"THE ACTION OF REAL FAITH"
(A Series on Hebrews)
Westgate Chapel 5/18/03 Hebrews 11:2-40
PROPOSITION: The faith that is our response to the revelation and grace of God is never static or passive but aggressively pursues the will of the Father and the purposes of the kingdom of God.
- THIS is Father’s Day…and when conversation roles around to fathers the subject of heroes is not far behind (my daddy can hit the ball farther than your daddy).
- WEBSTER’S dictionary says that heroes are people admired for noble qualities and brave deeds.
- WE are seriously lacking for heroes in society today….people whose character, beliefs, and actions can be emulated by those who are following behind.
- NOT perfect people…but heroes.
- NOW, it won’t surprise you when I tell you that God’s purpose in the Christian life is building men and women known for “noble qualities and brave deeds.”
- WHEN the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica.....a small band of brand new Greek Christians who were standing alone for Christ in a thriving port city where every man was his own god.......Paul calls them heroes.
* In I Thessalonians 1:6 he says that in spite of severe suffering in their lives, that they welcomed the message of Jesus with joy.
* In verse 7 Paul tells them that they had become a model to all other believers......that reports of their faith had spread throughout the known world.
- BUT the verse that is the most interesting to me is verse 3, where Paul says concerning them,
"We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith......."
- THEIR work produced by faith!
- THAT is the primary factor in the life of a true hero or heroin…work produced by faith.
- THAT is exactly what I find in a long list of heroes of the faith, recorded in Hebrews 11 (page 1191).
- THESE men and women are not talkers, they are doers.
* Abel gave God his best lamb as a sacrifice.
* Enoch made it a huge priority in the activities of every day just to be near to God.
* Noah built an ark the size of a football field, and it took him 120 years…and there wasn’t a drop of water in sight.
* Abraham left his home land and traveled to a country he had never seen before, and didn’t know the destination until he got there.
- THESE heroes lived according to a faith in God that translated into action in their visible world…and that was why they are listed in the gallery of faith in Hebrews 11.
ii. faith.....the real action of life
- THERE is a faith that moves men and women of God to action.
- IT is a faith that trusts in the goodness, the mercy, and the grace of God and then finds its expression in willing obedience and submission to the daily direction of the Holy Spirit.
- IT is the faith that is busy. It is building the city of God.
- IN FACT it is only true faith when it translates into action. Because when it combined with action it has divine energy. God sees that you and I are serious.
- FAITH that is just a theology doesn't impress God.
- HIS hand only moves on our behalf when He sees faith that moves us into obedient action......like Abraham heading up Mount Moriah to sacrifice his son, Isaac.
- THE 39 verses of Hebrews 11, from verse 2 to verse 40, are filled with divine energy, based on the conviction in the hearts of the men and women mentioned there, that what is unseen, but promised by God, is as good as done.
- THESE 39 verses give us a living example of what Hebrews 11:1-2 means when it says,
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (2) This is what the ancients were commended for.”
- THEN what follows in the rest of chapter 11 is….faith in action.
- FAITH IS ACTION.
- LOOK at verse 4.
"By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead."
- BY FAITH, ABEL made an offering to God of the firstborn and the best of his flocks........because he had faith in his heart that the God of the unseen world was real and meant what He said about the kind of sacrifices that would be acceptable to Him.
- LOOK at verse 5.
"By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God."
- BY FAITH, ENOCH had such confidence in God and the unseen world that Enoch invested himself heavily in intimate fellowship with a God he could not see.
- LOOK at verse 7.
"By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith."
- NOAH was a preacher of righteousness. He called his generation to repent. He was tested by his times, living in an evil world. But, because of God's Word to him he spent 120 years building an ark.....even though he was ridiculed by his peers for doing it.
- LOOK at verses 8, 9, and 10.
"By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. (9) By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.(10) For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."
- BY FAITH, ABRAHAM left his own country for a land he didn't see. He regarded God's Word as more important than houses and lands and family. He left behind all ties to follow the call of God.
- EVEN when he got to the land that God had promised, he lived there as a stranger in a tent, and did not see the promise completely fulfilled.....fighting severe enemy attacks at times.
- LOOK at verses 11 &12.
"By faith Abraham, even though Sarah was past age--and was barren--was enabled to conceive a son because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. (12) And so from this one man, Abraham, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore."
- LOOK at verses 17-19.
"By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, (18) even though God had said to him, 'It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.' (19) Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death."
- ABRAHAM took Isaac, his only son, up Mount Moriah to offer him on the altar, in obedience to the Word of God, believing that God could raise him from the dead.
