Today picks up the second half of Hebrews 11, one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. We are going to look at the idea of faith today. I want to tell you a story about Brad Pitt that will set the stage for what we are going to study of how not to approach the subject of faith. If you didn’t now, when Pitt started acting he claimed to be a devout Christian. Somehow along the way Hollywood seems to have shipwrecked Brad’s faith. In October of 2007 he did an interview for Parade magazine. One of the questions in the interview was about his faith. Pitt made this statement. “When I got untethered from religion, it wasn’t a loss of faith for me, it was a discovery of self. I had faith that I’m capable enough to handle any situation. There’s peace in understanding that I have only one life, here and now, and I’m responsible.” I really wish I could meet Brad Pitt face to face because I would say, “Really? You sure about that?” Brad may have great faith but it is misplaced. He has great faith in himself.
Today we are going to look at great faith in Jesus. I want you to see what everyday faith in Jesus looks like. Let me explain what I mean by the term “everyday faith in Jesus”. I’m not just talking about the good days. I’m talking about the bad days as well. I’m talking about having a solid faith on the easy days and the hard days with Jesus. Do you have the kind of faith to hang on when it’s good and when it’s bad? Are you able to hang on every single day?
The people that we are about to look at in Hebrews 11 came from every day walks of life. They all shared something in common. In Hebrews Chapter 11 you see kings, queens, priests, prophets, poor and prostitute. You also see ordinary men and women that God has used in extraordinary ways because of their faith. Not faith in and of themselves but faith in a great God who chooses to bless in great ways.
I. Everyday faith in Jesus gives you power.
32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.
If you were here last week you heard me say that Hebrews Chapter 11 was God’s fantasy league. Hebrews 11:32 starts to describe the power that God gave these everyday ordinary men and women. These were people just like you are. They put their tunics on just like you would. If they had Carhart jeans back in the day, they would put those jeans on just like you do. They weren’t supermen or superwomen; they just had faith in an incredible God. God chose to bless that faith with great power.
There are two ways that the word “strength” was used in the New Testament. We only have the English equivalent of strength or power for the word. One way the word can be used is found in verse 34 where it states that the people were strong in battle. The kind of strength that the New Testament is referring to here is one moment in time explosive power. The actual word is where we get the word dynamite. It is an explosive amount of power that no human being can take credit for because God shows up and does something miraculous. That’s how phrase “strong in battle” is translated in verse 34.
The other term for strength found in the New Testament is also found in verse 34 where it states that their weakness was turned into strength. That word for strength is both mind and body kind of power. It is not power that happens in one moment of time but it shows up over a long period of time and especially during great difficulty. The harder and longer the difficulty lasts the more powerful the work of God is on display. Hebrews says in the same verse using two different words to say the same thing. Sometimes God gives this one moment in time miraculous power and sometimes he gives you the ability to endure great pain and difficulty but in both cases it doesn’t come from you. It comes from him. Due to their great faith, God did incredible and amazing things through them and in some cases in spite of them. It is like God puts his power on display for the whole world to see when he chooses to use a weak vessel like us and does something incredible in our lives.
I want every person in our church to start praying about this. I want to ask you if you want to see every single person in the Chattahoochee Valley experience God’s power in incredible and miraculous ways. It will take every single one of us putting the power of God on display. For the past several weeks the pastors of the church have been getting ready for Calvary Shares. Here’s what I want you to do. I want to challenge all of you in the next couple of weeks to record your story and put it online for the world to see the power of God on display in your life. I want you to watch this video and then I’ll tell you a little more about Calvary Shares.
I’m afraid that some of us when we read Hebrews Chapter 11 we start to compare ourselves to these great men and women. We think we don’t have a great story like they did. The truth is that what you just heard in that video is that the power of God is put on display every time a man or a woman has saving faith in Jesus Christ because the power of God takes a dead person and makes them alive again. If you know Christ personally, you have a very powerful story that I’m convinced hundreds or perhaps thousands of people will view you story and maybe many of them will come to faith in Jesus.
