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Worship Message - Hebrews 11


Hebrews 11

Every word in the Bible is important. Therefore, every chapter in the Bible is critical. As

stated in the Bible, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for

reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that every person of God may

be complete, equipped for every good work.”

However, there are some Bible experts who have highlighted a few chapters as being

great. Great because, put together, they explain our Christian faith.

Before we started Advent last month, we considered most of those great chapters. Very

quickly, the chapters we considered are

Genesis 1, which tells us of creation,

Exodus 20, which gives us the Ten Commandments,

Psalm 1, which teaches us how to be obedient, the benefits of obedience, and

a warning about the result of disobedience,

Isaiah 53, which promises a Savior and tells what He would be like and what

He would suffer for us - for our salvation,

Matthew 5, 6, and 7, in which we are told more about how we are to live -

the Ten Commandments gave the very important outline, and in

Matthew, Jesus explained the full meanings of the Commandments,

Luke 15, which shares with us how much God wants us to be with Him -

with Him by accepting Jesus as Savior - so He can give us the

strength we need to live like we are supposed to live,

John 17, in which we have a prayer of Jesus - a prayer, not only for Himself,

and not only for His disciples at that time, but for all others who

would believe in Him, including us, and

I Corinthians 13, which tells us how important love is, what love is, and how

long love will last.

Today, one more great chapter. The last one identified by the experts who teach there

are great chapters in the Bible. That chapter is Hebrews 11, which defines and explains

the importance of faith and then lists many, many Old Testament people who had faith,

the challenge of course being that we, with the help of God, try to match what the Old

Testament heroes of the faith had.

Hebrews 11 starts with a definition - a description - of faith. Here is what is written -

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Two key words in the first part of verse 1 are “assurance” and “hope,” as in the phrase

“hoped for.”

We hope for a lot of things, do we not? Last week, we might have hoped for warmer

weather. Maybe for spring. Some might hope for more snow. We might hope to get a

good grade on a test or that we get a job we want. I remember before the Gator Bowl on

January 1 there were a lot of football fans in this state who hoped Nebraska would beat

Georgia.

It is certainly alright to hope, though in many cases there is not much we can do to

achieve what we hope for. Of course, concerning tests, if a student studies there should

be a greater likelihood of getting a good grade. But generally, that is all we can do in

many cases. We can only hope that maybe what we want will happen.

Spiritually, though, it is different. That is because of the word “assurance” in verse 1,

which refers to absolute certainty. Speaking spiritually, hope - hope for spiritual things

- goes beyond our normal understanding of the word. It goes to a certainty that what

God said in Old Testament times and what He promised, along with what He still says

and promises now - everything recorded in all the great chapters we have discussed and

everything else in the Bible - would happen or will happen, which means faith is based

on a total trust in God.

and actually, having faith goes even further. It goes all the way to showing faith, which

means living in ways that are based on the words and promises of God.

Can we see God? No. Can we feel His physical touch? No. Are there a lot of other

things we can see and feel? Of course. But faith is the conviction of things not seen,

which includes trusting - knowing - that God does exist, that He does love each one of

us, that He is working for our good, and yes, that His words and His promises will, if

they have not already done so, be fulfilled.

In a minute, as we get to the list of Old Testament people who had faith, it will be

abundantly clear that having faith does not offer ease in life. In fact, the faith of a lot of

Old Testament people led to suffering.

But faith is important. As also stated in Hebrews 11,

verse 2 - “For by it, men of old received divine approval” - so can we be

approved by God if we have faith,

verse 6 - “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would

draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards

those who seek Him,” and

verse 16 - “God is not ashamed to be called the God of those with faith, and

He has prepared for them a city” - a place in Heaven.

Faith is the absolute certainty that God exists and that His words and promises are real

and either have been or will be fulfilled. Faith is to be displayed in how we live, just as it

was displayed by all the Old Testament heroes listed in Hebrews 11.

Heroes we will consider as examples for us to follow. We are going to look at them in

groups according to the paragraph divisions in the Revised Standard Version. Some of

them are well-known, others less so. And by the way, we are going to go through the

names fairly quickly because there is, what I think, an important point to be made about

two-thirds of the way through the chapter, when the names suddenly end.

Heroes beginning with Abel, Enoch, and Noah.

Abel was the second son of Adam and Eve. His older brother was Cain. As it is told in

the Bible, one day, each of them offered a sacrifice to God, Cain giving some of the crops

he had grown, Abel offering one of his sheep.

Actually, I do not know - I have never really understood - why Cain’s sacrifice was not

acceptable, or not as acceptable as was Abel’s. Unless it had to do with the sheep being a

blood sacrifice, a blood sacrifice being important up through Jesus. If that was the case,

Abel obeyed God better than did Cain, thereby showing greater faith.