- FAITH is ACTION.
- VERSE 20.
"By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future."
- VERSE 21.
"By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff."
- VERSE 22.
"By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones."
- VERSE 23.
"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."
- VERSES 24-28.
"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. (25) He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. (26) 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. (27) By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. (28) 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."
- VERSES 29-30.
"By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.(30) By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days."
- VERSE 31.
"By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient."
- FAITH is action.
- READ the rest of the chapter.
- KINGDOMS were conquered. Justice was administered. Lions mouths were shut. The enemy was routed. Weakness was turned to strength.......when faith went into action.
- VERSE 35 says that some were tortured, flogged, chained, stoned, sawed in two, left destitute, mistreated.......because they chose to believe in the promise that was unseen.....but that the world was not worthy of them.
- THIS is the stuff that the kingdom of God is built with.
- IT is the action of faith.
iII. faith......the objective of life
- WHAT was it that fueled these people listed in Hebrews 11?
- WHAT was their target, the goal of their faith?
- WE know the object of their faith was God, but what was their goal?
- THE key to that is found in several verses throughout the chapter.
- VERSE 9 begins to give us a picture, when it is said of Abraham that he lived in a tent, "like a stranger in a foreign country."
- VERSE 10 says,
"For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."
- VERSE 13 says, of all the people of Hebrews 11, that they,
".......admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. (14) People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. (15) If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. (16) Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one."
- VERSE 26 says that Moses,
".......regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (27) By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible."
- THE people of faith are other-worldy. They are marching to a different drummer. They see a different city. Their allegiance is to a different King, one who cannot be seen with the naked eye......right now. They are citizens of a different kingdom.
- THIS doesn't mean that they are weird. This chapter shows them as being anything but weird.
- THEY are intensely practical and hard working. It is just that they have a different objective.....the city of God that cannot be seen.
- WE are going to a city that God has prepared for us (Verse 16).
- WE need to live like it, not as if this place is the beginning and end of our existence.....as if our houses and our lands and our jobs and our families and our goals and our ambitions and what matter most.
- WE have lost Abraham's perspective....and his faith.
Iv. faith......the real commendation
- THESE people of faith are people who are commended of God.
- NOW, that may not seem to important or practical now, but that is what separates the people of the world from the people of faith........they are less concerned with the now as with being in the presence of God for eternity.
- VERSE 1 says that these men and women of faith were commended for their faith.
- VERSE 4 says that Abel was commended of God for his sacrifice of faith.
- VERSE 5 says that Enoch pleased God.
- VERSE 16 says that God is not ashamed to be called their God.
- IN verse 38 the Holy Spirit says that the world was not worthy of these people of faith.
- VERSE 39 says that all these people were commended for their faith.
- THEY are heroes and heroines, even in God’s eyes.
- HOW is your faith in God translating into the actions of your life?
* What sacrifices are you making, like Abel, and Abraham, that are pleasing to God?
* What time have you carved out of your schedule, like Enoch, for intimacy with a God you cannot see?
* What Promised Land have you set out for, like Abraham, not quite knowing where you are going…but confident in the God who called you?
* What are you waiting to give birth to, like Sarah, believing even though it has been years since the promise?
* What career advancement have you turned your back on, like Moses, because the cost to God’s call on your life would be too great?
- IF your faith and mine doesn’t translate into action, it may not be faith at all….but simply lip service.
- THAT is the challenge to us today….to put action to our faith.
- IT won’t be easy.
- AND you don’t always see the fruit of your faith/action…sometimes in a whole lifetime….but you keep believing anyhow.
- I WOULD like to close my message with a true story of some heroes of the faith…from my own life….the people of First Assembly of God, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
- JUST like the last 9 years of our ministry together, God called them to pray…for their city, for their region, for revival.
- AND just like the last 9 years here….you obey, sometimes with great sacrifice, but don’t always see the immediate results of your faith.
- LET me tell you the rest of the story.
- SOMEONE gave me a tape of an interview of Dr. Jack Taylor, done by Ben Kenchlow, formerly of CBN.
- DR. Taylor was talking about the urgency of reaching our cities for Christ, of banding together in prayer and tearing down the strongholds of darkness over our cities.
- SOUNDS lofty, maybe even a little super-spiritual?
- MAYBE this kind of praying is for the Christians who are out there in the twilight zone?
- NOT even sure it works?
- YOU can imagine my surprise, when Dr. Taylor used, as an example of city-changing spiritual warfare.....Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
- HE said that several years ago, the Holy Spirit started to call believers in that city to prayer.
