December 12, 2004
Pastor Brian Shimer
"More Thoughts on Living By Faith"
Hebrews 11: 23-40
By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.|
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. NIV
- What is faith? This chapter of the Bible tells us it is something tangible of something intangible, it is a witness, an evidence, a deep conviction seen in a human life of things unseen.
Like the boy awaiting Christmas day so that he can open that big box beneath the tree but from the shape, and shake, and weight he is certain he knows what is in there, his train. So he lives with a joyous expectation of the day, he touches the box daily just to make certain it is as hard and heavy as he remembers it was, and there is a sparkle in his eyes as he looks to playing with it. The way he lives speaks of his faith and hope that the box once unwrapped will reveal his train.
So faith witnesses through our lives. What we do and say demonstrates a confidence in the unseen. It is the evidence that something will happen or already exists. Although we will not be unwrapping God's rewards for us until after this time on earth, still we place our trust in the God who has promised. And a life lived trusting Him pleases God.
I think of how pleased Jesus was whenever people showed great faith. Remember his comment when the Centurion asked for Jesus to heal his servant and said, "Oh, you don't need to come to my home. I am not worthy to have you step beneath my roof. Just say the word and it will be done for I too am a man under authority…" And Jesus was impressed by his faith saying, "I have not seen such great faith in all of Israel."
And what was that faith? It was confidence in the unseen healing: that if Jesus but spoke it, it would exist. And Jesus did speak, and it existed. But that response of Jesus' is a picture of how our faith pleases God.
We noticed in the first part of chapter 11 last week, that what people did by faith that received God's applause were no great deeds. They gave something up, built something, said something, simply enjoyed God's presence, but they were remembered. They worshipped, they left their homes, they obeyed, and they were remembered.
Their faith foreshadowed Mary's who astonished by the angel's greeting, and shocked by his announcement, still submitted to God's plan and said, "Be it done to me as you have said, "and was launched into the greatest faith walk of her life.
Their faith foreshadowed the Shepherds' who heralded by angelic choirs chose to believe all they had heard and ran to see what had been announced.
Their faith foreshadowed YOUR FAITH as you see God at work in the mundane and daily routines of life, welcome Him there and fellowship with God throughout each day. Thus we will experience God's pleasure. That's what we saw last week.
- Today we also see that to live by faith brings us God's approval. That word translated 'approval' is a word which speaks of the idea that our lives are witnessed by God (and others) because of faith, and we know from Hebrews 12 verse 1 that this chapter begins to detail the cloud of witnesses who preceded us in the faith.
In verse 2 and 39 - like brackets around his thoughts, our author uses this unusual word to speak of God's commendation of those who live by faith in the everyday realities of life and in the explosive encounters with enemies. This week we are looking at how we receive God's approval as we deal with enemies like they did - by faith.
Beginning in verse 23, we encounter Moses' parents who guarded his life by faith hiding the infant from Pharaoh's guards who were to kill all the baby boys.
As an adult Moses would battle this oppressive empire by faith, God through Moses took on all the gods of Egypt and defeated them finally in the keeping of the Passover.
Then by faith the people walked through the Red Sea and saw their enemies drowned in the same sea. It was by the same faith 40 years later they walked around the walls of Jericho and saw them come crashing down. By faith Rahab a citizen of Jericho is also protected from destruction, because she trusted in this living God who had guarded the people of Israel those years in the wilderness.
- The author ran out of time and we might have also, so began to summarize. He lists six names thus summarizing the lives of the judges, kings and prophets who fought and triumphed by faith in verses 32 to 35. These people conquered kingdoms and escaped the sword and saw their dead raised to life. Some of them received what God had promised.
Then at verse 35 the author goes on to list by description those who also lived by faith, trusted in the same God, but met with defeat. They chose faith above their lives. Some died in their struggles, others were chained in dungeons, wandered about hungry and oppressed and mistreated, and they placed their hopes in God's ability to raise the dead rather in their own ability to win a battle.
But whether they faced earthly victory or defeat, and many of them encountered both, God approved of them because of their faith. Their faith said that God was better than what life could give them now or death could take from them later.
So, when facing death or torture faith does not believe: "If God loved me, He would get me out of here," but instead, faith says, "there is a kind of resurrection for believers which is better than the miracle of escape." from a John Piper sermon, quoted by Scott Grant http://pbc.org/old-pbc1/dp/grant/hebrews/heb21.html)
Don't we prefer the escape? Yet, by faith we know God will do something better if we trust than if we escape. But whether through triumph or defeat, as we live by faith, hanging onto Jesus, God approves! One day you will receive His "Well Done."
I tell you Jacque Duncan and I have prayed many times together and many of you have been praying for her in this struggle against cancer, and we don't know the outcome. Ultimately, whether from this disease or not, Jacque will pass through death, but the good news is this: She has walked by faith in this season, and God has witnessed her faith.
Illness can be like a fiery furnace, threatening our lives, but through such suffering God can triumph. How many stories of suffering with illness do you know through which faith has triumphed? In whatever we encounter in life, if you choose to walk by faith, choose to trust God, you will receive God's approval.
Sometimes we don't believe our lives will ever be in such a list. We read all this big time language and wonder about what battles we have really fought, but God seems to think otherwise.
These big shots were only ordinary people who trusted God day by day. They did not think of the battles before them as huge kingdom conflicts. David did just what he knew to do when he went to fight Goliath. He did not know the outcome, really, but had faith in the greatness of God. And when he had been promised the kingdom, yet was still hiding in caves, he did not know the outcome, but lived still by faith.
Cassie Bernal did not know when she went to Columbine High School that year on April 20th that she would not be coming home, but in contrast that her name would be known by people all around the US and world because she died for her faith in Jesus.
You don't know what enemy of faith you may encounter in your day. It may be something as simple as a temptation to steal something.
That happened to a friend of mine. In his work they move quantities of clothing for big outfitters like Columbia Sportswear. A carton came open and there before him were 100s of brand new, plastic wrapped pants, his size (which he never can find). Like a whispered arrow, the thought went through his mind, "no problem, it would be easy, I could just grab some and put them there and no one would know," but then another thought followed, "God would know!" And this friend said: "I laughed out loud that I had ever entertained the notion and the temptation vanished."
That day he conquered an enemy, his action quenched the fires of temptation. He resisted a fall to sin which would have given the enemy a victory, and by faith he stood firm.
When you hang onto Jesus, God takes notice.
The old missionary returned from serving overseas riding on a steamer into New York Harbor. There were banners, a band was playing, thousands were there cheering as his steamer docked. The missionary's eyes misted seeing such a grand welcome for him, only to realize that all the fanfare was for the President of the United States who also happened to be on the same steamer.
The old missionary walked off the ship and slipped away unnoticed mumbling a bit to God under his breath, to which the Lord replied, "But son, you are not yet home."
- You see God is writing a story of faith that has spanned the centuries. In it every action of faith is written from the mundane and simple cups of cold water given in His name, of which God took note and which gave Him pleasure. And in it also are the stands in faith against enemies. But every story will one day be told, every place of faith's victory, every time of faith in a life facing defeat.
You see this chapter ends with the statement that "none of these received all that God had promised them," for God would not give them their prizes until we too had finished the race. So, they are cheering us on.
Friends, as you encounter the enemies of life, do so by faith, and you'll too received God's approval.