Example: One of a number of things, or a part of something, taken show the character of the whole group of things. The human race is full of "examples" of how it is we are to live, and even a few examples of how it is we should NOT live. Since scripture points us toward considering our examples - those lives which tell us what faith really means - then it will serve us well to consider a few of those examples. Frankly, when I look through scripture, I see a whole lot of messed up people - not really perfect people. I think this is something we need to consider since an example is a representative of the whole group. These examples recorded for us in scripture are indeed representative of the whole group of us crazy, mixed up, self-focused sinners!
We have all these great people around us as examples. Their lives tell us what faith means. So we, too, should run the race that is before us and never quit. We should remove from our lives anything that would slow us down and the sin that so often makes us fall. (Hebrews 12:1 ERV)
If we are to learn from the examples set before us, then we had better figure out what it is God expected us to learn from these examples. So, let's go:
1. Abraham - a man called by God, anointed by God, and referred to over and over in scripture. Did he live a "perfect" life? Well, it doesn't appear he was much more of a "spiritually perfect" individual than the rest of us. What was his "lesson" to us? It may be the one about even when we get ahead of God's plan and take matters into our own hands, thinking we have it all figured out, God can still redeem us from the mess we create. When he chose to take matters into his own hands, taking his slave girl as a concubine (another word for sleeping with her to bear children), with the resulting birth of a son, he was stepping outside of God's timing and his plan to use Sarai (Abraham's wife) to be the one to birth this son through whom the line of David would be established. I don't know about you, but I can take a great lesson or two from Abraham - for I have stepped outside of God's timing on occasion and it is good to see the example of God's redemption even when we get so caught up in the results that we attempt to produce them in our own efforts!
2. Job - a man God actually said served him and loved him, even to the point Satan took notice of his devotion and thought he needed to converse with God about him. It aggravates Satan to no end when someone actually determines in their heart to serve God with all they are - looking to God to be the center of their home, family, business, etc. He was tremendously blessed and he didn't probably do anything to "deserve" the misfortunes which came his way - losing family, fortune, and even his own fortitude. Would we say he presented the "perfect example" as he sat on a dung heap scraping boils from his body and then beginning to question what HE had done wrong in his life? I don't know if many of us have had one of those "dung heap" moments, but I have! I may not have physically been sitting on a pile of deep doo-doo, but trust me, my circumstances "stank" like I was! In those moments did I look to heaven and bless God? Nope! Instead, I looked at the dung heap and began to question what I had done wrong, where I had gotten off-course, what I did to deserve this. You been there? It is natural for us to begin to question ourselves in the midst of great sorrow or disaster in our personal lives. Yet, the message we receive from Job's example is one of intervention and restoration. In those moments of questioning his faith, Job came to the conclusion he was complaining against God and God didn't deserve those complaints! He moved from self-pity to determined-praise. In that moment of transition, God met him with grace, deliverance, and restoration greater than ever imagined. We may not understand the circumstances, but we can trust the redeemer to bring us through.
3. David - often spoken of in scripture as a man after God's own heart. In other words, David was commended because he had a heart dedicated to the relationship he maintained with God. Yet, in the moment of temptation, with a little too much time on his hands, he looks upon another man's wife and lusts in his heart. It wasn't enough to entertain the thoughts of lust, he had to go and act on them - and this was a man "after God's own heart"? It wasn't so much the failure God wanted us to see, but what David did with his personal weaknesses and failures. Instead of bemoaning them, or giving excuses for them, he fully owned them and brought them before the one who would be able to help him overcome them. There is a lesson in David's life - probably more than one - which should give us each a moment to pause. It is the lesson of identifying with our sin, but not attaching our identity to that sin. In essence, David didn't allow the sin to define him, because he was defined by something greater than his sin - his love for God. This is a pretty important lesson for each of us to learn - to not allow the sins of the past to define us - but to enter fully into the defining "character" of our lives - the character which Christ creates when he enters fully into our lives. David wasn't defined as an adulterer - he was remembered as a worshiper. This might just give us a little insight into how it is we move out of our sinful state and into the state of redemption God has for us - it is through laying out our sin before God and then allowing God to fill us with more and more of him until it just "oozes" from our every pore!
We don't have "perfect examples" in scripture (except for Christ), but we have living and real examples of messed up lives, just like ours, who have an encounter with a living God. In that moment of encounter, there comes redemption, restoration, and release. We need these moments! Thank goodness God showed us he isn't after perfection - he is after our hearts! Don't be afraid to be an example of God's grace by being real about your struggles. God isn't concerned with the image you portray as much as he is with the integrity of your heart! Just sayin!