Life-Changing Challenge, A
The pastor's challenge was clear: Read Hebrews 11 and the first three verses of chapter 12 every morning, then imagine those members of the "Faith Hall of Fame" witnessing your actions throughout the day.
Okay, Stan thought. I'm up for the challenge.
Stan's first insight? He was four minutes late to work, and filled out his timecard as if he had arrived on time. He imagined he heard a gasp, and realized that his little "fudging" wouldn't cut it this time--not with the words of Hebrews 11:32 in his mind: "...administered justice,..." He sighed and wrote in the correct time, making a mental note to stay five minutes late at the end of the day.
When his team had to acknowledge in the ten o'clock production meeting that the big project wouldn't be done on time without working through Saturday, he was the first to say he'd come in that weekend, a change from the shirking and shrugging and buck-passing of his past. Back at his desk, he mentally nodded to Jephthah, who had kept a vow even when it hurt. (Hebrews 11:32, See Judges 11.)
At lunch in the cafeteria of his secular company, he bowed his head in thanks over his meal, for the first time in eight years of working there. He had seen others picked on for "saying grace," and hadn't had the courage before to risk being jeered, but decided he'd be like Moses: He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:25-26, NIV)
As the week went on, Stan realized how little he had regularly 'considered Him' (Hebrews 12:3) and how much he had concentrated on himself. His work life was the first area spotlighted for him, and that week was the beginning of a new era for Stan in his career.
Could the walls fall in his marriage, as they had fallen at Jericho? (Hebrews 11:30) He set aside a special private prayer time each day for seven days, concentrating on one issue that he knew was troubling his marriage, and was amazed at the divine outcome when he was willing to fix his eyes on Jesus. (Hebrews 12:2)
Stan decided to extend the pastor's challenge past that first week, but knew in his heart of hearts that one more concern, one more hindrance to his faith had not been thrown off--his worry for his son. John had become more and more withdrawn, his grades had crumbled, and his health wasn't good. Stan feared the problem was drugs, and had done many of the typical things to try to 'save' his son: taken the car away, set curfews, established rigid rules, demanded that John cut off all ties with his new 'friends,' etc. Nothing was working, and the problem had escalated rapidly over the past few months. Stan's greatest fear wasn't even that his son would die, but rather that he would die without having a relationship with Jesus.
Verse 19 of chapter eleven haunted Stan: Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. He poured out his concern night after night before the Lord, asking the Lord to return his son back to him, back from the deadly hold that the drugs had on him.
With John, things only got worse, and Stan learned more than he ever wanted to about the command to run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Eventually, sadly, John was imprisoned. Stan faithfully visited his son until John refused to see him anymore, then he wrote a letter each week, always ending with "I love you, Son, and I'm praying for you."
Stan never grew weary or lost heart (Hebrews 12:3), and one fine day, a young man showed up at his doorstep. A frozen moment passed, then Stan recognized the young man as the grown-up version of his son.
"Why didn't you ever give up on me, Dad? Why? I didn't deserve any of the love you showed me, or any of those letters. What made you stick with it, and never give up?"
"Well, Son," Stan began, with a twinkle in his eye, "let me show you the passage in the Bible I've been clinging to for all this time..."
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