Pre-Service Discussion Questions
- Define faith? What does it look like? How do you know if your faith in something is real?
- What is God looking for from people? What do you think pleases God? (Why ?)
- Do you come from a family of faith?
- Can someone have genuine faith and not take risks in life? In other words, if you play it safe in life do you really have faith?
- How would you describe someone who believes in God yet dies never seeing God deliver him from difficulty?
- Pray that we would help strengthen another member of this group’s faith this week.
We are going to take a look at the subject of faith today. If someone were to ask you to answer what is it that God expects from people, you could answer that with one word – Faith. Hebrews Chapter 11 is what some people consider the greatest examples of faith in the Bible. Today we are looking at the first two-thirds of Chapter 11. Next week we will look at the last third and I am going to challenge you in a very specific way.
If there was such a thing as the faith fantasy league the names that you’ll read today are the dream team. These are the heavy hitters from the Bible. We have nine points to look at. Don’t freak out! It’s not nine different topics that we’ll look at but one topic – the topic of faith.
Verses one through three describe faith and what it looks like. The first thing that it says in Hebrews Chapter 11 is that faith in Jesus gives you sight. You have the ability to see something with the eyes of faith that other men and women who are not believers can’t see.
I.Faith in Jesus gives you sight.
1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. 2 Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. 3 By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.
Last week we looked at four genuine ways to test your faith. I gave you a back to school exam and asked you to give yourself a grade in four specific areas. Today starts with the presupposition that men and women of faith look at all that they see around them and know it is not by accident, chance or random coincidences. In fact because we have faith in a God who is the Creator of the universe we see God’s hand at work around us. Hebrews Chapter 11 tells us that God applauds our faith. He enjoys and is satisfied by the faith of his people. Faith starts to help us see the world differently. When you and I look at the world through eyes of faith we see the circumstances of our lives differently because we have faith in God who is big enough to handle the problems. We should view the world differently. In fact we should be a bit unusual as followers of Jesus because we see the world differently.
Pastor David Reed once said, “Faith is not a leap in the dark; it is a leap out of darkness into the light” When you are in the light you’re able to see things that you can’t in the dark.
II.Faith in Jesus makes you acceptable.
4 It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.
What we are starting in verse four is a long list of people with great faith. Listen to me though. The names that we are about to read in Chapter 11 were just men and women like us. They put their pants on like you do. They trusted God and as a result God did amazing, incredible things because of their faith.
You would think the story would start all the way at the beginning with Adam and Eve but it doesn’t. It starts with their children, Cain and Abel. The Bible doesn’t tell us this but we are going to assume that Adam was a good dad and that he taught his sons the proper way to worship God. Cain and Abel would have known that God expects a sacrifice. The word “sacrifice” means that it cost you something to bring it to God. What the Bible tells us is that Abel brought a choice animal from his flock as an offering to God and He was pleased with it. However, Cain took some fruit. Maybe it was the best fruit that he had but maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was just the leftovers. Cain almost certainly knew better. God did not accept Cain’s sacrifice and Cain got mad. If you’ve been raised in church, you know the rest of the story. Cain took out his anger on Abel and killed him. In the book of Genesis it says that the blood of Abel cried out to the Lord. The Lord confronted Cain about this and then punished him for it. Hebrews Chapter 11 tells us that Abel’s blood is still crying out and it says, “Abel brought an acceptable sacrifice and God was pleased with it. Cain didn’t and God wasn’t pleased with it.”
There are a million things that you can try to do to please God. Millions of people this week will work as hard as they can to please God by being a good person. They’ll go to church, a synagogue or a mosque to try to earn God’s favor. They’ll give some money. They’ll do some good deeds. They think all of these things will please God but Hebrews Chapter 11 makes it clear tonight that it is faith that pleases God. It is faith that makes us acceptable. In fact, that is exactly what verse 5 says.
III.Faith in Jesus pleases God.
5 It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God.
If you were to go back to Genesis, you would see the family of Adam and Eve. By the time you get to Genesis Chapter 3 you get to a long list of names that continue to Chapter 6 and the story of Noah. Sandwiched right in the middle of that list is a guy by the name of Enoch. The Bible tells us little about Enoch except that he was a very old man about 365 years old. He was a good man who loved God. One day he went to Piggly Wiggly to get some milk and bread for his family and never came back.
