Hebrews 11 – Sermon Notes

By September 4, 2022Sermon Notes

This is me and coach Jefferies taken in 2019 when he was here on campus for a reunion…and a picture of him back in his WSU coaching days.

Just to clarify…he is not the coach I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.

That coach was fired, Coach Jefferies replaced him.

Coach Jefferies: Is in the College Football Hall of Fame

He was the first African American division I coach…here at WSU

He was a great coach and is a good man.

I once asked him if he thought much about being the first African American D1 Coach when he took the job at WSU.

He said he mostly thought about the opportunity…it was what was next for him in his career.

It was only later that the historical impact of what he did became more evident.

So now, with a number of famous coaches claiming him as their role model, mentor…

and his picture hanging in the hall of fame…

he can look back and see the many challenges he faced and the daily choices he made, have added up to the life and impact he has had.

Hebrews 11 is one of the more famous chapters in the Bible.  “Hall of Faith”

A “hall of fame” play on words.

In the letter as written, there is no break between Hebrews 11:1 and the previous verse.

10:39 reads “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”

11:1 reads “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

The survey that follows of OT people of faith provide examples of those who endured, they did not shrink back… they remained faithful. 

Their lives paint pictures of people who were faithful…giving “life” evidence of their faith.

None of these people listed here had as their life goal “Make it into Hebrews 11”

Noah wasn’t building a boat, wiping sweat and thinking… “I’m going to be in that Hall of Faith someday.”

*He was likely thinking…”this seems crazy at times…but I’m going to be faithful today, let’s keep building.”

Some listed here are nameless…but named or nameless, they are all given to serve as reminders of how faith shows up in faithfulness.

*In Hebrews 10 we heard over and over…”see to it”

“Therefore, because of all God has done in Christ…you must see to it.”

God’s grace, empowers our grit. 

God is fully sovereign and we are fully responsible…faith empowered faithfulness.

Let’s read, verses 1,2

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

He begins with a general definition of faith…he is defining faith here in line with what we see in the life experiences of those who had trusted God in days past.

Their faith showed up in their faithfulness.

Faith was their act of commitment…hope was their perspective.

Beliefs…shaping values…shaping behavior.

The general theme here is that faith in the unseen reality of God shows up in real behaviors of real people…in real life.

We can nurture our confidence(our faith)…by remembering, looking back at the real-life results of those who have gone before us.

Verse 3, By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible

Science is observation & experimentation…leading to the formulation of a hypothesis.

When it comes to origins of the universe…science can speculate based on presuppositions.

Not on observation…we can’t go back.

*So, we cannot know by “science” “how” or especially “why” there is something rather than nothing.

Only by faith can we know that…so at the most fundamental basis for every worldview…

“What/who is ultimate reality”…we know by faith that it is the Creator God and the cosmos is his design.

*Last week, I heard a lady speak at a conference whose presentation was moving…she is an incest survivor who has gone on to help others who have suffered as she has.

But in her talk, as she addressed how some terrible things had worked out for the good…she expressed her confidence(faith) in the “universe.”

I don’t say that to mock her, but to describe her view of reality…she believes this.

*Another lady, same conference…expressed her confidence in the planet earth as a sentient being.

-Both had good and profound things to say…

-By the way, we must be able to take the pearls and shuck the shells if we are to learn from people who think differently than we do.

*It is common today, to disregard people on everything if we disagree with them on anything…that is foolish.

But…to give the physical cosmos or planet personality in order to try and salvage purpose is just an example of how people live by faith.

Faith is not or “wishful thinking” “Or assigning meaning where there is none.”

Faith is simply confidence in someone or something…our faith is confidence in God, cosmos creator, revealed in Scripture.

….what he says is true and real…this is what we believe.

From there, the writer reaches back in the history of God’s people and begins to build this “hall of faith.”

Not to give us heroes per se…but to inspire and instruct us that faith must be revealed in faithfulness.

When I consider Coach Jeffries…the thing that impacts me about his life is not his “heroic” nature…as I said, he was not trying to be a hero.

He was simply doing what he thought he should do next.

When we read this hall of faith…we see that they are certainly a mixed bag…none were perfect.

The point is not to look at these people of faith as our role models…

But rather, look at what happens, in time…when people trust God enough to be faithful with what is next.

God’s faithfulness…empowers our faith…leading to our faithfulness…bringing glory to God.

We are not going to march through the whole list…you can do this in your daily devotions this week.

Let’s glance at a view things from the list: 

By faith:

-Abel offered a better sacrifice than his brother (and was murdered for his trouble)…but his faith still “speaks” instructs.

