The Faith and Courage of Hobbits

Our Need

Among the characteristics we could cite, our forbearers in the faith had at least two qualities about them that enabled them to stand against great odds. These saints of the covenant had faith and courage.

There’s a lack in our day of both. More often than I care to think about, doubt and fear have won the day and left God’s saints in puddles of impotence and despair. I know this has been true of my own life. But this should never be the case for God’s people. Scripture offers us some encouraging examples of those who trusted God and were able to face seemingly insurmountable odds.

Example 1: Caleb

When Moses sent an expedition to Canaan to explore what awaited God’s children in the land of promise, the report confirmed all God had promised – it was lush and flowed with milk and honey, as advertised. But there was a catch. There was also a huge obstacle before them. In the land there were “giants” who made the Israelites seem like hobbits in a land of orcs. The report from the expedition team was, “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Numbers 13:33).

But this pessimistic report was not shared by all. For in Numbers 13:30 we read,

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

Caleb had faith in God and his covenant promises, and therefore, could be as courageous as Frodo and Sam in the land of Mordor.

Example 2: David

David faced similar circumstances later in redemptive history, with a similar response. As the Israelites shook in their sandals before the great Goliath and the Philistine horde, the young shepherd boy looked on in bewilderment. In what seemed like arrogance at worst and naiveté at best, this “king-to-be” couldn’t understand why his people had not already taken the uncircumcised behemoth apart – especially in light of Goliath’s jeering and insolence before the living God. David queried,

Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26)

And so, like Caleb before him, David volunteered to take Goliath on. So what if he seemed like a grasshopper before this giant of a man, all nine feet of him. David drew courage from his faith in the One who had never failed him before.

Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:36-37)

The Foundation for Faith and Courage

With faith and courage David faced the giant, and the rest, as they say, is history. What was the foundation for such faith and courage in the lives of Caleb and David? We are told in Jeremiah 1:8 and 19.

Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Caleb and David knew in their day what God told Jeremiah in his. That is, God’s people will be opposed. That’s a given. We will seem like grasshoppers in comparison to our enemies. The “apparent” odds will be overwhelmingly against us. But God calls the weak, poor, small, seemingly insignificant hobbits of this world to serve as his subjects, his heralds, to advance his Kingdom, even in the face of the enemy (perhaps especially so).

Who Are Your Giants?

Philistines and other barbarians continue to surround God’s people today in a variety of ways. Yet we are called to stand firm in the face of such opposition because Caleb and David’s God is also our God. Is anything greater than the covenant-making, covenant-keeping Lord of Glory? It is this very God who promised never to forsake us. That alone is grounds for faith and courage in the midst of insurmountable odds.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58)

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. (1 Cor. 16:13)

Walking Points

  • Who or what are some of the Philistines that face Christians in our culture today? How can you equip yourself and your church to stand firm and remain faithful against such opposition?
  • On a more personal level, who (or what) are the giants in your life, opposing your walk with Christ? What is it about them that causes you to fear and turn the other way?
  • What is a strategy you could start using today to help you face your giants with faith and courage?
  • Of course, you should never travel alone. Who are two or three fellow Christians you could ask to pray for you, offer you wisdom, encourage you, and help hold you accountable? Ask them to join you today.

Prayer

Sovereign God, the battle is yours. You call me to trust you and participate in the battle, but you have already declared victory. Why then do I, all too often, tuck tail and run? Give me, I humbly pray, the faith and courage of Caleb and David. Help me to fear others so little because I fear you so much. Fill me with your Spirit and enable me to know you are with me. Then, enable me to face the kingdom of darkness and wickedness with the confidence of being your child. Because, if you are for me, who can possibly be against me? In Christ I pray. Amen.

The Anchor of Our Souls

Hebrews 6:18b-19a

VBS 2021: Adventure Week

Early this past June, our church was blessed to put on a wonderful Vacation Bible School experience that we called, “Adventure Week.” We had some fantastic folks at our church who worked hard to make it happen and the kids had a great time.

Throughout the week the children enjoyed a “tour” around the world, learned about different countries and cultures, and how God loves each person, no matter where that person is from. We all learned that each man and woman, boy and girl around the world has the same need, even if that need is manifested differently from person to person, and culture to culture.

The Week

On the Monday of that week, the children learned God created the heavens and the earth, as well as each one of us. We are each created in the image of a loving and holy God who wants to have a relationship with us. The Scripture for that day focused on God’s promise to Abraham. In Genesis 17:7, God promised,

 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

On Tuesday we learned that God called a people to himself and gave them ten laws for living in this world. These are God’s rules that, when followed, enable us to flourish in our relationship with God and others. The verse for that day was Philippians 4:19, which says,

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Since God is the one who created and designed us, it is safe to say he knows best. We also discovered that, unfortunately, we do not always live according to these laws. We learned that we all fall short of that standard. We sin and go our own way… and do our own thing.

In a manner of speaking, we do not appreciate how good God’s way of living really is. We sometimes think we know better than God… and act accordingly. Can you relate to that? The result of that is a broken relationship with God. Therefore, we need help!

