Date: January 21, 2018
Continuing in times of trial by faith is a victory equal to any great conquest of the great of the Bible.
Text: Hebrews 11:33-40
Pastor Matthew Burt
Wellspring Church, Springfield, Ma.
SCRIPTURES: Hebrews 11:33-40
who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
BIG IDEA: Continuing in times of trial by faith is a victory equal to any great conquest of the great of the Bible.
What would it take in your life to live in such a way that you were counted among the faithful in what is often referred to as the Hall of Fame. Could you be included this list that started with Abraham? What would it take in your life to be included in this list? Just one thing? These are not unique people. They are meant to be examples to us of what God will do with His people who exhibit faith in Him.
We began this chapter, chapter 11, several months ago. We have seen a definition of faith. We saw that there is a solidity to faith. We look to what God has said and promised and see that hope is not a verbal hope but I have a hope, a certainty that this will come to pass. Sofaith is what gives substance to that – that which is evidence of what I can’t see. Then we had more than a dozen examples of those who lived with a faith fueled life and they were lifted up to us as examples. We have seen (v6) how important faith is. Without faith it is impossible to please God. God is not pleased with those who do not see His promises as real, solid stuff. But it is a certainly that you do please God when you exercise faith.
Over the months, we may have lost sight of what the author is doing here. We remember that the recipients were wavering, uncertain in their commitment to their Christian belief. The letter was written to Jewish believers who were familiar with the OT. The Book of Hebrews reminds us that we must know the entirety of scripture. If we are confused then we realize that we need to go back to the OT. They knew it well. They had this familiarity. The author sets out his letter and says “don’t go backwards”. He uses the word better over and over again – a better high priest, etc. The pinnacle of the better in this book is that Jesus is better than everything that you have ever known – so why would you turn your back on theone who is better than everything. And take the lesser as your life. He lays all this out in 10 chapters beginning in Ch 1. He comes to 10:19 and ended his arguments and switches gears with the word “therefore”. If all of this is true then here is what you must do: stay the course. And the author uses the word enduretwice in the latter part of chapter 10. Since Jesus is better than anything you have ever known, endure; stay the course. How is one supposed to endure? The righteous one will live by faith. The righteous one is the one who has been born again in Christ.It’s a new person. He lives by faith. He does not live only by what he can see, experience and rationalize. He is going to live as though what God says is as real as a piece of granite. Then what encouragement he gives to them. He says I know you will not shrink back. We are those who have seen the hand of God and read the word of God. Let me show you what faith looks like – that is what Ch 11 is about. In a way we don’t even need Ch 11. You are of faith, you don’t shrink back. How do you not shrink back – look to Jesus. All of Ch 11 are almost like a parenthesis to what it means to look to Jesus.
So here’s what we have. He has asked them to remember that they have endured much already. And sometimes you have been publically People trying to hang on in the midst of troubles. He is saying you are not alone. Others have gone before you and faced similar situations.
OUTLINE FOR TODAY:
- Conquest of faith – 6 more faith fueled lives
- Continuation of faith – a different kind of victory
- Commendation of faith – as God evaluates the conquerors and the continuers
Point 1:Conquest of faith
After more than a dozen examples of faith the author says what more do I need to say. I have shown you time and time again how God carries someone through with faith. By this time the author takes a deep breathe and says but I could tell you ….and he lists 6 more faith fueled heroes: Barak, Gideon, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets. He is overflowing with proof of how God commends those who are faithful. This is a real preacher here. He has so much to say. There is a thin line between a long sermon and a hostage situation. We don’t want to be in that situation. That’s what the apostle is saying – what more can I say The author says something like I’m going to let you go but I just want to know this. There are a lot more people we can talk. Whom does he list? He lists Gideon, Barak, and Samson- 3 judges, a judge and a prophet Samuel, a king and a prophet David and then he generally throws out the prophets. After naming these 6 people he has a list of 10 different accomplishments. We are just going to read them as he does:
- There were those who conquered kingdoms like Joshua and David. They led the people in military conquest of the land of promise.
- They enforced justice, and they established or practiced righteousness. They set rules in place so the government would be a place of justice.
- They obtained promises—they received what they were told.
- They stopped the mouths of lions. Here the author has gone beyond the 6 lives and thisseems to be a reference to Daniel in the Lion’s den.
- Quenched the power of fire—this is most likely a reference to Sahdrach, Mesahch, and Abednego who were told to bow down before the image that Nebuchadnezzarhad made of himself. It’s a marvelous story and King Nebuchadnezzar looks at all the backs of people bowing down except the 3 men who are standing. King Neb instructed his servants to make the furnace 7 X as hot. He throws the 3 men in but there were 4 in the fire. He saw one like the Son of God with them. When they came out; not even the hairs on their heads were singed.
