The Works of Faith
Title: The Works of Faith
Text: Hebrews 11:1-12:2
Theme of Passage: Faith in God is not a new idea, many have had it, and you must too!
Interrogative: Do you have faith that is mentioned in Hebrews 11?
Proposition: You must have faith in God if you are going to do anything for him!
Great is the reward for those that seek God by faith!
Do not seek the temporal reward in foolishness; instead, seek the eternal reward in faith.
Ok, so it’s mission’s conference. What does it take to be a good missionary and witness for God? Well, the same things that make a good missionary make a good Christian. These are the things that missionary’s need: Good looks, a great voice, the ability to preach like Paul, great fundraising skills, a great missionary display, funny jokes, great health, and amazing talent. Ok, so those might be good things, but they are NOT what make a good missionary or a great Christian! Let me tell you what makes a man great in God’s eyes- FAITH! Do you want to be considered great in the eyes of men or in the eyes of God? Whom do you want to please? Only through faith can you be a person that pleases and honors God. Let’s look at a brief overview of Hebrews 11 to see how we are to have faith in God. First, we must define faith.
~Faith is: the substance of things hoped for. Verse 1
Faith is not based on uncertainty. The word “substance” is referring to something that is actual or real. It is talking about the reality. Christ is the “reality” of our faith unlike the “shadow” which was the Old Covenant.
Ill: It is similar to a check or bankcard. You give your bankcard to pay for a purchase. The bankcard is basically the “substance or reality” of the money in your account. Imagine if Bill Gates came to you and said, “I want to buy your car.” If he gave you a check or his bankcard to make the purchase, you would not question whether he has the money. That check is as good as money. ~~Faith is the evidence and reality of that which we cannot see but we know will happen. It is believing that Christ did and will do what the Bible says.
~Faith is: the evidence of things not seen.
The second part of verse one is very similar. The word evidence is also translated certainty, conviction. It is the inward conviction from God that what He has promised He will perform. This is talking a little more about the action. When we believe God and have this faith, then our actions will prove our faith. So we have faith in God even though we don’t see him. We have faith that he will give us a reward, even though we have not seen the reward. So let me give you the definition of faith that I think this passage is giving: Faith is an internal certainty of an unseen reality.
~So what does this faith do? Why is it so important to have faith as a Christian and as a missionary?
1. By Faith- You Please God v. 4
Abel Abel’s offering was a lamb from his flocks, but his brother Cain, the farmer, offered things from his crops. Able offered an animal sacrifice to God in faith. In the passage in Genesis 4, there is not an indication whether or not they knew what offering to bring to God, however, because of Abel’s faith, the sacrifice was counted as “more excellent.”
Appl: This is faith begins, with a sacrifice for sin. It begins with believing God that we are sinners, that we are worthy of death, that we need His forgiveness, and that we accept His revealed plan for our deliverance. That is the beginning of the life of faith. This was the faith that made Abel present his sacrifice to God. It was because of such faith that Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable and pleasing to God. He was willing to have faith and worship God how God wanted to be worshipped.
Enoch verse 5- Enoch did not die because he was found faithful. Enoch walked with God. His life was lived so close to God in faith that God took him. We know from Jude 14-15 that Enoch preached for God, but it was his faith that God honored. He did not die. God took him because of his faith. His life “pleased God” because he walked by faith.
Verse 6 tells us how to please God by faith.
a. Come to Him
First, you must come to him. Hebrews 4:16 says to come boldly to the throne of grace. You have to come to God in faith. God wants you to come to him and he allows you to come to him. To please him, you must come to him.
b. Believe that he is.
Look at verse 6 again. We must believe two things about God when we have faith. Our faith must have these two things: believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. We must believe that he is, believe that God is truly who he says He is. We must believe that God exists. As John 1:18 says, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son...He has declared Him.” We must believe what Christ said about his Father. Many have doubted God and said that He does not exist, but faith believes what the Bible says about God.
c. Believe that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.
We must believe that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. You should believe that God is a loving and true God. He is an honest God that will reward and fulfill what he has promised. We must believe that God rewards those that seek him. God wants men to seek him and God WANTS to reward you. Your deeds or good works will never do enough to please God, but you faith in him and what he says does please God.
2. By Faith- You Obey God
You obey when told to do the unheard-of. Noah- verse 7 Genesis 6:22 Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did. God commanded Noah to build an ark. God gave Noah the descriptions on how to make it, the instructions on what put in it, and the covenant to fulfill it. Look at verse 7, “Being divinely warned of things not yet seen.” He had not seen rain, he had not seen a flood, he had probably never built a boat, yet, he had faith in the words of God. He obeyed by faith and built a boat. Noah had faith and obeyed, so God rewarded him.
Illustration: Faith is idle when circumstances are right, only when they are adverse is one’s faith in God exercised. Faith, like muscle, grows strong and supple with exercise. Faith is like muscle which grows stronger and stronger with use, rather than rubber, which weakens when it is stretched.—J. O. Fraser, missionary to China
You obey when told to do the inconvenient- Abraham- v. 8
Abraham was told to get or go out of his country, away from his family, and out from under his father’s house. He was told to leave all this behind and leave for a land that God would show to him. God said that he would bless Abraham and make his name great. Abraham simply had faith in God so he left. He didn’t hesitate or wait for a better time he just obeyed God. Abraham obeyed God in faith even though everything that he knew would be gone- that is obeying even when it is inconvenient.
Illust: We live in a “McDonald’s and 7-11” world. Like McDonalds, the world teaches to have it “your way.” Everything is saying, “Buy this now; you need this now!” We live in a world of instant gratification. The motto could be, “If it’s not convenient, then it’s not worth it!” This cannot be the motto of the church or Christians! We cannot live moment by moment. Are you a Christian out of convenience or out of conviction!
Appl: So let me ask, Are you obeying God even when it’s inconvenient? Do you read your Bible every day, or only when it’s convenient? Do you come to church like you should, or only when it’s convenient? Do you only obey God when it’s convenient? OR Do you obey God even though it may be inconvenient to what your flesh wants?
You obey when told to do the uncomfortable- verse 9-10
Look at the words “dwelling in tents.” The word dwelling means, “a permanent resident,” but a tent was the most “portable of dwellings.” Therefore, Abraham permanently dwelt in a temporary type of resident. Why would people as great as Abraham be willing to dwell in a tent located in a foreign land for his whole life? Because Abraham was willing to wait for the city with firm foundation- the one that God would build! Abraham was not looking to an earthly, man made city. His focus was an eternal, heavenly country.
Now, let me say, living in a tent for all of your life would be very uncomfortable, but I don’t think that is the most uncomfortable thing. The most uncomfortable part would be in verse 10. It says, “For he waited.” Often times, waiting is the most uncomfortable thing for a Christian. We don’t want to wait for God, we want it NOW! Listen to what James 1:2-3 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” The toughest part about faith might be waiting.
Illustration: Have you ever broken a bone and had to get a cast? If you have, you probably know that bones don’t heal overnight. Having a cast on is very uncomfortable and it is even inconvenient, but the cast is going to protect your broken bone and it will help you heal. The cast is good for you, even though it is uncomfortable waiting for it to come off!
Appl: Waiting is sometimes what God wants us to do, though it’s uncomfortable. He wants us to wait on him and go through various trials. Those trials will build our faith and help us become patient. Waiting on God in various trials can be very uncomfortable, but if you are focused on the eternal, as Abraham was, you will be able to endure! You need to obey and wait on God even though it is uncomfortable! You say, “God I want a new job right now! I want to be married right now! I want to be healed right now! I want my parents to trust you as savior right now! I want to be done with school right now! I want to know Chinese right now!” You know, maybe God wants you to wait and see you obey him by faith.
3. By Faith- You trust the impossible from God.
God tests Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering! This is an unthinkable request! None of you parents in here would want to sacrifice your child as a burnt offering! What was even more unthinkable was the fact that Isaac was Abraham and Sarah’s only son! God promised that Isaac would continue Abraham’s line and make a great nation. The next day after God’s command, Abraham got ready and started on the two-day trip to Moriah. He took his twenty something year old son and a few servants with him (most believe that Isaac was at least in his late teens or twenties). Every step of the way provided an opportunity for Abraham to turn back, but Abraham fully obeyed and trusted God. He obeyed because believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead. Abraham obeyed in one of the greatest acts of faith ever recorded!
