Hebrews 11: Part III
Are you beginning to see how faith works? We were born searching for something we did not possess but needed. Like a newborn infant searches instinctively for his/her mother’s breast. We are born searching for security, peace and comfort. We are searching for hope that does not disappoint. Solomon told us in Proverbs 2 to call out for insight, to cry out for understanding and to search for it like one searching for silver or hidden treasure, and we would find it. Our problem is we were born in the condition Genesis 1:2 describes as our original state: we were born without form, (shapeless waiting to be conformed by the world or place ourselves into the hand of the Potter), void (empty) and in darkness. We were void of the Spirit of God. We then begin the search for the way, the truth and the life to give our lives meaning. We ran about like the pagans trying to fill the God-shaped vacuum in our hearts only to find temporary pleasure. All the time the Spirit hovered above us and God wanted us to see the light. The Spirit wanted us to know life without God is meaningless.
Our search took us down the broad way looking for wonder, love, and security. We wanted those things. We were born wanting happiness. We were born- headed in the wrong direction. I believed a lie as to what would make me happy. The end result of not asking God for direction, not seeking truth which can only be found in the person of Jesus Christ, had sent me and many others through the wide gate down the broad way which seemed right, but was a destructive, empty and a literal dead end. But the Spirit was hovering above armed with the Sword of the Spirit, (the Word of God) the Grace of God, His Love, Mercy, & Forgiveness. September 16, 1977, I was convicted and I was in fear for my very life and eternal soul. I awoke each morning in fear. John Newton understood this and wrote about it in his famous song, “Amazing Grace.” ‘Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear, and Grace my fear relieved!’ In my prayer I sought the truth, which had alluded me for years. I asked Jesus was He real. Unlike Pilate on that fateful day, I wanted to know the truth. The Word of God, in Hebrews 11 tells us the first thing we must believe is God exists. He is who He says He is. That He is really real! The second thing we must believe is He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. I was diligently seeking Him that morning. The most important thing in my life was to know the truth. He revealed to me He was real and He rewarded me with the forgiveness of my sins, eternal life and translated me from the kingdom of darkness to the His kingdom of light. I had found the way. I had asked. I had sought with all my heart. And now I was discovering the truth which set me free. The door of the abiding life was opened to me. God initiates. God gives the gift of faith. Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God. The journey begins. The lifelong apprenticeship begins.
This brings us to the place in our lesson where we see faith in action. For saving faith is not a one- time single act of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior. Saving faith does not shrink back, as we read in Hebrews 10:39. Authentic, saving faith is ‘pressing on’ faith. Saving faith is an inner response which leads to outward actions. It is what keeps me asking, seeking and knocking. Abel worshipped by faith. Enoch walked by faith. Now we will observe the outward actions of these saints as they worked by faith. Once again we see the inner working of the Holy Spirit in our outward actions. “For it is God who works in you both to desire and to do His good purpose.” ( Phil. 2)
NOAH AND THE ARK
“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” The Bible is God’s Word. It is I believe the absolute truth. When God spoke in olden days as He did to Noah, there was to be an inner response to His spoken word. Jonah’s inner response to God’s command to go to Nineveh was one of rebellion prompted his outer response to run in the opposite direction. In Malachi, God cursed the nation of Israel with a curse for robbing Him of the tithe. The problem was not just disobedience in Jonah’s running away or the failure of Israel in the area of stewardship and tithing. The problem was a problem of the heart- the real problem was rebellion. When God speaks to us through His Word our response will either be immediate obedience or disobedience which comes from a rebellious heart. The inner response is either one of faith which moves one to take action or disobedience. Disobedience always has consequences. Obedience is the cornerstone of faith in God.
Watch what happens with Noah: God’s speaks to Noah of a future event – which was a warning of things to come, not yet seen, the flood. The inner response of Noah is he is moved with holy fear to start doing exactly what God told him to do- build an ark. His outer response was to start chopping down trees to construct an ark, even though he was on dry land miles and miles away from a body of water. We read in Genesis 6, “Thus Noah did according to all that God commanded him to do, so he did.” An inner response to the word of God created a holy reverence which caused an outer action- the building of an ark. He started immediately and he did not quit until he had finished what God had told him to do.
