to ask God to show you any things or activities that may be weighting you down and distracting you from having a laser focus on what your purpose is. Next, ask God to show you any sins in your life that you need to confess and repent from. Record any note below that you particularly want to “nail down” to remember.
Third, we’re told to run with endurance the race that is set before us. Each of us has a race that God has planned specifically for us. Your race is not like anyone else’s race; it can only be run by you. We’re told to endure the race but it’s a race that we don’t have to do on our own—in fact, we shouldn’t do it on our own. If we have a relationship with God through Jesus, the Holy Spirit is alive in us to enable us to run the race set before us and to give us all we need to run our race in the way God intends us to run it. Our endurance is wrapped up in our faith; as we look to God and trust Him for guidance and ability, He provides all we need. Second Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (HCSB) Ask God to help you evaluate how you are running the race He has set before you and make note of any changes He convicts you to make.
One concept to consider concerning enduring the race is that many Christians experience burnout because they are trying to do the things they feel God wants them to do, but they’re trying to do them on their own rather than allowing God to work through them. Their hearts are full of desires to do good things but they’re not full of God. The answer to this problem I believe is to daily ask God to empty our hearts of any unnecessary baggage and fill us with His love and grace, as well as His Holy Spirit’s power and leadership, and use us as His vessels to accomplish whatever He wants to accomplish. I call this asking God to make me usable and useful for Him. Just as our cars will not run on necessary gas, our bodies can’t run long on a depletion of the fuel necessary to accomplish work of eternal value. Look at your time with God and His pouring into you as the fuel needed to accomplish whatever God wants to accomplish through you. Remember that you’re not working for Him; He’s working through you.
Fourth, as we run the race set before us, we’re to keep our eyes focused on Jesus. Because Jesus came to earth to teach humanity about God, then died on the cross and was raised from the grave and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God, we can have a relationship with God. Therefore, we can look to Him as our example because He ran His race so well and He is enjoying His reward of being seated at the right hand of the throne of God as He watches us run our race. I can imagine the joy that Jesus gets when He sees us running with endurance the race set before us, and I can also imagine the sadness He feels when He sees us getting distracted by the weights and sins in and around us. He knows what joy feels like when the race is run as it was planned to be run and He wants us to experience the joy at the end of our race that He enjoys. Ask God to help you keep your eyes focused on Jesus and His incredible example of following the will of God every step of the way. Try to think of some tangible reminders that might help you do this.
Fifth, we’re told to look to Jesus who is described as the “founder and perfecter” of our faith. Think about those words for a few moments and consider what they mean before reading on. The person considered the founder of something is the one who began it or created it. Jesus, through His victory over death and His ascension to the throne of God, founded faith as we can know it. Then when we accepted Jesus as our Savior, He founded our faith; that was the foundation for our faith. When we face difficulties, we can have full assurance that Jesus can certainly conquer any problems we have. Then as we exercise our faith in Him, He grows and perfects that faith to be a faith that gives us true satisfaction and peace that can only be held by those who have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father. Remember when you accepted Jesus as your personal Savior and note that as the founding of your faith, then consider some things He has taught you that are involved in perfecting your faith. Note things that come to mind here. It would be a good idea to keep a journal of truths God teaches us and ways He grows us, as this could serve as a huge encouragement for those who come behind us.
