Written by Todd Mangum
Monday, 06 May 2013 00:00
Hebrews 11 is the “hall of fame of faith” — and it just so happens that not only are we going through this chapter at Breakfast with Biblical, but also in Sunday School at my church. (I guess the Lord is really trying to teach me something from this chapter!) It’s worth the next blog or two, anyway, noting a couple of points from this chapter — the chapter that devotes more attention than any other in the Bible to what exactly faith is. (Lots of passages talk about what faith does and why it’s important; but Hebrews 11 actually defines and illustrates what faith is.)
Noah is among those mentioned (v. 7). We’re told in Genesis that Noah lived at a very wicked time, so wicked and evil that God is said to have regretted that He ever even made human beings (Gen 6:6), because “every intent of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:8); in fact, God told him, “you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time” (Gen. 7:1).
We know the rest of the story; or at least we think we do. Did you ever see any children’s Sunday School material portraying Noah and the ark? Noah beaming all smiles with all the happy animals getting on the ark like they’re going for a cruise. The reality, I’m surmising, was very different.
It took 100 years to build the ark — the work crew consisting of Noah and his family. Through that 100 years, did the sons of Noah ever get to hear the voice of God? Or did they have to just take their father’s word for it that this investment of all their lives was really a wise one? And once the ark was built, there were the animals.
Did Noah even like animals? I’ve never had more than a dog and, though I did come to consider that stupid hound something like a member of the family, sometimes the walks and feedings and poop scooping would just get old. Imagine having so much of your life devoted to the rescue, feeding, and care of animals.
We’re never told that Noah was chosen for this job because he loved animals so much. He was rescued (and became the rescuer) in part because he loved God so much.
I was studying about Noah when Joni Eareckson Tada was here speaking at Biblical. Her testimony is truly remarkable; her spirit is both sweet and indomitable. She told the group gathered for the conference on ministering to the disabled that she is today thankful for her wheelchair, thankful that God has put her through over 40 years of living as a paraplegic because of the relationship that He has cultivated with her through the pain and suffering, aggravation and inconvenience. She is grateful, as well, she says, for what God has taught her by making her so dependent on the care and kindness of other people. (Click here for Joni's story, and her most recent book).
I was gripped by her testimony. It occurred to me that God never came to Joni when she was seventeen years of age to tell her, “Hey, Joni — you like sitting, don’t you? I’ve got a plan for your life that I think you’re going to really like; it involves doing quite a bit of sitting and I know you like that so you’re really going to like this.” No . . . He never discussed it with Joni; and Joni didn’t get to pick. And, had she been given the choice, she probably wouldn’t have chosen what God had for her as a young woman. Only in hindsight, now as a full grown woman approaching senior citizenship, does she see the benefits of God’s plan; only after a lifetime is she able to convey the preciousness of what God has taught her through the hard road God has brought her through.
And Noah didn’t get to pick either. We don’t know how he felt about animals. He did the whole building of the ark and rescue and care of the animals because that is what God chose for him, not what he chose for God. It is, in the end, God’s mission, not Noah’s.
We don’t get to pick either. I have to say: none of my trials and travails come close to those of any of these people. Yet sometimes I get frustrated. Sometimes I wonder why my good plans, my good vision for how things should work and work out, don’t come to fruition like I’d hoped or thought. It’s in those times I have to be reminded that it’s not because Noah was so fond of animals that his life calling was what it was. It wasn’t because Joni desired to be a paraplegic that God chose her to be the spokesperson for ministry to the disabled for our generation. It’s God’s mission, not ours. We are minor players in the plotline of history, not the main character.
It’s God’s mission, not mine; I’m forwarding HIS story (not He mine). I need to be reminded of that more often than I’d like to admit. How about you?
Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical. He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention. Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum.