So far in Hebrews 11 we’ve read about five people whose faith in God is an example.
Abel’s faith teaches us how to approach God.
We come to God on HIS terms, which means in faith, and with the sacrifice that He requires.
As Abel brought a lamb, we come under the blood of Jesus Christ.
Enoch’s faith teaches us how we ought to live.
We ought to walk with God, living with Him as the constant reality of our lives.
His Word sets the foundation and direction of our lives.
We respond to Him in prayer and obedience.
Noah’s faith teaches us how we ought to live in relation to the world.
Whether the wickedness of the world promises us pleasures and delights, or threatens us with harm, we are not to be turned aside from faith and godliness.
Abraham’s faith teaches us how we ought to respond to God’s Word.
He responded to God’s Word with faith and obedience.
We must do the same.
Sarah’s faith teaches us how we ought to trust the promises of God.
It was not the promise that captured Sarah’s faith, but the Person of God, the Power of God, and the Character of God.
And now we are told even more about our older brothers and sisters in the faith.
13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.
15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.
16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
Their stories were very different, but their faith had some common elements, identified in our text.
FAITH DOESN’T KEEP TRACK OF TIME
We see that their faith didn’t keep track of the time: “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises.”
As odd as it might sound, genuine faith doesn’t follow an earthly calendar.
It doesn’t require God to meet our deadline or keep to our schedule.
Now, if you think that the only purpose of faith is to get what you can out of God, as quickly as you can, this won’t make sense to you.
For many, the fastest results are produced by the greatest faith.
But these we are reading about died without receiving the promises.
It’s not that they waited years and decades for the promises; they NEVER received the promises on earth.
The issue wasn’t their faith, but the promises of God.
The promises of God can only be fulfilled in the city that He Himself designed and built, in the heavenly country in which we belong.
The world is not big enough to contain the promises of God.
It is not strong enough to support the weight of them.
The eternal promises of God require an entirely new heavens and earth, capable of containing those promises.
So, genuine faith doesn’t grow disillusioned as time passes; it grows stronger.
It recognizes more and more that what this life has to offer doesn’t satisfy, and doesn’t bring contentment.
We learn the lesson of the hymn as we move toward eternity: turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
Now, Eve didn’t understand this.
The serpent promised her instant results, and that overcame any hesitance she had.
The forbidden fruit was good to eat, pretty to look at, and would make her wise, and no waiting was required.
Praise God, by His grace and mercy countless men and women have had a greater faith than Eve.
They believed God and died in faith, and came to that heavenly country where the promises of God are fulfilled.
FAITH SEES THE PROMISES OF GOD
We are told that they saw the promises of God.
This doesn’t mean that they received the promises; we’ve just been told that they didn’t receive them before they died.
It means that they understood what the Lord intended.
God’s promises were not some dark mystery to them.
We don’t know how the Lord revealed eternity to them.
It may have been through direct revelation.
It may have been through the testimony of Adam and Eve, those who knew the Lord from the beginning.
After all, sin didn’t rob Adam and Eve of their memories of the garden and their easy, free relationship with God.
But we do know how He reveals His promises today: it’s through the Scripture.
You aren’t dependent on hearing some mysterious word from heaven.
Neither are you dependent on ME hearing some mysterious word, and hoping that I got it right.
You have the incredible privilege of holding His Word in your hand.
The Scriptures are the voice of God in written form.
Yes, He spoke long ago.
But because His Word is as living and active as He is, the Scripture continues to speak today with the same power and authority; it is always new.
So, we see His promises in His Word, and we trust, without doubt, that He will fulfill His Word and keep His promises.
We trust in His Person, Power, and Character.
These men and women understood what Paul would put into writing 2,000 years later:
Our inheritance is eternal.
It will not perish.
It cannot be damaged.
It will be as strong a trillion years from now as it was the moment God promised it.
And the inheritance is heavenly.
It doesn’t belong on earth.
The earth could not contain it or support its weight.
Faith sees the promises of God that will only be fulfilled in eternity, and gladly waits for the Lord to bring them to perfection.
FAITH WELCOMES THE PROMISES OF GOD
Faith welcomes the promises of God.
It embraces them.
Faith prefers the promises of God to the things of the world.
It counts those promises as being as good as received, right now.
The man or woman of faith says, “God Himself has promised them.
He has the power to do what He pleases.
He cannot lie.
And so, what He has promised to give me in eternity is already mine.”
Think about the things people endure for a little reward.
Most working people in our country live paycheck to paycheck.
They work for two weeks to earn a paycheck that covers the next two weeks.
But our reward in heaven is beyond counting.
There are no numbers large enough to calculate what we will receive as heirs of God and co-heirs of Jesus Christ.
Faith welcomes the promises of God, even though we must wait a lifetime to receive them, because they far outweigh anything the world has to offer.
Now, what happens when we reject God’s eternal, heavenly promises, and demand that they be fulfilled now, on earth?
We make ourselves gullible, vulnerable to temptation.
We give Satan plenty of room to confuse us and tempt us with quick, easy results.
There is a church in California that blows gold glitter out of ceiling vents and tells people that it is “glory dust” from heaven.
You know something?
Thousands are so desperate to get their hands on the promises of God right now, on earth, that they believe the lie, and end up being utterly deceived by a false Gospel.
Biblical faith is patient.
It embraces the promises of God, and is willing to wait until God brings about His perfect fulfillment.
FAITH CONFESSES THAT IT DOESN’T BELONG HERE
That’s a strange thing to say, I know.
This is what I mean.
Because biblical faith is patient, and doesn’t worry about the clock, the men and women in Hebrews – and those in Christ today – are content to be strangers and exiles on the earth.
The word “stranger” means that we are not from here.