Sixth, Jesus endured His race “for the joy that was set before him.” Consider these words: “looking to Jesus…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” We have been given the supreme example of what living a life of faith looks like as we look at Jesus’ life and see His willingness to fulfill God’s plan for Him. In John 17 we read the words that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He was crucified. We can imagine the agony He must have felt knowing what was He was about to endure. Here is part of His prayer: “Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You, for You gave Him authority over all flesh; so He may give eternal life to all You have given Him. This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent — Jesus Christ. I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with that glory I had with You before the world existed.” (John 17:1-5 HCSB)
We can get a taste of Jesus’ sheer determination to completely follow God’s plan for Him, even the pain and suffering He would face, all because of the eternal life that would be given to all who believed. This is described in three simple words—“for the joy.” Can you imagine the joy Jesus must have felt when He ascended to heaven and was seated at the right hand of God, the ultimate satisfaction He had of knowing His purpose had been fulfilled? Try to grasp the feeling He must have had when He sat down next to God and knew that because He had been faithful to fulfill His purpose, all humanity could have a relationship with God. He had provided THE WAY to eternal life in heaven for all who would accept it. Take a few moments to wrap your mind around that. This same joy should compel each one of us to fulfill the purpose God has set before us. We must not allow ourselves to get bogged down by the details and irritations surrounding us. If we want to experience the joy that Jesus experienced at the end of His race, our focus must be on Him and the joy that awaits us at the end of our race. In other words, we must live life from an eternal perspective. Consider making the phrase “for the joy” one of the reminders you keep in the forefront of your mind as you daily press on toward the goal God has set before you.
The first time I studied this passage and focused on these three words, I decided to make some bracelets with “for the joy” on them to remind me every day to do what God wants me to do for the joy that I will have when my race is completed if I have fulfilled God’s purpose for me. Think of something you can do to help you remember these three important words, “for the joy,” and ask God to help you focus on the value of the joy you will have if you fulfill the purpose God has set before you. Note your thoughts below.
Before concluding your preparation for the week, read Hebrews 10 for a background description of faith and note the warnings given. Write verses 38 and 39 below.
Verse 39 from the HCSB translation says, “But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain life.” (Hebrews 10:39) This would be a great verse for the children to hear every day and have firmly in their minds by the end of the week.
Before Christ came to earth, people feared the presence of God and only the appointed priests were allowed to be in His presence. However, the blood of Jesus opened up the "Most Holy Place," the presence of our Holy God so that we can draw near to Him "with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings." This chapter also gives stern warnings for those who “trample underfoot the Son of God” and “shrink back” from the life of faith. We should, therefore, take very seriously the instructions to live by faith the path set before us. This should also compel us to help the children grasp the benefits of living a life of faith and the consequences of not doing that.
Hebrews 11:1-3 (NIV) says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” What follows this passage is what has been called “Heroes of the Faith,” those people from the Old Testament who lived out this faith. We will call them “Champions of the Faith.” We should be encouraged and motivated to follow the examples of the great Old Testament saints and we should learn from their examples how to also have faith that is commended by God. May we be challenged to persevere and live by faith so we will receive what God has promised us.
In essence, living by faith is living in full confidence that…
God is who He says He is.
He has made a way for us to have a relationship with Him.
He ordains our paths.
He empowers us to live life His way.
He has a reward waiting for us when we persevere until the end.
Thus, we who have a relationship with Jesus and live life God’s way are all champions! To encourage us as we run our race toward the prize set before us, it is helpful to look back at the champions described in Hebrews 11. We have selected a few of the champions discussed in this chapter to use for this Week of Champions, so each day one of these will be highlighted in the huddle groups and possibly in the large group time.
Spend some time praying for this Week of Champions, and include the following:
that God will bring the children to camp that He wants there
that He will prepare your heart to live out His love and grace to them
that He will prepare the hearts of every leader and volunteer so that God’s love and grace will be evident to every child and parent there
that He will give you the words to say to them that He wants them to hear
that He will draw lost children to Himself in salvation and saved children to a greater understanding of what living by faith means for them
that every child will leave camp knowing they can trust God in every part of their life
PART 2 - DEVOTIONAL FOR LEADERS AND VOLUNTEERS
Hebrews 11:4-38 contains a discussion of champions of the faith from the Old Testament. The first champion discussed is Abel. The faith of Abel was commended by God, as recorded in Hebrews 11:4, “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.”
Abel was the second-born son of Adam and Eve; their first-born son was named Cain. Abel was the first person recorded in scripture to be killed and, as crazy as it may seem and it has continued even to today, he was killed for pleasing God. His brother Cain struck him in a rage of jealousy because Abel’s offering pleased God and Cain’s did not. We read in Genesis 4:2b-6: “Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.”
