“Followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Hebrews 6:12
They (heroes of faith) are calling to us from the heights that they have won, and telling us that what man once did man can do again. Not only do they remind us of the necessity of faith, but also of that patience by which faith has its perfect work. Let us fear to take ourselves out of the hands of our heavenly Guide or to miss a single lesson of His loving discipline by discouragement or doubt. (Streams in the Desert)
The old black Bible has seen better days. Its cowhide cover is in decent condition apart from a few ragged edges, but inside things deteriorate rapidly. I received the Bible on occasion of my ordination, February 15, 1981, shortly after being called to my first pastorate at Midyett Baptist Church in DeBerry, Texas. I was twenty years old. I preached from this Bible until leaving for East Africa under appointment by the Foreign Mission Board some thirteen years later, but somehow it was misplaced and left behind in my parents’ storage building for the many years I served in Kenya and India. I rediscovered it while rummaging through boxes left behind.
Incredibly, the cover and pages were intact and undamaged for the most part, but the end papers bore the brunt of weather, time, and other deterioration inflicted by unwelcome pests. The most upsetting part for me is that those tattered leaves bear the autographs of heroes of the faith—preachers who still leave their mark on me—along with quotes from others I jotted down along the way. Were you to peer over my shoulder right now you would read a handwritten quote from Jeremiah 20:9; “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak anymore in his name. But his Word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I could not stay.” You would read the commitment of missionary David Livingstone: “I will place no value on anything I have or may possess except in relation to the kingdom of Christ.” And you would find my own thoughts recorded on August 8, 1986: “Words are the key to either success in life or destruction, be it immediate or gradual.”
Our heroes of the faith past and present call us upward to life on a higher plane. Read them. Take advantage of what they learned in classroom of service and sacrifice. Emulate them, but forge your own faith on the anvil of their testimony. Discover for yourself what others before you knew by experience and passed on to inform and inspire.