Before getting into this entry, I wanted to say THANK YOU to those of you who have been interacting with this material and giving me feedback via blog, email, and in-person conversations. It has been incredibly helpful to hear what makes sense and clicks to you, and what doesn’t, and needs more work. I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress the last couple of weeks in clarifying what exactly I am being led to communicate through this book, and am more excited than ever for completing it.
One of the most recent directional turns has been the growing magnetism I have towards one particular image used to describe Jesus in the book of Hebrews. It is an image that I had planned to use in the book, but originally it was going to be just one chapter. However, the more and more I have dwelled on it, the more I think it could serve as an image to hold all of the different ideas of the book together.
So, I would like to share the image, and hear your thoughts on it.
Hebrews chapter 11 is the backdrop. This is such an important chapter to me, because it is in this chapter that we are taught about the centrality of faith in a Christian’s life. V1 reminds us that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” V6 reminds us that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” So it is an incredibly important dynamic to be growing in understanding of. Chapter 11 helps in that journey by offering up a number of great men and women who are cited as examples of how faith played itself out in ways that changed both their lives and the lives of those that they were around.
Faith is at the core of my upcoming book, so I have been studying these different heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 for some time now.
What has struck me recently is the link made between these men and women of great faith and the person of Jesus. The conclusion of chapter 11 blends right into the chapter 12, and a distinct connection is made between the vitality of our faith and the degree to which that faith is connected to Jesus. An incredible image is used to make the point come home. This is how the first couple of verses in Hebrews 12 reads in the NAS:
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12.1-2b)
Did you catch the image?
We are to fix our eyes on Jesus, the “author” and perfecter of our faith.
Faith is such a complicated and elusive idea for so many people that I talk to. And though I am not trying to solve that riddle in this post, I do think the image presented here gives a lot of insight into how the journey of faith is supposed to work.
This image of Jesus being the ‘author’ of our faith has always been a cool one to me, but what helped it recently come alive in new ways was reflecting on great authors that I have read. Maybe that will help you make a deeper connection with this image as well.
Who is your favorite author? Who is it, that if they write a book, you are going to read it immediately? Is there an author whose writing seems to take your breath away?
When you are reading something written by a premier writer, you have an interesting relationship with that author, don’t you? On one hand, you completely understand that you are not the one in control of how this story is going to go. The author is the one that has the best sense of who the characters are, what they are capable of, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. The author is the one who places those characters into a particular setting and who knows what struggles they are going to encounter along the way on their journey. The author is the one who has a vision of how this story needs to unfold.
Though the author is the one who is in control of the story, you are also intimately connected to the process. At the most obvious level, you have control over whether you are even going to submit your time and energy and emotions to the direction of this author. If you decide to, you do so knowing that this author is going to take you on quite a journey. If you submit yourself to the work of a great author, you know the story is not going to follow a predictable plot line. There are going to be twists and turns, both mountain top and valley moments. There are going to be moments where you want to laugh out loud, and there are going to be moments where you want to cry. There are going to be moments where the intrigue is so thick you can’t get through the pages fast enough. There are going to be moments where you are so on the edge of your seat with anxiety that you are you are unsure that you have the emotional capacity to continue on.
Isn’t this true? If so, why would you ever subject yourself to such an emotionally volatile experience?
You know why. To submit yourself to a great author is to allow yourself to get swept away in a story bigger than yourself. To submit yourself to a great author is to enter into a new experience with the hope of a transcendent moment. You lose some control, but what you get in return more than eclipses that which you have surrendered.
Isn’t that an intriguing way to think of our faith?
I believe the dynamics are very similar. On one hand, God has given you the complete freedom to write your own faith story, if that is the path you so choose. On the other hand, God is also clear that is not the way the faith blueprint is designed. The blueprint is that you would walk the path that the Author of your faith draws up for you, not the path that you draw for yourself.
To choose your own path is to try to find and navigate faith on your own, which the Bible describes as a path that leads to death. To allow the Author of your faith to lead the way, and to trustingly follow leads to what the Bible calls life.
This is the image that has captured my imagination.
So, talk to me! Does that image resonate with you? Why or why not? Can anyone build on it for me? Would love to hear your thoughts!