Let's look at why Abel's offering was acceptable to God and Cain’s was not. There are two key words that provide the explanation and they are “by faith.” Look again at the first few words of Hebrews 11:4—“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain…”. It would be logical to think that Adam and Eve taught Cain and Abel about God and their fellowship with Him in the Garden of Eden. They would also have told them about their sin and how God had banned them from the garden of Eden but had provided for them all they needed, as well as how they then had to work for their provisions because of their sin. (This would be the first and the epitome of the discussion of the “good ole days!). In whatever way Adam and Eve passed along their knowledge of God and their love for Him to Cain and Abel, evidently Abel accepted God’s goodness by faith but Cain did not. Abel took to heart that God had created all things and was over all things and he wanted to please Him. We aren’t told how the custom of making an offering to God originated or if this was the first time for it. Possibly Adam and Eve started this after they began their life in the world outside the Garden of Eden. They had to work the ground to grow crops and tend the animals around them. They most likely realized that God had provided all they needed to live and because of their relationship with Him in the garden, they would have wanted to thank Him for His provision. After all, they had sinned by disobeying His instruction to them and He could have just cast them out and told them to fiend for themselves. However, God is a loving God and there’s no doubt that He gave them everything they needed to survive. Out of their relationship with Him established in the garden, they surely would have wanted to thank Him for taking care of them. So they likely taught Cain and Abel to make offerings to God, as well.
Let’s look at the two men and their offerings. Cain worked the ground, so he brought an offering of the fruit of the ground. Abel was a keeper of sheep, so he brought to God the firstborn of his flock and the fat portions of it. In Genesis 4:4b-7 we read, “And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.””
There is a powerful lesson to be learned by what God told Cain. Read these words again: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” So Abel had done well, but Cain had not. They had both brought offerings to God, so the issue had to do with the heart of each man and the offerings brought, the offering being determined by the heart. Because God approved of Abel’s gift which came from Abel’s faith in Him, God considered him a righteous man.
Matthew 22:36-37 records this exchange between a Pharisee lawyer and Jesus: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This great love that we should have for God provides the foundation for doing well and being accepted by Him. Love compels us to serve, it compels us to behave lovingly, it compels us to love others, it compels us to do all things that God wants us to do. Without that love, we can bring offerings to God all day long and still be found unsatisfactory to Him. The absence of love for God leaves room for sin to move in and take over.
This attitude of love in Abel was the first part of what made his offering acceptable to God. The second part was the offering itself. Out of Abel’s love for God, he offered to Him the best that he had—his firstborn AND the fat portions. Possibly the fat portions were considered the best of the animal because they gave the meat the flavor it needed to be the best. For health reasons, we tend to discard the fat of meat; however, the fat is what gives meat its rich flavor. So Abel gave God more than he would have maybe felt obligated to give Him. He saved nothing back from the animal for himself. His offering was acceptable because it was the best that he had and it was offered out of love.
So now that we know that Abel’s faith brought God’s favor and acceptance, what does that mean for us and how can we have that kind of faith? First, examine your heart and ask God to show you if you really love Him with all your heart, soul and mind. Are you offering your absolute best to God? Are you offering yourself in service to Him out of your love for Him or out of a sense of duty and for the positive feelings you get when you do good works? Do you spend time with God every day because you love Him so much and anxiously dive into Bible study and prayer time to see what He wants to teach you that day or do you spend time in Bible study and prayer out of a sense of duty because you know you should? If the latter is the case, you could be resembling Cain. Record below any thoughts you have concerning this personal examination and any changes you should make.
