Can you imagine trying to obey and honor God without the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life, without scripture to guide you and without the assurance that you have been forgiven because of the redeeming death and resurrection of Jesus? In other words, can you imagine how hard it must have been for people in the Old Testament to follow God?
We may take for granted all the benefits of following Jesus in the church age. Not that life is easy or perfect of us, far from it, but as we face challenges and trials today, we have a secure faith to fall back on. That wasn’t always the case for people who lived before Jesus.
This summer, I will preach a series of sermons on people of faith in the OT. We will talk about Naomi who courageously honored God after the death of her husband, sharing faith and life with her daughter-in-law Ruth. We’ll talk about Daniel who served God in a foreign land and refused to give up his faith. And Jonah who struggled to obey God, but ended up saving many lives through his prophetic ministry. Nehemiah served God by building a wall and helping his people return to Jerusalem. Esther was a woman of faith and courage who saved her people from a godless tyrant.
All these people honored God even though they couldn’t see the whole picture of God’s redeeming love. They may have heard promises that one day the Savior would come, but they didn’t know Jesus. They may have experienced God’s living presence, but they didn’t have the Spirit living in their hearts. They may have had pieces of God’s word to give them wisdom and direction, but they didn’t have the whole Bible to re-veal God’s character and plan for the world.
And yet they obeyed and served God with faith.
Their stories inspire us to take the blessings of our faith and turn them into fruitful service to God. We know and love Jesus. We are filled with the Holy Spirit. We have God’s word, complete and easily accessible. These gifts should enable us to honor God throughout our lives and in everything we do.
The Bible is honest about the shortcomings and struggles of people of faith. Even the great heroes of the OT were not perfect people. They doubted, sinned, worried and sometimes failed in their efforts to follow God. How they overcame hardship and disappointment can also inspire us.
Our lives aren’t perfect either. We struggle and fall short too. When we do, we fall on God’s grace and the comforting power of the Spirit. Our hope is renewed and our faith strengthened by the stories and teaching of scripture. We rest secure in the assurance of salvation through Jesus Christ, who died to save sinners like us.
I hope as we read these ancient stories of faith you will find encouragement. God has called each of us to serve Him in the church, with our families and throughout our community. You can honor Jesus and make a difference in the lives of others through prayer, by loving your neighbors, in caring for the church, and as you nurture your own family.
Your story may not make headlines or be recorded in the pages of scripture, but God loves you and de-lights to see you follow Jesus with your whole heart. May that be true for each of us and for our church