Faith That Wins • Hebrews 11:32-40
purpose and audience of sermon? 4 points
By show of hands, who knows what this this?
That’s right, it’s a telescope. what one writer referred to as the invention that has done the most to redefine our place in the universe, and is perhaps the most important instrument of all time.
Why? What is it about this simple tool, that holds so much power, power to change minds, change lives, to change entire societies?
What does the telescope do for you when you look into it?
It gives you supernatural sight.
By peering into a telescope you are transported into another realm. A very real and grand and glorious and expansive realm, a realm that is all around you, all the time but distant and because it’s so distant, it remains unseen by natural eyes.
For 99.9 percent of human history, most people held a natural viewpoint of the world and their rightful place: All our senses scream out to us that the Earth is the center of the universe, and we are the center of the earth and everything revolves around us.
But once your eyes are opened by the telescope, you are immediately confronted with the majestic and terrifying truth. Infinite Grandure and beauty and strength exist and it all belongs to another, to one that is beyond you. You are but a speck of a speck of a speck revolving around an object, which is revolving around a greater object, which itself is spinning in unison with countless other such heavenly bodies, inside of a deep web of endless galaxies, all spoken into existence and held in place by the Creator.
It’s no wonder the telescope changed everything. It changed the way humans viewed not only the sun and moon and stars, but it changed the way men viewed themselves, their lives and their place and purpose on this planet.
Now, who knows that this sermon isn’t about telescopes?
Listen to the word of God and see if you can figure out the metaphor.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
If you were asked to provide evidence for the celestial bodies, how could you do that? You profess that there is a planet revolving around the sun, called Saturn and that this giant planet has a multitude of rings embracing it. Well, that’s hard to believe. What can you put in my hand, to show me this wondrous thing you speak of? Where is the substance of your claim? It’s the telescope.
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And likewise, the faith that God gives you is an incredible tool of life-altering power.
Faith reaches through this present place and time, where things “are” where, for you, things and people exist, and it pulls those distant realities, which lay beyond sight, which are either in the deep past or in the future, and it pulls those things into focus. All the sudden you realize that just because you can’t see them with your eyeballs, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t real or important.
The faith that you read about in Hebrews 11 is the knowledge, the assurance of tomorrow’s glory. It brings what lays only in the future, into today and causes you to live, an act, and move, and breathe as if the fulfillment of all God’s promises is just a single step away.
Do you see the metaphor? Does it make sense to you?
When you’re looking through a telescope, previously unseen, seemingly non-existent things, are revealed to you. They are brought into focus, they are brought near, within arm reach. At the same time, all that was so near and clear before, all the pains and all the riches, all the failures and all the successes, all the business of today, disappears. You see past it all. This is very similar to how faith operates.
That’s why faith is a causal force, a driving force. Faith creates action. Faith is the eyes of your soul. What you see, what you believe, is going to dictate what you do and how you do it. And if your faith is bringing your future glory with Jesus into focus and the daily grind and chronic pain is being drawn into the peripheral, you better believe your actions are going to look ridiculous to a lost world.
If you look at the examples throughout chapter 11 you see what telescopic Faith does, how it strengthens, how it empowers, how it equips, and preserves.
3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God… Faith gives you true understanding of this world we live in and helps you navigate it.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. If you could clearly see the glory of God, the price he paid to purchase you, the home that he’s prepared for you, the new earth and new body that awaits you and your brothers, unmarred by sin, full of strength and beauty, If you could see that as clearly as you see the chair in front of you, how excellent your sacrifices would be. How hard it is to sacrifice without the super sight of faith!
Their faith drove them to go, to leave behind, to give birth, to accept and bless against their will. Their faith gave them boldness and courage to command others, to give up earthly glory, to sacrifice the promised and miraculously given son in hopes of getting him back through resurrection.
Their faith raised up in them a fearless spirit. In fact, this one is mentioned a couple times. By faith they did not fear. Faith sees past the current circumstances and sees the Lord Almighty by your side, mighty to save. The great power of faith is to cause you to not fear, to disobey the murderous king and obey instead the Lord of lords.
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Their faith inspired them to choose humiliation over fame, to give up notoriety, to pass through deep waters, to obey strange orders, to risk life and limb in crazy battles, to become a trader, to lie to the authorities in order to save the Lord’s children.
Their faith stirred up in them desires for something better than this world could offer and their faith gave them patience to wait for that inheritance and the self control to renounce lesser pleasures in the meantime.