In our application of Hebrews 12:1-2 to this passage, let’s consider this portion: “let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us.” Abel could have easily made a sacrifice the same as Cain, with a sense of duty or ritual. However, he chose to cast aside his sinful desire and to love God and honor Him by giving Him his best. Every day we have things or activities that weight us down by taking time and attention from what we should be doing or focusing on, and we also have sinful desires that creep into our minds. We’re told to lay these aside and we must do so before we are able to run the race set before us. Abel demonstrated his success in doing this by offering to God what was acceptable to Him. May we do the same.
It is our prayer that each of us serves the children this Week of Champions with hearts filled with love for God and with our service to Him being the offering that flows from that love. Let’s trust God to lead us every step of every day, walking with Him in faith. That will be an offering that will be acceptable to Him.
In Hebrews 11:7, we read this: “By faith Noah, after he was warned about what was not yet seen and motivated by godly fear, built an ark to deliver his family. By faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
Today we will study Noah and what motivated him to build an ark that would spare his life, along with the lives of his family members and all species of animals. This story is told in Genesis 6:5-22:
“When the Lord saw that man’s wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every scheme his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time, the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Then the Lord said, “I will wipe off from the face of the earth mankind, whom I created, together with the animals, creatures that crawl, and birds of the sky — for I regret that I made them.” Noah, however, found favor in the sight of the Lord. These are the family records of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries; Noah walked with God. And Noah fathered three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with wickedness. God saw how corrupt the earth was, for every creature had corrupted its way on the earth. Then God said to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to every creature, for the earth is filled with wickedness because of them; therefore I am going to destroy them along with the earth. ‘Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and outside…Understand that I am bringing a flood — floodwaters on the earth to destroy every creature under heaven with the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will die. But I will establish My covenant with you, and you will enter the ark with your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives. You are also to bring into the ark two of all the living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you...’ And Noah did this. He did everything that God had commanded him.” (Highlights added)
Noah’s great-grandfather was Enoch, who walked with God and was taken up to heaven. (Genesis 5:24) Enoch’s son and Noah’s grandfather was Methuselah, who lived to be 969 years old, older than any other person who walked the earth. However, Methuselah’s long life probably had much more significance than its longevity. The name Methuselah means “when he is dead it shall be sent.” As Enoch’s son, it is possible that Methuselah also proclaimed truth to the people and condemned them for their sins, but to no avail. It should be considered, then, that Methuselah was allowed to live so long because of God’s patience with the people. Possibly God kept giving them more opportunities to turn around and then finally He allowed Methuselah to die and He delivered His judgment on them, the meaning of “when he is dead it shall be sent.” Here is the computation of the fact that Methuselah died in the year of the flood: At age 187, Methuselah fathered Lamech, then when Lamech was 182, he fathered Noah. When Noah was 600, the flood came. The total of these numbers is 969. This should remind us that God does have patience with us but that He also has a limit and judgment will come if we don’t obey Him.
Noah was surrounded by wickedness and evil, yet he did not succumb to its so-called pleasure and chose instead to live a life of righteousness made possible only by his walk with God. What a great example of obedience we see in Noah as he followed a plan that made no sense to the world around him, maybe not even to him. Yet he obeyed. It is not likely that God will ask you to build an ark, but if you truly are a child of His, He will ask you to do the things He has planned for you to do. How do you hear Him?
Think about how the leadership of a company meets in the mornings to set the plan and the goals for the day. The leader, at the end of the meeting, entrusts those under him to carry out the plan that was carefully assimilated to meet the goals of the company. Now think about your Bible study and prayer time in the morning in a similar light. Before you begin the busyness of the day, you spend time allowing God’s Holy Spirit to pour His truth into your heart and mind, giving you clear instruction as to how you’re to act and for ways He wants to use you through the day. No, He probably won’t tell you what will happen that day, but He will fill you with what you need to handle whatever comes your way and, if you’re sensitive to His leadership throughout the day, He will guide you every step of the way. If you have filled your heart and mind with His Word, you will have wisdom to see things from His perspective rather than your own and you will have the power to act and react in supernatural ways rather than ways of the flesh.
