Memorial Day was established in 1868 to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War. It has grown to become a solemn recognition of all of our nation’s war dead and the high price of our freedom.
Joke – A church had a bulletin board decorated with pictures of soldiers who had been killed in service to their country. The board was trimmed in red, white and blue and had little flags on it. A little boy was looking up at the board when the pastor came up. He asked the little boy how he liked the board. The boy asked what it was about. The pastor explained that the pictures were the men from their church who had died in the service. The little boy said, “The morning service or the evening service?”
In the bulletin today we have listed the members of our church who have died this past year. Today we honor them as well as those who have given their lives for our country.
Turn to Hebrews chapter 11. This chapter is known as the “Hall of Faith” and it honors those who set a great example of faith for us to follow.
The first person in the Bible to die was Abel. Verse 4 says that though he is dead he still speaks. I think that is true of any person of faith. Their death is not the end of them. They still speak through their influence.
Five attributes of their faith I want us to see this morning:
I. They Understood the Words of Faith.
A. A Definition of Faith (11:1)
St. Augustine said, “Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.”
Clement of Alexandria said, “Faith is voluntary anticipation.”
When our son Jesse was 1 year old and had just started walking we went outside to walk on the driveway. He did fine but he wanted to explore off the driveway. When he came up to the edge where the grass started, he would reach up his hand for me to take it and then he stepped off into the grass. Jesse was walking onto new uncharted territory and he had full confidence when he held his dad’s hand. I find a lesson there. We should explore new territory for God but don’t forget to “put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water.” We can move forward with confident faith holding to His hand.
B. A Declaration of Faith (11:6)
They knew that God rewarded faith. They knew that God is only pleased when we demonstrate faith in action.
C. The Destination of Faith (11:13-16)
Here is the end result of faith. When we understand this we can attempt great things for God.
A friend of mine was witnessing in an inner-city housing project. One man who was on drugs pulled a knife and said he was going to kill him. My friend, in a flash of inspiration, responded, “You can’t threaten me with heaven.” The drug addict moved on and my friend continued witnessing. This is true, is it not? Heaven is the reward, our final destination. It should embolden us.
II. They Undertook a Walk of Faith.
Steven Curtis Chapman has a song called, “The Great Adventure”. The first line goes, “Saddle up your horses, we’ve got a trail to blaze; through the wild blue yonder of God’s amazing grace.”
Abraham – Verse 8. Abraham went out not knowing where he was going.
Abraham speaks to us today saying, “When God calls, GO.”
He also says, “When tests come, trust” (v.17 offering Isaac).
Moses – Verse 29. Moses led the children of Israel through the Red Sea.
Moses speaks to us today saying, “Against overwhelming odds move forward.”
Joshua – Verse 30. Joshua marched the army of Israel around Jericho 7 times.
Joshua speaks to us today saying, “When it doesn’t make sense, keep going.”
III. They Accomplished Works of Faith.
Noah – Verse 7. He built an ark.
Noah says to us today, “Though it is hard work and may take a lifetime (600 years) keep working.” (Ark symbolic of the church)
Rahab – Verse 31. She hid and protected the spies.
Rahab speaks to us today and says, “Even though it involves great risk, side with God.” (Joshua 2)
Others – Verses 32-34.
These speak to us today saying, “Every victory in life, every accomplishment is given to us by grace through faith.”
IV. They Withstood the Trials of Faith.
Nameless others – verses 35-38
They speak to us saying, “When life goes bad don’t give up. There is a better life coming.” They didn’t receive the promise but saw it from afar, verse 39, 13. This is the definition of faith, verse 1.
Illus. Stephen in Acts 7:55-56
V. They’ve Become Our Witnesses of Faith (12:1).
There’s a gallery of witnesses watching us, pulling for us. They along with the Trinity and the angelic hosts cheer us on. We should draw strength from these witnesses.
A man fell off a cliff but managed to grab a small branch sticking out from the side of the cliff. He shouts, “Is anyone up there?”
“I am here, I am the Lord. Do you believe in me?” came the reply.
“Yes, Lord I believe. I really believe, but I can’t hold on much longer.”
“Don’t worry, I will save you, just let go of the branch.”
A pause, then the man shouts, “Is their anyone else up there?”
On this Memorial Day weekend, we have great reason to hold fast in faith. The War on Terror is being waged valiantly by our troupes in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places. There is a great “cloud of witnesses” cheering us on. They still speak. Some of these are fathers, grandfathers, husbands and children who have given their lives to protect our freedom. And, beyond this there is the Heavenly Father who helps us in this just cause.
We should sing with confidence the old hymn, “Have Faith in God” and move forward in faith.