A lesson from Hebrews 11
In a day and age where so much backsliding shallowness of faith and people question God is evident in the modern church I thought it fitting that we take the time to reassess our own faiths, search our hearts and go back to the basic fundamentals of what faith really is. With that in mind we will be taking a look at Hebrews chapter 11 which many of you know as the passage dubbed the ‘Great Hall of Faith’.
As many of us know faith is one of those things that is so hard to both understand and manifest in everyday life. I did a search on the word “faith” and it occurs over 230 times in the Bible thus showing God’s emphasis on it. We need to search our hearts to see whether we are truly “in the faith” or whether we are just pretending and for those who are genuinely saved, do we have faith in God and do we take Him at His word? There are many examples of unbelief and hardness of hard throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testament and the root cause is almost always a lack of faith.
Back in chapter 10 of Hebrews and verse 22 we are exhorted to”…draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Faith that Endures to the End
In verses 35 through 39 we are admonished to have faith that endures to the end:
35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.
36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
So what exactly is “faith”?
Some people think that faith is merely believing certain facts.
Hebrews 11: 1 defines faith as being “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.
Matthew Henry comments “…Faith and hope go together; and the same things that are the object of our hope are the object of our faith. It is a firm persuasion and expectation that God will perform all that he has promised to us in Christ; and this persuasion is so strong that it gives the soul a kind of possession and present fruition of those things, gives them a subsistence in the soul, by the first-fruits and foretastes of them: so that believers in the exercise of faith are filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory. ”
The Greek word for “substance” according to Strong’s Concordance is “hupostasis” (hoop-os’-tas-is)which literally means an underlying), (a) confidence, assurance, (b) a giving substance (or reality) to, or a guaranteeing, (c) substance, reality.
So thus faith is the confidence of things hoped for (optimism). It is evidenced in putting confidence and having belief and conviction in the things that we cannot see.
Other translations show that the idea here is “confidence” and “assurance”
11 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. – Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)
We are told in verse 6 that “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.” So faith is very necessary to please God.
AW Tozer said“True faith rests upon the character of God and asks no further proof than the moral perfections of the One who cannot lie.”
It was a lack of faith that effectively destroyed the Israelites while they were walking in the Sinai wilderness. As soon as the children of Israel’s faith started waning and they began questioning God then the hard times came.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.” (Numbers 20:12)
Throughout Hebrews chapter 11, the core theme of this passage is about faith – what is faith and multiple examples of everyday people who had extraordinary faith in both the Old and New Testament.
3 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.
The creation phenomena as detailed in Genesis chapter 1 is something none of us have borne witness to. Therefore we have to understand this process through the context of faith especially because things which are seen (physical matter – creation) were not made of things that do appear. i.e. physical matter or a physical creator as we know it in our human context.
Basically verses 4 through to 7 show examples of people who exemplified faith in worship, everyday work and walk with God.
Abel had faith through worship
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.
Enoch had faith in his walk with God
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.
Now this is one of the core verses of the Christian faith – very important to learn and apply.
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.
Noah didn’t know the judgment that lay before him instead he stepped out in faith and built the ark as God had instructed him. Because of his obedience God rewarded him and Noah “became heir of the righteousness which is by (or comes through) 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.
I think Abraham’s story is one of the most outstanding examples of faith ever recorded.
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 (or as the NASB says “considered”) 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.
God called Abraham, like Noah to do something (in this case go to a place) he knew absolutely nothing about. He sojourned or travelled in faith. Abraham stepped out in obedience and God rewarded him with the promise that his seed would inherit the land even though this did not happen in his lifetime.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off (or in the future), and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
16 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.
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
23 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.
24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.
31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
32 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:
33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.
34 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.
35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
37 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;
38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
So we have just read quite a number of examples of people who had strong faith in Christ even when things didn’t go so well. It should be our prayer and desire to have faith like theirs.
In the Gospels we see the Lord Jesus talking about and emphasizing the need for faith over and over again. Take for example the man who had a skin disease problem in Mark 1:40-45 amongst many others
All these examples so far we have seen that every single one of them took God at his word.