- WELL, I know exactly what he was talking about. It happened in June, 1983.
- IT actually started at First Assembly, but soon spread to other churches and pastors in the city.....I remember a gathering of Evangelical pastors at our church, who had come to ask us what was going on.
- WE had started praying for revival in our city.....something that we could not see, and we were not even sure what it would look like, but all we knew was that it was God's will for that city.
- ONE by one churches began holding prayer meetings, pastors started meeting for prayer.
- WE were a part of that move of God. We prayed every morning at 6 a.m. and again at noon, Monday through Friday........and didn't always see, in the physical realm at least, the results of our prayers.
- LIFE actually felt fairly normal.
* We had the usual number of problems.
* There were times that finances were tight, times we had to ask the congregation to dig a little deeper.
* There were times that people in the church had misunderstandings, and problems to work out.
* There was the time that a deacon's daughter got pregnant,
* And the time we had to borrow money to build the new church and some people got mad and left.
- BUT there was a strange and exciting sense that God was doing something....but we couldn't see at the time what it was. We just knew that we had to pray and work.
- RIGHT after the prayer meetings started, people started getting saved....not in overwhelming numbers, but some every week.
- I REMEMBER an undercover policeman, who was a member of the church, saying that he could not be seen coming to church.....had to sit in the corner of the balcony because some of the people he was investigating were attending the services. I franky didn't know what to think of that at the time. Was that good news or bad news.
- THERE was a special sense of God's presence in our services. It was nothing to have 20-30 out for morning prayer regularly. When we would have an all night prayer meeting to conclude a week of fasting and prayer, we would have almost 200 out.....but I didn't see what I thought would be the results from those times.
- I REMEMBER coming off a week or two week fast, and writing my Dad, because I didn't see any immediate results. And he would write back and tell me that the results were in the heavenlies and would not always be visible right away.....to just keep on.
- WHEN I left Cedar Rapids, 5 years after the call to prayer to come here, we still had not seen the magnitude of visible results, of the object of our prayer.
- WE did not have a sense that we were really making a huge difference. We just kept on praying and believing and working in the harvest field.
- WELL, I think you can imagine my surprise and excitement, when I heard the tape, to hear Dr. Taylor say that.....
1. Cedar Rapids is the safest city in America, over 100,000.
2. That while crime rates in the rest of the state of Iowa rose 12% in recent years, the crime rate in Cedar Rapids had declined 17%.
3. That there is not one Doctor in Cedar Rapids who will perform an abortion.
4. That groups of men and churches are still praying daily over the city.
- NOT long after we arrived here, there was a report on the national news that Cedar Rapids was one of the most stress-free places to live in the United States.
- ALL a coincidence? I don't think so.
- IT is easy now, to look back and realize what God was doing.
- I DIDN'T think too much of it, at the time, when one of the leading Cocaine dealers got saved....and after a few years was directing our Royal Ranger program at church on Wednesday nights.
- I DIDN'T see the connection, at the time, when a dentist got saved and confessed to me that he and his wife were the couriers for many of the doctors in the city, carrying drugs from Colorado for them.
- I WASN'T aware at the time, that something was going on in the heavenlies, when just about every believer in town showed up at a city hall hearing the day a pornographer applied for a license to open a shop in the downtown area….and was denied
- NOW that I hear how Cedar Rapids compares to the crime statistics of the state.....that it is the safest city over 100,000 in the USA......now I realize that what we were praying for, fasting for, believing for, even though we could not see it at the time, God was working all along in the unseen realm.
- OUR faith was not all that great. But we prayed, and we held on, and we believed, and God worked a miracle.
- AND now here you and I stand…and you are the heroes of the faith for the Northwest (I don’t mean this exclusive of other churches or believers).
- AND for the last 9 years you have been calling out to a God you cannot see…for a revival in the Northwest that is hard for us to imagine.
- AND suddenly, seemingly out of no where, God has said,
“Revival has begun in the Northwest.”
- WHICH is wonderful news….but it is still going to take heroes of the faith to enter into that work of God.
- IT is time for a heavenly orientation that makes us effective, mighty in battle, strong, courageous warriors of the faith down here on earth.
- WE take the promises of God...those spoken in His Word, and those spoken to our hearts.....and we stand in hope, knowing that they will be done.
- WE don't always see them.
- SOME people even die without seeing them in reality.
- BUT don't waste your time trying to convince them that what they hope for is not real. They act as of they can see it already.
- OUR hope is altogether different than the hope of this world.
- OUR hope is not wishful thinking. It is based on the unchanging Word of God.
- "WE are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved." (Hebrews 10:39)
GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS