So often we think that the only real impact made in life and in society and in the church come from those who do things that make the headlines. When we read our history books, we are told mostly about the great leaders and those who have become famous because they have blazed new trails. We know of Lewis and Clark, but not of the countless men and women who ventured out on the American frontier stepping out into the unknown armed only with a dream and a few provisions. Even though we do not know most of those pioneers, nevertheless they made quite a difference in the settling of our nation. Those unknown and seemingly insignificant settlers made quite a difference in our history.
On All Saints' Day, we remember those believers who made quite a difference in our lives. These persons may not go down in the history books for subsequent generations to read about and reflect upon, but their ordinary faith has made an extraordinary impact on us, and we are right to remember them. Indeed, we are obligated to reflect on their lives and their faith.
Hebrews chapter 11 has been referred to as the Great Hall of Faith. The writer of the letter highlights for us the great faith and, therefore, faithfulness of many of our Old Testament figures from Abraham to Moses, from David to Deborah. In spite of their frailties, they nevertheless stepped out in faith and their influence ripples throughout history. We could not fulfill our responsibilities as God's people had they not accomplished theirs.
One of the pitfalls we often fall into as we reflect upon these faithful saints that we read about in the Bible is that somehow they were superhuman in what they accomplished. They did great things because they were great; and when we compare our perception of them with us and our lives, we think we cannot possibly live up to their example. They were heroes, we are not.
But such a view misinterprets Hebrews chapter 11. All the people that our author highlights are worthy of mention, not because they were extraordinary individuals; rather, they are singled out because they were ordinary people who, in spite of their fears and their failings, stepped out in faith nonetheless in order to be obedient to God. Hebrews 11 consistently reminds us that what these individuals accomplished was "by faith."
On All Saints' Day, we remember those who have passed from us and this earthly existence, and have now moved into glory right alongside of the great women and men of Hebrews chapter 11; and in our remembrances of them, we place them into Hebrews chapter 11 as models of the life of faith. Their example encourages us to live today and tomorrow, and each and every day, in faith as the evidence of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
We remember those who lives constructed a firm and faithful foundation for us to move forward in faith. In so doing, we are reminded that our task is to lay a firm and faithful foundation for those who come after us in faith, that they too might glorify God.