“By faith”. Say this phrase to anyone who knows their bible a bit and they will immediately think of this chapter from today’s reading, Heb 11. It is a famous litany of the heroes of the faith, a quick tour through all of biblical history stopping at famous names to remember their stories.
But while many see this as a list of heroes, there is a deeper point made here, and it is locked in to the phrase we began with, “by faith”. What makes these people heroes is not their valiant deeds, their unwavering belief, or their godly obedience. What makes these people heroes is that they acted in spite of their lack of proof. It is their trust in God’s promise that makes them heroes. If you read their full stories, you will find that they fail, fall, and fool around regularly. Abraham is the ultimate example of Old Testament faithfulness, yet it is primarily because of one event – leaving his home at God’s bequest to go to a strange land. That’s about it. He doubts God’s ability to supply an heir, goes to battle for his own desires, and sleeps around. Sure, his faith makes him willing to sacrifice his own son for God, but this is after a lifetime of disappointing Him.
What if being declared righteous in God’s eyes only took one faithful action? The rest of your life could be a wasteland, but one righteous act puts you in the Heroes Hall of Fame. What would that look like for you? Would it mean that you could go ahead an live selfishly, sinfully, and filled with doubt as long as you did the one thing, so it felt like freedom? Or would you feel like you never knew which act of faithfulness was needed, so it felt like a burden? Or would you feel like your dark and painful past could still be redeemed, so it felt like hope?
Our goal is not to get into the Hall of Fame, or even to please God with our righteousness, even just once. Our goal is a complete change of heart, so that our everyday activities were righteous. But maybe we can start today with just one act of righteousness.