THE PROMISED WORK OF GOD
Jesus tells us His Father is always at work. (John 5:17) Listen to this amazing truth of how the promises of God work. Remember Jesus said to Pilate: “For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listen to me.” (John 18:37) Whose side are you on? Jesus said I am the Truth. John the Baptist testified to the truth. Miracle and signs Jesus performed testified to the truth. Over 500 witnesses, who saw the resurrected Jesus testified to the truth, were on the side of truth. Jesus went on to tell the Pharisees in the strongest words he could: “Most assuredly, I say to you the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.” (John 5) Thus believing God is always at work, we are also told how He works. “For we know all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) We also know it is ‘God who works in you both to will and do His good pleasure.’ (Phil 2)
So these verses and insight tells us God is always at work. It may not seem so, sometimes, but this is why we need patience and endurance as we wait on the Lord. Consider the following truths:
I. God is always at work around you. Question is are you looking to see where He is working?
II. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal. We love Him because He first loved us. The Lord Jesus gave Himself for us while we were yet sinners. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and being. Jesus said this the verdict, men have seen the light, but preferred the darkness because their deeds were evil. They loved sin and self, more than Jesus.
III. He invites you to become involved with His work. This is what the stories of Hebrews 11 are about.
IV. Today God speaks to us by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances and the church to reveal Himself, His purpose and His ways. You can respond like Noah or like Jonah, but remember what happened to Jonah.
V. This invitation to you to work with God always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action. Noah had to start building a gigantic ark on dry land. Abraham had to leave his home, not knowing where he was going. Sarah had to believe she could conceive despite the circumstances of infertility, a dead womb.
VI. It will call for you to make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
VII. You then come to experience God in a way you could not otherwise experience God as you obey Him and follow Him as He accomplishes His work through you.
We see this story not only played out in the lives of these Old Testament saints but also in New Testament followers. They were written and recorded so that we might imitate them and through their stories we could be encouraged, challenged and comforted. Jesus gave us the superior example and this is what we have been learning in our study of Hebrews.
We place our lives in the Hands of the Potter to shape us for the work He wants to accomplish through us. Noah was a carpenter who in building an ark to escape the wrath of God’s judgment was a type of Christ who would build a ‘wrath-proof’ way to escape the judgment of God. Just as God invited Noah and his family to come into the ark and then closed the door so they were safe and secure. Jesus has invited us to ‘come unto Him, all you who are weary and heavy laden and He will give you rest. He is our shelter in the storm. His word is a light upon our path in the darkness. His Spirit witnesses to my spirit that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Perhaps today you are asking God what is your will for my life. But after listening to what Jesus said in John 5, I believe the question should be: God what is Your will? Then when He shows you, He is inviting you to join Him.
Noah’s faith involved his whole person. His mind was stirred first when he was warned of God; his heart, the center of his emotions was moved with fear, reverential awe; and his will then followed and Noah and his sons began to build an ark and do everything according to God’s will. His actions influenced his family and they were all saved. However his faith revealed the world’s unbelief.
Now our next story involves a man and his wife, Abraham and Sarah. Abraham is example of walking by faith and not by sight, because he went out not knowing where he was going. He and Sarah were told they would have a son through whom God would build a nation which would bless the world. Yet Sarah had always been unable to conceive. So Abraham and Sarah set out not knowing how God’s will would be accomplished, for common sense, science and medicine said for her to conceive at her age was impossible. How can this be, said Mary when told she would be with child? How can a man be born again asked Nicodemus? Unbelief looks at circumstances and asked how can this be? Faith looks to God and asked how shall this be, how will you accomplish this? And the Lord tells you follow me. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. It is an old fashioned, most effective way to learn- an apprenticeship of working along- side the master teacher. You see it is faith in God’s promises, His Word and His will which is the foundation for your hope. Therefore, it will be rewarded if you do not throw away your confidence. This stories of faith tells us waiting on the Lord is always a part of God working in and out His will in our life.
Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years. We are told Abraham ‘in hope against hope believed.’ There we see in Romans 4, the two types of hope. The first hope is the hope of the unbeliever who believes in himself, his abilities, science and medicine, and common sense. This first type of hope said- your situation is hopeless Abraham and Sarah, because Abraham was 100 years old, Sarah was 90 and had never conceived. The second hope is the hope of Hebrews 11:1- “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for…” Faith, confidence in God’s promise was the foundation of their hope and it made their hope sure. They were fully persuaded that what God had promised He would perform. (Romans 4)
Waiting is a difficult discipline. Each of these people in Hebrews Hall of Fame of Faith had to wait on the Lord. None were perfect and sometimes they strayed, but they always got back on the right path.
