Scripture Ref: Hebrews 11:1-40
a. Part 3 of a 3-part series on faith, hope and love. Last week we discussed hope. We learned that we have a living inheritance of hope. Our hope is not just a pipe dream or a wish, but rather, it is a promise of life eternal with a living God.
b. Today we are going to focus on the third part of this great trilogy, faith.
c. As with any mechanical item with which we are unfamiliar, before we feel comfortable using it, or operating it, or simply being near it, the human side of us needs to understand it and how it works. So it is with faith.
d. There are some things, however, we have no understanding of, yet we trust and believe in them. For example:
(1) You may not understand the aerodynamic principals of flight, yet you have faith that the airplane on which you are riding is going to become airborne before it reaches the end of the runway, that it will remain airborne and under the control of the pilot, and that the pilot will be able to safely place it back on the ground at its final destination.
(2) When I first slipped beneath the waves on the USS Sam Houston, the first submarine I served on, I did not know how submarines operated, yet I had faith that the ocean would remain on the outside of the submarine’s hull. Furthermore, I had faith the crew would be able to control her depth and course and, when the time, would be able to bring her to the surface.
e. If we can have faith in inanimate objects such as airplanes and submarines, why is it so difficult for us to have faith in a living God.
2. What Is Faith?
a. So what is faith? Webster’s gives us these definitions: allegiance to duty or a person; belief and trust in and loyalty to God; firm belief in something for which there is no proof; and, simply, complete trust.
b. Augustine of Hippo, one of the early church fathers, said, “Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of faith is to see what we believe.”
c. Clement of Alexandria, an early Greek theologian said, “Faith is a voluntary anticipation.”
d. Scripture tells us this. Read Hebrews 11:1-3
e. In this brief introduction, the author establishes three basic considerations about faith: its basic nature, the honor associated with it, and its way of seeing things.
(1) In its simplest terms, faith is being sure and certain about unseen hopes and realities.
(2) Faith is honorable. The Old Testament ancients were commended, or highly praised, for it.
(3) It is a way of viewing all experience since it is the way in which believers see the universe for what it is, a creation of God.
3. The Faith Hall of Fame
One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I’ll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can’t see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that’s all that matters.
b. Faith requires that we jump when we can’t see what we are jumping to with the assurance that someone is standing there to catch us and, more importantly, that we will be caught.
c. The Bible is full of examples of where a superior faith produced a superior reward. Hebrews 11, rightly called the Faith Hall of Fame, is a listing of just a few of them.
d. Read Hebrews 11:4-40
(1) Enoch was translated from life unto life without experiencing a physical death. Why? Because he pleased God by living a life of faith.
(2) Because of his faith, Noah and his family were spared destruction by the great flood.
(3) Abraham received an inheritance of a land flowing with milk and honey, because he was willing, by faith, to go to a place he had never seen simply because God told him to.
(4) By faith, Abraham and Sarah became parents when the laws of nature were stacked against them, because Abraham believed God to be faithful in His promise of a child.
e. There are tangible, and sometimes intangible, side effects of faith. These great witnesses teach us a lesson on just how powerful faith can be, if we will let it.
4. The Side Effects of Faith
a. Verse 4—We are made righteous through faith. That is holy in heart, and observant of the divine commands in practice.
b. Verse 5—We will not experience death (spiritual). Enoch was translated from life to life because of his faith. He did not experience physical death. Because of our faith, we will not experience spiritual death (separation from God).
c. Verse 6—Most importantly, faith pleases God. More to the point, we can’t please God without faith. The end result is that we are rewarded by God.
d. Verse 7—Faith sometimes prompts us to take actions that on first look may appear to be ill-conceived, but on second look are blessings in disguise.
e. Verses 8-10—Much like the crew of the starship Enterprise, faith will take us to new places under God’s direction, boldly going where we have never gone before.
f. Verse 11—Faith helps us to overlook our physical limitations and discover talents and skills we did not know we possessed.
g. Verses 24-25—Faith builds character and helps us to sometimes choose the more difficult and more rewarding route, rather than the easy, less rewarding one.
h. Verse 30—Faith enables us to overcome seemingly impossible odds and obstacles.
5. Straining for the Finish Line
a. Having read this chapter, we should be inspired (at the most) to strive for a stronger faith, or shamed (at the least) for having a weak faith.
b. Read Hebrews 12:1-3
(1) Being surrounded by so many great witnesses of great faith, how can we give up so easily? How can we not have a powerful faith?
(2) Through faith, we should look to the source of our faith, Jesus, who set the perfect example for us.
(a) With faith, he endured the cross and its shame. A faith that He would be restored to His former glory.
(b) He not only designed and practiced our faith, He finished it by proving His faith was justified when he was restored to the right hand of God.
(c) How can we claim we have little or no faith, or that it’s not worth it when we look at what He endured (libel, slander, humiliation) to perfect and provide us a faith that can prevent us from being subject to what He was?
6. An Agent of Peace
a. The author of Hebrews told us in 11:6 that not only do we need faith in order to please God, but God would reward us because of it.
b. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, substantiates this.
Read Romans 5:1-2
c. The greatest reward we receive from God for our faith is our justification.
(1) The act of God, by which he pardons our sins because of our belief in Christ. That is, He accounts, accepts, and treats them as righteous in the eye of the law, i.e., as conformed to all its demands.
(2) The law is not relaxed or set aside, but is declared to be fulfilled in the strictest sense; and so the person justified is declared to be entitled to all the advantages and rewards arising from perfect obedience to the law.
a. Again, I ask you, “what is faith?” This story sums it up fairly easily, albeit humorously.
Faith is when you are ill going to a man you don’t know, who uses words you can’t pronounce and writes you a prescription using language you can neither read or understand, and you paying him large sums of money you can’t really afford for this service. Faith is taking this prescription to another person you don’t know, who gives you a bottle of chemicals you can, again, neither read nor pronounce. Moreover, faith is again paying for these chemicals with money you can’t afford and consuming them with the belief they will cure your ills, or, at the least, relieve their symptoms.
b. Faith is being sure and certain about unseen hopes and realities. The submarine surfaces and dives will always be equal in number.
c. Faith is honorable, the source of praise and commendation. It places us firmly in the company of some of the greatest biblical figures known to man.
d. Faith is way of seeing God when common sense tells us He is invisible.
In April 1988 the evening news reported on a photographer who was a skydiver. He had jumped from a plane along with numerous other skydivers and filmed the group as they fell and opened their parachutes. On the film shown on the telecast, as the final skydiver opened his chute, the picture went berserk. The announcer reported that the cameraman had fallen to his death, having jumped out of the plane without his parachute. It wasn’t until he reached for the absent ripcord that he realized he was freefalling without a parachute. Until that point, the jump probably seemed exciting and fun. But tragically, he had acted with thoughtless haste and deadly foolishness. Nothing could save him, for his faith was in a parachute never buckled on. Faith in anything but an all-sufficient God can be just as tragic spiritually. Only with faith in Jesus Christ dare we step into the dangerous excitement of life.