Jump Start # 2511
Hebrews 11:37-38 “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.”
Our passage today is a plateful of humble pride for us. Wrapping up this impressive chapter about the heroes of faith from the O.T., the Hebrew writer now summarizes and generalizes the time period. It was tough. They suffered. They went through incredible things. They did all of that on the other side of the cross. They didn’t fully know Jesus, the Gospel, nor the wonderful fellowship of God’s people. They believed. They put their faith before their wellbeing and even their safety. Truly, they endured.
Our Lord endured the cross. The pain He went through is off the charts. It’s hard to imagine not just having one hand nailed to a wooden cross, but the other and then the feet. Torture is the word we would use today.
Our apostles endured hostility and hardships. They were poorly clothed, roughly treated, reviled, persecuted and considered the scum of the earth. No one would want to be an apostle back then. They were hunted down. They were arrested, put in prison and eventually, put to death. No one was buying their meals. No one was giving them new suits to wear. No one was making a big deal out of them. They were servants of God and they had a job to do. The apostles endured.
All of this leads to a book I have been reading. It’s an old book, written in 1880. It’s about the early pioneer preacher Elijah Goodwin, who preached in Indiana and Illinois. He started out as a Newlight but quickly embraced the restoration concept. Notice a few sections I read recently:
- “During the year 1842, I traveled 2,925 miles, and preached 450 sermons, and baptized 108 persons” (Life of Elijah Goodwin, pg 180).
- The next year, 1843, he traveled “3,987 miles and preached 371 sermons. The traveling was all done on horseback” (pg 182).
- On another occasion Goodwin says, “I preached five hours without leaving the stand. I spoke on the subjects, action and design of baptism. I preached two hours and thirty minutes, and then gave an intermission of fifteen minutes; then resumed the subject, and peached two hours and thirty minutes more, all before leaving the stand. The barn was a very large one, but it was full, and a great multitude stood in the street before a large open door the whole time, giving the most earnest attention to the discussion of this important subject” (pg 184).
Multiple times, Goodwin tells of crossing swollen streams and rivers, often in pouring rain or in snow storms. Traveling from Indiana to Illinois, he crossed the Wabash River often. The water often came up to the saddle and in the dead of winter, and being in a hurry to make the next place to preach, he didn’t change his wet clothes. He endured.
I have crossed the Wabash River many times—in a car, going over a bridge. There is no way I could make it on horseback, swimming the river. Elijah Goodwin endured.
Several lessons here:
First, God forgive me when I whine. A long day for me is nothing compared to what these faithful brethren went through. We complain if it’s too hot or too cold in the nice church building. We complain if the sermon is a bit longer than usual. And, we preachers can complain about how hard we have it. Shame on us.
Second, you’ll notice that God didn’t make things easy for these servants of His. They suffered. From the O.T. forward, they suffered. This world is not our home. Too much comfort, praise and ease can make us soft, lazy and lose our longing for Heaven. Paul told the preacher Timothy to endure hardships. That’s something we preachers need to remember. I think some want to leave town the moment any hardship comes their way. There are hardships and we stand in the shadows of these great people of faith when we simply do the work of God and endure.
Third, it’s easy to think each generation is more faithful than the next because of the hardships they endured. We tend to talk that way about life in general. Our kids get the idea that we walked up hill both to school and back home. They get the idea that it snowed in August. Were the O.T. heroes more faithful than the apostles? No. Are we to assume that Elijah Goodwin was more faithful than we are because he crossed icy rivers to preach? No. The suffering of the times is not what makes one faithful. It’s what is in our hearts. Sometimes the trials and hardships of life makes one rely more upon God. The good times can be harder on our faith. Affluence, peace, good times can make one take God for granted. We may not pray as much because our hearts are not broken and hurting.
Finally, each generation must do what they can for the Lord. We don’t travel by horse. I’ll be flying to other parts of this nation several times this year to preach. It’s our way of traveling. But we carry with us the same saving message of Jesus Christ. That doesn’t change. It never changes. Like it is said of David in Acts 13, we are to serve the purpose of God in our generation. For us, it’s using every tool that we can. It’s using social media, podcasts, emails, livestreaming. It’s writing blogs. It’s creating good class material. It’s mailing resources worldwide. It’s using our phones and sending texts to help people get closer to the Lord. We must pour our all into the grand work of the Lord. Do the work, is what Paul told the preacher.
If the Lord allows this place to continue on, will someone 175 years from now read about what we were doing and marvel? That I don’t know. Our concern is doing our all for now. Having a heart that is willing to endure and understanding that no sacrifice is too great for our Lord. When we put our comfort and wellbeing before the kingdom, things will take a turn for the worse.
Faith of our fathers…they inspire us, motivate us, challenge us, and encourage us. God bless all of them. And, in time, we become those very examples for those who follow us. Leave great footprints for all to see!