The Changing of the Guard 17 – Facing the Odds

Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that  all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents, nor murmur,  as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come (I Cor.10:1-11).

God has set before us examples. Examples of victory. Examples of defeat. Examples of righteousness. Examples of debauchery. Good examples and bad examples.

God has set them before us for our instruction. He wants us to learn some important lessons. He wants us to hear and heed. We are to imitate those who walked before us in holiness and truth. We are to avoid themistakes of those who walked before us in wickedness. The great heroes of the faith are to be our models for godly living (Heb.12:1). The great villains are to be our warnings (I Cor.15:33).

This is in fact the essence of discipleship:  following the example of those righteous men and women who have gone before us, shunning the example of the wicked. That is why the Apostle Paul was so insistent that his converts imitate him (I Cor.4:6; l1: l) and follow his example (Phil. 3:17; 4:9; I Thess.1:6; II Thess.3:9). And it is why Christ was constantly exhorting the believers to follow in His footsteps (I Pet. 2:21), to come after Him (Mat.16:24), to take up His yoke (Mat.11:29), to fix their thoughts (Heb. 3:1) and their eyes (Heb. 12:2) on Him.

Discipleship is imitative (I Tim.4:12). We learn what to do and how to do it by following those who have walked the pilgrim’s pathway ahead of us. They provide for us a pattern, a precedent, a kind of hands-on training program for dominion. They also provide for us very real encouragement.

God’s Word can be trusted. His promises are certain. Our inheritance is secure. The victory is ours, even when we’re standing against all odds. How can we be so sure? Because God has set before us examples. He has demonstrated His faithfulness in the lives of those who have gone before we can have confidence in the future because we have seen His mighty acts in the past
(Rev.15:3-4).

God has given us His Word. And He has matched Word with deed. On such is faith established. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony (Heb.11:1-2). Against all odds, against all hope, they obtained victory. They snatched glory out of the jaws of despair. They hurdled insurmountable obstacles to “lay hold” of the good things of the Lord (Heb. 6:18). By faith they believed God for the remarkable, for the impossible (Mat.19:26; Heb.11:1-40). By faith they “subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Heb.11:33-34).

Though they were mocked and persecuted, imprisoned and tortured, impoverished and dispossessed, they were unshaken and eventually obtained God’s great reward (Heb.11:35-40).

And God has set these before us as examples: Abraham (Gen.12:1-4), Sarah (Gen. 18:11-14), Isaac (Gen.27:27-29), Jacob (Gen. 48:1-20), Joseph (Gen. 50:24-26), Moses (Ex. 14:22-29), Rahab (Joshua 6:23), Ruth (Ruth 1:16-17), Gideon (Judges  6:1-8:35),  Barak (Judges  4:1-5:31), Samson (Judges  13:1-16:31), Jephthah (Judges  11:1-12:7), David (I Sam.16:1-17:58), Isaiah (Isa.1:1-6:13), Samuel, and all the prophets (I Sam.1:1-28; Heb.11:32).

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance, the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:1-2).

By their example we can be and should be assured that we are more than conquerors (Ro. 8:37), overcomers (I Jn. 5:4), and victorious in Christ (I Cor. 15:57). By their example we can and should be assured that the future is ours.

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