So it begins! We started as always with worship. It was a wonderful time in the presence of God. There was a real rise in faith. The enthusiasm, especially as we sang “You Alone Can Rescue” was electric. How wonderful to worship with thousands of charismaniacs!
Scott took us to Hebrews 11. You can listen to this talk or read my notes here. The common thread that is seen in every single one of the heroes of faith in this chapter is that they did courageous things for God.
The faith they had is all they needed to do significant things. Defining faith is not just an academic exercise. The writer to the Hebrews defines what the fruit of it will look like. DNA is of massive courage. A provocation to faith inspired courage to live life wholeheartedly for God’s fame and glory. God is after the effects of faith in your life.
The writer tells us in v39 that these people were in a worse situation than Christians. Scott quoted the Bible Speaks Today on this passage, and I thought I would share a slightly extended version of the quote here:
In this passage the reader is confronted with both the courageous achievements and the imperfect attainments of the Old Testament heroes. They were enabled to do so much, but it was limited and partial. They inherited, received, obtained and proved the promises. But in some cases it was mainly a sense of expectancy and lifelong anticipation which characterized their faith. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not receive all that was promised (11:13); the fulfilment was not theirs to see, but they endured. Similarly, Christians receive some promises and experience their blessings, whilst at the same time they trust other promises and await their fulfilment. But we have received far more than any believer could have hoped to experience under the old covenant. They could not hope to experience personally the inward purification, freedom from fear, immediate help, timely grace, present and eternal salvation, certain hope, clear conscience, assured pardon and constant access1 which we have in Christ. The richer provision ought surely to inspire us to better faith and more costly sacrifice. If these courageous and devout sufferers achieved so much when, comparatively speaking, they had so little, then there must be no limit to our service. The opportunities are innumerable and the resources are limitless.
Raymond Brown and Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews : Christ Above All, The Bible speaks today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., U.S.A.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), 224-25.
The original readers were responding appropriately and giving their lives for the gospel. The early disciples were killed often. Down the ages men and women have responded to these Scriptures with faith and courage.
There were many heroes over the years, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Owen, and many others who have benefited the church. They have lived wholeheartedly. This persevering faith will look different for each of us, but it will always be characterised by faith inspired courage.
1. If you believe in God, you have this faith. But you live in a world that will do all it can to stop you in your tracks.
Things that are prone to discourage and pacify you:
a. Pain Disappointments, and people close to you can cause pain. We can tend to shrink back. In some ways it’s worse than the second one because it doesn’t seem to be directly related to the gospel work we are doing. If we let circumstances hold us back from the purpose God has for us it is not living the life Hebrews wants for us.
b. Persecution There can be direct opposition.
c. Partial vision. Where there is an unclear future. We can be hamstrung if we don’t know where we are meant to go.
d. Perplexity We sometimes thing if we don’t understand we cant keep going.
e. Parochial perspective. We think our life is all that matters. We think comfort is all that matters. Materialism gets ahold of us.
f. Personal sin Joseph and Moses overcame in this area. As we sin we get held up in the purposes of God. Jesus has paid for our sin, and given us the power to overcome sin. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
We can be all that God has designed us to be no matter what has gone before. Each of the heroes of faith had failures. All of them faltered. In every saint is found something that is not of God. We need not allow even our failure to sidetrack us.
2. God wants our faith to be expressed in courageous lives lived for his glory.
Hebrews 11:6 gives us a pattern to live by. We must believe that God exists, and that he rewards those who seek him! Identity of who God is and who we are in him. We are not after the fruit as much as we are after being rooted in God. If you get your identity right you will be fruitful. A tree doesn’t really have to try to grow fruit, it just soaks in the goodness in the soil.
As we take time to be still and know that He is God, the dynamite is ignited. There is no other short cut. We do not preach a works-based gospel. God loves obedience. It will never come from the law, or our ideas and good intentions. The obedience God is after comes from faith (Romans 1:6). We must bask in God and his sovereignty. He will make everything right. He will restore all things. He is unstoppable. When we see who he is. Jesus is the only one who when he died did not remain in the grave! We can know him.
We must know that God’s way is the best. Seek him first and all things will be added to us. We must diligently seek him. Find out what his will is and do it. God will put urges and desires into your heart. We must just say, “I want to live my life for you!” Go with your heart. If you want God’s glory, then follow your heart.
3. We have a massive opportunity today to live for the glory of God.
We can do this because we have faith. We are at a moment when we can live courageously for God in a unique way. There are loads of challenges and uncertainty and pain ahead. Jesus promised that. But he has overcome the world. Joni says “this is the only part of history where I get to fight. . . This is my limited window of opportunity and I am going to fight with all my heart.”