Appl: By faith, you believe that God can do the impossible. God ask you to do something so strange and so crazy that most would believe that it is impossible! The church has a Christmas program and we say, “We want to have 100 people come.” We all laugh- impossible! You get cancer and think, “It’s impossible to be healed!” You read God’s Word and Christ says, “I will provide for all your need.” You think, “Impossible if I don’t have this job.” –Have faith, that God can the impossible!
In Matthew 17:20 Jesus said, “if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. In Mark 9:23 Jesus said, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
You might think, ~“My marriage and kids are so bad, it is impossible to get them to do right! Why should I start trying to get my family to obey now? –it’s impossible.”
~Teens and kids might think, “It is impossible to obey mom and dad! They are so strict and so mean!” If you have faith in God, you will obey, and God will do what you think is impossible. ~We do not need a great faith, but faith in a great God! Let me tell you what is impossible: Hebrews 11:6- Without faith, it’s impossible to please God!!
4. By Faith- You Forsake the World for God v.23-28
By faith, you should be forsaking the temporal pleasures of the world. Moses grew up in the palace of the Pharaoh. He had a privileged position. Because of his status and position, Moses had all the opportunities to take advantage of the “pleasures of sin.” Moses also had the opportunity to have all kinds of “treasures in Egypt.” that he wanted, but instead he “esteemed the reproach of Christ greater.”
Appl: If you had all that Moses had, would you be willing to give it up to serve Christ?
It is not a sin to be rich, but it is a sin to want to be rich. If we work hard and honestly and to God’s glory, and become wealthy in the process, fine. But if we set our minds on getting rich, we have the wrong motivation. Paul told Timothy, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Tim. 6:10–11). If God makes us rich, then that is great, but if our desire is to be rich, then there is a problem. Some think that they can want to be rich without loving money. I would say that if you want to be rich, then you already love money too much! Our desires show who we love. Ill: Would you trade places with the richest man of the world if it meant you gave up your salvation?
5. By Faith- You Endure Trials for God v. 35-38
The transition in Hebrews 11:35 is important: not all men and women of faith experienced miraculous deliverance. Some were tortured and died! The word translated “others” in Hebrews 11:36 means “others of a different kind.” These “others” had faith, but God did not see fit to deal with them in the same way he dealt with Moses, Gideon, and David. He allowed them to go through trials and endure suffering for Him. Faith does not always end in an earthly, physical victory, but it always has an eternal reward!
App: Unfortunately, many people want to make the Christ the source of earthly riches and treasures. Many people on Christian TV or in liberal church say that if you trust Christ, you will have more money, a better job, and not have trials. Well, the truth is that those people are ignoring the teaching of God’s Word. Trials will come. Persecution will happen. Your faith will be tested and tried. You may have to endure terrible things for the sake of Christ.
~~God does not have to heal in order to prove that one has faith. The writer of Hebrews (11:36–38) records the fact that many unknown men and women of faith were not delivered from difficult circumstances; yet God honored their faith. In fact, it takes more faith to endure than it does to escape. Don’t listen to the TV evangelist that says if you have trials, then you are not a child of God or you don’t have faith. God may want to put you through a terrible trial to prove your faith to others.
Tortured God’s faithful are willing to be beaten to death rather than compromise their faith in Him. They would not sacrifice the future on the altar of the immediate. They preferred being put to death, because by faith they knew that one day they would be resurrected. Mockings and scourgings. Jeremiah was as emotionally abused as he was physically abused, and it is not strange that he was called the weeping prophet. He endured, and continued to endure, all sorts of pain for the sake of God’s Word. Tradition holds that Isaiah was sawn in two. The people became so irritated at his powerful preaching that they cut him in half. The many kinds of suffering mentioned in these verses, are a summary of the many and varied kinds of affliction God’s people face and are often called to endure for Him. Whether they were killed or made outcasts, the point is they courageously and uncompromisingly suffered for the Lord because of their faith. Whether for conquering in a struggle or continuing in suffering, they trusted the Lord.
