What The Church Needs: Example of the
Old Testament Saints
There are many examples in Scripture of godly men fulfilling their call and glorifying God. They serve as models; albeit, they are imperfect ones. However, they can teach us many truths both by their positive and even their negative actions. We look to these men only in an effort to project their emulative characteristics back onto us, realizing all the time that they are mere men, and sinful men at that (except, of course, Christ Jesus). We can learn; we must learn from those who have gone before. We look at these men and examples of the past in order to reform the present. Ultimately, however, we must look to Christ. We know looking back throughout the Bible that Christ was active within his people. As we look back on them, we are actually focused on Christ and his work then to better our now. So, what do we need?
Old Testament saints (Hebrews 11:33-38)
We need a saint-like ambition, faithfulness, obedience, strength, and, if necessary, the willingness to suffer and die. The Old Testament saints, what a group were they. The author of Hebrews presented these men in a heroic light attributing their success and victories to the God of their faith. They, actually, were just regular men. God made them remarkable and did great things through them, but they had faith in God. Let God be magnified.
We love the stories in the Old Testament. The author highlights some of our favorites. Men were made mighty by an almighty God and conquered the enemy. They faced lions, raised the dead, fought for justice, and remained faithful among the faithless. They obeyed God rather than man, even when it did not make sense. These were ordinary men doing extraordinary things because of an awesome God.
Not only did these saints do great things, some of them suffered and were killed. They were abused, mocked, hated, imprisoned, beaten, cut in half, and afflicted. All of this was for the glory and cause of God. The world did not deserve these men, but God raised them up and used them. These saints had faults; they were sinners, and yet the strength demonstrated and willingness to suffer and die far outweighed any weaknesses. They knew God and desired to obey him, even to the point of death. They trusted God and believed his promises. They looked ahead to another land; they viewed a greater place. Their faith caused them to keep their gaze on God and not on this earth.
We need these characteristics. The modern (American) church is too comfortable. We are not willing to suffer or die for God. We do not have the faintest idea what suffering really is. We are pampered, weak, fearful, unmotivated, unloving, lacking passion and zeal, and selfish. God help us! The only thing that may wake the American church from its slumber is persecution. That is a frightful thing to say, but it is the truth. Only when we suffer loss or real affliction will the church grow, mature, trust God, and flourish.
If history teaches us anything, it is that the persecuted church is sustained by God, made effective, used mightily, blossoms and matures in Christ, ceases to be worldly and self-absorbed, and glorifies God on earth. When the wheat is separated from the chaff, then the church resembles the true body of Christ. That may be what it takes to rid the church of counterfeits and nominal “Christians.” A little mistreatment will divide asunder those who truly love Christ from those who honor him with their lips, yet deny him with their hearts.
When all is said and done; at the end of the day, we need God and grace! The grace of God and his holy and abiding presence is our greatest exigency. We trust that God is on his throne; we trust that everything is being worked out perfectly according to his divine will. However, we also have a responsibility to pray for grace and enter into his presence with thanksgiving. His will is being done on earth as it is in heaven, yet he has also ordained our prayers as means to achieve his ends. We seek him and his will, and we obey. We ask again and continue to search. It is realized that we need God and his grace, so we pray and seek more. We ask and thank him for his generosity.
What do we ask for? We ask our great God for fresh manna. May God be gracious and feed us from heaven. May he raise up shepherds that will feed us (Jer. 3:15). We also ask for the Spirit to convict and transform us (Jn. 16:8; 2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10). Believers ought to ask God to revive and energize his church (Ps. 51:12, 85:6; Eph. 3:16; Col. 1:9-12). Christians must ask God to do a mighty work (1 Thess. 2:13; Eph. 1:16-19). Pray for revival. Pray for reformation. Pray that God increase your faith. Pray that God be glorified, Christ be preeminent, and the Spirit be given in greater measure.