Have you noticed how candid the Bible is about its heroes? It doesn't whitewash the flaws and foibles of its characters. Abraham is not only the Father of All Who Believe but the scared rabbit who puts his wife in jeopardy to save his neck. King David is not only the Man After God's Heart but the adulterer who lies and kills a man to try to keep the affair from being exposed. Peter is not only First Among Equals in the band of apostles but the frightened fisherman who denies knowing Jesus of Nazareth in his hour of need – not once, but three times.
So how can these people be "saints" and "examples" to the rest of us? How are we supposed to find hope and encouragement from reading their stories? That question isn't too hard to answer.
For one thing, those stories in the Bible are about real people. And real people have weaknesses as well as strengths, bad days as well as good ones. For another, God knows everything and lies about nothing. So the Bible doesn't tell half-truths or gloss over human frailty. Finally, the full story gets told so you and I will understand that God is willing and eager to accept and include us too.
The purposes of God in this world are seen through by people who have clay in their feet. Always have been. Always will be.
But I have met so many people who are under the impression they are hopeless or "too far gone." One woman told me there was no place in God's heart for somebody who had made as big a mess of her life as she had. A man just out of jail said he could never feel comfortable among "decent folk." What?
Joseph had a prison record. Sarah laughed at God's promises. Jacob hurt his family by playing favorites with his kids. Naomi and Ruth were widows. Job lost everything he had ever worked for. Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal. Rahab had been a prostitute. Noah got drunk. Moses stuttered.
God does some of his best work through the most unlikely people. He draws some beautifully straight lines with some of the most crooked of sticks.
All of these people we have mentioned received God's approval because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had far better things in mind for us that would also benefit them, for they can't receive the prize at the end of the race until we finish the race (Hebrews 11:39-40 NLT).