“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever You ask.” John 11:21
Since the Bible is overflowing with stories of faith, we have used the following guidelines to rank our list:
- Faith is demonstrated in a desperate situation.
- The person chooses faith at great personal risk – reputation, security, life & death.
- There is an undeniably miraculous movement of God in response to the act of faith.
tom and working our way to the top, here are the Top 10 Examples of Faith for Sunday School!
10. Jacob Wrestles with God: Genesis 32
Coming in at #10 on our Top 10 Examples of Faith for Sunday School is Jacob, a man whose life was filled with family drama. After tricking his brother Esau (who threatened to kill Jacob) out of his birthright and inheritance, Jacob fled to his uncle Laban’s house. Many years later, Jacob decided to return home; that’s when he got the word: Esau was on the way to meet him, with an army of 400 men! For Jacob, this was the breaking point. He longed for a new life, a fresh start. His past haunted him. He had tricked his brother, lied to his father, and his name was a constant witness against him – the name Jacob means ‘supplanter’, or ‘deceiver’
In Genesis 32, Jacob sent his entire family ahead of him and spent the night alone in camp. That night, a man appeared and a wrestling match broke out. Jacob fought relentlessly, but soon realized he was up against no ordinary man. He was wrestling with God himself! And yet, even though he could not win, Jacob would not give up, crying out “I will not let you go unless you bless me!”
In response to this act of faith, Jacob was given a new name: Israel. By faith, Jacob was given a new name and a new destiny. No longer would he be Jacob the deceiver, instead he would be Israel – the name given to God’s chosen nation!
9. The Repentant Thief on a Cross: Luke 23
On “the place of a skull”, Golgotha, Jesus was crucified between two thieves. There, Jesus was mocked by the surrounding crowd, religious leaders, Roman soldiers, and even one of the thieves who hung next to him. But in this moment of mockery, something stirred in the heart of the second thief – faith. The repentant thief rebuked his guilty cohort and defended the innocence of Christ! How difficult it can be to soften your heart when you have lived with it closed to God for so long. And yet this thief found the courage, at the very end of his life, to place his life in the hands of another dying man.
Sensing the grace and forgiveness pouring out of the man next to him, the repentant thief made a request: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” His words were vulnerable, sincere, and filled with faith. And in response, Jesus spoke words of eternal comfort: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
This story reminds us that there is no hour too late for faith. This man, in his closing moments, turned to Christ and found life. Our faith, no matter how little or how late, is never in vain when it finds its home in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For his absolute trust in the most dire of circumstances, the Repentant Thief takes the number 9 spot on our Top 10 Examples of Faith for Sunday School.
8. The Walls of Jericho: Joshua 6
Number 8 in our Top 10 examples of faith in the Bible centers on a hopeless battle. After crossing the Jordan River, the Israelites would face their first of many impossible tests: The impregnable walled city of Jericho. When God led Joshua to Jericho, he led him to a city that could not be defeated. The walls of Jericho were built on a great sloping embankment. At the base of this embankment was a retaining wall 12-15 feet high. 46 feet above, at the top of the embankment was another wall 26 feet high and six feet thick. There simply was no way, humanly speaking, for Joshua and his men to gain access to the city of Jericho.
But God gave Joshua a battle plan. A plan so crazy that most of us would have rejected it outright. God told Joshua and his army to march around the city of Jericho for seven days. And then, after marching on the seventh day, to have the army blow their trumpets and shout in victory. At this, God promised the mighty walls of Jericho would collapse.
Disregarding the skepticism of his fellows soldiers, and the ridicule of Jericho’s inhabitants, Joshua believed God. He led God’s people on a seven day march. On the seventh day, Joshua and his men let out a cry and discovered firsthand the power of faith. Jericho’s walls collapsed. Their city was routed. The Promises of God always hold true for those who believe!
7. Woman Washes Jesus’ Feet: Luke 7
This amazing moment of faith begins with Jesus accepting a dinner invitation from a Pharisee. While at the man’s house, a woman, well-known for her sinful lifestyle, came in with an alabaster jar of perfume. It is estimated that this jar of perfume would have been worth a year’s wages! Moreover, this expensive item was likely the woman’s dowry – to sacrifice this treasure was to sacrifice her future. And yet, in Luke 7 we are told this woman broke open her jar of perfume and began to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears.
This scene greatly offended the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dinner. Why would Jesus allow a sinful woman to treat him in such a way? But Jesus defended the woman and used the occasion to teach powerfully on love and forgiveness. According to Jesus, this woman’s act of great love was in response to the great forgiveness she had received.
This woman, in a single moment, sacrificed the most valuable thing she had. In response to this tremendous act of faith, Jesus said to her: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
6. Queen Esther: The Book of Esther
Esther (the second of three women in our top 10) was a queen whose faith literally saved every Jew living in the Persian empire. After King Xerxes selected her to be his queen, life seemed good for Esther. But behind the scenes, a wicked plot was brewing in the heart of a jealous man named Haman. Haman was slighted by Mordecai (Esther’s guardian) and this offense motivated him to spearhead the passing of a new law which called for the destruction of every Jew within the Persian empire.