When is the last time you knew God spoke to you? If it wasn’t recent, maybe you’re not spending the quality time with Him that you should. If we walk with God as Noah did, we will hear His voice, His commands and instructions and we will be used by God to accomplish the purpose He has set before us.
Notice the words of Hebrews 11:7 that say that Noah built the ark and by faith he condemned the world and thus became an heir of the righteousness of God. If we align ourselves with God, partaking of His righteousness, we will look much different from the world. However, it’s not enough to just look different. We must tell others why we look different. No doubt, when people asked Noah why he was building the ark and he told them God was going to flood the earth, they mocked and ridiculed him. In the end, though, they would have given anything to be on that ark. We may face mocking and ridicule, but we still must tell others that God lives, that Jesus paid the price for their sins and that they, too, can have a relationship with Him. We must share with them that God wants us all to experience the abundant life that He offers. Along with that, we also must stand strong against sin. We cannot be silent and expect God to use us to change the world. Christians have been silent for far too long. We can lovingly stand against sin; we shouldn’t display the hatefulness that we see too often—we should contrast that with a firm stand out of love and a desire for people to know God.
In our application of Hebrews 12:1-2 to Noah’s life, we see a fabulous example of the instruction to “run with endurance the race that lies before us.” Noah persevered through all the difficulties of building the ark in the midst of much ridicule. Just as Noah did not give up, we must also run with the endurance the race that lies before us, not giving in to physical, mental or emotional hardship, but depending instead on strength that comes from God’s Holy Spirit living in and working through us. He doesn’t call us to endure on our own. Second Peter 1:3 tells us, “His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”
Ask God to speak His truth to you today and guide you every step of the day. Meditate throughout the day on these words from Genesis 6:22—“And Noah did this. He did everything that God had commanded him.” Ask Him to use you to influence the children you work with today to walk with God and develop a life of faith.
Today we will look at Abraham, the man whom God said He would make into a great nation. Hebrews 11:8-10 says this:
“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, coheirs of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
Once again, the words “by faith” preceded the name of the person God highlighted to be a display of His glory and a recipient of His blessing. Let’s look at the passage from Genesis 12:1-7, which recounts this story.
“The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you. So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated, and the people he had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the site of Shechem, at the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your offspring.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.” (Highlight added)
Abraham obeyed God when He told him to go to a foreign land and, although we may not think that much about this move in our mobile culture, in that time moving was quite the ordeal. At that time, Abraham lived in Ur and God told him to go to Canaan, which was 700 miles to the west to the land called Canaan. Ur was the capital city of more than 100,000 inhabitants and it was a place of great beauty. So Abraham left a beautiful city of great wealth with his goods packed into carts pulled by oxen and headed toward a foreign land he knew very little about.
Abraham evidently didn’t ask God why and he didn’t ask questions; he simply obeyed and his simple obedience came from his complete faith in God. When is the last time you heard God tell you to do something? Did you obey? Did you ask “why”? God doesn’t often give us such large commands as He gave Abraham, but the small commands He gives us are every bit as important to Him. Luke 16:10 says, “Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.” So any command God gives us demands our obedience if our desire is to be used by Him. If we are walking with God, we should hear his commands and have that same response of simple obedience that Abraham had. If you do not hear God speaking to you, perhaps you need to examine your heart to see if there might be a spirit of disobedience that is blocking your fellowship with God. As loving and gracious as God is, He does not bless disobedience. He punishes it, He withdraws His blessing from us and sends His correction. The only acceptable response to God’s convicting us when we have disobeyed Him is humble confession and repentance. Remember that incomplete obedience is disobedience.
One very important facet of this story is that Abraham looked forward to his future home in heaven as described in Hebrews 11:9 and10, which says, “By faith he stayed in the land of promise…for he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” This gives us the motivation for Abraham’s obedience—because of his faith in God, he knew that life in the presence of God awaited him after his earthly life. That should motivate us, as well. We should live life from an eternal perspective, considering how we think we will look at things from heaven one day.
