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Standing Tall

When you look at the title to this week’s note, what comes to your mind? Some may think about what your grandparents told you as a kid when your posture was slouching. Some may think about Saul who the scriptures tell us stood a head taller than the rest in Israel (1 Samuel 9:2). Some may think about standing out in a crowd and being seen like my wife always tries to do. (Yes, I will get in trouble for that. Those that know her know that is completely an opposite description of my wife.) Others may disagree with this type title or subject and say that we as Christians should always be like the worlds definition of humble and never seek to be seen. You may have other things pop into your mind as you look at this title for today.

Should we as Christians “Stand Tall”? In the context of what I briefly want to share with you today, the answer is an emphatic “YES”! Below are some of the words to an old gospel song titled “Standing Tall”.

It’s hard to watch a good friend going through a time so tough

But I’ve seen the way you take the heat and never do give up

It seems unfair that most folks just aren’t trying to live by faith

But I think back to years ago when I heard my grandpa say

Thunder shakes the mountainside but it seems to me

When lightning strikes somehow it always finds the tallest tree

I look at what you’re facing and think maybe after all

The only thing that you’ve been guilty of

Is standing tall

God’s Word is full of examples of people who we could apply the words of this song to. The place in Scripture that we find more of these in one place than anywhere else is in Hebrews 11. Most people refer to that as the “faith chapter” or the “heroes chapter”. Here the writer of Hebrews tells us first about the faith of Abel. What happened to him for standing tall and doing what his parents had taught him about blood sacrifice and atonement for sin? His brother killed him. Then we see Enoch whose relationship with God was so strong he never died and instead just walked straight into heaven one day while taking his daily walk with God. The chapter then takes us to Abraham and Sarah. We see where it says Abraham was still living by faith when he died, even though he had not seen all that God promised him come to pass yet. Verse 13 tells us Abraham only “saw them from a distance” and verse 16 says “he was longing for a better country – a heavenly one”. We then read of Isaac and Jacob and Joseph. Read the story of Joseph sometimes to see all he had to go through for “standing tall”. There were many points in Joseph’s life the author could have chosen to include here in Hebrews 11 but he chose the end of his life. He chose to commend him for instructing his family at his death to take his body / bones with them to the promised land once they left Egypt in their great Exodus. Joseph stated this at a time when the Hebrews were not yet slaves. His eyes were looking to the future and something he had not seen physically. His heart and mind were focused on something passed down through his ancestor Abraham to Isaac and then Jacob and then to him about the fact the Hebrews would be strangers in a foreign land for 400 years and become slaves and mistreated (Genesis 15:13). But he knew God had promised deliverance, an Exodus.

We then read of Moses’ parents and their faith because “they saw that their child was no ordinary child and they were not afraid of the king’s edict”. They stood tall. Would you stand tall today, not fearing edicts by the government? We then read of Moses and Joshua and even Rahab. Rahab stood tall and hid the spies sent into Jericho and was rewarded by God and is even listed in the genealogy of Joseph, Mary’s husband. The writer then reminds us of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jepthah, David, Samuel and many other prophets of God.

To me, some of the most powerful points in this “faith chapter” or “heroes chapter” are in the closing verses 33 – 40.

Hebrews 11:33-40 (ESV)

[33] who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, [34] quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. [35] Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. [36] Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. [37] They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated [38] of whom the world was not worthy, wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. [39] And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, [40] since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Read through that and tell me whether you want to be one who “stands tall”. These did and you see what that led to on this earth. They did it though. Verse 39 is amazing to me and was amazing as well to a prior pastor of this church, Paul Dearinger. He shared this passage one Sunday in a way that has caused me to never forget it. The passage was real to Paul for he himself was dying of cancer when he shared it. He was looking beyond this life. These referenced stood tall and are still commended today, but while living did not receive what had been promised to them. Think about that statement. We often do not hear about that part in our highly materialistic American culture. We hear that if we are not getting what we believe we have been promised “then you are doing something wrong in your life. You must have sin in your life. You are not trusting the Holy Spirit enough. Why don’t you just quit. Go believe in something else. This god stuff is just not working for me. I tried it and things just seemed to get worse.” These people listed in Hebrews 11 did not quit. They were trusting God. They stood tall and kept standing tall, only because they were believing in a future promise God had made them. They went to their deaths, even horrible deaths in some instances, never seeing or experiencing this future promise.

Thankfully verse 39 is not the end of the chapter. Verse 40 gives you and I hope, and an even greater hope than explained in Hebrews 11 for our “heroes of faith”. Verse 40 tells us that God has provided something better for us. Now, do not interpret that the wrong way. When the writer tells us God has provided something better for us, he is not saying we will not go through the terrible things listed previously because we now have Jesus and the Holy Spirit. No, Jesus Himself promised us we would undergo trials and persecutions. What the writer is telling us is that all of these heroes of the faith were waiting for the same thing that has “made us perfect” or “complete”. These heroes would be made complete “with us”. These “standing tall” examples would be made perfect along with those of us that similarly stand tall. Their promise or completion would take place the same way and the only way ours can today. So, what was it this great cloud of witnesses was looking for?

That sets the stage or context for next week. Hebrews 11 sets the stage for one of the most important passages in God’s Word. Cory introduced this a few weeks ago in his “Know the Way” series when he covered Hebrews 12:1-2. Next week we will review the point of “Looking to Jesus” flowing in context from what the author writes in Hebrews 11 and beginning Hebrews 12 with the word “Wherefore”. Jesus is the thing all of the heroes looked to and yet did not get to see Him the way we have been graced to see Him today. Jesus was foretold in their stories and scriptures but only partly. The “mystery” was not revealed to them fully but they kept looking. They kept waiting and did not falter in their waiting or faith. We are honored to know Him in a better way and have been provided even more than the heroes of faith were to help us in this life. We get to “Look to Jesus”, the author / originator / pioneer and perfector/ finisher / completer of our faith.

Stand Tall today and every day. Encourage those God puts in your path that are going through great trial and sorrow. Help them to Stand Tall. Don’t dare immediately ask them “what are you doing wrong or what sin is in your life” to cause this trial. Remember, “lightning strikes the tallest tree”. Lift them up. The only thing they may be guilty of is “Standing Tall”.

The answer on how to truly walk in this life, to truly Stand Tall, even amidst the worst tragedy that can be thrown your way, is in the next two verses! The answer is truly in “Looking unto Jesus”. Next week – Hebrews 12:1-2.

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