(Hebrews 11:13-16) These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
and it goes on and on.
These are the stories and the people that have been highlighted these last three Wednesdays. Stories of great and bold faith, by which, unthinkable victories were won and, by which, the the impossible was made possible.
And that is point number 1
When you make the switch from earthly eye-sight, to the supernatural telescopic sight of faith, your life is going to look both ridiculous and incredible to those around you who don’t have faith. You’ll have your gaze locked onto your future glory and all the precious promises fulfilled and you’re going to fail to to see the cliff just inches away, as a major concern. the world will see it and laugh and call you stupid, and then as you step over the edge, your God will do the unthinkable. A bridge will be built under your feet, a way will be made. The walls will simply fall down.
As you live by faith and not by sight, God will do big things in your life. He will bless you beyond belief. This is what He does. He fights your enemies, He resurrects, He provides, He gives children, He protects. He prospers. He makes His children strong, and He causes them to become valiant in battle.
So, point 1: God works miracles in the the lives of those who trust him and live by faith, knowing that this is not their home. If that’s you, the miraculous will happen in your life. You will often look back over the past days and weeks and years in awe of His kind and powerful and gracious hand in you life.
God, the Creator, who presides over every happing in the cosmos, will work his amazing providence to bring about the most incredible turns of events.
In the darkest of nights, light will shine.
Point number 2: Not Always.
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Sometimes, through faith, God sustains His people in the midst of horrific suffering. He could deliver, but doesn’t.
Faith is no guarantee that you will skip out on suffering or that you will be what the world sees as “successful”. Having faith and being faithful is not a guarantee that you will conquer territory, that you will gain ground, that you will slay enemies in this life. It is not a promise of promotion at work, or even a guarantee that you will have work.
Listen to the word of God!
32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again.
Now get ready for the plot twist!
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
It is absolutely vital that you notice what this second part says and what it doesn’t say.
It does not say that by unbelief or that because they lacked faith they were tortured and sawn in two. what does it say? (Hebrews 11:39) “all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise…”
By faith they were sawn in two. The same faith that looked hungry lions in the face and was kept safe, is the same faith that confronted the raging mob and was not spared the pain and shame of being stoned to death.
Do you get that? this is seen clearly in the difference between verse 34 and verse 37 where you read that some, through faith, escaped the edge of the sword and that others, through faith, were slain with the sword.
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Same faith. same sword, Opposite worldly results. Each outcome was accomplished by the same faith. namely the faith that loves and trusts God almighty above all else, that is to say, the faith that obtains a good testimony.
Listen, Hard times are coming. You cannot sell your religion to people by making it sound like every day is going to be your birthday. The church must be real! The church must be strong in truth and honesty. Brothers, you must not pretend, you must not fantasize about this present age. You need count the cost and by faith see the reward, the promise fulfilled, and by faith, be glad to pay the cost. The believer dies every day. Every day that you die is a successful day. It is a victorious day in the kingdom.
The amount of your faith, or the strength of your faith is not what has the final word on whether you will suffer or whether you will escape suffering, in this life. The final word lies with your creator, the one who owns you, the one who made you, the one who purchased you with his own blood. Never forget, you are not your own. You were purchased at a great price. You belong to God.
According to his wise plan, He chooses to spare some of his children pain in this life, he chooses to work miracles through some of his children in this life, and he chooses to do great things through suffering in the life of his children.
When you suffer, when you fall ill, when you are stricken, when you are not delivered, let no one point and scoff and say this has befallen you because of you lack faith.
Just because the stock market crashed, your home value plummeted, you lost your job and your retirement fund evaporated, does not mean you are being punished by God for wavering in your faith.
Where are the Beardens?
I broke down in tears on Sunday, thinking about you. Megan was up there leading the church in praise of her God and then looking back and seeing Tucker also faithfully helping us along to sing those praises all to the God who took their little baby away from them. I was overcome by the beautiful witness of your faith which endures pain. Point #4 is for you guys and those like you, but for now let it just be said that your baby was not taken from you because you lack faith.
What a horrible thing to say, to assume. This church will not treat people like that. This church does not dare talk to people like that. This church comes along side those who suffer and encourages them and commends them for keeping their eyes on Jesus and enduring!
