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Background Considerations:

Reviewing some definitions of “faith” might prove helpful in a good Bible dictionary in preparation for the discussion of this lesson. The Old Testament is more holistic and uses terms like faithfulness and faithful behavior (amunah), rather than the more theoretical idea of “faith.” These words derive from qualities of firmness and established credibility which are exhibited through trustworthy, dependable actions. The New Testament term, faith or belief (pistis), appears throughout these books and rests at the heart of the Christian life. What nuances grow from the biblical vocabulary for faith/faithfulness? What examples or stories might help illustrate them?
In discussions about giants of faith from the past, one typically runs the risk of tweaking reality just a bit. Lists like the one in Hebrews 11 and the accounts shared are always selective and tend to idealize the saints who went before, especially if it was a long time before! What are the values of this kind of list of the faithful? Why? What kind of drawbacks might there be, an awareness of which might help us be more realistic and even helpful as we nudge believers toward greater confidence and assurance? Is it possible that the faith of some of the saints might appear out of reach, unrealistic? Could this have a down-side? Might we be able to identify better with our forebears if we could see strengths and weaknesses, faith and foibles, successes and disappointments?

Relevant Biblical Passages:

Hebrews 11 Who’s Who Among Ancient Hebrew Worthies
Abel offered the right sacrifice
Enoch walked with God
Noah build an ark
Abraham / Sarah faith and foibles
Isaac blessed future of his descendants
Jacob blessed future of his descendants
Joseph mentioned the exodus
Moses left and led people out of Egypt
Rahab received the spies
Gideon / Barak / Samson / Jephthah / David / Samuel / other prophets conquered kingdoms, administered justice, won strength from weakness
women received their dead by resurrection
others suffered

Contributions to Study of Assurance:

In what ways do the stories in Hebrews 11 contribute to the assurance of modern Christians? What links are there which we ought to pursue?

Lessons for Life:

Guilt seems to play a significant role in most people’s lives, perhaps in ways many do not recognize. How is guilt destructive to personal well being? To the relationships we have with others? Cite some examples.
In real life, as most of us live it, there are good times and bad. How can we be honest to God about discouragements and injustice while at the same time finding assurance?

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