On our website you will see a button that says Calvary Shares. If you’ll click on that page, we’ve given you instructions on how to record your story. I want everyone to make a commitment that you’ll record a video and put it online somewhere. You can put it on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. Include the #calvarytalk and we’ll be able to see that story and we’ll help to get your story around the Chattahoochee Valley. Maybe God will use your story all over the world. Maybe tens, hundreds, or thousands of people will view your story and be confronted with the Gospel for the first time. You can do this on the golf course, a classroom, or in your living room. All you need is a phone and a story that shares the power of God. If you’ve never shared your story before we have some people in our church who have said they will help you prepare to share your story.
Everyday faith in Jesus gives you power. The truth is that some days you are the bug and some days you are the windshield. Some days you ride the bull and some days the bull rides you. The reason why I really like this passage in the book of Hebrews is because of what it says next. It doesn’t always turn out awesome. Look at how Hebrews 11 starting in the second half of verse 35 describes these other people who God loved just as much and he was at work in their lives.
II. Everyday faith in Jesus causes you to persevere. V. 35b-38
But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
I could stand here all day long and tell you that when you give your life to Jesus it’s all going to be great and easy. But, the truth is that that is a lie. I don’t understand why but sometimes when you give your life to Jesus he chooses to do incredible, miraculous things in your life and it seems easy for you to follow Jesus. There are days and for some people decades where it is just hard to follow Jesus. In the case that we see here in Hebrews it costs people everything to include their own lives. (Preview – in two weeks Hebrews is going to look at you and say that you don’t have a lot of complaining to do because you haven’t given your life for your faith yet.)
Hebrews is talking about perseverance. The word “perseverance” is a two-part word. The first part of the word “pre” means through. The second part of the word “severe” means extreme difficulty. It is essentially saying that when you give your life to Jesus sometime he makes the difficulty go away but in every case he is with you through the extreme difficulty, even if it costs you your life. Maybe when it gets really hard the power of God is put on display in ways that people don’t see it when everything is going good. These verses tell us that sometimes God allows us to stand on top of the mountain and it feels like the entire weight of the mountain in on top of us. But, in every occasion Jesus is right there with you. Don’t give in! Don’t give up!
One of the reasons why I love these verses is because it describes that these men and women were too good for this world that we live in. In other words, the simple pleasures, the passing entertainment and the possessions here on planet Earth couldn’t entertain these people. They couldn’t be satisfied with the things on this world because they had a much bigger and much better home in heaven. As a result they were willing to give up everything for this home in heaven. Verse 38 says very clearly that these people were otherworldly. They were beyond this world. This world wasn’t worthy of them because they had their hope in a better home than anything on this earth could give them.
I read a story about a family who suffered to the point of death for their faith. A missionary family went to an Asian country and became very vocal about their faith in Jesus. Finally the government started to crack down on all religions but especially Christianity. Eventually soldiers knocked on the door of the home. It was a home of parents with three children. The soldiers told them the government had sent them to stop the family from telling others about Jesus. The family said they couldn’t stop talking about Jesus. The soldiers then told them that the government required them to renounce their faith in Jesus and if they didn’t they would kill the family starting with the youngest child.
The youngest member of the family was a five-year-old girl. She stood before the soldiers. They challenged her to renounce her faith in Jesus but she wouldn’t do it. They told the mom and dad to stop talking about Jesus and they wouldn’t agree, in fact they said nothing. So, the soldiers shot and killed the little girl in front of the parents. The next child was a little bit older boy. The soldiers said the exact same thing to the boy and the parents. The parents remained silent. Again, the soldiers shot and killed the boy in front of the parents.
