Summary: Faith is focused on God’s Kingdom work and doesn’t mean you get it all now, but it does mean you are rewarded in eternity — and sometimes faith is rewarded in this life!
Faith: Sometimes Now, Sometimes Later
1. Faith, hope, and love are the big three Christian virtues. Hebrews 11 has been focusing on faith, and that focus will continue some as we get in chapter 12.
2. Faith, however, needs to be Biblically defined and should be distinguished from instances of faith or gifts of faith to certain individuals.
3. George Muller of Bristol (UK) ran an orphanage in the 19th century without fund raising, simply on the basis of faith. God miraculously provided for one need after another. His experience was so influential, that the evangelical world began embracing his approach, thus the birth of the faith mission.
4. But George Muller’s case is not typical; he was given, I believe, a special gift of faith; it wasn’t self-generated. His experience testified as to what God could do, but not what others should do. What he’s done for others, he might not do for you.
5. This portion of Hebrews makes the point. We see two groups of people who were focused on serving God and had great faith, but God did not treat them the same.
Main Idea: Faith is focused on God’s Kingdom work and doesn’t mean you get it all now, but it does mean you are rewarded in eternity — and sometimes faith is rewarded in this life!
I. We Get Something But Not Everything Now: God Honors Faith in Two DISTINCT Ways (32-38)
Warren Wiersbe: “Faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.”
A. Deliverance or Victory: He CHANGES outcomes through faith (32-35a).
1. Three sets naming people of faith: JUDGES, kings, prophets
2. Three sets of three ACCOMPLISHMENTS by people of faith
(1) Subdued kingdoms, (2) wrought righteousness, (3) obtained promises, (4)stopped mouths, (5) quenched fires, (6) escaped the sword, (7) were made strong, (8) waxed mighty in war, (9) turned away attackers.
3. In very rare instances, faith was rewarded by temporary RESURRECTIONS.
B. Providing ENDURANCE and patience in suffering or persecution (35b-38)
Just as great faith does great things, so great faith helps us endure when God chooses not to deliver us from earthly harm.
“Christians triumph through and over suffering and death.” Ben Witherington III
1. Those who endure by faith receive a better resurrection (rewards).
2. The world rejected them, but the world is unworthy of them (just like Jesus).
3. Torture, beatings, imprisonment, execution, cruel deaths, poverty, homelessness (during the time of the Macabees).
I Maccabees 2:27-38 passim (although not part of the canon, the historical information from between the Testaments cited here is considered reliable): “And Mathathias cried out in the city with a loud voice, saying: Every one that hath zeal for the law, and maintaineth the testament, let him follow me. So he, and his sons fled into the mountains, and left all that they had in the city. Then many that sought after judgment, and justice, went down into the desert… And they abode there, they and their children, and their wives, and their cattle... And they said to them: Do… according to the edict of king Antiochus, and you shall live.
And they said: We will not come forth, neither will we obey the king's edict, to profane the sabbath day… So they gave them battle on the sabbath: and they were slain with their wives, and their children, and their cattle, to the number of a thousand persons.” [Douay-Rheims]
2 Corinthians 12:7-10, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
C. Balance: God can do great things in response to FAITH (often expressed in prayer), but God’s will might be for us to experience suffering or earthly defeat.
1. Howard Hendricks: Had brain cancer, spoke with a metal plate in his head. “I am an impenetrable fortress until it’s God’s time for me to go.”
2. If you look at these examples, faith is meant to be exercised more about trusting God to help you to stand your ground amongst society’s pressure to cave-in or to reach others than it is be healed of cancer or a heart condition.
3. Faith is primarily about God’s glory and God’s kingdom and secondarily about our personal comfort.