Suffering saints do not have a God that says, “If only you had faith like that widow who received her son back from the dead, if only you believed like her, then I’d be pleased with you and give you what you want. But instead, I’m letting you suffer because I’m not pleased with you, because your faith is not great enough.”
That brothers, is the opposite of what this text says about God’s suffering saints. It says that these people Obtained a good testimony, and they obtained that good testimony, through their faith. They
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were approved by God. God was well pleased with them. Today The Lord speaks and commends these suffering saints to you.
So, point 1: God works miracles for His children.
Point 2: Not always.
The common feature between those, who through faith escaped the sword and conquered and those who through faith endured torture and were slain by the sword, is a concrete confidence, a sweet assurance, a solid and living hope that God himself is better.
God is Better! that word keeps coming up in Hebrews. Over and over again. It’s what feeble and tired believers need to hear over and over again. God is better! don’t grow tired. Don’t give up! God is better!. Better than anything which could be gained in this life and better than anything death could take away from you. And death takes everything away.
God himself, in Jesus, united together with you through the Holy Spirit, is better than any happy ending you could imagine for your endeavors in this life. He is better now and better forever. The faith that unites the two groups is a total persuasion that God is better than what you could lose or gain here and now.
God is better! Jesus is Better!
Faith, like this telescope sees into the distance and sees something far better. That better picture drives you. Wanting that better future, empowers you to choose the better path. Wanting the better future, empowers you to reject the lesser and weaker pleasures and promises that the world pushes in your face.
Faith says to your spirit, to your soul, “I may have it all, but God is better still. I’ve been lavishly blessed in this life compared to others but the real blessing is God himself and my inseparable union with him.”
And Faith says, “If I lose it all, if it’s all stolen from me, if it all rots, I will have lost nothing of great value, it was all like garbage compared to the riches of being a beloved child of God.”
You better learn to say it now because eventually, you will lose it all and if you haven’t settled the matter thoroughly deep down in your soul now, while you have it, you’ll be shaken when it’s all taken away. Because you will have loved all of it instead of your God who gave it to you.
Verse 35 – they received back their dead by faith. Others however, received a better resurrection. Life is good. The church is enthusiastically pro-life. Life is a precious and wondrous and beautiful gift of God. When Elijah prayed and God gave that boy back to his mother from the dead to live again, it was a most beautiful thing. There was much rejoicing, but he was also brought back to life, to die yet again.
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There is a better resurrection, to a better life, endless and full, healthy and happy. Faith does not say, “if God loved me, He wouldn’t let me suffer like this.”
No, Faith lays hold of God himself and His sure and precious promises and it desires and eagerly anticipates a better kind of resurrection. Faith looks forward to a better outcome. It does not settle for striking back in revenge. It wants a better justice, from the true Avenger.
Faith says, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this suffering pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
Live not by sight. Live by faith.
When you live by faith, you can victoriously suffer, you can conquer through the pain. You can win by dying, you can bless and grow the kingdom and be a mighty power for God in this world by enduring the shame. That is not failure! That is glory.
That is faith! and that, is victory.
The suffering is strategic. It is not failing. It is not losing. Going without is not missing the mark. It is not unsuccessful to be poor, it doesn’t make you a nobody. In God’s design, suffering is strategic and powerful and it has a gracious design and a beautiful end. And When His children, by faith, patiently endure poverty and pain, a weight of glory builds up for them in the Kingdom.
And if all of this is too hard to believe, ask yourself what category would you put Jesus into? The category of verses 33-35 or 36-40?
Definitely the second group. But is he not a conqueror? Is he not the conquer? The hero of heroes? The reigning king of heaven and earth?
And what exactly are the means of his victory? How is it that he portrays his Heroism? By which means did he conquer kingdoms and take a seat on the throne in heaven? How did He do it? What lowly state was he born into? How did he live? How did he die?
Thor has his Hammer, The Flash has his lighting bolt and Captain America has His shield. What is the symbol of your hero?
a cross. Not a cross that he hangs his enemies on, but a cross on which he hangs in their place. And this He did through faith, as it is written, for the joy that was set before, Him endured the cross, despising the shame.
Oh, that you would be like Jesus! That you would want to be like Jesus!
So, point 1: God works miracles for His children when they live by faith.
Point 2: Not always. Sometimes God sees fit to have His children, by faith, endure the unendurable. Point 3: The difference between the two is not that one of them lacks faith. It is the same faith that shuts the mouths of lions and that endures trails of mocking and scourgings.
