10/11/02 10.30 p.m. Hebrews 11
111Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for. 3By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. 5By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. 7By 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. 8By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11By faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because heA considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. 13All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. 17By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspringB will be reckoned."C 19Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. 20By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. 21By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. 22By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. 23By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. 24By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. 25He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. 29By faith the people passed through the Red SeaD as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. 30By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. 31By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.E 32And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37They were stonedF; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated-- 38the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. 121Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,
Boarding the SS Dorchester on a dreary winter day in 1943 were 903 troops and four chaplains, including Lt. George Fox. World War II was in full swing, and the ship was headed across the icy North Atlantic where German U-boats lurked. At 12:00 on the morning of February 3, a German torpedo ripped into the ship. "She's going down!" the men cried, scrambling for lifeboats.
A young GI crept up to one of the chaplains. "I've lost my life jacket," he said. "Take this," the chaplain said, handing the soldier his jacket. Before the ship sank, each chaplain gave his life jacket to another man. The heroic chaplains then linked arms and lifted their voices in prayer as the Dorchester went down. Lt. Fox and his fellow pastors were awarded posthumously the Distinguished Service Cross. Many others lost their lives anonymously, but most went into the war not knowing if they would survive and what the result of the war would be.
Bible reading think about those who have stepped out in faith, even though the object of that faith seemed impossible, or a long way off.
READ verse 1. Memory verse, 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. .
Today some people think the Christian faith is little more than wish fulfilment. A crutch for the weak, and hope for the inadequate. Whilst we are weak and inadequate, the Christian hope is not a vain hope. You know, like "I hope Port Vale/Stoke City will win the Championship this season". Or "I hope that I win the lottery, football pools..." or whatever.
Christianity is not sanctified wishful thinking. The Greek word translated hope is a more certain word than our word. We are called to be sure in this hope. Certain of what we do not see.
How many people here believe that Cuba exists ? Why ? How do we know that it is not made up, a grand delusion ? We can believe in something that we have not personally seen can't we ? By weighing up the evidence. Trusting the one who is telling us about it. But there is a difference in an intellectual 'head' knowledge and faith, which is a radical trust in someone or something.
Charles Blondin was one of the world's greatest funambulists ( tightrope walker to you and me ). On September 15th 1860 he walked a tightrope stretched 160 feet over Niagra Falls in Canada. It was 1100 feet long ! Afterwards he asked the crowd if they believed that he could carry a person back with him. They all said "Yes" because he was the greatest tightrope walker in the world. He asked for a volunteer...
the silence was deafening. Well it wasn't because the waterfall was noisy ! Eventually, one person, his manager, Henry Colcord agreed to go. He had real confidence, a real trust in Blondin. So much so that he put his life in his hands.
God calls us to trust in Him. We see this from verse 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. A two stage process is mentioned. Believing that he exists as the first part. But this is only the first part. Just believing In the existence of God does not make someone a Christian. The Bible points out that the devil believes in God's existence. So next time someone tells you that they believe in God, tell them that so does the devil !
The second part involves seeking him through the Lord Jesus. Believing that he will reward us because he cares for us. It has to involve trusting. The trust that we have heard that Henry Colcord had in Charles Blondin. One that involves putting our lives in Jesus nail scarred hands.
The letter to the Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians. Who knew all about the O.T. So the writer gives O.T. examples of people who trusted God.
4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
This example may surprise us but, by faith, Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, which proved that he was righteous. God testified about his gifts, and through it he being dead still speaks. Abel's sacrifice was given by faith. It came from a heart that believed in the Lord and trusted in His righteous ways.
The Lord desires that people become true spiritual worshipers of Him. John 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." This can only become a reality through faith in the Lord. Abel's acceptable worship sacrifice, by faith is a challenge about our attitude to worship. It is not enough to merely go through the motions. After all, Cain did this and was condemned. When we offer worship to the Lord, He is looking on our hearts. Are we trusting in Him? Are we surrendering to the His will revealed in His word? Whether we are offering praise, giving thanks, doing good deeds, or sharing our resources with others, we are to do it all by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Not grudgingly, or out of duty but out of thankfulness inspired by a radical trust in Him.
5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him
Enoch had three hundred years of close fellowship with God ( Gen. 5:22 ). After that we walked right into the presence of God without going through physical death. When Jesus returns those who have faith in Jesus will be taken to be with him, together with all the saints who have trusted in him throughout history and who will be resurrected. This is a reminder and an inspiration to us.
Enoch had faith in God, followed God's ways and, therefore, pleased God. Many people waste their time, indeed their whole lives by pleasing themselves. Their lives are choked with self-indulgence. Jesus said, Luke 8: 14, "The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature." Pleasing ourselves cannot lead to spiritual growth and becoming like Jesus.
7 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.
He lived in a wicked environment and was called to build an ark in a dry land. In so doing he saved his family and, by his godly trust exposed and condemned those who surrounded him and did not trust in God.
There are times when God asks us to do things that seem to be foolish, illogical. Perhaps it is a task we have never done before. Or something that flies in the face of the messages that the world gives. 'Trust in things that you can see, spend your time in the pursuit of pleasure...'
Abraham believed God when God told him to leave his homeland to go to a land which would be his own. Although Abraham was of an age when most people are thinking of retirement he got up, and went. No map. No instructions. Just trusting God.
I don't know about you, but before I go on a journey I look at the map, look at the Teletext for traffic hold-ups, check on the weather forecast, and make sure I have enough petrol, oil, air in the tyres, and extra strong mints. And that's only if I'm going to Hanley !
When Abraham got to this land promised to him by God he lived in a tent. This temporary dwelling reminded him that this was not permanent. That one day he would go to be with God. One of the problems with our mortgages, as well as having to pay them back, is that it makes us think that this life is permanent. But we, and our possessions are only temporary.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
As Christians we have the additional benefit of the revelation of God in Jesus. We are called to look to the eternal. Build up treasures in heaven, says Jesus. Look forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God (verse 10). Take risks, like Abraham. ollow where God is leading.
We are strange aren't we ? Oh, sorry, we are strangers aren't we ? We don't really belong here. We belong to and with God. That means that we are strange, to some people. We want to follow God. Not the way of the world. That is where the trusting in God comes in. The world says "trust in things, houses, cars, possessions, pleasure, things you can feel, that are tangible". Yet these things are temporary. Something that makes you feel good today can make you feel rotten tomorrow. Something that is in pristine condition today can be a broken down, rusting wreck within a short time.
12 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,
The examples of faith that we read about in Hebrews 11 are not there so we can compare ourselves with these heroes. That would lead us to despair. They are there to encourage us to turn away from our sin and look to Jesus who is trustworthy, and to step out in faith in whatever way He is calling us to.
I don't know exactly what this will mean for you and I, here today. Both as individuals and as a church. Perhaps some of us need to be bolder about living out our faith and sharing it with others. Perhaps some of us need to change our attitude to worship and attend church more often. Perhaps some of us need to be more committed in serving within the church. When we remember some of the sacrifices made in times of war perhaps this doesn't seem too much to do. After all, we are an older declining congregation and need to attract more people, preferably some who are younger.
Perhaps there is an area of your life where you know, deep down inside that God is calling you to step out in faith. Trusting him. Like Henry Colcord, trusting Charles Blondin. Not like me with my map, car, and extra strongs as I go to do my Christmas shopping in Hanley !
Lord God, the only true and living God, I regret those times that the world has drawn my attention away from my heavenly homeland. I cry out to You - please anchor my heart in heaven above so I might please You in my pilgrimage here on earth below, Amen.