One more piece of Abraham’s story that we must include lest you think that Abraham was a perfect man who consistently obeyed God, never making a mistake, is that he was not sinless. He did make mistakes. One was that when Sarah had given up on God’s promise to give them a child and devised her own plan, Abraham agreed and took Hagar as his wife and had Ishmael as a result. However, God in His sovereignty did not give up on Abraham. This should encourage us that God is longsuffering and patient; He will watch us as we try to do things our way and wait patiently for us to finally be ready to do it His way. He will also forgive us for the mistakes we make along the way. Have you ever known that God wanted you to do something His way, but you devised your own plan to accomplish what you thought would be acceptable to Him? If so, how did it work out for you? What did you learn from it?
Write any thoughts that God has spoken to you in this study and any action you feel you should take.
In our application of Hebrews 12:1-2 to Abraham’s obedience, consider this phrase: “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfector of our faith.” Even though Jesus had not come to earth yet, Abraham’s eyes were on the heavenly kingdom that awaited him after his physical life was over, as seen in these words from Hebrews 11:10—“For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” As we run our race, our eyes must also be focused on this eternal perspective and the One who has already conquered physical life and death in the completion of His purpose.
Meditate on these words of Genesis 12:1 and 4: “Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you…So Abram went as the Lord had told him.” Determine to be obedient today to God’s direction in every area of your life, responding to His voice with simple obedience.
Today our champion is Sarah, Abraham’s wife. By faith, she bore a child, Isaac, to Abraham when she was 91 years old. Hebrews 11:11 says:
“By faith even Sarah herself, when she was unable to have children, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she considered that the One who had promised was faithful.”
In Genesis 21:1-3, we read these words:
“The Lord came to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time God had told him. Abraham named his son who was born to him — the one Sarah bore to him — Isaac.”
Remember that God first promised a child to Abraham and Sarah when he was 75 years old. Then God made the promise again a few years later, and yet Abraham and Sarah still did not have a child. When Abraham was 85 years old, Sarah evidently got tired of waiting on God, so she concocted her own plan to use one of her servants to produce the child she and Abraham wanted. Lest we are too quick to be critical of Sarah, we should consider that she could have felt the weight of her barrenness, feeling she had let Abraham down by not conceiving. She did, however, acknowledge that the Lord had not given her a child. Possibly wanting to see God’s promise to Abraham fulfilled, though, she decided that the promise may not have been that the child had to come by her, but that the child could come through another woman. We all know that did not play out exactly as she had planned, just as our plans don’t for us when we veer off of God’s path.
Then when Abraham was 99, God once again promised him an heir and this time He included Sarah in the promise, as we see in Genesis 17:1-6:
“When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him, saying, ‘I am God Almighty. Live in My presence and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly…you will become the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you…As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai, for Sarah will be her name. I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she will produce nations; kings of peoples will come from her.’”
Not long after the previous message from God recorded above from Genesis 17, we’re told that God appeared to Abraham once again, as recorded in Genesis 18. In verses 10-15 we read a portion of this conversation as follows:
“The Lord said, ‘I will certainly come back to you in about a year’s time, and your wife Sarah will have a son!’ Now Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent behind him. Abraham and Sarah were old and getting on in years. Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. So she laughed to herself: ‘After I have become shriveled up and my lord is old, will I have delight?’ But the Lord asked Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Can I really have a baby when I’m old? ’ Is anything impossible for the Lord? At the appointed time I will come back to you, and in about a year she will have a son.’ Sarah denied it. ‘I did not laugh,’ she said, because she was afraid. But He replied, ‘No, you did laugh.’”
Is it not human to sometimes feel God leading us in a certain direction or hear His voice telling us to do something and we either become afraid or laugh, thinking that could not be possible, God would not be doing that because we’re not to able to do it? If we listen to him, the evil one will use our humanness to fool us into thinking we’re not good enough, we’re too old, we’re not qualified, etc. and discourage us from being obedient. That’s why it’s so good to study the people whom God worked through over all the ages and see Him accomplish great things through them in spite of their frailties. He can do the same through us if we will simply trust Him.