Appl: God does not promise His saints deliverance from all suffering. To the contrary, Jesus told us to take up our crosses and to follow Him (Mark 8:34), and that “if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Both Paul (Phil. 3:10) and Peter (1 Pet. 4:13) advise us to rejoice in our sufferings for Christ’s sake. Paul told the Corinthian believers, “I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction” (2 Cor. 7:4).
Their primary concern was not for the safety of their lives but for Christ. Physical deliverance or not, they would not forsake their trust in God. Appl: This is the exactly the kind of faith that we are to have! If we have faith in God, we should not be worried about what happens to us in this temporal life! If we are triumphant in faith or we endure trials in faith, it does not matter, we are simple commanded to have faith and obedience to God. He will reward us eternally!
Jim Elliot: Jim Elliot, the martyr said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”
6. By Faith- You Look to God. v. 12:1-2
The author says in these verses, “Now, look at all these people that had faith in God! These people trusted God and served him with their life. They went before you. They did it, and so can you!” The author uses athletic illustrations. Get rid of the weights that are holding you back. Marathon runners don’t carry or run with backpacks full of rocks. A Christian should not try to serve Jesus Christ with a load of sin in their life. Why do try to carry the pleasures of the world around with you as you attempt to serve Christ? Get rid of them and start faithfully patiently running.
The author then says you need to look to Jesus Christ. He is the author and finisher of your faith. He is the one that started and allowed you to have faith, and he is the one that will ultimately complete your faith. To look anywhere else would be foolish because only Christ is worthy to be trusted in.
Ill: Now I run a little bit in the mornings. I know that I have to run with my eyes focused ahead. I have realized that when I turn to look to the left or the right, I unconsciously start to go off course. I also know that when I look in another direction, it also slows me down. I also know that if I carry a box of books on my back, I will not go so fast, so far, and I will have pain. Appl: To faithfully serve Christ, you need to get rid of your sin, you need to patiently run, and you need to look only to Christ. Having faith in something else or looking in another direction will only hinder your life as a Christian.
No missionary or Christian can be an effective servant for Christ without faith! By faith, you can please God, you obey God, you trust that God can do the impossible, you forsake the world, you endure trials, and you look only to Jesus Christ. Let me finish with an illustration of William Borden. He is an example of one that had faith in God alone!
Illust: No reserves, no retreats, no regrets. After William Borden, heir to the Borden dairy fortune, graduated from high school. His father wanted his son to see the world so he sent William off with a servant, with money, and with a new Bible. After a month of traveling across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, William had seen a world of pain, a world of need, a world of suffering. In a letter home he reported that he intended to give his life to begin to prepare to serve hurting people on the mission field. He suffered from no delusion. He knew the challenges he would face, but the calling of Christ was more pressing than the lure of the world, and he reflected on that thought as he wrote in the back of his Bible two words: “NO RESERVES.”
Returning to the U.S., William enrolled in Yale University where he pursued his calling. Graduating with honors, he was inundated with offers. Wall Street courted him; the family business needed him; law school beckoned him. But William Borden’s soul had been captured by Christ and the Holy Spirit would not let him waver.
When he applied and was accepted into Princeton Seminary, he wrote in the back of his Bible two more words: “NO RETREATS.” Three years later upon graduating from the seminary and accepting a mission assignment to China, William set out to fulfill his calling to serve those in need. In route to China he stopped in Egypt to further prepare and became ill. A month later he died. Dead at 25.
While going through his son’s possessions, William’s father thumbed through the now worn Bible that he had given his son years before. In the back of the book the senior Borden found two additional words written by William on his deathbed: “NO REGRETS.”
William Borden had faith that pleased God, he obeyed the call of God, he believed God could do the impossible, he forsook the pleasures of the world, he endured trials- even until death, and he looked only to Jesus Christ! I know that his faith was the kind of faith that God wants in a missionary!