Now as we look back at what has occurred so far, we realize Abraham was a descendant of Shem, one of Noah’s three sons who came through the flood. Abraham’s son Isaac passed on the promises of God to Jacob, whose 12 sons would be the 12 tribes of Israel.
The story of Genesis is the story of how God works His will out in ways which we cannot understand or see when He is doing it. Abraham and Sarah wondered how and at times grew impatient and tried to work out God’s will in their own abilities. Always a mistake. Jacob and Esau both seemed to be ill suited to carry on the journey of faith. Isaac, Abraham’s son, was a passive individual, manipulated by his wife and his son Jacob at times. Esau was a man of flesh, who lived to satisfy his appetites. Yet Jacob would have an encounter with God and become Israel and through his 12 sons, the 12 tribes of Israel would become the fledgling nation of Israel. Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt. Yet the story of Genesis and Exodus shows how God was always at work and it always involved tribulation and waiting, patience.
Paul reminds us in Romans 5: “ And not only so but we glory in tribulation also, knowing tribulation build patience, (endurance) and patience, experience and experience hope; and hope does not disappoint because the love of God is shed abroad in our hears by the Holy Spirit. “
Did you notice the word – experience? Tribulations, all types of problems, builds patience or endurance and this endurance or patience brings experience into our lives that could not come any other way. And it is in experiencing God in this situation He has designed for our lives we come to know Him and experience Him in a way we could not otherwise experience. And James said this patience is used to mature our faith. Plus we have the promise during our trials, God will never place more on us that we can bear, but will make a way we can escape so we can bear it. (I Cor. 10:13)
Isn’t it interesting in the world, when a person is seeking work, employment, the employer always wants to know what kind of experience one has. Jesus says follow me and I will make you what you need to be. Take my yoke upon you, that is enter into a close relationship with me and learn from me. This is where you will gain experience and confidence.
Jesus invited 12 men to follow Him. For the next 3 plus years, Jesus showed them how we are to live. He said to them I have set an example for you to follow, do this and you will be happy.
Jesus said “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Obedience is an expression of our love for God. If you are having an obedience problem, you actually have a love problem. God, Our Heavenly Father is love. His will for us is always best. God is all knowing. His directions are always right. God is all powerful. He can enable us to do His will. All of God’s commands are expressions of His nature of love. When God gives a commandment. He is not restricting me. He is freeing me. If I love Him, I will obey Him.
*Here is today’s lesson within the lesson: THE APPRENTICESHIP AND HOW IT WORKS.
Conversations Jesus had with others, especially his disciples reveal to us how faith works. Let’s look at the clues which are there in the following conversations. His first call to his first disciples is recorded in Matthew 4:19: “Come follow me, and I will make your fishers of men. At once they left their nets and followed him.” An invitation to work with Jesus which involved a crisis of belief that requires faith and action. In John 5, Jesus in conversations with the Pharisees reveals how it works: “My Father is always at work to this very day, and I, too, am working. I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; He can only do what He sees the Father doing, because the Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does.” Jesus is telling us how it works. The Father reveals what He is doing and where He is working and Jesus joins Him there. This is what we are supposed to be doing. This is why we ask what is your will Father?
In Matthew 11, Jesus explains how the apprenticeship is carried out. Apprenticeships were how people were trained and taught in the past. You went to work for a person who would take you as an apprentice and show you and train you in how you were to perform a particular area of work. This is the invitation of Jesus in Matthew 11: “Take my yoke upon you and LEARN from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” An old fashioned classic apprenticeship working side by side with the Master Teacher. Jesus also tells us in this same passage His yoke is easy and my burden is light. We have his promise He will never place more on us than we can bear. After a little over 3 years of teaching these disciples, Jesus gives them another example on the very night He is to be arrested. He washes the feet of the disciples and tells them, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13: 15, 17.
This apprenticeship is lifelong and when we see Him, face to face, then we will be like Him.
God is too wise to be mistaken. And He is too good and loving to be unkind. So when we don’t understand, when we can’t see His plan, trust His heart! So PRESS ON! KEEP ON LEARNING, LOVING, LABORING. KEEP ON LONGING FOR GOD’S WILL AND KEEP ON LEANING ON HIM.