Hebrews Christ Above All
A Better Faith
Text: Hebrews 11:1-40
An Army Ranger was on vacation in the depths of Louisiana and he wanted a pair of genuine alligator boots in the worst way, but was very reluctant to pay the high prices the local vendors were asking. After becoming very frustrated with the "no haggle" attitude of one of the shopkeepers, the Ranger shouted, "Maybe I'll just go out and get my own alligator so I can get a pair of boots made at a reasonable price!"
The boot maker said, "By all means, be my guest. Maybe you'll run into a couple of Marines who were here this morning saying the same thing." So the Ranger headed into the bayou that same day and a few hours later came upon two men standing waist deep in the water. He thought, "Those must be the two Marines the guy in town was talking about." Just then, the Ranger saw a tremendously long alligator swimming rapidly underwater toward one of the Marines. Just as the gator was about to attack, the Marine grabbed its neck with both hands and strangled it to death with very little effort. The both Marines dragged it on shore and flipped it on its back. Lying nearby were several more of the creatures.
The Marines looked the monster over and then one of the Marines then exclaimed, "Shoot, this one doesn't have any boots either!"
We’ve been studying about faith in the last few sermons and sad to say, many Christians don’t know what they are looking for when they are looking for faith. Paul in trying to keep the Hebrew Christians from falling away from faith devotes a whole chapter just to understanding faith, what it is, what it did and what it continues to do.
Faith’s People Hebrews 11:1-16
Faith’s Definition Hebrews 11:1-3
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
Paul Defines the better faith that will keep the Hebrews from drawing back. The faith that their elders heard as a good report.
The word substance in Griik is hupustasis. RWP says it is that which “stands under anything (a building, a contract, a promise.) You could say that faith is the title-deed of things hoped for. It was something tangible that the elder could hold to in the travels with God.
Faith’s Heroes 11:4-12
4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. 5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. 8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
Paul now names some of those “elders” who heard the report of faith and knew God was true.
He names Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah
I think that in these heroes we see faith’s beginning, growth and ultimate purpose.
Abel’s faith speaks of repentance for he knew that only through the shedding of blood is their remission of sin. His sin must be atoned by the blood of an innocent.
Enoch’s faith shows us a faith that walks with God. I love the phrase in the OT that describes the translation of Enoch. “and he walked with God and was not for God took him.”
Noah’s faith tells us that true faith is a witnessing faith. For over a hundred years he built the ark in a world where rain had never fallen. For over a hundred years he preached repentance to a world fatally sick with sin. How could he bear it? Through faith he had evidence that God was sending a flood.
Abraham’s faith points us to a faith goes at God’s command. God told Abraham to go to another country and leaving all he went because he had heard the report of faith. So he went looking for a city whose builder and maker is God.
Finally Sarah’s faith speaks of the purpose of faith. Sarah who laughed at the promise of God for her to have a child, but then believed and when that child was born she named him Isaac which means laughter. She had gone from the bitter laughter of a doubtful woman to the joyful laughter of a woman complete in God’s purpose for her.
Faith’s Country Hebrews 11:13-16
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
Paul now talks about the country of faith’s title deed.
Paul looks at these 5 heroes and says they died not having received the promises but having seen them afar and were fully persuaded and convinced therefore they embraced the vision and committed themselves to God’s calling and then confessed boldly that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. In doing so the Bible tells us that God was not ashamed to be called their God and He waits for them in the city He has prepared.
Can we say that we today are also Faith’s People?
Are we today hearing faith’s good report? Are we holding to faith’s title-deed? And are we like these heroes, looking for a city who builder and maker is God.
If we repent like Abel. If we walk like Enock. If witness like Noah. If we go like Abraham and if we find purpose like Sarah then we will be Faith’s People today. And may it be said of us as it was of them. God is not ashamed to be called our God.
Faith’s Acts Hebrews 11:17-31
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
True Faith brings Acts of Faith
Paul now looks at the actions of the heroes of faith.
Abraham offers up Isaac in Faith.
The act of giving back to God that which you have believed in Him for.
Isaac was the gift of faith to Abraham but Abrahams faith was now strong enough to believe that God could resurrect his son bringing him back from the dead.
Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
Isaac whose blind eyes could not tell one son from the other was still able in faith to see the future of those sons and believe that despite their problems and weakness God would bless.
Jacob when he was dying blessed both the sons of Joseph.
Notice the act of faith as described by Paul. He worshipped and leaned upon the staff.
Too weak to stand in his own strength yet this weak, dying man promises blesses from God to the Joseph’s children.
His worship of God through faith was possible because he leaned upon God in faith.
Joseph when he died gave commandment concerning his bones.
Jacobs faith was exhibited near death but Joseph’s faith even after death.
He told the Hebrews to take his bones from Egypt and rebury them in the Promised Land.
His faith in God told him that one day they would go home and he would go with them to the home that had been stolen from as a boy, when his own brothers sold him into slavery.
Moses parents had the faith to hide their son, even though the king had ordered him to be killed.
Moses after he was grown refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter.
In faith he chose the suffering of his own people rather than the pleasures of sin for a season.
By faith he forsook Egypt, did not fear the king, endured, kept the Passover, and passed through the Red Sea as on dry land.
By faith Joshua and the children of Israel knocked down the wall of Jericho and conquered the Promised land.
By faith the harlot Rahab lived through the destruction and entered into the lineage of Christ.
Faith Is Not Faith Without Action.
In all these examples we see that faith, if it is real to us, if it is more than just empty words or creeds, must be seen in what we do. Faith is not abstract, it is a substance and it is not merely a belief it is an action.
Scripture: James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Abrahams faith was seen in what he was willing to give back to God. Isaac faith was seen in his sons. Jacobs faith was seen in his grandsons. Josephs faith was seen hundreds of years after he died. Moses faith was seen in what he was willing to sacrifice and what he was willing to undertake. Joshua’s faith was seen in his leadership and battles. Rahab’s faith was seen in her saving of her family.
Where will my faith be seen? What are the acts of my faith?
I can point to the time of salvation. I can point to the baptismal waters if I’m saved and baptized. It cannot stop there. What can I point to now? What can I point to in a life that has been blessed of God? How can I see the talents and resources, that God has given me, being used in faith?
What have I given back? Is it seen in my children, in my grandchildren? Will it be seen 300 years after my death or even 300 minutes after I’m gone?
What have I sacrificed? What battles have I won? Who have I helped to hear the gospel and have faith in God?
Illustration: 57 cents Author: Dr. Russel H. Conwell
God can do amazing things if we will just act in faith. If we will just trust Him and do something. This true story took place in the late 1800s.
A sobbing little girl, named Hattie May Wiatt, stood near a small church from which she had been turned away because it was too crowded.
"I can't go to Sunday School," she sobbed to the pastor, Russel Conwell, as he walked by. Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and, taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday School class.
Some two years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings and the parents called for the kind-hearted pastor, who had befriended their daughter, to handle the final arrangements.
As her poor little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled purse was found which seemed to have been rummaged from some trash dump. Inside was found 57 cents and a note scribbled in childish handwriting, which read, "This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday school."
For two years she had saved for this offering of love. When the pastor tearfully read that note, he knew instantly what he would do!
Carrying this note and the cracked, red pocketbook to the pulpit, he told the story of her unselfish love and devotion. He challenged his deacons to get busy and raise enough money for the larger building.
But the story does not end there! A newspaper learned of the story and published it.
It was read by a realtor who offered them a parcel of land worth many thousand dollars. When told that the church could not pay so much, he offered it for a down payment of 57 cents!
Church members made large subscriptions. Checks came from far and wide. Within five years the little girl's gift had increased to $250,000.00 a huge sum for that time (near the turn of the century).
Her unselfish love had paid large dividends. When you are in the city of Philadelphia, look up Temple Baptist Church with a seating capacity of 3,300 and Temple University where hundreds of students are trained. Have a look, too, at the Good Samaritan Hospital and at a Sunday School building which houses hundreds of Sunday scholars, so that no child in the area will ever need to be left outside during Sunday School time.
In one of the rooms of this building may be seen the picture of the sweet face of the little girl whose 57 cents, so sacrificially saved, made such remarkable history. Alongside of it is a portrait of her pastor, Dr. Russel H. Conwell, who wrote the book, "Acres of Diamonds.”
