Hebrews 11:1-16 (11 Aug 2019)

Faith in action – Hebrews 11:1-3,8-16

By 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.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

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. By 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. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because considered him faithful who had made the promise. And 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.

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, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 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.

Scan the reading and pick the key word in it.

Count the number of times each word is used and lay them out with the size of the word reflecting the number of times it is used.

To see what this passage is about look at this Word Cloud.

Why is faith important and what is it?

  • It was important to God that these people had faith – and important to them!
  • Their faith resulted in them being blessed; they received what was promised to them including lands, homes, countries, offspring but primarily and eventually heaven, the city God had prepared for them.
  • Because of their faith they were seen as righteous by God, they were justified, loved and saved by God.
  • We know that faith in Jesus is the way open to people to find a right relationship with God, to find forgiveness for sin and salvation.
  • Did these people find salvation through faith in Jesus?
  • These people give us part of the answer to the question, “what happens to people who have not heard of Jesus?”
  • To each of these people God had shown them, somehow, what he wanted of them.  Each of them had been obedient to God’s leading, had trusted God’s promises in a time when, over and over, their contemporaries had failed to show faith in God and had been judged accordingly.
  • Their faith could not have been placed in Jesus, but it was counted as just as good and effective as if it had been.
  • The question becomes, “how faithful have you been to what God has shown you?  Are you as faithful as these ‘heroes of the faith’?”
  • My answer is, “not faithful enough”, so I am so very glad to receive the forgiveness and acceptance offered me in Jesus.

So we come to the key question, “what is faith?”

  • Is it “believing something you know isn’t true?” Is faith “blind”?
  • Test: your chair will collapse under you in 5 seconds from now: 5,4,3,2,1
    • Did you have faith in the chair – or in me?
    • Faith in the chair was not believing something you knew wasn’t true.
    • Was your faith in the chair “blind” or was it reasonable, based on experience and observation?
  • Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 
  • You couldn’t see into the future as to whether the chair would hold you up but you had confidence that it would.
  • You had a hope that it would; not a form of wishful thinking like “I hope to win the lottery” but a sure and certain hope, a confidence that the chair come good and fulfil its promise to hold you up.
  • It’s the kind of faith that gives you confidence to hope – with complete assurance – that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. It’s a faith and a hope which becomes redundant tomorrow morning when the sun rises.
  • Until the 5-second countdown finished your faith was in something you had not yet seen.

Faith is something we exercise dozens of times a day.  It’s something people do in all sorts of ways.

Science depends on faith.

  • e.g. in the principle of cause and effect.  The whole process of science assumes the principlethat every effect had a cause and if you can work out the cause you can explain and even bring about the effect.  This principleleads science to research to find the cause of the effects we see. 
  • We believe in things we don’t see.  
    E.g electrons – never seen one and never will. All we have is a lot of circumstantial evidence they exist.  We believe they exist and have certain properties, and if they exist then they neatly explain effects that we do see. The more satisfactory explanations we find the more firmly we believe in electrons.  At least until a new and better explanation comes up.
  • E.g. Cosmologists believe that 13 or 14 billion years ago all of matter, time and space existed in a singularity which exploded in a Big Bang to result today with the universe we live in.
    • You don’t ask what was there before the Big Bang because time itself began with the bang; there was no time before then.
    • Nor do you ask what’s outside the singularity and the universe as we have it because all of matter and space exists within the singularity and the universe; there is no outside it.
    • This is the best explanation cosmologists have and have faith in – not that anyone has seen the singularity, or the Big Bang nor can we test the theory by repeating it.
    • But it is remarkably similar to what we read in the first chapters of Genesis, and the universe declares to us the magnificence of the creator God.  So we have faith in him.

How’s your faith level?

Rate yourself with a number: 0 meaning barely maintaining any to 10, full strength faith. Then let me give you some encouragement.

Matthew 17:20

  • Jesus healed people but his disciples failed.  Why?
  • He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. ‘
  • Even then and there, in the company of the Lord himself his disciples could not muster enough faith. Jesus rebuked his disciples often for their lack of faith.
  • If you have the same problem then you are in exalted company – don’t feel too bad about it!

Matthew 6:25-34

“Why pray when you can worry?”

Jesus told us not to worry.

  • 32For the pagans run after all these things like food and drink or clothes or life in way, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  You are more important to God than kings, flowers and sparrows: God provides their needs so he will certainly provide yours. Have faith in your loving Heavenly Father. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
  • Move from faith level to faith level.  Get your priorities right:
  • 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

Faith works:

Matthew 9

  • 2 the friends of the paralysed man lowered him down through the roof.  Jesus said it was the faith of these friends and it was this faith that led to the man being healed
  • 22. A woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years touched the hem of Jesus garment.  He said, “take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you”.
  • 29. Two blind men declared they had faith that Jesus could heal them. Jesus said, “according to your faith let it be done to you” and they were healed.
  • But in Jesus home town not many miracles were done because of their lack of faith.

How to build your faith

  1. Ask for faith
  2. Mark 9: 21Jesus asked the boy’s father, ‘How long has he been like this?’ ‘From childhood,’ he answered. 22‘It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’ 23  ‘ “If you can”?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’ 24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’
  3. Ephesians 2: 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9not by works, so that no-one can boast. 
    1. It is a gift from the Holy Spirit:
  • Read the Bible
  • It encourages faith in so many places
  • It is the trustworthy, inspired word of God
  • It shows you the truth, not opinions, interpretations or misinformation
  • Practice it
  • You will never know if your faith is any good until you try it out, practice it, live by it.
  • James 2:14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Conclusion

  • Faith is NOT believing something you know isn’t true
  • Our faith is based on truth, on reality, on reason, on the one true, creator God. 
  • Our faith is based on Jesus our Saviour who is himself the way, the truth and the life.

BUC 11 August 2019

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