How do we build up this faith?
The best way to build up and work on making our faith strong is communicating with God our heavenly father, creator, redeemer and king. We need to keep that connection with him clear and open. If we have unconfessed sin in our life then we tend to drift away from God and he loses the important place in our lives and that’s when our faith begins to wane. So what we need to do is commune with him in prayer.
I know all of us don’t pray enough. Myself included. Leonard Ravenhill, one of my favourite preachers and authors and one man who’s life was used mightily by God in the 20th century wrote in his book entitled “Why Revival Tarries”: “No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.” He also stated “A man may study because his brain is hungry for knowledge, even Bible knowledge. But he prays because his soul is hungry for God.” Are we hungry for God?
Next to prayer and as equally important is delving deeply into his word and reading the Bible, God’s message to mankind.
Somebody who really loves Christ will show evidence of that by always being ready to discuss things of God without apprehension.
We need to make Psalm 63: 1 our prayer: “O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.”
Do we seek God early in the morning? Does our soul thirst for him like we thirst for water on a 42 degree day? Does our flesh absolutely long for him?
Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Do we love God’s law? Do we meditate on it all day long?
What Faith is NOT!
I just want to take a moment to address what faith is not. A lot of new converts enter the Christian faith without knowing what they are really in for. This is largely due to so-called pastors and preachers spreading a wishy washy, Micky Mousy Gospel of easy believism that gives people that warm fuzzy feeling inside the pit of their stomachs. Preachers tell them that all they need to do is accept Jesus? Accept what?! And then they leave the path of faith and then we wonder why there is no revival in our churches. Faith is not all about a pie in the sky kind of thing. The Christian faith is not an easy road, that’s why it’s a narrow way that we must walk (see Matthew 7:14). Becoming a Christian means that we have to be willing to count the huge cost of being a disciple of Christ… and that is not an easy thing to do.
Many people have gone to church all their lives but there seems to be a huge gulf between their brain and their heart, probably more rightly called ‘disconnect’. Equally there is also a disconnect between faith and life. You can’t have one without the other just like you can’t have justification without sanctification/ Faith must be something that really comes from your heart not just something that you mentally assent to. Your heart and mind has to be in sync with each other. It really doesn’t matter how intellectual you are if you don’t actually practice your faith and demonstrate that day to day… and this is a good indicator of where someone is at in their walk with the Lord and their level of spiritual maturity. Of course we’re not perfect… we are fallen human beings but we should be decisively aiming to practice faith everyday even when it’s hard.
Testing of Faith
Someone once rightly said that “Faith is not faith until it is tested”
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1:2-3
Throughout the Bible and in history, God has allowed His children to go through trials, temptations and periods of testing for the purposes of refinement, discipline or testing.
2 Corinthians 12: 9 one of my favourite Scripture passages says: And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
And the Apostle Paul goes on to write “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The Apostle Paul himself had a ‘thorn in the flesh’ and weaknesses and we are told of this in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. There is a lot of debate as to what exactly the thorn in the flesh was but many have speculated that it could be a physical ailment. We don’t know and it really doesn’t matter. The bottom line of this particular section of scripture is that the Apostle Paul experienced the thamazing power of Christ in his times of weakness… divine power that gave him strength when he had none.
All of us have personal weaknesses and day to day problems of some sort. We need to be working on them but we can’t do it in our own strength… we must rely on the mighty arm of the Lord.
Leonard Ravenhill wrote: “Do not we rest in our day too much on the arm of flesh? Cannot the same wonders be done now as of old? Do not the eyes of the Lord still run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those who put their trust in Him? Oh, that God would give me more practical faith in Him! Where is now the Lord God of Elijah? He is waiting for Elijah to call on Him.”
I think it is in the darkest of times that is when we are drawn closer to Christ. We can experience a deeper relationship with him than never before. We can experience peace, joy and comfort like never before. So God can really use those dark times to draw us closer to himself. When we think we can’t go on any longer, that is when we can turn to Christ in dependency and experience his all-sufficiency.
