Summary: Abraham and Sarah point us to a kind of faith that can help us make temporary sacrifices for our heavenly home. This faith opens up our eyes to God's activity. And it actually makes God proud of us!
Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-16
Remember the old milk commercials, with famous people wearing milk moustaches? The caption at the end simple said, “Got milk?” It was catchy. It grabbed your attention. So I thought about that when it came to naming today’s sermon. We’re looking at the famous 11th chapter of Hebrews, nicknamed the “Hall of Faith.” It’s a listing of great heroes of the faith, through whom God accomplished much.
The question becomes, “How can I have that kind of faith?” Sometimes we really need faith, don’t we? Life is tough. And sometimes we need to know that God is real, that God is aware, and that God is gonna get me through this.
So let’s examine faith. The chapter never defines what it is; rather, in verse 1, it gives a two-fold description. I’ve listed several translations of verse 1 at the top of your outline:
What is faith? Faith is...
“...confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (NIV)
“...the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.” (HCSB)
“...the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (NKJV)
And when you want to carry a really big Bible, to impress all your friends, grab the Amplified Version. It adds words in parentheses or brackets to try to further explain the meaning of the phrase. Faith is...
“...the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses].” (AMP)
So if these give us a description of what faith is, then what can it do for us? Verse 2 tells us the “ancients” or our ancestors were famous at it. Today we’re going to look at two ancestors in particular: Abraham and Sarah. They point us to some very useful purposes of faith. First,
1. Faith helps us to make sacrifices
Abraham has been called the “Father of the Faith.” Verses 9 and 10 talk of his sacrifice on behalf of God’s plan: “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents ... For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
Genesis 12 records God’s initial call to Abraham. Basically God said to Abe, “I want you to uproot your immediate family, leaving everything you’ve ever known, and go to a place you’ve never been. Now don’t worry about where it is. I’ll tell you when you get there.” Sounds like your first PCS move, right? It took a lot of faith for Abraham to trust God. And it also took a lot of sacrifice. Abraham lived like a transient, in tents, never really settling down, like a refugee from another country. Sure God was going to do some great things, like give him the Promised Land along with a ton of offspring who would later become a new country called “Israel.” But God hadn’t done any of that yet!
Abraham was 75 years old when he set out on this crazy new adventure, all because God told him to. A tent wasn’t the nicest way to live, especially for a guy who was extremely wealthy through God’s blessing. Yet, because he kept his eyes on heaven, he was able to put up with tents for now.
We all know about sacrifice. Some of you sacrificed in junior ranks or menial jobs for years, before you got to where you are today. Some of you are thinking: “Pastor, we’re done with sacrificing. Our time has passed! We’re ready to live a little now, and let someone else do the sacrificing!”
Yet the truth is, God continues to call us to sacrifice this side of eternity. Perhaps God will call you to sacrifice your reputation to befriend someone in dire need of a friend. Perhaps God will cause you to sacrifice your desire to be right and ask that relative to forgive you. Maybe you are sacrificing your pride by trying to witness to a friend who brushes you off. Their eternal destiny is serious to you but evidently not to them. Perhaps your sacrifice is stepping out into the unknown, trying to follow God when you’re not sure where God is leading.
Whatever the cost, it’s worth it! Someday you will have a heavenly home that will make you forget all the hardships this life has ever brought. Someday you will have that building that Abraham longed for. You’ll trade in your tent for a building in heaven. And the Master will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21). Faith helps us to make sacrifices. And #2,