Summary: Faith is marked by a paradox. Sometimes we appear to lose in order to win!
Two Faces of Faith - the Crown and the Cross
Text: Hebrews 11: 13, 32-40; 12: 1-3
What an inspiration to faith we’ve found in this 11th chapter of Hebrews! It’s one of the great passages of the Bible, worthy of a commitment to study and meditation. I hope you that the Word has fired up your faith. In these messages we’ve met --
∙ Abel whose faith caused him to offer a pleasing sacrifice to God.,
∙ Noah whose faith led him to believe God’s command and to build an ark which saved his family,
∙ Abraham, the father of the faithful, who clung to the promises of God when impossibilities were all that he could see on life’s horizon,
∙ Moses, whose faith led him to seek the eternal treasures of heaven without a single glance backwards at the treasures of Egypt where he had been a prince!
In the great stories of the parting of the Red Sea and the destruction Jericho, we learned that God led His people into places where all they could do was look up... and see His deliverance. And when they responded in faith, they saw God working mighty miracles on their behalf. My prayer that is you have looked up often this week.
The greatest evidence of a living faith is an ongoing dialogue with God. IF we love and trust Him, we will inevitably share our lives and needs with Him. IF faith is just a concept, a novel idea to us, we will have to be reminded and prompted to prayer and praise. Have you turned to Him often this week, praying as naturally as you breathe? By that measure, are you a person of faith?
In our final message on faith, we come to the paradox of faith – that which seems to find no response from heaven. In the text that we will read in a moment, we learn that there were people of great faith whose prayers for deliverance were not met with a spectacular miracle. It’s easy to trust God when the sea is parting, when the walls are falling, when His voice is clearly coming through to our spirit. But what about those days when He falls silent?
We can all identify with the Psalmist who wrote of God’s wonderful acts for others but who wonders where God is at the present. He, in a time of spiritual agony, cries... Psalm 44
We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago.
2 With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our fathers; you crushed the peoples and made our fathers flourish.
. . . 9 But now you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies. 10 You made us retreat before the enemy,
and our adversaries have plundered us. 11 You gave us up to be devoured like sheep and have scattered us among the nations.
. . .17 All this happened to us, though we had not forgotten you or been false to your covenant. 18 Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path. 19 But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals and covered us over with deep darkness. 20 If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, 21 would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart? 22 Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
23 Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. 24 Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression? 25 We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. 26 Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love.
In our text this morning we see that there are two faces of faith. One is triumphant, the other patiently enduring suffering. One is the face of Jesus of the Cross, the other the face of Christ, the Crowned King of Heaven. We love the latter while fearing the former. Who wants the suffering of the cross? We all want the triumph of the Resurrection.
There is a popular form of Christianity loose in America today that is focused on faith a ticket to the American dream. Emphasizing just one face of faith, the preachers of health, wealth, and happiness tell their congregations: “Claim your rightful place as King’s Kids. Claim your healing now. With enough faith, you can unlock the treasure house of God and live rich and successful lives.” And there is enough truth in this kind of preaching that it isn’t immediately detected as the heresy that it actually is. Faith IS a key to receiving God’s blessings. Faith is a personal choice, a response I can choose in times of difficulty that often leads me to healing and success. However, it is a real mistake to think of God as a vending machine of favors that releases His gifts to us IF we just believe enough! Such ‘faith’ is centered on me, myself, and I rather than on the purposeful, plan of a loving Father God.