When we look at and reflect upon our sin and our guilt that is when we can think back to Christ and the finished work he did for us on the cross and that in itself is so amazing and something that should really boost our faith in Him.
Throughout history, God has allowed many of his Children to go through terrible trials. Christians around the world are persecuted everyday. Many are martyred for Christ. Credible research shows that approximately 100,000 Christians are killed each year for their faith in Christ. Are we willing to die for Christ? For a start are we willing to take a stand for His word and our beliefs? Sadly the great majority of churches right here in Australia are way too scared to stand up for Biblical truths and the God of the Bible. That is why our nation is in the sorry state that it is in right now. As Leonard Ravenhill aptly put it in his book Revival God’s Way “The Church right now has more fashion than passion, is more pathetic than prophetic, is more superficial than supernatural.” Sadly that is what we have ended up with today – a pathetic, weak, unholy, unsanctified, disgraceful bunch of people who call themselves Christians, drive to a building they call ‘church’ on Sunday morning, “worship” God by singing songs from books (or high tech projectors) written by Hillsong, neglect to observe communion (which is instead replaced with a healing session) and listen to a short entertainment feel good session from a Joel Osteen wannabe preacher who should more rightly be called a clown and the rest of the week live their lives pretty much like their unbelieving neighbours. Unfortunately even the churches that call themselves “conservative” are not much better either. And then we still expect God to bless us…
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs written by John Fox and first published in 1563 AD is a compilation of the accounts and testimonies of myriads of martyrs in history up until the time of publication. The underlying theme that was resonant throughout the whole book was the power of Christ shining forth and giving His faithful children strength to withstand the persecution.
Faith does not depend on feelings instead it should depend on an all-sufficient, all powerful Almighty, sovereign God
Faith in Christ doesn’t depend on our feelings and sentiments. Human feelings and sentiments are fluid – they change from one day to the next. One day you can feel ecstatic and all on fire for God. The next day you can feel as dead as a cold potato. I know that’s how I sometimes feel. Basing our faith on feelings is thus one big disaster. Faith instead should rest upon Christ our solid rock and only hope. His word is unshakeable and never ever changes. He is in control of everything. Nothing happens without his knowledge and nothing is impossible with Him! If your faith is not anchored on Christ the solid rock then you’re like an unanchored or unsecured boat in the harbor that is tossed to and fro and going in no particular direction.
Mathew 24:35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”
1 Peter 1:25 “The word of the Lord abides forever.”1
Isaiah 40:8 “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”
If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.
Isn’t that wonderful? To know that even if we lack faith Christ will still remain faithful. When we are fluid, he is solid as a rock.
REAL Faith in Christ is strong
The bond between us and Christ is inseparable so even through trials and tribulations we are never out of touch with Christ and the power of his love.
Romans 8:35 –
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shalltribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”[c]
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord
God may use trials and temptations to test us. They are for our good and to refine us so that we are more inline with his will.
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common toman; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
REAL Faith is practical
As Christians we should show love, compassion and the mercy of God to the unbeliever. We must address both their spiritual needs and physical needs. Our faith should make the unbelieving to see the value of being a child of God. Our faith should also have a practical outworking. That includes hospitality and lending a hand wherever possible. James 2:14 says What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? And… vs 20: But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
1 Cor 13:2 “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
Likewise we must show the same care, love and practicality as believers in the body of Christ.
So in conclusion we see that faith is so essential for the Christian in every aspect of his or her’s life. While a Christian may go through trials they are a necessary part of testing ones’ faith. Whenever we don’t understand the purpose for something, especially a trial in our lives, let us remember our Lord’s words to his disciples in Mk 11:22 “Have faith in God”.
Through faith we can worship God, walk with God and work for God. I encourage us all to assess our own faiths and see where we are at in terms of our standing before Christ. May the outworking of our faith on a daily basis be a testimony to the value of knowing God.