But the result was that Abel died. He died when he was killed by his brother Cain.

Enoch is an interesting name on the list, in that Enoch is mentioned only briefly in the

Book of Genesis. All that is reported about him is that he was the son of Jared, that he

was the father of Methuselah, that he was on the earth for a total of 365 years. And that

he was “taken up” so that he should not see death.

Why was he taken up? Because, it is reported, he pleased God. And yes, that was faith

because even then, not everyone else followed God. But Enoch did.

Noah is well known. He is the one who, upon God’s command, built an ark - a boat that

ended up saving him and his family, along with pairs of all the types of animals and

birds on the earth. Yes, he, too, had faith. I mean, he lived in a desert region, far away

from any bodies of water, and at the time of Noah, it had not yet rained on the earth. So

why would a boat be needed? It did not make sense.

But God told Noah to build an ark. He told him why, the why being that God was going

to cause a great flood. Noah had the faith to trust God - to believe what God said.

Though he took ridicule for doing so, he obeyed. And yes, God was pleased. So pleased

that Noah and his family were the only people who survived the calamity.

Abraham and Sarah. What faith those two displayed - over and over again.

First, Abraham, who had a nice, comfortable life with his extended family, was told to

leave what was familiar and go to a new land. A land God would show him when he got

there.

How difficult obedience must have been, but Abraham did obey. And Sarah his wife

went with him. I doubt she wanted to leave where they were, but she, too, obeyed.

And yes, it was difficult for them as they lived in tents when they traveled and again

when they arrived in the foreign land to which God led them.

But their faith was rewarded. Abraham’s descendants eventually became as many as the

stars in the sky and as the grains of sand by the seashore.

Later, Sarah had the faith to believe a promise given to her. She was a very old childless

woman when she received word from God that she would conceive and have a son.

Because of her age, that did not make sense, but she believed. And it happened with the

birth of Isaac.

But then, a few years later, Abraham was tested by God again. God told him to offer up

Isaac as a sacrifice. Which Abraham did, trusting that God would somehow bring Isaac

back to life so that yes, God’s promise of innumerable descendants coming through

Isaac would be fulfilled.

And yes, God provided. He provided by supplying a ram to take the place of Isaac.

Isaac went on to invoke future blessings on Jacob and Esau. Blessings for the future

speak of faith that God exists and always will.

Jacob blessed each of the sons of Joseph.

Joseph, at the end of his life, gave directions concerning his burial. He trusted - he had

the faith to believe - that God’s promise of a special land for His people, which had been

the case but had ended a few generations earlier, would once again be fulfilled.

Moses had faith. So much faith that he refused the benefits of being royalty in Egypt,

choosing instead to share ill-treatment with the people of God. So much faith that he

answered God’s call to lead God’s people during the last part of their slavery in Egypt.

And no, Moses did not want to be the leader. He argued against that role. But he did

eventually fill it.

So much faith that, because of his leadership, God’s people, shortly after escaping

Egyptian slavery, crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land. They did that on their way to

the special land promised to them by God.

Eventually, the people of God entered the Promised Land. They did so under the

leadership of Moses’ successor Joshua. Joshua instilled such faith in God’s people that

under his leadership, the walls of Jericho, which was the first obstacle in the Promised

Land, fell down.

Only a few people of the city survived. One of whom was Rahab, who had been friendly

to spies who had been sent ahead by the people of God to find out what the city’s

defenses were.

Why had Rahab been friendly? It was because of her faith. Listen to what she said to

the spies. “I know God has given His people this land. I have heard how God has done

miracles in the past. Your God is He who is God in Heaven above and on earth

beneath.”

Rahab’s faith resulted in not only her being spared, but also her immediate and

extended family. But think of all the names of those with faith - Abel, Enoch, and Noah

- Abraham and Sarah - Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph - Moses, Joshua, Rahab.

Then come Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets who,

through faith, conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the

mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out

of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

But then - and here is what I think is so interesting - something I think has a very

important message for all of God’s people - there are some verses that describe people,

not by name, but by what they endured. Which again reminds us that having faith does

not guarantee ease in life. In fact, faith often invites problems.

But listen. This part of the list also teaches - me at least - that being known is not the

most important thing. Faithful obedience - faithful loyalty - is what is important. Of

course it is nice to be known and remembered, but faith is even better, whether we are

known or remembered or not.

Listen to what the unnamed ones endured. What they were willing to endure because

they had faith and were therefore dedicated to God.

Some women lost children.

Some men and women were tortured, refusing to accept release from

imprisonment, which they would have received had they denied God.

Why would they not deny Him? It was so they might rise again to a

better life. That is faith.

