Hebrews 11:7-16 – What Faith Means!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 16, 2012 AM
In what has occurred in the past few days, people are trying to find meaning out of the violence. Sadly, bad people will do bad things to innocent people. Sin exists. And, this kind of violence has always been with us because we live in a sin-fallen world. Never forget that a madman king tried to wipe out a perceived rival for his throne by killing all the children, ages 2 years and younger, in Bethlehem following the birth of Jesus. When these kinds of horrendous things occur, we need to hide in the loving wings of the One who loves us and sacrificed His son for us. It is time to understand what faith means again.
Jewish believers were trying to go back to a worldly faith where the emphasis was on their feelings and good works. The author of Hebrews would have none of it and begins the process of defining exactly what faith has meant all along. God rewards those who seek Him and we can only become righteous by our faith. A person’s faith has always defined their character and their quality. Let’s discover from Hebrews what faith means…
I grew up understanding there were certain things that a young gentleman did not do and things that were expected of him. That leadership was not found in consensus, but in those who are willing to take charge and lead. That morality is found in biblical precepts and not in what makes one happy for the moment. Life did not simply revolve around me. My life was founded in devotion as demonstrated in family, community, and nation, practiced through my faith. Perhaps we have forgotten what Hebrews teaches us, that…
I. Faith means obedience! (V. 7)
1. It is not difficult to see why Noah must have been influenced “by faith.” Everything Noah did before the Flood was done in virtue of his simple belief and trust in what God told him. Noah had such a relationship with the Lord God that when He spoke to Noah, Noah obeyed immediately. Noah did not see the flood coming from a course of outside events that pointed to such a catastrophe happening in the future. He did not lick his finger and test the wind. He did not seek the advice of the world or public consensus. He was told by God and he obeyed. God’s warning was given a hundred and twenty years before the deluge, and such an event had never occurred before. In fact, it had never rained on earth until that time! Noah’s relationship with God was such that he trusted God’s words and advice. While God had become grieved at the rest of mankind, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8 NIV) It was simply because God had informed Noah and he put unwavering confidence in what God said. Hebrews tells us that, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen” acted on his trust in God. Noah did not need to see what God described to believe it; he just needed God’s assurance it was going to happen. God’s word was enough for Noah. Notice what Noah does next. He simply did not believe he acted on what he heard! The beautiful truth herein is that Noah “in holy fear” obeyed God and “built an ark to save his family!” The result of Noah’s faith is that “he condemned the world” by his actions of following what God told him to do and “became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” Faith is not faith until it is obeyed. Faith means obedience!
EXAMPLE: I sometimes hated the words my father would say to us to make us obedient. He would say, “Because I said so.” While I sometimes hated those words, I learned to trust my father’s words. His promises were real. If he said it was “yes” it was yes, and on the converse his “no” was no! Because of his consistency, I learned to have confidence in my father. I knew he desired the very best for my life. I therefore learned obedience. You know what God is the same way! Faith does not just believe in something, it is placing your trust and confidence in its outcome. You do not simply believe, you walk with God. It is obedience. Hebrews teaches us that faith means obedience.
We live in a day and age whereby we demand everything be given to us without personal sacrifice. The government promises us free handouts, but nothing in life is free. There are hidden costs in welfare, social programs, government grants and giveaways. The path to any worthwhile goal begins with the first step. It means personal sacrifice. Hebrews teaches us that…
II. Faith means leaving the comfort of our lives! (Vv. 8-12)
1. There is no difficulty in determining that Abraham was also influenced by faith in God. The case is even stronger than that of Noah, Genesis 15:6 relates, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Abraham acted in obedience as well. Paul wrote concerning Abraham’s faith by stating “the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5 NIV) “By 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.” Not knowing the outcome involves faith. We cannot know the outcome of where God will take us, but we can trust Him to takes us where He desires. Abraham had been comfortable in Ur but “By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country” where “he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.” We can become comfortable in doing things our way. We become comfortable in our ritual. Faith always demands we leave the comfort of our lives; however, there is always a wonderful outcome in doing so! Abraham “was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” God promises us blessing if we follow Him by faith! We all desire our name will live on to future generations. That we be remembered. Abraham desired his family name to live on and be prosperous! So, even though Abraham, by the world’s standard was too old and considered “as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore!” Because Abraham was willing to trust God and leave his comfortable life, we today are the result of Abraham’s faith! Faith means leaving the comfort of our lives!
EXAMPLE: What one leaves for future generations is a very important question that demands an answer. There are those who could care less what they leave behind, whether it is debt, a path of destruction, or emotional and psychological devastation. One does not have to be an addict, alcoholic, or mass murder to adversely affect the future lives of others. We can neglect our faith. We can turn a deaf ear to the words and warnings of the Lord when He has asked us to go, serve, and tell others about His Son. We can become comfortably complacent. Yet, if we desire to see the great things of God, we must attempt great things for God. It is a matter of faith. Faith means leaving the comfort of our lives.
When we decide to step out in faith like Noah or Abraham, we have to decide to keep on heading in the direction God sends us. It can be scary at first, but when we depend on God, there is freedom that comes from walking with Him. The Jews Hebrews addresses, wanted to go back to their old way not just because it was comfortable, but it was also easy. However, like Noah, Abraham, or later Paul, Silas, or Peter one has to learn that…
III. Faith means not going back! (Vv. 13-16)
1. Hebrews reminds his listeners that, “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.” Faith isn’t faith if you can see the outcome. Seeing does not always believe. Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 NIV) It was no more difficult or dangerous for them to return to their old ways than it was to make the journey in the first place. This shows that their remaining as strangers and sojourners in the land of Canaan was voluntary. In fact, the Israelites preferred it, with all its inconveniences and hardships, rather than return to their native land. The same thing is true of all people of God. If you choose to return to the world, and to engage again in all its ungodly pursuits, there is nothing to hinder you. There are lots of opportunities and abundant enticements. There are frequent frivolous friends who would regard it as a matter of joy and triumph to welcome you back into their sinful circle. Misery loves company. However, “people who say” or admit they are “aliens and strangers on earth… show that they are looking for a country of their own!” One of the mottos of those who left their homes in the east to head west was, “Don’t look back!” If one keeps looking back or remorsefully thinking their old way of life was better, the road backward is easy! The Jews who had trusted Jesus could easily return to their old ways. They needed to learn the lesson of the patriarchs of faith that “If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return”, but they did not! Looking at Abraham and others like him, we realize that “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.” Faith means not going back!
EXAMPLE: What was wrong with the Jews during the days of Hebrews? Why did they have such trouble trusting God? In Hebrews 3, we’re reminded that the Israelites heard God’s promise yet refused to believe. I think I know why—we have the same problem today. Instead of looking back and recalling that God could be trusted, they looked ahead and saw nothing but the possibility of a tough future. Their trust was blocked by a fear of the future when it could’ve been solidified with a simple look back at God’s deliverance; instead, they looked back for the wrong reasons. They looked back to Egypt and they wanted to return to slavery! Likewise, when our obstacles appear huge, we should not go back to slavery. We need to reassure ourselves by recalling what God has already done on our behalf. Not going back can give us forward confidence. Faith means not going back!
Faith means obedience, faith means leaving the comfort of our lives, and faith means not going back!
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.