“…of whom the world was not worthy…”
In these few brief words found in Hebrews 11:38 we find one of the most surprising and encouraging descriptions given of individuals who are remembered for their faith.
In this eleventh chapter of Hebrews one finds one of the longest discussions on the concept of faith. From the beginning, we understand that faith is the 'assurance of things hoped for' and it plays an essential role in the life of every believer. Following that basic definition the author offers a long list of famous heroes of the faith that are familiar to many of us. Throughout the chapter you can find names such as David, Moses, and Abraham. These great individuals are rightly remembered for their great courage and incredible accomplishments made throughout the Old Testament. And one is wise to consider their examples when thinking through the meaning of biblical faith.
Yet, while those examples are worth remembering, it is only when the author lists out a different kind of hero that he is able to come to the conclusion spoken in Hebrews 11:38. This latter list is comprised of unnamed individuals; men and women who were not heroic in their successes but in their suffering. As Hebrews 11:35-37 recounts, these heroes are those who suffered through imprisonment, mockings, and a variety of forms of execution. These individuals were, in the eyes of the world, complete failures. And yet, according to Hebrews 11, these apparent failures are just as heroic in their faith and, therefore, equally worthy of being remembered.
As believers we should take great encouragement from that reality. Too often it is easy to assume that the type of faith God desires is defined by the grand accomplishments we often associate with heroes of the Bible. But the reality is that our faith is never to be defined by those standards. Hebrews 11 reminds us that faith is, at its core, a steadfast confidence placed in the Gospel and in the future promises given to us in Jesus Christ. The fact of the matter is that God will probably never call any of us to, by faith, slay a giant or rule over a kingdom. He does, however, call us to, by faith, maintain a constant trust in His promises for us and to live out our lives in obedience to His Word.
While this might not result in any grand accomplishment remembered for generations to come, it is the calling of every believer. And if we simply maintain this faith we can not only be confident in the future promises of the Gospel but also in the present reality that God is pleased by our service and that, in His eyes, we are counted among those of whom the world is not worthy.