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By Rich Peterson 

I attended a memorial service recently for a former Worship Pastor who was engaged in active ministry in the Denver area for over 40+ years. His younger brother (a retired Senior Pastor) presented the “raw truth” about the deceased, highlighting the great impact of his ministry while never sidestepping the fact that his brother wrestled with many personal demons even into the last few weeks of his life.

The comments reminded me of some things I came across while doing research about the rather obscure Old Testament character with the unusual name, Jephthah. I’m not certain who wrote a lot of the following, but thought it was worth sharing.

“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets…” (Hebrews 11:32).

What I find fascinating about this verse is that four of the six men listed are very flawed, very human, and very fallible heroes from the book of Judges who made many mistakes (some of them disastrous) and yet they are mentioned in Hebrews 11:32 as men who lived by faith.

“No plaster saints here. These are real men, flesh and blood heroes whom God honored in spite of their flaws. Their faith was like ours, mingled with fear, soiled with unbelief and doubt, spotted with compromise, troubled by human reasoning.”

It’s the kind of thing that reminds us of a core belief in the redeeming grace of God because Gideon was fearful, Barak was timid, Samson was out of control, and Jephthah made a foolish vow. Perhaps if we were making a list of heroes of the faith, we might not mention any of these men, but God looks at things differently than we do.

The Reformer, John Calvin, brings some perspective when he writes:

“Thus, in all the saints, something reprehensible is ever to be found; yet faith, though halting and imperfect, is still approved by God.”

Look in the mirror. There’s something reprehensible (bad, disgraceful, shameful, inexcusable) there. John Calvin said so, and he’s right. You’re not perfect, far from it, and neither am I. And yet our faith, halting and imperfect, is still approved by God.

Calvin then adds these words of encouragement to all of us:

There is, therefore, no reason why the faults we labor under should break us down, or dishearten us, provided we by faith go on in the race of our calling.”

God honors faith, and he seeks it so much that he will honor people who otherwise do some very stupid things. We all labor under a sense of our own failure. Like Gideon we are slow to answer the call. Like Barak we need someone else to push us. Like Samson we let our emotions guide us wrongly. Like Jephthah we say things that hurt ourselves and others.

Let us then push on by faith, despite our failures, knowing that if God can use men like this, he can use us, too.

Discussion Questions:

On your social media, copy and paste the link to this blog to your social media, and share an answer to one of the questions below. Or, put your answer in the comments below. 

  • What verses in the Bible encourage you when your past mistakes discourage you from going forward?
  • How are you wrestling with God’s calling in your life? Are you being slow to answer it, and why?
  • How does this blog post encourage you?
  • How is your prayer life?


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