Notice the reason that Sarah received power to conceive and bear a son at such an old age and was, therefore, commended by God. It is given at the end of Hebrews 11:11—“since she considered that the One who had promised was faithful.” Sarah had faith because she had learned that God was faithful. This is the very foundation of our relationship with God and our belief system.
In light of Sarah’s age and her mistake with Hagar, it is interesting that this passage says, “By faith even Sarah…” God conquered a physical barrier for Sarah to bear a child at her age and He also conquered a spiritual barrier because she had sinned when she took matters into her own hands in the situation with Hagar. So we see an example of God doing what looks physically impossible and spiritually unlikely. We should take special note that we can still be used of God even if our situation looks hopeless and even if we have made mistakes in the past. AND we should remember that age is not a reason for not doing anything God asks us to do. As long as we have breath, we have a God-given purpose and a promise of forgiveness. God is always ready and willing to use us and to forgive us when we humbly confess our sins, repent and acknowledge Him as our Lord. If you ever question your usefulness, remind yourself of these words: “By faith even Sarah” and replace Sarah’s name with yours, remembering that God can overcome anything that looks like an impossibility to us.
Think of the miracle that was and the proof it even yields today that God has the plan and He alone will carry it out in His time and His way. If we could only be patient and wait on Him, we would be so much better off and so much more useful to Him. I’ve often thought it would be so nice if we were given a road map of our lives and we knew everything that was going to happen. However, that would take away the likelihood of our trusting God and would not give us life as God intended. He simply wants us to walk this life day by day, trusting Him with every step. Spend a few moments evaluating your trust in God. Are you able to hear God directing you and follow His steps, making sure to do your part and trusting Him to do His? Or do you take things into your own hands and try to make sure they work out like you want them to work out? Ask God to search your heart and show you any changes you need to make in order to live out the reality that God truly is faithful and to make your heart’s desire to respond in faithfulness to Him.
In our application of Hebrews 12:1-2 to Sarah’s obedience, consider this phrase: “who for the joy that lay before Him.” Pay special attention to the words for the joy. Sarah was blessed with the joy of a son because she trusted God, and she was also blessed with the joy of having fulfilled God’s plan for her life because she endured through all the years as she waited on God. We, too, should focus on “for the joy” as we run our race because of the joy we will have when we have fulfilled that purpose.
Meditate today on this part of Hebrews 11:11: “By faith even Sarah herself, when she was unable to have children, received power to conceive offspring…” and commit to God your willingness to trust Him and wait on Him to fulfill His plan for every day of the rest of your life.
We conclude our study of champions with a look at Moses, comparing God’s delivery of His people from the bondage of the Egyptians to His desired delivery of all humanity from the bondage of sin and also the delivery of His people from worry and stress to a life of obedience, faith and great joy.
Moses’ story begins with the faith of his parents who refused to see their son thrown into the Nile. In Hebrews 11:23 we read the following:
“By faith, after Moses was born, he was hidden by his parents for three months, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they didn’t fear the king’s edict.
To help us understand the background of Moses’ story, we will look at Exodus 1:8-22. You remember that God had blessed Joseph in Egypt after his brothers sold him, as he had gained favor with the king, and then his family had ended up there because of the famine in their land. Then things changed in Egypt toward the end of Joseph’s life and he could foresee his people leaving Egypt and returning to Canaan. As he was dying, he asked his family to take his bones with them when they left Egypt. Exodus 1:8-22 records this after Joseph died:
“A new king, who had not known Joseph, came to power in Egypt. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and powerful than we are. Let us deal shrewdly with them; otherwise they will multiply further, and if war breaks out, they may join our enemies, fight against us, and leave the country.” So the Egyptians assigned taskmasters over the Israelites to oppress them with forced labor. They built Pithom and Rameses as supply cities for Pharaoh. But the more they oppressed them, the more they multiplied and spread so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. They worked the Israelites ruthlessly and made their lives bitter with difficult labor in brick and mortar and in all kinds of fieldwork. They ruthlessly imposed all this work on them. Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you help the Hebrew women give birth, observe them as they deliver. If the child is a son, kill him, but if it’s a daughter, she may live.” The Hebrew midwives, however, feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt had told them; they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this and let the boys live? ” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before a midwife can get to them.” So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied and became very numerous. Since the midwives feared God, He gave them families. Pharaoh then commanded all his people: “You must throw every son born to the Hebrews into the Nile, but let every daughter live.””