This law directly threatened the lives of Esther and Mordecai, both born Jews. As Esther anxiously deliberated over what to do, her guardian Mordecai gave her this strong exhortation: “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
“For such a time as this.” These words rang true in Esther’s heart and she found the courage to approach the King, uninvited. This was a treacherous decision, for approaching the king without invitation was punishable by death. But Esther had faith in God and pleaded her case before the King. The result, Haman’s plot was exposed, he and his conspirators were executed and the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from certain death. For her courageous faith, Esther comes in at number 6 on our Top 10 Examples of Faith for Sunday School.
5. David & Goliath: 1 Samuel 17
Number 5 on our top 10 examples of faith in the Bible is an all-time Sunday School classic – the shepherd boy who defeated a giant. Led by their champion, Goliath, the Philistines taunted the armies of Israel for 40 days. Goliath (who some estimate was over 9 feet tall) challenged any man from Israel to face him one-on-one for a winner-takes-all battle. No one in all of Israel had the courage to face him. And that’s when a little shepherd boy bringing lunch to his brothers wandered into the story.
Upon hearing the boasts of Goliath, David was outraged. He marched into the tent of King Saul and volunteered for duty. Saul tried to fit David in his armor, but David refused. He told Saul that, as a shepherd, God had given him victory over lions and bears and that God would now deliver this giant into his hands! Saul was moved by the young boy’s faith and sent him out to face the Philistine.
Upon seeing David, Goliath mocked him. But David replied with a battle cry for the ages: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” David ran towards the giant with his sling and let a single rock fly! The rest, as they say, is history. David’s faith in God was unshakable. The size of his obstacle did not matter, he knew the size of his God.
4. The Red Sea Crossing: Exodus 14
One of the most well known events on our top 10 examples of faith, the Red Sea crossing is the crescendo of a Deliverance story that begins in Exodus Chapter 1. After a horrific 10-plague showdown with Pharaoh, Moses and the Israelites were released from slavery. An entire nation of slaves walked out of Egypt as a conquering army given whatever they asked for. But as Pharaoh looked over the devastation the Hebrews left in their wake, his heart hardened and he set his army to recapture this nation of former slaves.
In Exodus 14, we read that Moses had led God’s people to the shore of the Red sea. Suddenly there was a sound like thunder. The sound came from thousands of galloping horses as every chariot in Pharaoh’s army appeared on the horizon. The hearts of Moses’ followers began to melt in fear and they began to cry out “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness?”
Surrounded by a terrified people; No way to cross the sea in front of him; An enemy army at his back; Moses, filled with faith, calls out: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” Moses then raises his staff and the waters of the Red Sea part! The scope of this miracle is staggering. In a single day, the Hebrews are delivered and the armies of Pharaoh are drowned.
3. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and the Fiery Furnace: Daniel 3
After the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, a host of Jewish captives were relocated to serve in the Babylonian empire. Among these captives were three young men that we know by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Although these youths served in a pagan empire, their hearts remained true to the living God. But their allegiance was put to the test when the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, commanded that a giant golden statue of himself be bowed before and worshipped.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused and, with great faith, boldly defied the king: “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.” The king flew into a wild rage and demanded that a large furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual, and that the boys be thrown in.
The furnace was so hot that flames lept out and killed those who threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the fire. But amazingly when the king looked in, the three young men were alive! And more, there was a fourth divine man with them in the fire! Nebuchadnezzar ordered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego out of the flames and commanded that no one could speak a word against their God.
2. Abraham and Isaac: Genesis 22
Coming in at number 2 on our list of top 10 examples of faith in the Bible, is a story of unimaginable sacrifice. For all parents, this is perhaps the most gut-wrenching story in the Bible. It is difficult to comprehend the faith it would take to offer the life of our own child to God. And yet this is exactly what Abraham was prepared to do in obedience with his own son, Isaac. The tension in this passage is excruciating when Isaac realizes that something is wrong and asks his father: “the fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham, having nothing other than faith in the character and goodness of God, replied: “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” After journeying to the top of a mountain, Abraham placed his bound son upon the altar and raised his knife. Suddenly an angel of the Lord cried out from heaven “Abraham! Abraham! Do not lay a hand on the boy.” Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the thicket. God had provided the sacrifice. Isaac was set free to new life.
This story comes in at number two on our Top 10 Examples of Faith for Sunday School because of Abraham’s faith, which came at the cost of unimaginable emotional pain and suffering. But also, because it is one of the clearest old testament pictures we have of the Gospel: A loving father who was willing to sacrifice his one and only son, only to have this son returned to him alive.
1. Mary, the Mother of Jesus: Luke 1
First place in our Top 10 Examples of Faith for Sunday School goes to Mary, the mother of Jesus. We have covered some impossible moments on this list (surviving a fiery furnace, the red sea parting, and the walls of Jericho collapsing), but nothing is more impossible than a virgin becoming pregnant. Yet we read in Matthew 1 that the angel Gabriel appears to a virgin named Mary and tells her: “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.”
The choice Mary had before her would forever change her life. To embrace this plan of God would result in a cloud of suspicion and shame hanging over her and her family for the rest of their lives. It would cause her heart to suffer untold pain and grief as her son would die a brutal and unjust death. It would would place her on the front lines of an eternal struggle between the forces of heaven and hell.
Yet, in spite of these things, Mary said to Gabriel “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” What a powerful statement of faith! And in response, the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 was fulfilled “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” Mary’s words are an example to all who would follow the Lord in faith. No matter the obstacle, the cost or the danger, we all would do well to make the words of Mary our own personal declaration of faith: “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”