Points to Ponder Simple Faith Yields Ordinary Heroes
by Pastor Dennis Whitmore
I find countless lessons on faith and leadership in the Old Testament. Moses led over 600,000 escaped slaves to the border of the land God had promised them over 400 years before. He chose 12 of the best leaders to spy out the land. These were men of reputation, experience, and authority. Yet, when they returned from their mission, ten of them said the enemy is too strong. They are “giants” and we are like “grasshoppers in our own eyes.” Numbers 13-14 tells the story of how the long awaited fulfillment of God’s promise was thwarted by the lack of faith of the leaders. That failure of trust resulted in the people of Israel roaming the wilderness for 40 years.
Fast forward 40 years to Rahab in Jericho (Joshua 2). She reports that since the time the Israelites had crossed through the Red Sea four decades ago - the people in Jericho and Canaan have melted in fear of them. In other words, if the 12 “leaders” had taken the lead according to the word, which God had given them, the land would have fallen into their hands. God had prepared their way before them.
In Joshua 2-6, we have the account of two ordinary men (not even named) sent in to do what twelve leaders failed to do. The laymen with the help of a common prostitute follow their faith, God empowers His people, and the mission is accomplished.
The point I have been pondering is this: how can we say God has a mission for us or our church, or our organization, and then not believe He has empowered us to perform it? Twelve leaders were chosen, ten fainted, and forty years of blessings were lost. Then two ordinary, unnamed men and a prostitute who did not even know their God moved on simple faith. Then the power was accessed and victory was won. But Rahab, a foreigner who did not even know Israel’s God had more faith than the leaders of God’s people. She risked everything and BY FAITH ordinary people were able to accomplish an extraordinary mission. The New Testament cites her as a model of faith (Heb. 11:31; James 2:25) and she is a noted ancestor of Jesus (Matt. 1:5).
Never believe that a righteous cause is a lost one simply because the “leaders” do not lead or because the opposition seems like giants in your eyes. Ordinary people with no credentials have more power by faith than people with titles and money can ever have by politics.
I define politics as principles for a price. Many a leader does not have the guts or the will to stand for principle because they think compromise is the way to achieve results. In negotiables, negotiate. Yes. But in principles, be willing to die. If what you stand for is not worth dying for, then what are you living for? Not all leaders are politicians nor are all politicians leaders. But it is only a fine line that differentiates the two. Every field has its political element and its politicians, the church included. In every field there are these who will sell out or remain silent on a principle in exchange for some other perceived gain.
Consider how long it took the United States to abolish slavery. The church and government leaders alike compromised on the principles that declare slavery wrong. Yet, because slavery was good for the southern economy and some denominations had slave owners among their leading members, the principles had their price. I’m generalizing about a long complicated issue in history, but suffice it to say that those who compromised principles for the sake of their political survival or some other short-term gain are gone and forgotten. Those who stood their ground, endured the chastisement and abuse of their generation, and pressed for the principle - they are remembered. If some are not remembered today for how they fought and even died for the cause of their day, it is their greater glory to be remembered by the One who never forgets. In the end, God’s judgment is the only one that is fair and right, and the only one that will stand.
“Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness and speaks the truth in his heart... he who swears to his own hurt and does not change...” (Psalm 15:1-2, 4c)
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Whitmore serves God at the First United Methodist Church in Laurel, MD.