Genealogy, the study of family ancestry, has gone high tech. Ancestry.com, the largest genealogy company in the world, has over two million paying subscribers who research their family lineage. From over eleven billion online records, researchers and ancestry sleuths can explore newspaper archives going back 300 years, peruse ships’ passenger lists, discover old photos, and explore over forty million family trees. All this to find out something about the ordinary people, the heroes, the scoundrels, and mavericks that are part of one’s genealogy.
Hebrews 11 (READ) pointed the early Christians to their spiritual genealogy and noted that the ancients were commended for their faith. Faith is not an abstract concept but a practical reality that was lived out in the lives of all those mentioned in Hebrews 11. The author of Hebrews points out two orientations of faith: faith looks forward to the future with confidence and hope that God will fulfill his promises, and faith also looks up, with assurance of the unseen reality of God’s presence.
The rest of the chapter is simply a history lesson of people with this kind of faith orientation. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel, and countless unnamed men and women who had one thing in common: their calling and sending by God was under-girded by faith. As we reimagine our place in God’s plan, faith lies at the core of that re-imagination. The lives and examples of these ancients represent our genealogy of faith—and they teach important lessons today:
- Faith means outcomes cannot be manipulated.
- Faith requires a deep trust in God, not self.
- Faith requires a first step.
- Faith means not losing hope that God’s purpose will ultimately prevail, though beyond our understanding.
- Faith is illogical by human measure, but pleases God.
- Faith is played out on the stage of real human scenarios and relationships.
- Faith means results cannot be controlled and they may never be seen.
- Faith assumes a response to God’s call.
- Faith is necessary to live a life of personal holiness, justice, and compassion.
- Faith means trusting the Holy Spirit to work through human weakness, inadequacies, and sinfulness.
PONDER: Which of the mentioned lessons of living by faith do you find most difficult?
REFLECTION or DISCUSSION:
Hebrews 11 is referred to as the “Hall of Faith.” The chapter begins with a definition of faith and then goes on to list ordinary people from the Bible who accomplished extraordinary things through faith. When we are no longer around, what will people say about our faith?