Banks Community United Methodist Church
  December 05, 2004

Pastor Brian Shimer

"Living by Faith"
Hebrews 11: 1-23

  1. I have had some great conversations this week regarding this chapter of Scripture. I find it a privilege to live among such an amazing faith-filled people.

    Today we arrive at the "Hall of Faith" in Scripture. This is God's partial list of folk who have "lived by faith". They have done things based upon what they believed. And we know in v. 6 that "Without faith it is impossible to please God."

    In this book we see that faith is based upon something. It is not just some idea we conjured up ourselves and chose to believe. Rather, we believe because of what God has said: remember the first verse in the book says: "In the past God spoke… but now God has spoken by His Son…" God is the living and speaking God, and our faith is based upon what HE has spoken.

    In addition, faith is based upon what God has done. The catalog of stories in this chapter illustrates much of God's action.

    Faith is founded upon God's word and action throughout history but what it believes is often unseen.

    None of those described here knew what would happen in response to their actions, but acted anyway. Abel surrendered his earthly goods. Enoch simply enjoyed friendship with God. Noah built the boat. Their actions put the realities they believed in on display.

    Faith is the evidence that something will happen or that something already exists. It witnesses to God and others.

    Notice none of these actions described of the first three nor the others mentioned were necessarily great in and of themselves, what met with God's pleasure was simply the faith that accompanied the actions.

    Jesus constantly noticed when people acted based upon faith and commented upon it, saying, "I have not seen such great faith in all of Israel."

    Remember the Centurion came asking Jesus to just speak his servant's healing into existence and it would be done. He demonstrated faith in the unseen. The healing he had not yet seen he believed existed if Jesus commanded.

    Or the woman crawling after Jesus across the ground knew that if she just touched the hem of his garment, she would be healed. How did she know this?   Her reach was her act of faith. She knew her healing existed through Jesus if she but touched his hem. And when she touched him, she was healed.

    So, friend, live by faith the Bible says, and you will please God.

  2. So we do not need to live without sin to please God, nor do we need to love without a flaw, or succeed without a failure.   No, we need faith.   We need faith that seeks God, walks with God, holds onto God and believes that God rewards us with his presence.   That's what we need.

    "It's not as if God is pleased one minute, when we seek him, and displeased the next minute, when we're not seeking him.  Those who have faith, who have chosen to spend their lives seeking God, are always pleasing to him…..  We are the cause of God's pleasure.  Think about that for a minute.  Your faith ignites God's pleasure.  That should ignite our pleasure.  In knowing that we are pleasing to God, we are pleased.  Nothing should please us more!  We experience the pleasure of being pleasing to him.  "All it takes is faith." (http://pbc.org/old-pbc1/dp/grant/hebrews/heb21.html, 12-4-04)

  3. What a marvelous gift to know and believe in God's pleasure.   God is pleased as you believe right now.   As you kiss your wife, hug your kid, make a meal, drive the car, trust for His provisions - how pleased God is with your faith.  

    When Karen was standing in line at the Dollar Tree this week, the clerk at the register just began to overflow to Karen, telling her difficulties, problems, and needs.   Karen was just checking out, but the Spirit of God within Karen, as a woman who lives by faith, prompted this clerk to share her story.   I believe God was pleased - by faith Karen listened.

    When another woman got a phone call at work from a coworker during a hectic day - by faith she said yes to the woman's request to take a coffee break together and was able to hear her need.

    For three years now I have worked with kids at the elementary school in the learning lab.   I go because I believe part of my role is to impact kids for Jesus.   But my sermons at Banks Elementary school are spoken mostly without words.   This November when told it was time to divide into groups all the kids in the class came and crowded around me to all be in "my" group.   It was such an affirmation, but I believe also God was pleased. God is pleased as you live by faith.  

    In a book written by author John Bevere he contrasts the stories of two women.   One woman came to him asking for permission to divorce her non Christian husband.   He had not been unfaithful to her, was verbally persecuting her because of her faith, but was faithful as far as his presence in her life.   She on the other hand had had an affair with a "wonderful Christian man" and her friends were telling her to divorce her husband and marry this other man because she deserved to be happy.

    John told her he found no grounds for divorce in her situation, and advised her to stay and pray and continue to live by faith in God before her husband and see what God would do.   Well, she listened with her ears and did not heed his advice.   Instead divorced her husband, married the other man, and left town losing friends, church, and who knows what else.   But certainly God was not pleased.

    Another woman was in a situation unspeakably worse.   After being married for a decade she discovered her husband was having homosexual affairs.   He was arrested once for soliciting sex with an undercover policeman, and their oldest son received the phone call that his father was in jail.

    She prayed constantly for her husband.   Eventually she asked the Lord if she should divorce him.   The response she received was: "You have scriptural grounds to divorce him, and if you choose to do it, I will bless you.   But if you will stay and fight in prayer for him, I will bring him out and you will be doubly blessed."   She chose to stay and fight and her husband was gloriously set free and has been free for twenty years.   He is now a very compassionate senior pastor and she is one of the most godly women you will ever meet.   (A Heart Ablaze, by John Bevere, pp 65-66, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publ, c.'99, ubp)

    Two women, one who was living by faith, trust that God would bring her through a nightmare of a story, and the other, shrinking back from faith in pursuit of her own desires.   One believed the truth of who God is, rested in that assurance, and obeyed, the other listened instead to the lies of her own and lover's desires, and disbelieved in what God could do in her circumstance.   This woman will stand before the judgment seat of Christ someday defending her actions, complaining that live was too difficult, that she had to take this path.   The other woman will need no defense, for she had invited God into every chapter of the story she lived, God was there the whole time, her life covered and blessed by Him.   She pleased Him as she lived by faith.

  4. Continue to live by faith, friends, and please God.   Live believing in the unseen as these friends did in Hebrews 11.   Remember it is not your great deeds that God looks for, but for your radical trust in the midst of the daily realities of your life.

    As you trust, you are living by faith, and as you do so, God is so very pleased.  
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Banks Community UMC 151 Depot Street
Banks, Oregon 97106