Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11:

I have included the latter part of Hebrews 10 in this lesson as it leads us into the discourse on faith in Hebrews 11.  Known as the Faith Hall of Fame, it contains a list of people who illustrated the type of faith we are to live by.   After the verses we read in last week’s lesson which ended with the ominous warning: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” we need to hear the concluding remarks for those of us who are hanging on to our faith and more importantly hanging on to the object of our faith- the Lord Jesus.

The next section (Hebrews 10: 32-39) is a call “to remember those earlier days after you received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution.”    Now here is an important truth:  “You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.”  Here is the question: do you know you have for yourself better and more lasting possessions?  There is only one way you can know this – by faith and not by sight. This is why we are told to walk by faith and not by sight.

Do you now see the whole of Hebrews has been reassuring us we have a better High Priest, the Great High Priest. All our sins are forgiven and our conscience is cleansed by His blood. We have a Great High Priest who intercedes for us day and night who is sympathetic to our plight. He is in a superior sanctuary in heaven, where He offered a superior sacrifice, His Own Blood to initiate a superior covenant, the New Covenant. God remembers our sins no more. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. We have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.

In Hebrews 10 we are encouraged not to give up meeting as is the habit of some, but to keep on keeping on so we can encourage one another, ‘ consider one another’ and stir each other up to love and good works.  Do you know what happens without regular encouragement?  We drift toward apathy, comfort and security.  Do you see how easy it is to slip into this mode of life?  It is after all, the way our society in the 21st century lives. The more we can insulate ourselves from the problems of our society, our community, the better. Good works, good deeds, loving that involves sacrifice can be costly. This type of life can interfere with our material comforts and jeopardize our comfort zone. This kind of love is not cheap. It is costly. But is this not the model our Lord Jesus gave us? Did He not say to us- ‘follow me’.  Did He not say to the disciples after taking on the role of the lowest servant in the household and washing their feet: “I have set 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.”  Have you applied for a ‘foot-washing ‘position lately?

Have you ever noticed how a snow fall can impact us?  Those people who angrily honk their horn at you and call you names because you are going too slow or caused them to put on their brakes will in a snowstorm, stop to help complete strangers who are stuck in the snow.  Same is true in tornadoes and floods. Here is what we know: “The wind and the sea- and the rivers- they obey Him.” (Mark 4:41)  The world is not out of God’s control.   Here is a quote from Almighty God: “I am the Lord, and there is no other, I form light and create darkness. I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45: 6&7)

When these disasters strike, it spurs us to do good deeds, sacrificial deeds to help out others. 911 brought out such an outpouring of giving to the citizens of NYC by the rest of the country , the Red Cross and other institutions set up to help- said stop giving. We have more than enough.    In these disasters, God shows His justice and His mercy. Many a person has been interviewed after a devastating storm had destroyed all their possessions, but all their lives were spared. They expressed nothing but gratitude for their family members being alive and unharmed and thanked God. As far at their material possessions, they would say – it was just stuff. Priorities change as God shakes things up to show us what is really near and dear to us.

God’s power revealed to others their desperate need for God. Insurance calls floods and storms- “acts of God.”  And the good deeds of others who showed love to them, stirred them to know how & why these people went to the lengths they did to help them. A man gave up his morning plans for me on September 16, 1977 to help a young struggling alcoholic husband and father. What impelled him to do this? The fact that others had helped him and given of themselves to him to help him when he needed help.  Apathy- says let someone else take care of them. Let the professionals do it. Let the government do it- that’s what taxes are for. Same with the poor- we are sorry- but are there no work houses? as Ebenezer Scrooge said. When some suffer, others leave their comfort and security and take risks and share their lives with those who are hurting. (Read Matthew 25:31-40 for this is what love and good works mean.)  Do you know what you need as a believer to do these things? We were told in Hebrews 6: 12: “We do not want you to become lazy, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. “  There is that word again- patience, perseverance, endurance, long suffering combined with faith.  We also need to know without a doubt, we possess something better and lasting which is laid up for us in heaven. We have within us a great treasure in these earthen vessels and sometimes when we get too caught up in the things of the world and the care of our earthen vessels, the Lord intervenes to remind us of just what is important and lasting- the Word of God and the souls of men.

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere, so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised, for: “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith, and if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not those who shrink back and are destroyed (KJV uses word ‘perdition’) but those who believe to the saving of the soul.” (The word destroys or perdition carries the meaning of wasted. You will have wasted your life-not lost your salvation, but wasted the opportunities to lay up treasures in heaven, and also know the joy of serving the Lord and of suffering for Him.)  *Notice we received what God has promised after we have done His will.

Don’t drift away. Don’t love the world more than the Lord. Is the Lord telling us we should not want certain comforts the pagans’ desire? No. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us He knows we have need of such things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and these things will be added.  Don’t be deceived and think living one’s life with the glory of the Lord as the passion of one’s heart is not important. It is of the utmost importance. If you do not believe this you will find yourselves cherishing the promises of sin over the promises of God.

And the chapter we are about to enter, Hebrews 11 is the Faith Hall of Fame, a catalogue of people who lived this type of faith. The kind of faith which leads to this kind of risk taking, sacrificial love. Come walk with me through the Hall of Fame and let us read the inscriptions about each of these heroes. We will look at the first few verses.

“Now faith is the substance of things hope for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it (faith) the elders obtain a good testimony (report). By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen are not made of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 11: 1-3, KJV)

I want us to understand as best we can the following key words here:  substance, evidence, good testimony or report.

