Sunday Sermon: ‘Learning to Walk by Faith’

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As many of you know, Hebrews 11:6 is one of my most favorite Bible verses:

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

I love this verse because it gives me hope. God has promised to reward those who are earnestly seek Him. Several years ago, when Bev Whitmer made us a new pulpit, he graciously put this verse on a little plague inside of it. Those of you who have been in my office know that a portion of this verse is printed on the wall above my desk. Jesus said that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. (see Mt 17:20) Our Lord also said that all things are possible to him that believes. (see Mr 9:23) Although I do not possess all the faith that I should, I firmly believe that faith is necessary in order to please God and to see Him move in our lives.

There is an incident in the Bible that tells of a man whose faith was so great that it caused the Lord to actually marvel.

Matthew 8:5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, 6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. 7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. 8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. 9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh ; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. 10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled , and said to them that followed , Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

Did you know that there are only two times in scripture when someone’s faith amazed Jesus? One is the story we have just read and the other is a time when Jesus visited His hometown of Nazareth. Scripture tells us that on that occasion, Jesus marveled, not because of someone’s great faith, but because of their unbelief.

Mark 6:5 And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. 6 And he marvelled because of their unbelief…

I want to have the kind of faith that pleases God. I want to have the kind of faith that causes Him to marvel. What kind of faith will that take?

I. Faith to See the Invisible

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.     

Some people cannot understand how Christians could believe is something or someone they cannot see. To them, because God can’t be analyzed in a laboratory, He must not exist. Yet for many of us, God is very real.

The phrase – “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” literally means that faith provides a foundation for us to stand on and it gives us assurance of the things that we have never seen. Faith makes God and all there is about Him very real.

Hebrews chapter 11 tells us about people who had such great faith. Many call them the ‘Heroes of Faith.’ Adrian Rogers used to describe them as the ‘Champions of Faith.’ Many of these great men and women of God possessed the ability to see the invisible.

 A.  Noah

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear , prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Noah had never seen God. He had never seen a flood or even rain for that matter; yet he believed. By faith he moved with holy reverence and built the ark. By faith Noah please God.

B.  Abraham

Abraham was another great man of faith.

Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Abraham had never seen God. He had never visited the land God promised to him. He never saw that great city who builder and maker is God. Yet he believed and therefore he pleased God.

C.  Moses

Consider also what scripture says of Moses.

Hebrews 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

By faith Moses saw the God who is invisible and so can we.

D.  All the Old Testament Saints

Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Many of God’s Champions of Faith died without seeing the complete fulfillment of the promises God made to them; yet they continued to believe. By faith they they turned their back on this old world and set their sights on what was before them. By faith they could sing the old song –

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

E.  All of the New Testament Saints

Faith is not something just for the people of the past. It is still for us today. In order for us to please God, we still must walk by faith and not by sight. We must believe not only that there is a God, but that He is a rewarder of those who will diligently seek Him. God wants to show Himself strong in our lives just as much as He did in the lives of the Old Testament saints. Four times we read in the Bible: “The just shall live by faith.” (Hab 2:4; Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38) It still takes faith in order for us to please God. Peter writes:

“Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:” (1 Pet 1:8)

II.  Faith to Believe the Impossible

Faith that enables us to see the invisible pleases God, so does faith that causes us to believe the impossible.

Hebrews 11:11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

Abraham and Sarah were well beyond the years when they would be capable of bearing children. Sarah was ninety and Abraham was one hundred. Yet they believed God for the impossible.

Romans 4:18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. 19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: 20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

“Who against hope believed in hope.” Various translations say:

  • Who without reason for hope, in faith went on hoping.
  • When there was nothing left to hope for, Abraham still hoped and believed.
  • When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway.

There is great power in believing God for the impossible. Jesus said:

Matthew 9:23 … If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

 III. To Wait for the Unimaginable

Lastly we see that the kind of faith that pleases God is faith that is willing to wait for the unimaginable.

Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

We live in a world of instant gratification. We have high-speed internet and microwave ovens. I recently read that the average attention span was 12 seconds in the year 2000. Today it is less that 8 seconds.[1]

Several years ago an airport in Huston, TX tried to resolve a reoccurring complaint from their customers. It seems that more and more people were complaining about how long they had to wait for their luggage. The airport took action and hired more baggage handlers and brought the average time down to less than 8 minutes; yet the complaints continued. As they continued to study the problem they discovered that of the 8 minutes, 1 minute was spent walking to the baggage carousel and the other 7 standing there waiting. So they moved the place where bags could be reclaimed and forced the customers to walk 6 minutes and wait only 2. The complaints dropped to near zero. People didn’t mind the 8 minutes as long as most of their time was occupied with doing something. [2]

Researchers have also discovered that putting mirrors near the elevators gives us something to do while we’re waiting for the door to open. Either they can look at themselves or check out those waiting with them. It’s also the reasoning behind supermarkets put “impulse-buy items” at the checkout line. Packs of gum and tabloids bring in about $5.5 billion dollars annually. [3]

The psalmist said: “I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.” (Ps 62:5 NLT) Isaiah wrote:

Isaiah 40: 28 Hast thou not known ? hast thou not heard , that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary ? there is no searching of his understanding. 29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary , and the young men shall utterly fall : 31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

All the men and women found in God’s Hall of Faith died without ever fully realizing the fulfillment of God’s promises. Yet they didn’t lose their faith. They didn’t turn away from God. Though they didn’t always understand all that was happening, they had faith in God and waited for Him to accomplish His perfect will.

35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured , not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, 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 in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Consider also God’s response to those who will trust in Him.

Hebrews 11:16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

What a statement for scripture to make about these heroes of faith – “Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.”

CONCLUSION

Suppose the Lord wanted to add a few verses to Hebrews 11, recording the acts of faith by many of today’s saints. Suppose He wanted to include your name in the list. What is it in your life today that He would want to see accomplished by faith? What obstacle would He want you to be able to overcome. What miracle would He want you to be able to witness. Under what problem would He want you to be able to persevere? How would the Lord want to bring glory to Himself through your life?

We read next in the book of Hebrews –

Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

In other words, cast off anything that would weaken your faith and with your focus fixed

 

 

[1] National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, The Associated Press

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/opinion/sunday/why-waiting-in-line-is-torture.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

[3] ibid

 

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