I once heard a preacher say that Enoch was walking with God for a lifetime. After a while God said, “Enoch, you are a lot closer to my house then you are to yours. Why don’t you come home with me?” We don’t know exactly what happens because the Bible never tells us. If you ask me how it happened, I would tell you that I don’t have the first clue. But, I can tell you why this happened. Hebrews makes it clear that Enoch lived a life that pleased God. So God gave him a pass on the greatest test of faith any human being will ever experience – death. There are only two names recorded in the Bible who never experience death, Enoch and Elijah.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “I don’t want to have to go through the test of faith that death is.” Nobody cheats on this test! What you believe about God shows up at the moment of your death. You can’t fake it. For whatever reason, Enoch never had to face this test. If you’d like to go like Enoch did all you have to do is live a life for Jesus for about 365 years and maybe you’ll be able to do the same thing that Enoch did. We do know that a genuine faith in Jesus pleases God.
IV.Faith in Jesus must be sincere.
6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.
Most people approach faith this way: God if you show me, then I’ll believe. The truth is that that is not faith at all. Genuine faith says that you believe and whether God shows you or not you are going to keep on believing. You have heard me say that one of my heroes in the faith is St. Augustine. Augustine once said, “Faith is to believe what we do not see. The reward of this faith is to see what we believe.” Faith has to be sincere.
V.Faith in Jesus leads to action.
7 It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.
Faith not only says that Jesus can be trusted it shows that Jesus can be trusted. Back in Genesis when God first showed up on the scene to Noah he was about to destroy all of humanity. Noah was very old man and by the time he finished the ark he was about 600 years old. Noah was living in present day Iraq, which may have been a desert back then. God told Noah that he was going to send rain and flood the Earth. Up to this point, Noah has never seen a drop of rain. The Bible tells us that God watered the Earth with the dew of the air and he caused water to come up from the ground to provide for the crops. It is not until Noah finished the boat that the first drops of rain in human history fall.
If you were to go back and carefully read the story of Noah in Genesis, you’ll notice that never once in the discussion between God and Noah does Noah ask what rain is or why God has picked him to build the ark. Noah never questioned God. God says for Noah to do something and Noah immediately went to action. You and I would not be alive today if it wasn’t for Noah. No one would be alive if Noah didn’t have the faith to do exactly what God was asking him to do even though it seemed crazy.
VI. Faith in Jesus secures your inheritance from God.
8 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. 9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. 11 It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. 12 And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.
Almost every world religion would claim that Abraham was a great man of faith. God came to Abraham when he was living comfortably with his family on his father’s land. God told Abraham to pack up his belongings and to start walking into the desert. We have a tendency to read after the story is over but don’t miss this important part of the story. God never told Abraham where he was leading him before Abraham got up and started walking. Would you do that? If God told you to pack up everything you own and head west. Would you do what Abraham did? Without hesitation, Abraham packed it all up and got on the road headed to the Promised Land. It wasn’t until he was already on the road that God told him where he was headed.
God also told Abraham he was going to have a son in his old age. God said Abraham’s descendants would be more numerous then the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore. Abraham wouldn’t be able to count them if he wanted to! Faith believes in an inheritance with God. Abraham was willing to leave his father and all he stood to inherit to follow God and his promises. Abraham was looking forward to the home God was preparing for him and not the home that was back in the Chaldeans.
D.L. Moody once said, “Faith gives us living joy and dying rest.” But, you have to take some risks. With the great risks of faith come great rewards.
VII. Faith in Jesus produces citizenship in heaven.
13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
I find it amazing that Hebrews tells us that many of great men and women of faith never experienced the rewards of faith here on Earth. They lived and many of them suffered an entire lifetime never experiencing the rewards here but knowing they would in heaven. They knew their time on Earth was temporary and their eternal destiny is in heaven. Therefore, they didn’t get frustrated when things got tough. They hung on to their faith.
Several weeks ago Randolph Prudent was preaching on Wednesday night and he made a statement that caught me off guard but I believe it to be true. He said, “For an unbeliever who doesn’t know Jesus personally this is as good as it’s ever going to get. Give them whatever they want. Let them have it all! It will never get any better for them. This is as good as it gets. For us, who know Jesus personally, our real rewards and citizenship is in heaven.” We shouldn’t get angry and frustrated when things don’t go the way we want them to because this isn’t our ultimate destiny anyway. We have a home waiting for us in heaven. You can have the HGTV Dream Home. I don’t want it. I want a home made by God in heaven!
VIII. Faith in Jesus produces hope.
17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18 even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead. 20 It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau. 21 It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff. 22 It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left. 23 It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command.
John Bunyan, who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress, said, “Hope is never ill when faith is well, nor strong if faith be weak.” Bunyan would say your hope ultimately depends on the strength of your faith.
Abraham was 100 years old when he had his son. He had been waiting a long time for the promise of God to come. When Isaac was a teenager, God instructed Abraham to kill him. Hebrews tells us that Abraham really took the knife to kill Isaac because Abraham believed in a God big enough that could bring his son back from the dead. The story from Genesis tells us that before Abraham could do it God stopped him. Then Abraham passed on this faith to his son, Isaac. Who passed it on to his son, Jacob. Who passed it on to his son, Joseph. Entire generations of Israel would inherit the faith of this great man.
