Summary: This sermon focuses on the reasonaleness of living by faith and introduces a series on Hebrews 11.
November 4, 2001 Hebrews 11:1-3,6
“The trial of the ages…opening arguments”
During the latter weeks of August and early September, the news headlines were very different then they are today. Back then, the focus of the news reporters was on two little baby girls who had been adopted twice – once by a couple in California and once by a couple in Britain. Now, the children that we focus on are the children of the firemen and policemen who died in New York, the children of soldiers who are fighting for our interests as a nation, and the children of Afgan parents who are running for their lives. The greatest fear of those weeks was not Anthrax but sharks –something which seems so miniscule now. People were staying out of the water; now, they stay out of planes. And the biggest villain of the day was not Osama bin Laden. It was Gary Condit. Do you remember him? He’s the guy that was accused of killing Chandra Levy. And he’s the guy that media and most of us had crucified with very little evidence. All that we had was a lot of suspicions and lots of unanswered questions. One of the results of the events of 9/11 is that Gary Condit and his troubles have faded into obscurity. Unless major new evidence comes out, there will probably never be a trial. His case reminds me of another one which was very similar. Only in this one, the defendant wasn’t so fortunate as to have a major world event shift attention away from him.
Almost three years ago, in a courtroom in Boston, a group of 12 people were asked to exercise a great deal of faith. They were the members of the jury at the Anne Marie Fahee trial. If you don’t remember that case, Miss Fahee was supposedly murdered in 1993 by her lover – a prominent lawyer in town. The reason that I say that she was supposedly murdered is because no one can prove that she was actually dead. There was no body, no murder weapon, and no witnesses to this crime that prosecutors say happened. All that they knew for sure was that Anne Marie was missing. Yet, in spite of the absence of evidence, the jury was asked to convict the defendant and sentence him to spend the rest of his life in jail. In my way of thinking, that would be a huge leap of faith. They were asked to call him “guilty beyond all reasonable doubt” even though they could not be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed.
We, as believers in Jesus Christ, are called to live a life of faith. In Hebrews 10:38, the writer says that “the just [that’s all people who have Jesus Christ as Savior] shall live by faith”. Does that mean that we are supposed to take the same leap in the dark that these jurors were being asked to make, or does it mean something else? Beginning this morning, and continuing for the next several weeks, we will be looking at Hebrews 11. This chapter of the Bible is called the Faith Hall of Fame. It tells how God’s people since the beginning of time have exercised faith in God regardless of the consequences because they believed that God had proved Himself worthy of their trust. The writer uses the experiences and the witness of these mean and women almost like a defense attorney would use witnesses and evidence to prove his case. And that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to argue a case. We’re going to bring witnesses tot he stand, and they will testify about their experiences. Our goal in this case is stated on your note sheet:
GOAL: to prove beyond doubt through the testimony of many witnesses that we can keep on living obedient lives in difficult times through our faith in God.
That’s not an enviable task for any lawyer. This is a case that Johnny Cochran would not touch. But it is a case that we can win. We have a great God, and some very influencial witnesses – witnesses that God never failed. By the time we get done with out case, we will be able to draw the same conclusions that the author of Hebrews does in chapter 12. After he brought all his witnesses and allowed them to tell their story, he came to this conclusion in 12:1, 12-13 [read it] But before we get there, we’ve got a lot of testimony to hear. You be the jury. You come to the verdict. But be aware that the verdict that you come to will not determine God’s fate. It will determine your fate. As a Christian, it will determine whether or not you live a life of miracles or a life of mediocrity. As a non-Christian, it will determine whether you spend eternity in heaven or in hell. The stakes are high.