And so, on Wednesday we found out about God’s answer to that problem. God sent a Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, to redeem the world and reconcile us back to himself. And we learned that Jesus is not a Lord and Savior for just some countries, cultures and people, but for everyone around the world, for all time. Our Scripture for that day reminded us,

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. (1 John 4:14)

And so on Thursday the children heard about what Jesus did for them, and for all of us, through his death and resurrection. On that day we looked at Matthew 20:28, which says,

just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus gave his life, not just so we could wait to go to heaven when we die, but to enjoy eternal life with him that can begin right now. What wonderful news… that we do not have to wait to have a relationship with God and enjoy his presence. All of that can begin right now.

Can you imagine how that Good News blessed the children – and all of us – to realize that the God who created all there is, actually loves them and wants to have a relationship with them. Is that something you are aware of? Do you know that? Is that “new” news to you, or “old” news? More importantly, regardless of when you learned it, do you believe it? Have you applied it in your life? If you would like to discuss this in more depth, please do not hesitate to contact me. I would love to talk with you more about this wonderful news and the new life you can have in Jesus Christ.

Well, the last day of Adventure Week, Friday, finished up with these familiar words from Matthew 28:18-20, what we call the Great Commission,

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The message to the kids was this: We get to tell others this good news about God’s love. In fact, God wants us to do just that!

The Greatest of All Stories

The theme of Adventure Week was, “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” It is a story that begins at creation, then makes its way to our fall into sin, to God making a promise to Abraham, then traveling to God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ, and ultimately culminating at the consummation of all things.

What is so astonishing is that we get to be in this story. We get to participate. And what makes this great story so incredible is that it is a true story. It’s not like a movie advertisement that proclaims, “based on a true story,” which usually means it is loosely based on an event that happened.

Instead, this story is actually true… and is still going. And the children, the volunteers – all of us – learned that God is calling each of us to take part in his story, for God is the great Author of this greatest of all stories.

A Promise Made

It was a wonderful week and just another example of how awesome the children’s ministry at our church really is.

One of my takeaways from the week was that no matter the person, the culture, the country, or the time in which a person lives, we all need hope. We all look for hope. We hope for things. We hope in things. And what we discover is that most things we hope in cannot deliver. They cannot satisfy our needs and desires. They fall short because they were never meant to be where we place our hope, at least not our ultimate hope.

But what really sank in for me during this Adventure Week, and hopefully for the kids too, was that there is only one true Hope of the world. And that hope is in the promise of God, referred to in Hebrews 6:17-19a, which says,

Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

The promise God made to Abraham, the one the children learned about during Adventure Week, was the promise that God would be Abraham’s God and the God of his descendants. We know God’s promise to Abraham included the news that he would be the Father of many nations. People from all over the world – and all throughout time – would be Abraham’s descendants and God would be their God.

A Promise Kept

This was a promise God made. And our Scripture tells us a promise from God is as good as if it had already happened. God is holy and cannot lie. God is sovereign and is able to keep every promise he makes. And Scripture reminds us God fulfilled his promise to Abraham through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We become descendants of Abraham and heirs of God’s promise when we place our faith in Jesus Christ. That is why John writes this in Revelation 7:9-10,

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,

who sits on the throne,

and to the Lamb.”

That is why we are able to have hope. God makes promises and keeps them.

No matter the storms of life that rock our boats to and fro, we have an anchor that can secure us and keep us safe. God’s promise, the anchor of our souls, will keep us firm and secure in the midst of life’s struggles because it’s based on God’s unchanging purpose, which is to achieve our salvation through Jesus Christ.

Biblical Hope

And biblically speaking, “hope” is not the same thing as wishful thinking. The Jacksonville Jaguars have had an exciting off-season and we who live in Jacksonville are hoping they have their best season ever. We hope.

But biblical hope is more than this. It is not wishful thinking. It is confidence. It is assurance. It is as good as done. That is what we are hoping in. We are hoping in God’s promise already fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

And that hope, the author of Hebrews tells us, should encourage us. Encourage literally means, “to fill with courage.” We can have courage in the face of today’s storms and the uncertainty of tomorrow because we have an anchor that will keep us safe and secure. The anchor of hope. That is why, ever since the ancient church, along with the fish and dove, the anchor has been an important Christian symbol.

My Hope Is Built

What do you hope for? That is an important question. But maybe a more important question is this: “what do you hope in?” Do not place your hope in anything that cannot deliver. Put your hope in the One who loves you, who has made promises to you, fulfilled those promises, and will continue to do so.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the only worthy hope for the world today… and in all days.

I recently had the opportunity to share the following words with someone who is going through a tough time, and they really encouraged him. These words are from the hymn, “My Hope Is Built.”

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness veils his lovely face,

I rest on his unchanging grace.

On every high and stormy gale,

My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ the solid rock I stand,

All other ground is sinking sand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

Thanks be to God and his Son Jesus Christ, for being the anchor of our souls.

Amen.