The Bible contains many stories of men of faith, such as the three who were thrown into a fiery furnace. What can we learn from these men of faith?
Most of us have not had to face the decision that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego had to make as they were standing before an angry King Nebuchadnezzar. Would they break God’s law and bow down to an idol? Or would they obey God and risk being thrown into a fiery furnace?
God recorded their amazing example of faith and His miraculous rescue in Daniel 3. (Read more about this story of faith in our article “Daniel’s Three Friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego” and our children’s Bible story “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego and the Fiery Furnace.”)
But what would we have done? And if something similar arose for us today, what would we do?
A prominent theme discussed in the Bible is that of having faith. Men had it as well as women (see our series of articles on women of faith).
In fact, without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). So it is very important to understand what it means to have faith.
What is faith?
In the New Testament, the English word faith is translated from the Greek word pistis. The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words says: “Pistis is used of belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same. ‘Faith’ means trust, confidence, assurance, and belief” (p. 1315).
This refers to that same confidence and faith in God that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego had.
In fact, after God spared them from certain death in the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged their faith and trust in God by saying: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!” (Daniel 3:28).
For further discussion of the meaning of faith, please read our article “What Is Faith?”
Abraham, the father of the faithful
One of the most profound stories of men of faith is that of Abraham.
Many have read the biblical stories of how Abraham trusted God by leaving his homeland and believing in what God promised him.
“Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:5-6).
Abraham believed and trusted God. In fact, he became the example of faith for both the Jews and gentiles. The apostle Paul wrote this about Abraham in Romans 4:20-22: “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’”
In the book of Galatians, Paul noted another aspect of Abraham’s faith: “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham” (Galatians 3:8-9).
If we follow Abraham’s example of having faith in God and living by faith, we can be blessed along with faithful Abraham. As he looked forward in faith to the coming Kingdom of God, so must we.
“By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:9).
Abraham is among those referred to in this inspiring summary:
Knowing about the great power God has, how can we doubt Him?
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth . . . But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (verses 13, 16).
For further reading about Abraham and his faith, please see our article “The Faith of Abraham.”
Some lesser known men of faith
We usually hear about how Noah, Jacob, David, Elijah and Daniel had amazing faith in God, but the Bible also has some other fascinating stories of men who had faith.
The faith of the centurion (Matthew 8; Luke 7)
“Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ The centurion answered and said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, “Go,” and he goes; and to another, “Come,” and he comes; and to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’
“When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!’” (Matthew 8:5-10).
The centurion humbled himself and had great faith in Jesus—even to the point of believing He could heal from a distance. And so, it came to pass that his servant was healed (verse 13).
That is the kind of faith that impressed Jesus. That is the kind of faith we need to have as well. We need to believe what the Scriptures emphasize about God’s ability to help us. He tells us:
- “Is My hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver?” (Isaiah 50:2).
- “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).
Knowing about the great power God has, how can we doubt Him?
The faith of Caleb (Numbers 14; Deuteronomy 1)
Twelve men were sent to spy out the Promised Land. Ten of the men gave a bad report, yet Caleb and Joshua were convinced and had faith that with God’s help Israel could go in and possess the land.
“But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: ‘The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, “a land which flows with milk and honey.” Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them’” (Numbers 14:6-9).
The Israelites were ready to stone to death both of these men of faith. Yet Joshua and Caleb had the faith, the belief, that God would be with them. God was merciful and allowed Caleb to enter the land.
“And the LORD heard the sound of your words, and was angry, and took an oath, saying, ‘Surely not one of these men of this evil generation shall see that good land of which I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and his children I am giving the land on which he walked, because he wholly followed the LORD’” (Deuteronomy 1:34-36).
In Numbers 14:24, we read that Caleb had a different spirit. Matthew Poole’s commentary notes that Caleb “was a man of another temper and carriage, faithful and courageous, not acted by that evil spirit of cowardice, unbelief, unthankfulness, disobedience, which ruled in his brethren, but by the Spirit of God.”
Caleb actually believed God and had faith that God would lead Israel into the Promised Land. If only the Israelites had listened to him and followed his example! Read more about Caleb’s faith in our article “Spiritual Warfare: How to Win and How to Lose.”
The faith of Simeon (Luke 2)
Simeon was a just and devout man, and “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So, he came by the Spirit into the temple” (Luke 2:26-27). And sure enough, the parents brought in the Child Jesus.
It was then that Simeon “took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: ‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel’” (verses 28-32).
What about us? Do we believe that God hears us? Do we have faith that God will send Jesus back to this earth?
This is the only account of this incident. Here was a man who had been “waiting for the Consolation of Israel” (verse 25). This phrase signifies that Simeon was looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. So God blessed him and allowed him to see the Messiah before his death.
Simeon is a little-known man of faith, yet his story is part of the gospel message.
The Bible promises that Christ will return. And the Bible assures us of God’s care for His people. But notice what Jesus said:
“Shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7-8).
What about us? Do we believe that God hears us? Do we have faith that God will send Jesus back to this earth? We may know this intellectually, but we need to have faith like Simeon’s, that the Messiah will come again and that He will bring about the Consolation of Israel and the rest of the world.
Other men of faith
Hebrews 11 is often called the Faith Chapter. It contains the names of many famous men and women in the Bible. And it includes a section that can be explored further:
“And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets” (verse 32).
These and other men of faith “worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong . . . Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection” (verses 33-35).
The faith of Jesus Christ
One of the most inspiring of all stories, however, is the faith Jesus exhibited. He is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). And we need to “consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (verse 3).
We therefore need His faith within us. Study more in our helpful article “Christ in Us: How Does He Live in You?”
We plan to add more articles to this “Men of Faith” section. You will read of men who trusted in God and believed in His ways, and you’ll also read how a number of them incorporated the faith of Jesus Christ into their own lives—something we all must do!
And we encourage you to read about what God has promised and what He will bring about in the article “God’s Promises: Rock-Solid Hope and Assurance.”