Life is really miserable without hope. Real hope in Jesus produces faith. Parents and grandparents, if you pass nothing on but this one thing, I hope you pass on a great faith to your family. They don’t need money, cars or even a great name. What they do need is a rock solid faith.
IX. Faith in Jesus can lead to God’s protection.
24 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. 27 It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. 28 It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons. 29 It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned. 30 It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down. 31 It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
Sometimes God grants miraculous, supernatural protection to his people. I’m thinking of a lady in our church that was here this past Sunday. Last year she was diagnosed with cancer. She went through surgery and two rounds of chemotherapy. Just a couple of weeks ago the doctors told her that she was healed from cancer. Sometime God doesn’t grant that kind of protection. I’m thinking of the Harvey family. Robby Harvey died in his home this past week. He left a wife and two teenage daughters. This weekend we will do the funeral for Robby. If you ask me why God grants protection in some cases but not in others, I would tell you that I don’t know. I do know this. God gives protection and supernaturally moves in situations when he will receive the glory and we don’t.
That’s why God preserved Moses’ life. That’s why God would lead Moses and the people of Israel through miraculous experiences. Instead of taking them the easy route, God took them to the edge of the Red Sea. They were trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army. God parted the Red Sea and the Israelites walked through on dry ground but when the Egyptian army tried to do it God caused the water to collapse on top of them. The most powerful army on Earth was annihilated in one moment because God protected his people.
General Joshua marched the people of Israel around Jericho, probably the most fortified city in the Promised Land. They didn’t have to lift a finger to get into Jericho. They marched around the city and God caused the walls to collapse and the people of Israel walked into the city of Jericho without having to lift a weapon.
Of all the people on this list the most unlikely was the prostitute, Rahab. She lived in the city of Jericho. She believed the God of Israel was bigger than her people’s gods. She knew God would deliver the city to the Israelites so she asked for protection for her family and herself. The book of Joshua tells us that the only people that survived the battle for the city of Jericho are Rahab and her family. They were saved because of her faith in God who is big enough to tackle the greatest challenges in life. Sometimes faith in Jesus can lead to supernatural protection but sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t always understand why.
The story of Olympian Wilma Rudolph is pretty amazing. Rudolph grew up in a poor family in the backwoods of Tennessee. When she was four years old she contracted childhood polio. It caused her to have to wear a steel brace on one of her legs until she was a teenager. Wilma’s mother told her repeatedly that there was nothing that she couldn’t do if she worked hard, trusted God and had faith. At the age of 9 the brace came off and Wilma started to run. She enjoyed running! She decided to enter her first race at the age of 13. She finished dead last. She never gave up. She never quit. She never threw in the towel.
Soon Wilma started to believe in herself to the point that she became one of the best runners in the U.S. She made the Olympic team and in 1960 she was on her way to the Olympics in Rome. Wilma was to run in three races. The first race was the 400×100 relay. She was running the anchor leg against the world record holder a German woman named Yetta Mynie. When the baton was handed to Rudolph her team was well behind Yetta. Wilma took off and incredibly she beat the fastest woman in the world. Wilma still had two more events to run, the women’s 100 and 200. I want you to see the footage from the 1960 Olympics when Wilma Rudolph is running against the fastest woman in the world.
By the time the third event was over, Wilma Rudolph didn’t just beat Yetta Mynie and the rest of the competition she destroyed them. It was because she was willing to hang in and never give up. She believed.
The whole point of this sermon is this that faith is like a muscle. It has to be exercised if it is going to get any stronger. You can’t just sit back and say you trust God. You really have to show that you trust him. The more the muscle gets exercised the stronger the faith becomes and the greater that God is able to use you in the future for his glory.
I want to challenge you this week. I want to challenge you to seriously live by faith and to show to the people that you know that Jesus is real by the way that you live your life. I want to challenge you to exercise the faith muscle. Let your faith continue to get stronger and stronger. Maybe for someone in this room, my challenge for you is that you surrender to Jesus for the first time in your life. Turn your soul over to him in faith.
Post-Service Discussion Questions
- If faith is like a muscle, how often do you exercise your faith? (Describe what exercising faith looks like for you.)
- What is the difference between all of those listed in Hebrews 11 and us today?
- How can someone who is long since dead still speak through faith?
- Can someone have genuine faith and not take risks in life? In other words, if you play it safe in life do you really have faith?
- Would you say someone who died trusting in God but never seeing God deliver them from difficulty believed in vain? (Explain your answer.)
- What can you do to help strengthen another member of this group’s faith this week?