  1. Substance- This word comes from the Greek word, ‘hupostasis’. Which means to stand under; a foundation.  Faith is to a Christian what a foundation is to a house. It is what we stand on, which gives us confidence and assurance of things hoped for. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.
  2. Evidence – This word comes from the Greek word, ‘ elegchos’.  Which means conviction, which is an inward conviction that what God has promised in His Word, He will perform, He will keep His Word.
  3. Good Report- This comes from the Greek word, ‘matureo’,   which means to bear witness or be a witness.  The actions of these men and women bear witness to us because God spoke to them and they responded in faith.

When called upon in a court of law to give their testimony, a witness recalls what they have seen and done. When I give my testimony, it is my eyewitness account to what God has done in my life.   “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. “ (Romans 10) James tells us we must not be hearers only, but doers also.  What we will see time after time in this chapter is the following process:  1. God speaks through His word. 2. The person to whom He is speaking is stirred in their inner selves. 3. They obeyed God and took action. God is bearing witness to their actions here in His word as He tells us how they obtained a good report.

Here is a typical example: Noah was warned of God of things not yet seen. His response: He was moved by fear.  Stirred in his inner self. Result: He built an ark. Remember what Hebrews 10: 36 told us: “After you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise.”

As your faith grows, you will learn to walk by faith because you are confident God will do what He promised to do. We obey and leave the consequences to Him.

This brings us back to the need for patience. Why do we need patience?  Wait on the Lord. Whenever God does a thing, He has more than one purpose in doing it. He has a unique differing purpose for millions and millions of people. He has millions and millions of plans for how today’s events will bear fruit – 50 years later or a hundred years later or even for all of eternity.  Look what God has brought each one of us through to this day as we sit in this room to learn about faith. God is saying to us- I know the plans I have for you.

Now let’s look at verse 3:  “For by faith we understand (see) that the universe was formed at God’s command (the word of God) so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” This verse is an example of the description of faith we read in verse 1.

Romans 1: 19, 20 gives us the clue when it uses the words, “clearly seen”.  Here is what this verse tells us: “… because what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  Since the creation of the world, God’s invisible attributes and His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that man is without excuse.”   When Paul writes ‘ being understood by what has been made’ , he is saying the same thing the author of Hebrews is saying here- by faith we understand the universe was formed by God’s spoken word. We cannot see God’s spoken word; we were not there and if we had been His spoken word would not have been visible. We can see the result of His spoken word. Just as my wife could see the result of my salvation.  Faith allows us to see or understand what God has made which cannot be explained any other way.  The order of creation, its magnitude, its infinite details, its beauty and greatness cannot be explained any other way.  So by faith we see it-we see beyond the seen to the unseen. If you ask me how I know Bellevue Baptist Church exists, I can say to you- “I saw it last Saturday.” You asks me how I know Jesus lives, He lives within my heart. You asks me how I know His word is true- and I would tell you because one verse of His word, a promise kept me sober when nothing else had worked in 14 years.

You cannot help but notice the word ‘faith’ and the descriptions of it are connected to hope.  Hope is that something which is in each of us which tells there is something we do not have-that we want. Faith starts with things hoped for- a longing for something which will fill our hearts and give us pleasure. This is where the two ways – the two paths of life, the broad way and the narrow way they intersect at things hoped for. What do we hope for in life? Fun, happiness, popularity, good health, no problems, plenty of money, a nice place to live,  security for our family- do we not long for those things?  Of course we do.  Where do we find these things we hope for?  The gate is wide open and many enter in the broad way, a way which seems right to man, but ends in disaster. All of us ventured down this broad way at some point looking for those things we hoped would fulfill us, only to be disappointed how temporary they were.  We did not know of a better and lasting possession.  We had not yet learned a man is no fool to give up what he cannot keep for that which he can never lose.

I can trace my journey as I did in my biography from a young man leaving home to find what would give me what I hoped for.  God allows us freedom of choice and I chose the broad way, but soon found it did not satisfy. There was dissatisfaction with my life which was made evident to me when I returned to my 10 year high school reunion and wanted what my classmates had found- a life with meaning and purpose. This dissatisfaction led me to find what I hoped for with a different philosophy and strategy which relied upon my own abilities and inner drive. It did not last. And thus in complete desperation of ever finding what I had hoped for- a life with meaning and purpose, I was convinced by the enemy there was no way to escape the mess my life had become.

And it was in desperation and in a suicidal moment, finally, I found the Hope for which I had been searching. It was Jesus Christ who was my hope.  It was my dissatisfaction with the life I had led that brought me to Him. The greatest enemy of faith can sometimes be self-satisfaction, self- sufficiency, and self righteousness.

I discovered life without God is meaningless. When I received the gift of faith that day almost 40 years ago, I then possessed what allowed me find the meaning of life and why I existed.

“Now faith is the substance, the foundation of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen. For by it- the elders received a good report.”  He made me sure of what I hoped for and certain of what I cannot see.  For we walk by faith and not by sight.

Now I belong to Jesus and Jesus belongs to me.  And the glory of the Lord is the passion of my heart.  I am satisfied and it was dissatisfaction which led me on this meandering journey to find what I longed for- a faith which made hope sure and certain of the unseen.  It is not my faith- the smallness or greatness of it that is significant- it is the object of my faith- The Lord Jesus Christ.