Hebrews 11:17-40 – Faith Expressed!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 30, 2012 AM
What kind of heroes do we hold up to be emulated? Columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. writes about the need for heroes: “My middle son, Marlon, complained to me just the other day that his generation is coming of age ‘in a world without heroes.’ . . . His words tugged at me. . . . Our children have learned to wait for the other shoe to drop, for ‘heroes’ to be unmasked and values betrayed.” A survey by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University shows that 60 percent of adults have no heroes. It’s an unhealthy trend, according to former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett, author of the best-seller The Book of Virtues: “It is particularly important for young people to have heroes. This is a way to teach them by moral example, so that we can point to someone as an ideal.” I believe this is why true heroes, heroes of our faith can give us a renewed vigor to live for the Lord.
In a summary, the writer of Hebrews pointed out that people can still be living by faith when they die, even if by that time they have not received what was promised. By faith, the patriarchs and prophets saw the promises from afar but continued in their faith refusing to turn back to the old ways they had left. His listeners should also renounce any opportunity to go back to their ancestral religion. They should persist in longing for a better country promised by Jesus! A Christian’s faith should form their true worldview. The believer’s faith is what life is all about. Hebrews reminds of how those in the past expressed their faith. Let’s discover what that means for us this morning…
READ: Hebrews 11:17-40
Do you express your faith or do you acquiesce your faith? There are those who think that Christianity should evolve and that it should change its core values with the times. This flies in the face of not just tradition, but with actual biblical theology. The same is true for what constitutes faith. We learn that…
I. Our lives are to be defined by our faith!
1. The lives of those the author describes were defined by their faith. We would know nothing of these individuals without faith defining their lives. Abraham could never have offered up his son unless he fully trusted God already! Moses’ parents had faith that God would take care of their infant son cast adrift into an Egyptian pyramid scheme. And God provided every step of the way of Moses’ life! From making him a basket case, to bringing him up in royal court, to having him run for his life because of stupid decisions, and then leading his people to the Promised Land! His life was defined by his faith! Moses “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” We see the Israelite’s faith when they ran through the Red Sea, when Jericho’s walls caved, when “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” Her life was totally entrusted to her newfound faith! Because of their faith they “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised… shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword,” their “weakness was turned to strength; and… became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released… Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground!” Can you imagine living your life in this way? Jesus reminds us that we often cannot do what he asks us to do “Because you have so little faith.” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20 NIV) The reason that Christianity is not vibrant as it should be is because we do not find faith that moves mountains! Our lives are to be defined by our faith!
EXAMPLE: Why do you do what you do in life? What makes you get up every day to go to work, clean your home, or simply live your lives? For some it is their children, for others it is their job ethic or education, and still for some, it is because they have nothing better to do! It is laudable to have a goal-oriented life, but what happens when children move away or rebel, what occurs when your job closes down or you retire, what is left at the end of your life when you realize you have lived for nothing? Just as the bedraggled crayon-scrawled signs, rain-drenched candles, and plastic sun-faded flowers left at the makeshift roadside memorials, our lives are not long remembered either. However, go back, look at the great folks of faith, and notice how they are remembered. “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets.” What about Paul, Silas, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John or perhaps, the Wesley brothers, John Rogers, C. H. Spurgeon, D. L. Moody or Billy Graham? Maybe you remember Brother McMillan, Pastor Ward Lawrence, Dr. Bill Peters, or Jan Sander. Our lives are to be defined by our faith!
There are those who say they live their faith, but when one takes a closer look at their lives, or especially their families, we find a whole other truth. One of the reasons we have the violence we do in our society today, is we have redefined what constitutes a family. When we look at these verses, we discover that…
II. Our families are to be managed by our faith!
1. While there are not always good examples of parenting in the Bible, we do discover godly examples of faithful parents who entrusted their children to the Lord. Abraham “who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son!” Why would he do such a thing? Was he nuts? NO! “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” Can you imagine? God asks you to do the unthinkable, but you understand immediately that God has a plan and you must above all trust in God’s plan for your family. All the way up the mountain, searching for wood, answering his son’s incessant questions about the sacrifice, and even while he was plunging the blade into Isaac’s chest, Abraham trusted God! Isaac wasn’t the best dad either, but he knew his sons, by faith he “blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.” And Jacob, the liar, even though his sons had sold his favorite, Joseph, into slavery because of their insane jealousy “when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons”, and by “faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.” Even “By 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.” From birth to death these parents, while not the best, had enough sense to trust God with their families! We live in an age where daycare, schools, television, and video games raise many of our children. Single parent homes are becoming the new “normal” with multiple transient hookups. God’s wisdom reminds us to, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV) and fathers are not to “exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV) Our families are to be managed by our faith!
EXAMPLE: Neither Guns nor their availability make people kill one another. Sin does. I remember in High School, during hunting season; it wasn’t unusual for guys to drive to school with gun racks filled with shotguns or rifles. Often, my friends and I went shooting after Friday classes and we had pistols and ammo in the trunks of our vehicles. I even brought my .22 caliber revolver to shop class in order to make new pistol grips! I graduated from a large suburban school, but no one was ever threatened or harmed. The reason: It was unthinkable. Nowadays the moral and social fabric of our society is so corrupted; we no longer see sin as sin. Most school shootings and attacks since the mid 1990s confirm that the perpetrators were on some kind of antidepressant. i CDC data shows that one in 25 children ages 12 to 17 in the U.S. are on antidepressants. ii Add to this the unmarried birth rate of 41%, where unmarried couples make up 12% of U.S. couples iii, and a divorce rate for first time marriage is 41%, for second marriages, it is 60%, and for third marriages, it is 73%, Houston, we have a problem! iv These statistics are important because research shows that children without a mom and a dad are at greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, and are twice as likely to drop out of school, commit criminal acts, and engage in premarital sex. I would say that it is time again for families to be managed by faith!
During Christmastime, or when a national tragedy strikes, we find all sorts of folks willing to do good things for others. I am glad we can come together, but this should be more than writing a pity saying on a cup of coffee. Sadly, far too many think that by simply doing good, makes one good, and nothing could be further from the truth. We discover by these verses found in Hebrews that…
III. We are made perfect by our faith!
1. If holiness were obtainable by simply doing good things, we would never have needed Jesus to die on a cross for us. This is why Hebrews remarks concerning Moses, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” It was “By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.” Unknown to Moses at the time, was the mere fact that by his act of faith he was pointing to a better way, the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ! In conclusion, the writer pointed out that the great heroes of faith he had spoken of had not yet realized the result of their faith concerning the human soul in its relation to death, judgment, heaven, and hell. When we die, we are not eternally judged for the good we did in life, we are first weighed by what we believed in life! Paul, a Jew by birth, knew “that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:15-16 NIV) Like the author of Hebrews, Paul would say, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV) This proves that God had planned something far better for them and us. Paul would also write, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:20-22 NIV) You see, Hebrews reminds us that, “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect!” We are made perfect by our faith!
EXAMPLE: When someone says she believes in God, does that make her a Christian? When someone says he believes in Jesus, does that make the person a Christian? The affirmation of faith was important in the ancient world. It showed the world what you trusted in, as James declared, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.” (James 2:19 NIV) Of course, James also affirmed that his faith was shown by what he did after believing. Do you sometimes doubt your faith? I believe God knows our weakness and this is where faith comes in let me explain: One time Jesus saw a large crowd around some of his disciples and the teachers of the law arguing with them. A man had brought his demon-possessed son to the disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not. The man tells Jesus, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaims, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:16-24 NIV) The boy’s father didn’t claim that he had perfect faith, nor did he walk away in despair. He acknowledged his doubts (unbelief) at the same time that he passionately expressed his desire to believe! Therefore, our faith does not need to be perfect our faith makes us perfect!
Our lives are to be defined by our faith! Our families are to be managed by our faith! We are made perfect by our faith!
iii http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/196 and http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/census/2011-05-26-census-unmarried-couples_n.htm
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.