The first time an older woman invited me to meet with her, I was so grateful. She helped me learn about life as a new Christian.
A couple years later she asked if I’d be willing to lead a Bible study for her—I wept that she thought I could. Coming alongside her as she modeled teaching and leading women taught me so much.
But what taught me the most was walking with her through the death of her son. As the biblical truths she’d been passing on to me shined through her life, I saw firsthand what it means to walk by faith and not by sight.
Many are familiar with the list of men and women in Hebrews 11, who long ago lived by faith in a God they couldn’t see. They conquered lands and shut the mouths of lions. Some were saved from the sword, and others—by that same, strong faith—died by the sword.
Frankly, it’s not a group we’d always want to join. Their families were messy. Their failures and struggles are recorded for all to read. But they also give us hope by showing a loving God who perseveres with weak sinners. Mostly, I viewed the heroes of Hebrews 11 from a distance—until the day I encountered Hebrews 13:7: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God.”
Show Your Life
I realized the author is talking about regular people like you and me, who lead and teach others. Perhaps you’re the one leading Bible studies and discipling young believers. Maybe little ones are sitting at your feet on Sunday morning while you tell them of those men and women of faith. Or, maybe you’re at the Little League game next to someone who opens up to you about her marital struggles. Younger believers look to older believers and Hebrews 13:7 provides an important reminder: “Consider the outcome of their life and imitate their faith.”
Those who follow our lead need more than tips and techniques. They are watching our lives. They want to see if we’ve ever faced what’s causing them frustration, or if we too got lost in the chaos of choices for our kids. They struggle with past shame and future fears. And though they have God’s Word as a testimony of those who’ve gone before, they’re wondering if they can believe it for themselves today.
This is where we come into their story. We bridge the gap between long ago and just a few years back. We show them God strengthens his people today just as he did in ancient times. We share specific ways we’ve seen him work in the past. But we also do something more.
Show Your Struggles
We must allow younger believers to see our current struggles, too. This means acknowledging the sinful desires that still wage war against our soul, as well as the fears that threaten to overwhelm us as dreams for tomorrow fade. When we shed tears of grief over loved ones’ choices—yet with a glimmer of hope in our eyes—we demonstrate that walking by faith is a daily reality, not a final destination.
Walking by faith is a daily reality, not a final destination.
It’d be a lot less risky to show others only the cleaned-up version of our families, to let them think we’ve found the magic formula for successful marriages and ministries to people who never cause us pain. But to do so would prevent them from obeying that simple command: imitate their faith. To do that, they have to see the places where faith is all we have.
Show Your Savior
Ultimately, our lives of faith help the next generation to see that “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). The God of Moses still uses broken people and stuttering mouths to reveal his character. Faith is still the substance of things hoped for, and will sustain the church long after we’re gone. The hope for every generation will always be: Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever.
So open up your lives, older men and women. Show the younger generation that by faith, there’s nothing to fear. Show them how to crawl out of the boat to walk where it would seem foolish, or how to lie down by the Savior’s side and simply ride out the storm. Let them see your todays as well as your yesterdays, so they might trust him through whom all our tomorrows come.
Like that precious older woman did for me, leave those around you with their own hall of faithful men and women, strangers and exiles here who saw the promises of God and greeted them from afar. As you march by faith toward that far better land, show them your life . . . all of your life . . . so they can imitate your faith.