The fourth and final point is this:
Listen, all you who have, by the grace of God, patiently and faithfully endured hardship and pain, 7 of 9
The fourth and final point is this:
Those who live by faith and not by sight, those who love God more than life and are willing to suffer in his service, are God’s great gift to the world.
(Hebrews 11:37-38) They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy.
What an uplifting thought, an inspiring thought, an empowering thought to get you through affliction and torment.
Life can be incredible difficult. But your life can be a gift to the world, one so great and precious that the world would be unworthy of it.
Your suffering is not pointless. it is not meaningless, it is not fruitless. When you bear it with faith, it not only benefits you and grows your character and endurance, but it also turns your life into a beautiful witness. A gift of grace, a blessing to the world.
Your patient and steadfast faith is a bright light in a dark world.
Faith and Victory. Faith produces victory. Faith wins! Faith that looks to Jesus wins. Faith always, only wins. Faith does not lose. It can’t.
By faith, there is incredible victory in overcoming seemingly uncermountable circumstances. By faith, there is being victorious over your addictions and by faith there is being victorious over powers of darkness and over armies and over illness and over death itself….
Faith also produces victories under your circumstances.
Meaning that, when, by faith, you endure ridicule and poverty, when by faith, you bear up under the strain of public scorn and imprisonments, You Win! You actually do win, this faith God uses to demoralize the enemy and tear down strongholds. Victory, is looking to Jesus, and persevering through the crushing of your body and the separation from loved ones. When you keep the faith, when you refuse to curse God, When you say to your soul and to your family, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” That is winning faith. That is faith that the Lord loves.
Why? Because in all these situations, The actions of God’s children cry out, “Jesus is better!” Their testimony is loud and clear. it says that God himself is to be treasured above life and limb. He is to be cherished beyond liberty or laughter. He is to be desired more than luxuries or lovers. The one who conquers kingdoms and escapes suffering says, “Jesus is better than what I conquered.” The one that lives destitute and in the end is torn limb from limb, his testimony proclaims, “Jesus is better than what I lost. Jesus is better than what was taken from me.”
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This truth, is the truth that the children of faith give, as a gift, in their suffering bodies, to an undeserving world.
Think for a moment of prisoners of war, who endure brutalities, who go hungry, who are tortured, who endure illness and are tempted … but by faith (and only by faith), hold fast and endure, and remain faithful to their countrymen and to the ideals for which they fought. Are those POWs heroes or not? Do they hold places of honor or dishonor?
And in the end, if through faith, they were slain by the sword, did they lose or did they win?
When asked about the contribution made by soldiers who are killed in action or endure imprisonment, one of the veterans in this church said, “They give us a legacy of warfighters to look up to and aspire to become. They are a symbol of ‘the best of us’ and ignite in our heart what we in the Marines call, “Spirit of the Marine Corp.”
Do not be conned into the so-called good news that says, if only you had more faith, God would grant you a heavenly, paradise-esk life. There’s a lot of hell, here and now.
Your mission is to war against it. You have a job to do. You must reject passivity. You are workers. You are soldiers. You are runners.
By faith, knowing that He is with you and will strengthen you, you put aside the sin that so easily entangles and you run on. You trip and fall and, by faith, seeing him as merciful and full of grace, you get up again. You are there for each other to help each other up, to pick each other up, to push each other on, to encourage each other, to show the way, to share your water and push on. By faith, The church holds fast. The church endures. The church keeps the faith and finishes strong.
Each of the people mentioned in chapter 11 had faith worthy of celebration but they also had failures and sins that plagued them and caused them to stumble.
But God commends their faith still. He points to them and says, look! Learn from these beloved children of mine. Through faith, they are speaking to you today. They stand on the sidelines of your race and cheer you on.
They witness to you. Like you, they were weak and small and far from perfect. But weak small imperfect people gain the victory, through faith.
God has given them as a gift to you and the rest of the world. Their faithfulness over and their faithfulness under circumstances serves to nourish and strengthen and encourage your faith. You need not clear a path through uncharted and deadly times. That work has been done for you. You follow the well worn and well lit path of all the saint who have gone before. Follow their example and receive the reward. Read the scriptures and hear them cheer you on. They say, “I failed and I sinned …but by faith, I was victorious and so will you be! Keep going brother. Keep going sister. Keep your eyes on Jesus and finish the race.”
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