- There were those who escaped the edge off the sword
- There were those who were became strong out of weakness? Could this be Samson? He comes before the Philippians. In his weakness he is shackled and he calls out to God and God strengthened him.
- Mighty in war
- Putting foreign armies to flight
- Women receiving their dead back as resurrected—two women are named in the OT in the lives of Elijah and Elisha whose sons were dead and then alive.
There’s a life of learning in here. Time does not allow me to speak of these people. Can we look at something here? We are talking about faith here. PB is sensitive to this now as he goes to Zimbabwe. He is called to preach in the capital city of Harare about the reality of real faith and real blessings and the error of the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel is if you believe hard enough, God will give you what you want. When we come to this chapter, how are we supposed to see that. Let us look at what was going on. What are we supposed to see here?
- A) First, notice that every one of these 6 individuals acted in response to a divine call and instruction. Not one of these people determined it would be a good thing for them to do what they did. Gideon asked God to prove that he was really calling two or three times. They didn’t just make this up. It was a response to divine instruction. So truth faith is not that I determine that something needs to be done and I determine that I am going to trust God to accomplish the desires I have. Their confidence was in God. If I am going to do great things out of faith, it has to be something God has spoken directly in His Word and I am counting on God to do what He says He will do. I need to know His Word. One of the reasons that these charlatan heretics like Kenneth Copelandhave a worldwide following is because they don’t know the Word of God. They hear this charismatic, good-lookingguy talking about the life that they could have and they say I want that too. The protection you have against these charlatans is that you know the Word of God contextually. We need to know that these people based their behavior on the divine call of God.
- B) Secondly it was for the benefit for God’s people. The people who are being preached to are being fleeced, not benefited.
- C) Thirdly, and most importantly they acted in such a way that God was glorified and honored. God was seen as the good, holy and sovereign lord.
That’s the difference between what we see today and what these people are.
Point 2: Continuation of faith – a different kind of victory
Things change in V35. All these wonderful conquests and conquering heroes. All of a sudden we read “some were tortured”. This isn’t “hall of fame”. How am I supposed to understand this after I see the conquest and the successes of the faithful life? All of a sudden we move from the brilliant daylight of success into the dimness of a defeated life. What am I supposed to do with this?
We move from the conquest of faith to the continuation of faith. Most of us are not going to receive a divine call from God. You are not going to be called to go into the furnace. But you will face incredibly painful hard puzzling confusing ongoing trials and troubles and circumstances that seem like a noose seeking to choke a life of faith. Now we don’t know exactly who these people were. We can just as easily and put them in the time when Nero was Emperor of Rome when Christians were thrown to wild animals. There was imprisonment and death. What are we to make of this? Why is the author bringing up the hardship? It is so easy for us to say if you come to Jesus all your troubles will be over. Our author is absolutely honest and transparent. Your faith in Christ is not a faith in an easy happy life. Your faith is that which allows you to continue through the trials, and troubles that you have. You will get through this. Boy, don’t we face hard times? You have no idea what God’s will is for your growth. It might be a stroke, a saw cut through an arm, a lump in the breast, broken relationships, misunderstood and rejected people. He is reminding people of what Jesus says when He says in this world you will have trouble. It’s what Peter says when he says stop being surprised at the fiery trials. That is where we live. Most of us will be called to be continuers with faith. Why can I continue? We see here that they continued with their faith. The lesson is this: the same faith that allowed all of those people to obey God and persevere in times of darkness is the same exact faith that allows you to live through the hardship that you are living through which may never cease in this world. Trust that what God brings to life is good.
Point 3: Commendation of faith – as God evaluates the conquerors and the continuers
All these people were commended; they were approved by God because they trusted Him even though they did not receive what was promised.You know what a commendation is –it’s like a medal. They went to their grave looking for the establishment of the new covenant; Messiah Christ. But we have seen it. Because of faith we can please God. The new covenant takes away your heart of stone and gives you a heart of flesh. You will be able to obey because God put a new heart in you. Jesus dwelt on the earth so He could live a life of perfect righteousness. Jesus had no sin. He died because you are a sinner and you need a savior. I am a sinner and I need a savior. He took our unrighteousness and transferred his perfect righteousness to us. How do I know this is true? On the night He died, he established the new covenant. No longer do we have the blood of rams. We have the whole record of scripture telling us what God did. We have the lives of faith-fueled people. They were commended. We have the opportunity to know that same commendation, as we trust God.
Even though our lives are filled with pain and grief, we have a savior who will bring us home to a place of ultimate joy.