Trillia Newbell is the author of several books including A Great Cloud of Witnesses, Sacred Endurance, If God is For Us, Fear and Faith, and the children’s books, Creative God, Colorful Us and God’s Very Good Idea. When she isn’t writing, she’s encouraging and supporting other writers as an Acquisitions Editor at Moody Publishers. Here she shares with us some of the background behind A Great Cloud of Witnesses.
Why did you decide to focus on Hebrews 11 for this Bible study?
There are a few reasons why I wanted to focus on Hebrews 11. I realized that I’ve read through the book of Hebrews several times but I don’t remember actually pausing to explore the stories of the saints in the chapter. They are listed for a reason and I wanted to do a deeper study of their lives and why we should emulate their faith. I love taking a chapter and exploring it. The Lord packs a lot into a small space, so I wanted to grow and by extension through publication, help others grow in their faith.
Who among the “hall of fame of faith” in Hebrews 11 stood out to you?
I was surprised by how much I latched on to Enoch’s story. His brief mentions and short life intrigued me. There’s not a lot that we know about him but what we do know matters. He had an intimate relationship with the Lord—walking with Him all the days of his short life. Even though Enoch isn’t one of those “heroes” you hear mentioned often like Abraham, Moses, and David, his life mattered to God. Knowing that he was relatively obscure but had faith that the Lord wanted to highlight should give us all faith—the Lord knows and He sees.
How would you define faith?
I can’t recall the theologian that defined faith in the way I’m about to summarize it. In other words, my definition is borrowed from others who have also studied faith. I’d define it as taking God at His word and directing your life accordingly. Faith is believing and then exercising that belief. I guess that’s why James says that faith without works is dead. Faith is a gift and when we believe, then we work—not to receive salvation, but because we already have.
Faith is a gift and when we believe, then we work—not to receive salvation, but because we already have.
Where do you see the gospel in Hebrews 11?
That’s an excellent question! The real question is, where do we not see the gospel? If it is by grace that we are saved through faith, then if we are going to talk about faith we can’t help but consider the gift of salvation through Jesus. Also, throughout Hebrews 11 we are reminded that the saints of old died in faith—waiting for Jesus to appear. And if we want to get specific, His lineage is through many of these stories.
How do the stories we read in the Old Testament help us think about our circumstances today?
We want to be careful when trying to apply Old Testament stories to our lives. If I’m thrown in a lion’s den and someone throws me a rope, I’m not going to try to pray my way out of it. I’m going to grab the rope and thank God for that provision. The outworking of our faith may look different, but the same God that was with Daniel, Abraham, Sarah, and Rahab is the same God who is with us. So, my hope is that we will emulate their faith, learning to trust God and lean not on our own understanding, and not compare our particular circumstances to theirs.