Summary: When it comes to faith I believe in two things; God can and God cares. Why did the followers of Jesus mentioned in the Hebrew writers' description endure the horrific treatment of persecution? Why did they keep their faith in Jesus as the Son of God eve
Last week we took a look at failure. We discussed that God’s love is unconditional. He doesn't remove love because of your failure or give you some love when you succeed. He loves you because He made you. Paul made his case that even with his failures; God was using Him to unleash His power on the earth. God loves flawed people, because God loves people. And this truth leads us to our discussion on faith. Hebrews 11 is often mentioned as the hall of fame of faithful people. The list of these folks in Hebrews 11 includes names you’ve heard a million times if you grew up going to Sunday School: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, and Samuel. Obviously the writer of Hebrews didn’t consider this an exhaustive list, the author includes the nation of Israel as it escaped Egypt and all the prophets. The writer is simply providing some examples of what faith looks like in the lives of real people.
We can’t forget that simple truth. The people mentioned in Hebrews 11 were real folks. They were in extraordinary circumstances, they did and saw things that were spectacular and unique to their experience but they were no different than you or I. In the section of this chapter that we are taking a closer look at today, verses 32-40 we discover some truths about faith. These are hard and difficult truths, but, incredible and encouraging at the same time. The writer sums up his chapter about the examples of these people of faith with this, “How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword.” Hebrews 11:32-34
When I think of faith I think of two phrases. “God can.” and "God cares." There are days when I wonder if I have the strength to deal with my problems. I wonder sometimes where my motivation is going to come from to get out of bed, or to go to work, or to take care of the responsibilities of the day. It’s not that I’m lazy. Laziness is a different topic for another day. But do you know what I’m talking about? Have you had days like that? Have you been in a situation, or a circumstance, or has something happened to you or your family and you just wonder how you’re going to get through it? This is one opportunity for faith to kick in. Notice I said, “opportunity”. This is one aspect of faith that should be witnessed in the life of a follower of Jesus.
Last week when we discussed failure we talked about Paul. He said, “I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Paul is identifying with all of us who have had those difficult days that I mentioned earlier. Right now on Staten Island, in parts of New York and New Jersey people are having some very difficult times. Hurricane Sandy ripped apart several communities and there are many folks who wonder how they are going to get through this. The Jesus follower may have moments of weakness, doubting the power of God to endure in their life, but, the weakness is fleeting. A Jesus follower knows that “God can”. This is the foundation of our faith. God can help His children overcome. I’m happy that we have the community auction coming up on Saturday to raise money to send to these folks, because this is one way God works. He works through His church to bless the hurting. The church of Jesus is a people group whose essential business is to love others as Jesus loved us and who routinely come together to share faith, enjoy testimony and most importantly pray with confidence, boldness and power.
Loving others as Jesus loved us is the first essential business of the church. Paul says it this way in Romans 12. “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” This sums up everything that we’ve discussed the last few weeks about what is Church and taking a look at our failures and faith. Be genuine in loving others. Love is the motive that drives everything we do as a church. When the people of God come together to do God’s stuff, God’s way then God shows up in power.