In some ways, we’re not so different from the recipients of the book of Hebrews.
They’d believed in Jesus, but they were wavering in their obedience. Their circumstances were different: they seemed to be in danger of drifting back to a form of Judaism. But we should be able to relate. We’re always in danger of drifting from Jesus to lesser things.
That’s why I find Hebrews 13:7 so powerful. “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”
Honestly, I’m scared to look to human leaders as an example. So many have disqualified themselves. I’ve been disappointed a few times that someone isn’t who they appeared to be.
But, based on the past tense in this verse, Hebrews 13:7 may be about leaders who’ve already died. History is full of examples of faithful men and women who’ve gone before us and served God faithfully.
Sometimes it’s safer to imitate those who’ve finished their races, who are no longer in danger of disqualifying themselves. That’s the beauty of a chapter like Hebrews 11: we have so many to choose from. So many have gone before us. Pick a few, consider how they lived, and imitate them.
We can do this in at least a couple of ways.
Make a List of Examples
I’ve created a document on my computer called “Examples.” I’ve got four men and women listed there, two who are still alive and two who’ve already died. They’re all different, but I’ve listed things about them I admire. They’re all way ahead of me in terms of both age and character. I want to be like them.
The thing that amazes me about these individuals is that they’ve lived decades more than I have, and yet they’ve stayed faithful. Honestly, the older I get, the more I realize the importance of endurance, and how easy it is to not endure. When I get tired, I look at this list and I’m encouraged. They were able to stay faithful over a much longer race than the one I’ve run so far; with God’s help, I can stay faithful too.
Who’s older than you that you admire? Who’s already died and, as far as you can tell, finished their lives with qualities you admire? Make a list. Include their pictures. Reflect on them. Ask God to allow you to remain faithful like them.
I also find it helpful to read biographies. One of the first that I read was Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore. Since then I’ve read many more, including some of my favorites: Walking with the Giants by Warren Wiersbe, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Iain Murray, A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards by George Marsden, and more. One easy place to start is with the free biographical sketches offered by John Piper.
We need examples. Find living ones, but especially look for dead ones. Learn from their lives. Let them encourage you. Whenever you start to waver, remember them, consider their way of life, imitate their faith, and with God’s help, just keep going.