The parents had one child left, a teenage boy. When they got to him, he pushed one of the soldiers down and took off running to a nearby wood line. For the first time the father spoke up and stepped between the soldiers and where his son was hiding. He asked the guards if he could go talk to his son. He called out to his son and said, “Son, you know that you can outrun these men. You might outlast them an hour, a day or a week. You might even evade them for years but you cannot hide from God. Son, you can spend the rest of your life running or you can come over here and spend the next moments of your life in the presence of the One that saved you and is waiting for you, Jesus Christ.” Then the father challenged his son to come out of the woods and take the consequences of following Jesus. The son came out of the woods and stood by his mom and dad. The last three members of the family willingly and gladly gave up their lives rather than to stop talking about their Savior.
One of the things that Hebrews wants us to know is life that gets tough but don’t give up. Hang in there and hold on trusting in Jesus and only in Jesus. Jesus will sometimes give you supernatural power and bring you out of the difficulties of life. In every case he will always get you through those difficulties if you’ll submit to him and persevere.
The last thing I want you to see from Hebrews Chapter 11 gives you a promise worth holding on to. All of these people that we’ve been studying earned a good reputation because of their faith. Yet, none of them received all that God had promised. The writer says that they were all holding on to something and this world couldn’t deliver it. The full reward that they were waiting for would only be received when they were in the presence of their Savior in heaven. I think Hebrews is challenging us to not be satisfied with what the world has to offer but to keep our focus on something greater than here on earth.
III. Everyday faith in Jesus has a promise.
39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
I really want you to focus on this last verse, especially this tiny word “us”. All throughout Hebrews Chapter 11 you hear the words “they” and “them”. You read some of the greatest names in the Bible in this one chapter. It is not until you get to verse 40 that you see the word “us”. The writer is saying if you know Jesus Christ personally you have the exact same reward waiting for you in heaven. You have the pleasure of being able to be in the presence of your Savior forever. The same reward is waiting for you in heaven that’s waiting for them. By using the word “us” the writer is putting you in the same category as Abraham, Moses, David, and Samuel. He is saying if you know Jesus personally you have the same reward because you have the same faith in the same great God that these men and women did.
I think Hebrews is reminding us that it’s not them personally. They didn’t have supernatural power. They didn’t even have special faith. They just had a great God who showed up and did great things in their life. He can do the exact same thing in your life too if you’ll trust him and if your faith is in him and not in yourself and not in your circumstances. God can do incredible and amazing things in and through you in such a way that only he gets the glory.
Last month American Thinker magazine wrote an article about a crisis in America. The article said this is a crisis that affects absolutely every aspect of our society. The author of the article The Biggest American Deficit: Trust was Murphy Donovan. Donovan said that this crisis affects individuals, corporations, civic relationships, government and families. It is a crisis of trust. He said that we live in a society where no one trusts anyone else but try to handle things all on his or her own. Donovan also said that children must trust parents or the fabric of the family breaks down. Individuals must trust each other. Couples must trust each other. Families must be able to trust the state. At all levels of society, we are bound to one another by trust; at the family level, at the government level, at the commerce level, even in the faith arena it only works with trust. The trust that is visible and not that you say. Then Donovan wrapped up the article by saying that the deficit of trust is like an open wound in our country. It is not necessarily fatal immediately but it will eventually lead to permanent paralysis or ultimately to death if we don’t start trusting each other. In the case of Hebrews, it is trusting in someone or something greater than you.
The challenge in the book of Hebrews, especially in Chapter 11, is what are you placing your faith in. Are you really showing it or are you just saying it? Hebrews 11 is the chapter of men and women who have shown great faith in a great God who can do great things if you trust in him and not in yourself.
I want to challenge you to examine your faith and where you stand with God. I also want to challenge those of you in this room who know him personally to record your story and to share it with the world so that God receives the glory.
Post-Service Discussion Questions
- How did you exercise your faith this week?
- Read 2 Timothy 1:7. What does it mean when it says God has given us power? Would you say that you live a life that demonstrates God’s power?
- Describe a time when life was really difficult. How did you handle it?
- What would you say to the person that only faces hardship in life; when they came to know Jesus didn’t get easier, it only got harder?
- Commit to record an iShare story this week and share it with your friends and family that don’t know Jesus.