Summary: Christians and non-Christians can have defective and distorted views of what the Christian life really is. Christian's lives are NOT accident and incident-free.

Faith to Be Strong and Weak

Hebrews 11:29-38

Clearing up the Fog around Faith

Christians and non-Christians can have defective and distorted views of what the Christian life really is. Studying the entire counsel of God aims to bring our views of God and his ways into line with the Truth. We do this for unbelievers so that they can embrace Christianity on the basis of a true picture of it, rather than a distorted one; and we do it for believers so that they can live their lives on the basis of true views of God and his ways, rather than distorted or discouraging views.

Hebrews 11 is tremendously important for clearing up the fog around faith and shows what kind of life faith guarantees. There are many who teach today that the life of faith will bring health, wealth and prosperity, and where those things are lacking it's because faith is lacking, but that view does not coincide with Jesus nor the teachings of the apostles that followed Him.

Look at these verses in Hebrews 11:29-38:

29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. 31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. 32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 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-- 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

So what does it mean to “have faith?” What kind of things can we expect from God-given Faith?

1. Through faith God works miracles: That is the point of verses 29-35a. What I mean by "miracles" is works of God that involve some extraordinary interruption in the natural cause-effect way that nature works: The dividing of the Red Sea (verse 29) and the destruction of the walls of Jericho (verse 30) and the quieting of the lions when Daniel was in the lions' den (verse 33), and the quenching of fire by Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego, when they walked through Nebuchadnezzar's furnace (verse 34), the resurrection of the son of the widow of Zarephath (verse 35a). All these are what we usually call miracles. God breaks into the normal way things work and in an extraordinary way makes them work out differently. And in every case here the people of God were helped or rescued from danger or death. God interrupts the natural consequences of events!

2. Through faith God works through "acts of providence." "Acts of providence" are works of God that control situations but in a less extraordinary way. Looking on, you would not necessarily say that a miracle happened, but by the eye of faith you see the "invisible hand of God" - as R.C. Sproul calls it. I call it God’s powerful points of providence. Can you believe the coincidence? No wait, it’s no coincidence, it’s God.

For example, the writer refers to Rahab not perishing because she had heard of the power of the God of Israel (Joshua 2:9-11) and cared for the Jewish spies (verse 31); and to David conquering kingdoms and establishing righteousness (verse 33); and to Elijah escaping the sword of Jezebel (verse 34); and to Gideon being strengthened in weakness (verse 34); and to others putting foreign armies to flight (verse 34); etc. In all these cases God is the one who is working behind the scenes, but no miracles are obvious. It’s just God at work!

And the point of the writer here in verses 29-35a is that all these wonderful acts of God - both extraordinary miracles and more ordinary acts of providence - come about "by faith." You see that:

(verse 29) By faith they passed through the red sea . . . (verse 30) by faith the walls of Jericho feel down . . . (verse 31) by faith Rahab . . . did not perish . . . (verse 33) by faith [they] conquered kingdoms . . .

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