Others suffered mocking and scourging.

Some were stoned.

Some were sawn in two.

Some were killed with the sword, which refers to being beheaded, not

quickly by guillotine, but slowly.

Some went about in skins of sheep and goats, to be torn apart by dogs.

Some were destitute, afflicted, ill-treated, left to wander over deserts and

mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

What suffering - what problems and turmoils - were faced by the people in Hebrews 11

who are famous and by those who are not known by name. Suffering and problems and

turmoils endured because of faith. Because of the absolute certainty that what God said

- what He promised - would be fulfilled, both in strength now and Heaven later.

Heaven described in verses 14 and 16 this way. “A homeland for God’s people.” “A

better country, that is, a Heavenly one.” A place where “God is not ashamed to be called

the God” of His people.

In the beginning, God created. He then told the people He had created how He wanted

them to live. God taught how to be obedient, along with the benefits of obedience. He

also gave a warning about the result of disobedience, but knowing how difficult

obedience is, He promised a Savior, all that happening in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, God, through Jesus, told more about how we are to live. He

shares with us how much He wants us to be with Him. It is recorded that He, through

Jesus, prayed for us. He also shares with us how important love is.

And yes, He challenges us, even today, to have faith. Faith being the absolute certainty

that what God said and says are promises that have been or will be fulfilled. Faith which

was lived out in the lives of all the heroes named and those described in Hebrews 11.

Faith that is to be displayed by us as well on easy days and difficult times alike.

And then this about how to have faith.

A couple weeks ago I received an email forward from Lynn Crozier. It featured a

mathematical thought I found very interesting. One that I think relates to today’s great

Bible chapter.

In a video sent in the email, each letter of the the alphabet was assigned a number from

1 for A through 26 for Z. The video then spelled out certain words, the first being

KNOWLEDGE. Having the numbers 11, 14, 15, 23, 12, 5, 4, 7, and 5, the word adds up to

96.

Then the words HARD WORK, with the numbers 8, 1, 18, 4, 23, 15, 18, 11. That adds up

to 98.

Then ATTITUDE. The numbers are 1, 20, 20, 9, 20, 21, 4, and 5, which add up to 100.

And finally, LOVE OF GOD. With corresponding numbers of 12, 15, 22, and 5, 15

and 6, and 7, 15, and 4, the total is 101.

What the video did was put all that into percentages. Then, applying it spiritually, here

is what the video had, which again, I think applies to the challenge of Hebrews 11.

Knowledge and hard work will get you close - 96 and 98% close - to where you need to

be. Attitude may get you 100% to where you need to be in putting faith into action. But

it is only the love of God that will put you over the top.

Meaning that all the heroes of faith named and described in Hebrews 11 had all they

needed.

Yes, many of them had knowledge. I am thinking of the prophets, for instance.

And many of them were hard workers. Noah in building the ark was certainly an

example of that.

Though some like Moses may have been reluctant to do what God wanted them to do, at

least most of them had the right attitude. The attitude of wanting to show their faith. Of

basing their lives on their faith.

Knowledge, hard work, and attitude were so important to all those listed and described

in Hebrews 11. But it was the love of God, was it not - their love for Him, but His love

for them, too - that allowed all of them to be true and stay true to God, the source of

their faith?

Will you and I allow the love of God to help us make our knowledge and our hard work

and our attitudes fruitful? Will you and I allow the love of God to give us faith? Will you

and I allow the love of God to keep our faith strong as we, like the heroes in Hebrews 11,

live our lives completely and absolutely trusting in God? And for us in New Testament

times, believing in and trusting in God’s Son Jesus?

Today’s closing song is Faith For Thy Service.

Faith for Thy service, our Father, we ask -

Faith for the facing and faith for the task,

Faith for the moment and faith for the day,

Faith that our God will throw open the way.

Hope for new courage and hope for new sight,

Hope in our Heavenly Father’s great might,

Hope that You’ll help us Your message to bear,

Hope that Your truth with the lost we may share.

Love for our neighbors and love for our God,

Love that will cause us to carry Your word -

Carry it onward and outward to win

All who should know of salvation from sin.

Our God and our Lord, thank You for giving us each word and each chapter in the Bible.

Thank You for including in them a wonderful summary - a wonderful explanation - of

everything we need to know. All the way from how You created us and everything else

in all the universe to sharing with us how You want us to live. And to the challenge we

have considered today to have faith. The faith needed to believe You exist, to believe

that You love us, to believe that You care for us. Help us to know all that. Help us to

work hard to prove we know all that. May our attitudes always be correct. But most

importantly, help us to know and respond to Your love. That will keep us right where

we need to be in our service, in our hope, and in our love. Thank You. Amen.

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