Hebrews 11-13

Today’s reading begins with an exhortation to faith, but I also learned a couple of other things as well.Read Hebrews 11-13                                                 Blog post from 2014
Today I want to spend most of my time on the discussion of faith, because it’s the greatest principle covered in this reading.   But I noticed a couple of things at the end of the book that I must have skipped over before.   Have you ever done that?   You know you’re really close to the end so you don’t read every word as carefully as you did at the beginning.     My eye always sees the “footnotes” coming up (since I am reading from Biblegateway online) and I scan the last two or three lines “so I can be done”.   More than once I have realized that I did this and had to go back and re-read what I claimed to have read.
Anyway, today I noticed that Timothy spent time in prison.   My mental image of Timothy was a fresh faced kid who has incredible gifts but not much experience.    However, time spent in prison adjusts my image slightly.   He might have been young, but this “kid” is a combat vet.   Paul isn’t sending someone out into the field who hasn’t proven themselves in every way.   I don’t know why I would have even considered that in the first place.   Paul’s standards are far too high to have ever done that.    Timothy was no “kid”, and when we read Paul’s letters to him we should probably remember that.
12:15 mentions that they should “watch out for the poisonous root of bitterness” and 13:1 encourages the believers to continue to love one another.  Even in congregations where God is working powerfully and good things are happening, satan can try to wiggle his way in and disrupt.   If I read these verses from the opposite side (inverse, or “outside looking in”) it tells me that one of the ways satan gets into a healthy church is by the “cooling off” of our love for one another.   That is evidenced by lack of caring for one another, which I think in time would allow the seeds of bitterness to grow.    If I love someone and sacrifice for them it seems to me that bitterness is less likely to spring up.   If I serve and don’t love, that’s when I run into problems.
Onto a brief discussion of faith:
Too often I read this passage and think that faith means that I have to accept the truth of the Bible with no proof or evidence whatsoever.  But that’s not what’s being said here.   What the author is saying is that “faith must come first” and then evidence will follow.  For instance, Noah built a boat by faith…but a flood did come and Noah was saved.   On that day his faith was proved out…and that was long before he died.  Abraham left his hometown and traveled by faith.  And he spoke with God several times, and eventually received a son in his old age.  Faith came first, but evidence did follow eventually.  And their faith proved trustworthy and reliable while they were still alive.    The examples go on and on…many more are mentioned here.   My thought is that faith is important because it precedes the working of God in our life.   If we have faith, we will see God do incredible things.   Once we see these incredible things, our faith can only grow…which means that we will see even more incredible things.    If we have a “mustard seed” of faith, it will produce and grow until in time we are operating completely by faith.   Our prayers will be prayed by faith, our actions will give evidence to our faith and our conversation will be salted with the hope of heaven.
We don’t begin our Christian journey with heroic faith, we begin with small amounts, and God grows it.    So, no matter how large or small your faith is today, one thing is true, it can grow to become much larger…and it should.    
Holiness is both a journey and an end-state, neither of which can be realized unless we have faith, and our growth and development will be commensurate to the faith that we have.    I should always be growing in holiness, just as my faith is always growing.