What will you live by?
Message - What will you live by? - Hebrews 11 - Michael Leitz
This morning I have the honor of delivering a message of hope for all here today. For one who only speaks a few times a year, being asked to speak at the funeral of a seasoned preacher like Clayton is intimidating. As I was praying about what to say, so as to encourage and comfort each of you here today, I realized that that’s not my job alone to do this, but rather includes this community, and most importantly the Holy Spirit, who is here and actively engaging all of us in these ways.
When Sylvia and I met with Charlotte to plan the service, she shared that one of Clayton’s favorite passage was Hebrews Chapter 11. When she told me this, I was not surprised as the theme of this passage is one that seems to be something both she and Clayton had developed and lived out with great voracity. In fact, it’s what they lived their entire life by.
So, let me ask you each a question - What DO you live your life by?
Let’s be honest, we all live our life by something. We all have values by which we live, and these values becomes our compass for the decisions we make in life. We know that our will guides our thought process; so the question becomes, what guides or informs your will?
Some live by:
Excess - the striving for more of the stuff of this world (he who dies with the most toys wins)
Power - they need to be in control, because your way is the best way (absolute power corrupts absolutely)
Individualism - I don’t need others to help me in life, I’m a self-made person (the great American spirit is alive and well)
Prestige - I get my value from what others think of my performance (they like me, they really like me)
Morality - I’m a good person, I try to treat people right (most dangerous of them all)
This list could go on and on, with new worldly values being added daily which people live their lives by. I’m not sure if one of those informs your will and thus how you spend your life, but I would say each of these can be difficult task-masters to live by. They require lots of time, energy, and effort to maintain because they require a striving after something that has no true fulfillment and in the end, no eternal significance.
If you are currently living your life by one of these, maybe there’s a better question for your - What COULD You live your life by?
Might I suggest another way? What about living by faith.
The word faith can mean different things to different people, but when you hear how the author of Hebrews chapter 11 defines it through the sharing of many stories of people of great faith, it becomes clear this was what Clayton lived his live by. The author begins with a simple definition and then gives examples from both the OT and the early church.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by faith the people of old received their commendation.”
Have you ever held out hope for something, and then that something actually happened? Like Charlotte had hoped we could meet together today in this place, and it’s happening! You see, once you showed up you gave her an assurance that we could celebrate Clayton’s life together...Hope fulfilled. This is a small example, but one that is very encouraging to Charlotte’s faith, because it was an answer to prayer. You see faith is solid, it doesn’t waiver, it’s a sure thing. How many things in this world are a solid and sure bet? The economy, you job, your health...these are all fleeting and in the end lead to uncertainty and fear. This is where we find ourselves today in America with Covid-19, we are living by fear and not by faith. It doesn’t have to be this way, there is a better way, but you will have to make that choice for yourself. Faith in God is something personal, between you and God, but the results are powerful and eternal. I am sure there are many people today in this room, around the world, and in heaven because Clayton lived out his faith in obedient service to Jesus.
The other part of this verse, which I don’t want us to miss, is the statement about the faith of the ‘people of old’ receiving their commendation. This simply means the great things of faith they each did, and this chapter lists 18 people, is a testimony from God regarding the acts they each did for Him. In other words, they lived their life by faith and acted on behalf of God, just as Clayton did when he gave his life to Jesus as Savior and Lord and surrendered to his calling to preach the gospel.
If we had time, we could dive into each of the people of great faith mentioned in this chapter (people like: Abraham, Moses, Rehab, David, the Martyrs of the early church, and many others) and examine their great acts of faith for God. And if we did, we’d find this statement to be true: “When we demonstrate our faith with action, we receive our approval and reward from God.” Two quick observations.
First, when one lives by faith it is not easy, by any means, but it requires action...just ask Noah. He was asked by God to build a boat large enough for two of every animal on the earth. My mind goes to the movie Evan Almighty, who lost all of his power and prestige when God tells him to build a large boat like Noahs. Hebrews 11:7 says of Noah, ‘he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.’ What the writer is saying, he didn’t give into the pressures of the world to conform to his corrupt culture and live by their values, but rather he acted in faith for God and as a result saved all humankind. So, there was both an immediate reward and a long-term generational reward as a result of his action.
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Second, when one lives by faith in this life, there is a reward which leads to life eternal. Hebrews 11:16 says of those ‘great ones’ of ‘faith’ from old, ‘...they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.’ If there was no greater motivation to live life by faith and not by the values of this world, I can think of none other. If we place our faith in Jesus Christ as our savior and lord, then we become God’s children and become part of a forever family, both here and now and in the life to come. So, access to the ‘prepared city’ (heaven - the place where God dwells among his people) is for those who live by faith. Therefore, based upon the evidence that I know of Clayton’s life, I can say with the fullest assurance and the deepest conviction that today he is in that heavenly-city which Jesus prepared for him; just as he does for all of his faithful and obedient children.
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 for them a city.
In a world which espouses values contrary to God, people like Clayton are a rare find, you might even say he was, ‘one of whom the world was not worthy.’ I know for me, he was an example of a person of great faith...how about you? His presence in our lives, was itself evidence of God’s grace, as he proclaimed the word of God to a sinful world. His life among us was a greater privilege then we would ever realize, and much better than we deserve. So, in this way he was Christ to us, the hope of glory.
Clayton lived his life in such a way so as to be a witness to the great faith which he had in Christ. And just as Christ suffered on behalf of the people of God; so too, Clayton suffered on behalf of the people of God whom he faithfully shepherded. Thus, he was a model for us to follow, as he followed Christ. He did not follow the values of the world, instead he pointed his compass to Christ and lived by faith.
One last question for you my friends and if Clayton were here I think he might be asking you - So, What WILL you live your life by? (12)
Pastoral Prayer - Michael
Dear God, Reveal your truth to those who are bereaved, so that they may meet the days ahead in thy peace. Grant us the grace to entrust Clayton to your never-failing love, and remember him according to the love which he has bestowed upon us in his lifetime. Thank you for the great man of faith who followed you by faith, even when it was not easy, nor when it didn’t seem to make much sense to people of this world.
Jesus, in this time I ask for you to do your work in challenging those here who’ve lived by worldly standards and not by faith. Some here need to take that first step and place their faith in you as their savior and lord, prompt them now to do so. Allow them to sense you calling them into relationship with you, and enable them to respond by praying this prayer with us together, repeating in their heart these words, “I believe that Jeusus is the Christ, the son of the Living God, I take him now as my Lord and Savior.”
Holy Spirit, we thank you for those who have just now placed their faith in Christ, remind them to each day renew their commitment by living as a new creation, and demonstrate their faith through the mighty acts which you would write into their hearts. There are others here who have confessed faith in you, but have not remained faithful to that confession based upon what they have lived by. Convict them of this now, and call them back into a passionate faith which will be lived out in the days they have remaining, so that they may one day enter that city which you have prepared for them that are faithful.
Lord, please help us to remain faithful and increase our faith, so that one day we might be numbered among the people we read about in Hebrews 11, people like Clayton, who lived by faith.