These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Hebrews 11:39-40 (NIV, 1984)
The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is familiar to many as being “God’s Hall of Faith.” Rightly so, for it contains brief summaries of the exploits of Old Testament characters who were famous for their willingness to follow God regardless of their circumstances. Abraham, Noah, Joseph, and Moses are just a few of the notable characters who, though possessing common human weaknesses, trusted God to accomplish what was only possible with His help. As the chapter progresses, names are mentioned, but their acts of faith are less specific. By the end of the chapter, there are only nameless heroes who refused to abandon their faith in God.
For most, there were moments of victory and glimpses of glory that helped to balance the suffering they may have experienced along the way. For others, there was no “15-minutes-of-fame,” but only suffering in silence for the courageousness of their faith. However, the one thing they ALL had in common was the truth of the verses above—NONE of them received the full measure of God’s promise of glory. In fact, they will not fully comprehend what God promised until they witness it with us when we ALL see Him face to face.
Nothing encourages our soul and bolsters our faith quite like understanding that others have faced greater obstacles than we have and yet managed to not give up regardless of the cost. Even though they are long gone, I believe that the result of their faith is still being determined as they continue to impact our lives today. I do not necessarily believe that the “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned in the next chapter are the saints in heaven “looking down on us,” but are rather the lingering effects of their “witness.” Their witness continues to remind us that when we fall, God is always with us giving us the strength to get up and press on!