Moses’ parents were Israelites who had been taught about God and they must have known that He would take care of their son. They hid him for three months, but scripture tells us that when they felt they could no longer hide him, his mother made a papyrus basket and coated it with asphalt and pitch, then placed it among the reeds in the Nile River. Moses’ sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. Pharoah’s daughter and other young women went to the Nile to bathe and saw the basket, then discovered Moses. Pharoah’s daughter decided to take the baby and she allowed Moses’ mother to care for him until he became a certain age, at which time he moved to the palace and lived among royalty. So we see that God delivered Moses’ life through the actions of Pharoah’s daughter. How ironic this is, now that we know the whole story of Moses’ life. God worked through a person who most likely did not believe in Him, Pharoah’s daughter, to carry out His plan of protecting and delivering his people and it started with the faith of Moses’ parents.
In Hebrews 11:24-26 we read the following:
“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short-lived pleasure of sin. For he considered the reproach because of the Messiah to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, since his attention was on the reward. By faith he left Egypt behind, not being afraid of the king’s anger, for Moses persevered as one who sees Him who is invisible. By faith he instituted the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch the Israelites. By faith they crossed the Red Sea as though they were on dry land. When the Egyptians attempted to do this, they were drowned.”
There are too many details of God’s deliverance of his people to list them here, but suffice it to say that God performed acts such as the parting of the Red Sea, the provision of manna from heaven, the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night to protect, guide and meet all the needs of the Israelites. That very same God lives in the hearts of every Christian today and He wants to perform mighty acts within and through us if we will have faith in Him, relinquishing control of our lives to Him and trusting Him to use us.
Moses did what God commanded him and experienced incredible leadership of God in the details of moving this great throng of people out of Egypt and through the wilderness. Even though he did not get to lead them into the earthly Canaan, he received the fulfillment of the promise of heavenly Canaan when he entered eternity.
There’s a phrase in the middle of the above passage that says, “By faith he left Egypt behind.” Now, ask God if there is anything you need to leave behind…this could be anything from an attitude or belief to a job or a location. After taking a few moments in self-evaluation, complete this sentence and fill in the blanks: By faith _________________ left ____________________________ behind, not being afraid of what anyone else thinks or does, for ________________________ will persevere as one who sees Him who is invisible.
Considering the faith and courage of Moses’ parents and seeing how it was passed on to Moses through their teaching and God’s working in his heart, think about how you are passing along your faith to your children and grandchildren. Be diligent in teaching them about God and how to have faith in him. If your faith is strong, they will see the evidence of it, but they still need to hear you talk about it.
In our application of Hebrews 12:1-2 to Moses’ obedience, consider this words: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin…and run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Look back at the words, “let us also.” The task that was before Moses when he made the decision to obey God and lead the Israelites out of Egypt encompassed all the commands of these two verses. We are told to fulfill our purpose just as Moses fulfilled his. We each have a race that is unique to us, but we each have the same responsibility for running it according to God’s commands. May we be as faithful as Moses and these other great saints were.
It is our prayer that this study has encouraged each of us to exercise our own faith in God and to live a life of continually trusting Him for guidance, power and provision so that we will experience the same commendation that these great saints received. How great it will be to hear one day, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” And that is possible if we will “lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us (and) run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”
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