Cooperstown, New York. Canton, Ohio. Springfield, Massachusetts. Toronto, Ontario. If you are a sports fan, as you read the names of these towns, you probably noticed that they have something in common. These towns contain the Halls of Fame for the major sports. The Baseball Hall of Fame is in Cooperstown. Football is in Canton, basketball in Springfield, and hockey in Toronto.
These incredible museums are shrines to the great achievements performed by the athletes in their respective sports. To be inducted into the hall of fame is the ultimate honor for any athlete. It speaks of great achievements, consistency, and a fantastic career that had an impact on the sport. Only a hand-full of great athletes make it to the hall of fame. You can be sure that if a person is selected, he was one of the greats, and his achievements in the sport are among the best.
Hebrews 11 is a hall of fame of a different kind. The writer of Hebrews has been demonstrating how Jesus Christ is better. He offers a better covenant, a better promise, and a better plan. But Jesus is only known by faith. The only access people have ever had to God in through their faith in Him. So the author wants us to look at the heroes of the Old Testament faith and see how they were able to do the great accomplishments that brought them to the hall of fame of faith. As Jewish people read this list, they would have known all the characters, much like a football fan would know the names of all the people in Canton.
We meet some incredible people in this chapter; Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, just to name a few. The people in this chapter also have one thing in common. They are ordinary people that God used to do extraordinary things. Every person on this list has deep flaws, of which the Bible is usually honest and clear about. They all needed God to step in to their lives to forgive them, change them, and empower them. But why did God use them? Because of their faith in Him. As you read this chapter, you may be amazed at the awesome accomplishments that these people had in their lives. But don’t forget that it was God who did everything in Hebrews 11. He just did it through people, and their faith became the vehicle God used to accomplish His purpose for His glory.
A hall of fame is such a fantastic place because it does a couple things. First of all, it helps us remember the price the athletes paid in order to achieve the accomplishments. We see these great athletes, and are reminded of the dedication to their sport, and the hours of practice that they had to do to achieve greatness. Second, it helps us recognize the possibilities. As a young kid sees the statue of a Magic Johnson in Springfield, or a Wayne Gretzky in Toronto, he can imagine himself or herself working to become something special. Of course, most will never achieve the levels set by these people, but their example becomes for the aspiring athlete a model to follow.
Hebrews 11 is a great hall of fame, because we can see the great cost of faith for these people. They all gave up something to trust God. It was never easy. At the end of the chapter you will see that some paid the ultimate price for their faith and sometimes in cruel ways. But we can also see that God blessed these people. Sometimes the blessing came in this life, and others it came in the life to come. But we can dream about having the faith of the heroes. Take a moment to read through the hall of fame again. Pick one of the great heroes of the faith out. Then ask yourself, what made this person special? What must I do to live the kind of faith that this person had?