Enoch jumps out of a rather tedious genealogy…so and so was born, then died…as did that guy and that one…Enoch was born and didn’t die…God just whisked him away.

“Wait, what?”

That’s all you get…but clearly, something special was going on with this guy…a guy who lived in the midst of an ever-corrupted human society…he stands out…because he walked with God.

Noah built an ark by faith…but he wasn’t a person of notable character after the flood…who knows, maybe he had PTSD…it would have been traumatic to experience what he went through.

-Bottom line…he spent a lot of days putting faith into faithful actions…though he was far from perfect.

Abraham,  picked up and went, even though he didn’t know where he was going.

Abraham and Sara had a child, demonstrating their faith…though they both struggled to different degrees to believe.

Let’s pick it up at verse 13.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

All these died without fully realizing the object of their faith…they lived with a time horizon that extended beyond their lives.

Time Horizon describes how far ahead we “look” to plan and to live our lives today: The longer it is, the wiser we tend to live in the present.

-People with short time horizons, who live for the immediate, the now…tend to make decisions that are foolish and destructive in the long term.

-When we live with long time horizons in our daily decisions…we are more likely to be faithful, wise, sacrificial in our choices.

These people…lived with a time horizon that stretched beyond their time…this is certainly living with faith.

Now if you love living in the country (and/or hate big cities) you may not like the idea of God providing a “city” for them…for us.

I was having coffee with some new friends from Iran recently and I asked them what had been the hardest thing so far about moving here.

They all agreed that life here was very good…they missed family, but one said he missed the city…he came from a city of millions with lots to do all the time…a city that didn’t sleep…he didn’t love the relative quiet of Wichita.

To me, his dream (a crowded city that doesn’t sleep)…is my nightmare.

But the symbol of heaven as a city communicates…community (people), provision (necessities of life were readily available), and security (if you lived in the countryside you were more vulnerable) 

God has provided a sure and secure future for them…they lived with this in view…in spite of all they endured.

He is not ashamed to be called their God…the Bible doesn’t hide the failures of these People, but none the less, they lived and died by faith.

They were HIS failing kids…he didn’t say “I don’t know that guy” when they were failing.

God was delighted to be known as their God.

The hall of faith inductee list goes on…back to Abraham, and his willingness to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.

This bothers many people…I had a professor when I was a student at WSU mock the Bible for this very story.

But he failed to understand the faith/trust relationship Abraham had with God…Abraham didn’t know how, but he fully expected to walk home with his son that day…even if it meant God would raise him from the dead.

Then Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses’ parents, Moses himself.

Let’s pick up the chapter there:

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

The word used here “refused” refers to a specific act…a decisive choice.

There was a day…when Moses decided…then he lived going forward…decided, not deciding.

In a moment of crisis…a decisive moment…he chose faith in God…meaning suffering with his people, rather than enjoying the pleasure of being in the royal household.

*He had to live out that decision in the many days to come.

Again, faith meant a long time horizon.

But everyone in that time is dead…all of the pleasures the King’s royal household enjoyed and lived for are now dust.

Moses…made the better choice…who are the foolish ones now.

He traded what is called the “fleeting pleasures of sin” and embraced “disgrace” for Christ.

This would be seen as absolutely ludicrous by many, probably most today.

But many would trade eternity itself for some temporary pleasure…many, in fact, do.

How could the writer call what Moses did as being “for Christ?”

“He implies that all the sufferings of God’s people are in some way linked with sufferings on behalf of the Messiah, the perfect representative of God. All that Moses suffered was in the cause of God’s plan of salvation for his people, culminating in the abuse which was heaped on the Christ himself, of which the writer is acutely conscious throughout this epistle.” Donald Guthrie, Hebrews

Look at where Moses looked.

The verb “looked ahead” means to literally… “look away from this to look at that.”

He choose where to turn his internal focus…change out here, starts in there.

Moses endured opposition, he persevered, by “seeing him who is invisible.”

Eyes of faith…empower acts of faithfulness.

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35

These guys are certainly a mixed bag…Gideon, had faltering faith

-Samson…he was pretty much a mess, until his final act of faith.

But something to note here is that by faith…they conquered kingdoms, administered justice…won battles.

True epic hall of fame stuff…

Let’s read on…

…Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

Okay, that’s quite the contrast…winning wars, reigning down justice, routing armies…to being tortured, terrible deaths, hiding in caves and holes.

But somehow all of this was faith revealed in faithfulness.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

The headline for the book of Hebrews could be “Jesus is better”…we have seen this over and over.

Now, we see that these in the “hall of faith” died looking forward to what God had promised…the “better” that is Jesus.

They looked forward to his coming, we look back to it…and forward to his return.

So those who lived by faith in Christ BC and those of us who live by faith in Christ AD…together we form this “faith” solidarity…the family of faith.

CONCLUSION:

I admire coach Jeffries because I know some of the choices he made…some of what it meant for him to be successful…how many small acts of faithfulness that added up to his life of impact.

Like Coach, these people we read of in Hebrews 11…were not trying to “get in” the hall of faith…they were, in imperfect fashion…expressing their faith in small or big acts of faithfulness.

There were faithful because they had faith…their faith empowered their faithfulness.

So, let’s make personal application…let’s add you to the “hall of faith”

By faith (place your name here) was faithful “How”

*”Oh Man, I don’t belong there.”

Neither did they…if you measure by perfection.

The point is direction…faithfulness.

What does your life look like now that it would not if you did not live by faith?

What could your life look like now if you did live by faith?

So…by faith…how are you being faithful?

-and-

How could your faithfulness reveal faith in God’s faithfulness?”

By faith…how are you turning your focus from the temporary in order to fix your heart and mind on the eternal?

By faith…how do you live with a time horizon that stretches way, way beyond this current…temptation or trial or trouble, this perspective?

By faith…encompasses every aspect of our lives.

*So…in a moment, we will have some time to… 

  1. Confess our faith expressed in faithfulness:

-By Faith I will love my wife/husband and children and put their interests ahead of my own 

-By faith, I will be faithful to my friends, my group, my church

-By faith, I will obey you. When I know what you want…I will do it

-By faith, I will turn from the sin patterns that do not satisfy.

*”By faith” is not some grandiose promise, or some claim of invincibility…it is a decision to be faithful…empowered by God’s faithfulness.

“Therefore…” “Because of what God has done for us in Christ”

“Let us…” “Choose to be found faithful.”

For the glory of God and the good of others.

*Then you will have a moment…if need be…

  1. Confess your unfaithfulness…your sin…in order to receive mercy.

*The training I attended last week in San Diego was put on by the…institute on violence, abuse, trauma.

-It was helpful and difficult…some was unthinkable.

*Every so often, like last week…I see just a bit more why God hates sin.

*He hates sin because he is good.

*He hates sin because he loves.

*He hates sin because it terrible…and contrary to his nature.

Have you been unfaithful?…not lived by faith, trusting God.

You can confess and come to him and he will forgive you.

**When I finish in just a moment…you will have time to confess your faith and commit to ongoing  faithfulness.

**And/or to confess your unfaithfulness…be forgiven…and commit to faithfulness.

One last thing…then you will have time to pray.

*One helpful takeaway from the seminar I attended by the woman who is an incest survivor…was that she brought her best friend along with her…they spoke together.

Her friend…was not an abuse survivor…and her life experiences of not having been abused positioned her to collaborate with this woman whose life experiences as a child were horrific.

Both women have benefitted greatly from their relationship with one another…their different experiences helped them both.

*I thought of my long friendship with several men…whose childhoods were full of trauma.

-My life experiences…God’s sovereign foundations for me are void of these things…If you are not familiar with the ACEs scale…the adverse childhood experiences study… 

It shows that the higher your score of negative experiences as a child…the higher the risk for later health problems…physical, mental, relational.

A 6 or higher means your life expectancy is lower by 20 years than it would normally be.

My two friends have high scores…I am essentially a 0.

Both friendships are more than 35 years long.

So…do I spend my life wondering “why me?” …why did I escape that.

Do….they spend their lives wondering “why me?”…why did I suffer that.

We have helped each other, taught each other…loved each other…we have, together asked “What does faithfulness look like for us.”

US…not just ME.

In Hebrews 10… It was “Let us…”

There is another measurement of childhood experiences…but it adds a “P”

-PACE’s…positive and adverse childhood experiences.

This one highlights the positive factors that can compensate for the negative ones…a good and loving mentor/role model and not just an abusive parent…a connected community…these things can profoundly change life outcomes.

In the Body of Christ.

WE all have very different stories…even as those in Hebrews 11 did.

Some led armies to victory in war…others were tortured to death.

The common thread of their stories and ours…is our faith in the Lord Jesus…and our desire to be found faithful.

With your life…as it is, as God has given to you…

“By faith…be faithful…for the glory of God and the good of others.”

*Now, your time to talk with God about your life*

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