Scripture: Hebrews 11: 1-10 Sermon Title: Acting on Faith
Our text: Hebrews 12:1-2“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,* and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of* the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”. Hebrews 11, the great “faith chapter,” is full of actions. Abel offered. Noah built. Abraham went out. The word for “faith” in Hebrew, in fact, is only a verb. That is why all of the people in this chapter became famous: their faith manifested itself in action.The author ends the chapter with a list of role models in two groups: the first group “conquered kingdoms, . . . quenched the power of fire, . . . were made strong.” But those in the second group “suffered mocking and flogging, . . . were stoned, were sawn in two, were killed with the sword.” What these two groups had in common was that they believed the word of God and risked everything upon it. Let me read some of the passage: the writer cites “Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, … David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two,* they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.”Again, the first group received great deliverance and victory; the second group died with nothing on earth that validated their faith. What group would you want to be in? Of course, if any, we would want to be in the first group. But the life of faith requires a confidence in a God you cannot see and in promises you cannot always feel. Oftentimes you, like those in the second group, stand alone. If you require earthly validation for your faith, you will not make it. Can you risk it all on what is invisible? Like Abraham, will you obey what God commands?Will you obey what God says about morality even if it makes no sense to you? People say, “Well, I believe the Bible and I love God, but I just don’t agree with this or that.” But if you are the kind of person who demands that you agree with God before you obey Him, I would submit that you still do not understand what it means for God to be God. Can you, like Jacob and Joseph, have unwavering hope in the midst of darkness? In the darkest hour of your soul, will you hope because the dawn is coming? When your cancer is not in remission, when your spouse is not coming back, when your prime age for getting married is passing you by—will you rejoice that God can turn tragedy into triumph? How you respond to disappointment or tragedy reveals whether (or how much) you actually believe God. Your ability to be joyful in all things is the measure of your faith. So much of the Christian life is spent just waiting. Read the Psalms: the word wait appears over and over again. Psalm 37:7 (ESV) says, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him”; Psalm 62:1a (ESV) says, “For God alone my souls waits in silence.” Waiting patiently with hope is one thing we call faith.Like the Israelites at the Red Sea, do you trust that God will provide for you in impossible situations?You might feel this as a parent, and sometime look at the world and nearly panic.“God, how can I raise my children in this sort of world?” Or you may think of the next season for our church. There is just so much uncertainty, so many things that seem impossible. But maybe our fear and panic reveal how little we actually believe that God will provide for us. As C. S. Lewis said, the depth of our faith is revealed only when it is a matter of life and death. Most of us have never had to come to that point. But for those of us who have, will we trust God in those times? Like Moses, will you leverage your earthly position because you believe in eternity? God may be telling one to leave a lucrative career to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. The crisis for one right then is, do you believe in Him and His mission enough to do it? Will the person figure out how to re-engineer their career so that it can be used for the purposes of God’s mission? This is really something to consider. And we may face such moments as this, if not exactly the same, just as serious. God might be telling you to take Him seriously in your giving, for instance. Do you believe Him enough to invest your pocketbook in Him? He might be pushing you to be bolder in your witness for Him, for instance. Do you believe in Him enough to overcome your fear and open your mouth? God is speaking to you: Will you listen? What we are indicating is, faith takes action. It is a bold dare on the promises of an unseen God. I am convinced that many in the church do not believe in the invisible. They are not willing to put it all on the line for eternity. Look at verses 39 and 40. “Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better so that they would not, without us, be made perfect.” God has provided something better for us. We have a reason to believe in God that none of the people in the Old Testament did—Jesus. We see the love and faithfulness of God demonstrated at the cross; we see the trustworthiness of God’s provision demonstrated in the resurrection. What the people in Hebrews 11 saw as a shadow, we see in completion. How utterly blessed we are! Jesus healed all those who came to Him and voluntarily died on the cross for us. So we know that if He does not heal our body or our broken situation now, it is not because He lacks the power or the compassion. God sought us when we were strangers and reconciled Himself to us while we were His enemies. Will He who gave His Son so freely not also freely give us all things? Can you trust Jesus with your finances, with your kids, with your future? Of course you can. You don’t know what will happen in the future, but you know who holds the future! He has demonstrated how much He cares for you and how powerful He is to save. So as you look to Jesus, the “pioneer and perfecter of your faith,” do not measure His compassion or His power by your current circumstances. Measure His compassion by the cross and His power by the resurrection. You know you have to wait on the Lord. He may not come when you want Him to, but for sure, He is right on time! Therefore, “let us…lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, [for He got that, He has taken care of the sin] and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus….” Our Rock and our Fortress, the One who paid every price for us, and has us ever in His care, and He will never let us go!
(Adopted and adapted from J. D. Greear’s “Faith Is Action,” in Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s SourceBook, Vol. 3, 2013)