Faith’s Superseding Hebrews 11:32-40
And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
“What more can Paul say?”
Look at these great men and women of faith! Faith ruled their lives. Faith drove them to action. Faith sustained them in time of trouble. Faith gave them courage in time of catastrophe.
In verse 28 he says “Of whom the world was not worthy.” Their faith made them something that this world could not understand and did not deserve.
He concludes by saying, “these all having obtained a good report, (heard the testimony of faith) received not the promise. The end of their life was not the end of their faith. The OT saints did not see the culmination of all that they had believe God for.
What was left then? He goes on, “God having provided some better thing for us that they without us should not be perfect, not be complete.”
What more can we say?
Do you realize what Paul was telling those frightened weary Hebrew Christians all those years ago? Do you realize what the Holy Spirit through God’s word is telling us today?
God is not finished. His work didn’t complete with the closing of the Old Testament and these great heroes of faith. God had a part for the Hebrew Christians to play and He has a part in this great work of faith for each of us to play even today.
“That they without us should not be completed.”
God’s work is not over. There are still great things to be done in the name of God through the power of faith. We will not have our name recorded in the Bible Hall of Fame as were Abraham, Moses or Joshua but what we do for God is being recorded in a book kept eternal in the heavens and the book is still open, the pages are still being filled in with the ink of faith every time we act upon the promise of God.
Illustration: The Room
TEEN'S ESSAY NOW HIS EULOGY
Printed in Columbus Dispatch June 1, 1999
Commercial Point, OH
Brian Moore died May 27, 1997, the day after Memorial Day. He was driving home from a friend's house when his car went off Bulen-Pierce Road in Pickaway County and struck a utility pole. He emerged from the wreck unharmed but stepped on a downed power line and was electrocuted. Brian seemed to excel at everything he did. He was an honor student. He told his parents he loved them "a hundred times a day," Mrs. Moore said. He was a star wide receiver for the Teays Valley football team and had earned a four-year scholarship to Capital University in Columbus because of his
athletic and academic abilities.
THE ROOM by Brian Keith Moore
In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room.
There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and right to left as far as the eye could see, had very different headings.
As I walked up to the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read, "People I Have Liked." I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then, without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my entire life. The actions of my every moment, big and small, were written in a detail my memory couldn't match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, mixed with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file named "Friends" was next to the one marked "Friends I Have Betrayed." The titles ranged from common, everyday things to the not-so-common: "Books I Have Read," "Lies I Have Told," "Comfort I Have Given," "Jokes I Have Laughed At."
Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I Have Yelled At My Brothers and Sisters." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done In Anger," "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath At My Parents." I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I had hoped. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had time in my 17 years to write each of these thousands or millions of cards? But each card confirmed the truth. Each card was written in my own handwriting. Each card was signed with my signature. When I pulled out the file marked "Songs I Have Listened To," I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed; not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented. When I came to the file marked "Lustful Thoughts," I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content.
I felt sick to think such a moment had been recorded. A feeling of humiliation and anger ran through my body. One thought dominated my mine: "No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!"
In an insane frenzy, I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took the file at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.
Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that the hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes.
Then, as I looked up through my tears, I saw Him enter the room. No, please, not Him! Not here! Anyone but Jesus! I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. The few times I looked at His face, I saw such sadness that it tore at my heart. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did he have to read every one?
Finally, He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put his arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me. Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card.
"NO!" I shouted, rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards.
But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written in blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished." I stood up, and He led me out of the room.
There was no lock on the door. There were still cards to be written.
We are not here today to compare ourselves to the great heroes of Faith that God has used in the past. We are not here to build a great building or university starting with 57 cents. We cannot see the future and so we cannot know what the coming years or even days hold for us. But this one thing we are here to do today and that is to seize the title-deed of faith, listen as faith’s report rings in our hearts and then determine to act where faith leads us. As a church, as families and as individuals standing before our God one day waiting for the completion of faith in that city made without hands eternal in the heavens. And may it be true for us as it was for these we have heard of this morning, that God is not ashamed, that God is proud to be called our God.