Finding the Faith of Our Heroes - Part 1
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - July 12, 2015
*One of the hymns I grew up singing was:
"Faith of our fathers, living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whenever we hear that glorious Word!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to Thee till death." (1)
*That's the kind of faith God wants us to have, and Hebrews 11 can help us, because this great chapter is the faith hall of fame. Hebrews 11 can help us find the faith of our biblical heroes. But why do we need faith? -- The opening verses of this chapter show us why.
1. First: We need faith because it gives us a rock-solid foundation for life.
*Faith in God is the only sure foundation for our future. As vs. 1 says: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for. . ." The original word for "substance" has the idea of something strong under us, something strong that we can stand on: A firm foundation. And faith in Jesus Christ is the only firm foundation for our godly hopes and dreams.
*"Faith is the substance of things hoped for." What are you hoping for today? I hope you haven't given up on your hopes and dreams, because life would be terrible without hope. There's probably only one thing worse, and that is a life based on false hope. But when we have faith in Jesus Christ, we have a rock-solid foundation for all of our hopes. We have something solid to build our hopes on.
*You see, real, biblical faith is not just positive thinking or having a positive attitude. Faith is not "The Little Engine that Could" trying to get up that hill: "I think I can. I think I can! I think I can!"
*Biblical "faith IS the substance of things hoped for." This means that right now, our faith in Jesus Christ is like a rock-solid foundation under our hopes and dreams. Our faith is something that we can rest on today, knowing that God will bring our godly hopes to pass.
*The original word God used here for "substance" was also the word used in business documents for "title deed." A "substance" then was a "title deed" or a legal guarantee of something you already owned. (2)
*And we already own our godly hopes, because Jesus paid the price for them when He died on the cross for us. So our faith in Jesus Christ is based on the perfect character of God, and the reality of what He already did for us on the cross of Jesus Christ. Our faith makes it possible for us to stand with Paul in Romans 8:32, and say: "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"
*That's faith: It's the "substance of things hoped for." And we need faith because it gives us a rock-solid foundation for life.
2. We also need faith, because it gives us a revelation of the unseen world.
*Faith gives us a revelation of the unseen world. It shouldn't surprise us that there is an unseen world all around us, because our physical vision is so limited. Of course we can't see the future. We can't see the past. And our eyes can only see a small portion of the total spectrum that includes light.
*There are many unseen things around us. But vs. 1 tells us that faith is "the evidence (or proof) of things not seen." Faith gives us a revelation of the unseen world. Matthew Henry explained it this way: "Faith demonstrates to the eye of the mind the reality of those things that cannot be detected by the eye of the body." (3)
*James Merritt tells us that: "Faith sees what the physical eyes cannot see. . . Faith sees the invisible, touches the intangible, hears the inaudible, and attempts the impossible. Our vision may be 20/20, but the eyes of faith can see farther, deeper, clearer, and better than our physical eyes will ever see." (4)
*"Faith is the evidence of things not seen." Faith opens us up to a whole new dimension in life. Faith opens us up to the most important things in life, because the most important things cannot be seen with our eyes. This is true in the physical world. We can't see air, but we can't live without it. I've never seen my heart, my kidneys or my liver, and I don't want to see them! But I sure am glad they are in here, doing their important work behind the scenes.
*The most important things in life cannot be seen with our eyes. This is also true of the love, joy and peace in our hearts. And this is especially true when it comes to the things of God: The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Heaven, angels. We cannot see these things right now with our physical eyes. But faith opens our spiritual eyes and we can see. "Faith is the evidence of things not seen." And Romans 10:17 tells us that this evidence comes by hearing the Word of God.
*One of the best-known preachers of the 20th century was Peter Marshall. Years ago, they made a movie about his life, and something very special happened while they were filming that movie. It was a scene where the actor playing Peter Marshall was preaching a sermon on faith.
*When the scene was over the cameras kept rolling. Many actors in the pretend church got up to congratulate the actor for a great performance. One of those cast members was a lady named Marjorie Rambeau. As Marjorie walked down the aisle, you could see that she was very emotional. The reason why is because Marjorie was walking, even though she had not been able to walk.
*Marjorie had been injured in a car wreck. And for over a year she had not been able to take a single step. But as she listened to those words of faith, God worked a miracle in her body. Marjorie got up and walked. And she kept on walking. (5)
*Now a doubter would say that Marjorie just got caught up in the emotion of the moment. But faith opens our spiritual eyes to see the Hand of God at work, even through an actor preaching God's Word.
*Faith gives us a revelation of the unseen world. This is also important when it comes to creation. Verse 3 says: "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible." In other words: This incredible universe and everything in it was made by the invisible God.
Another great hymn from my childhood was:
"This is my Father's world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought." (6)
*"Our Daily Bread" had a thought provoking devotion that started by saying: "There is no God. All the wonders around you are accidental. No Almighty Hand made a thousand billion stars. They made themselves. The surface of our land just happened to have topsoil. Without it we would have no vegetables to eat, and no grass for the animals whose meat is our food.
*The inexhaustible envelope of air, only 50 miles deep, and exactly the right density to support human life, is just another law of physics. Water expands when it freezes, while other substances contract. This makes ice lighter than water and keeps it floating on the surface. Otherwise lakes would be solid ice down to the bottom, and no fish could survive.
*We have day and night because the earth spins at a given speed without slowing down. Who made this arrangement? Who tilts the earth so that we get seasons? The sun's fire does not generate too much heat so that we fry, but just enough so that we do not freeze. Who keeps this fire constant?
*The human heart will beat for 70 or 80 years without faltering. How does it get enough rest between beats? A kidney will filter poison from the blood, and leave the good things alone. How does it know one from the other? Who gave the human tongue flexibility to form words? And who made a brain to understand them? Is it all accidental? Is there really not a God?" (7)
*"This is our Father's world. O let us ne'er forget. That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet!" "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible." We need faith because it gives us a revelation of the unseen world.
3. We also need faith because it gives us real worship.
*Verse 4 says: "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous. . ." How did Abel know the right way to worship God? -- By faith. And what is the right way for us to worship God? -- By faith.
*The only way to truly worship God is by faith, and that is the kind of worship God desires. As Jesus said to a Samaritan woman in John 4:23-24:
23. "The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
24. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
*But we cannot do that without faith. Real worship flows out of faith in the greatness of God. As David said in Psalm 95:
1. Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
2. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
3. For the Lord is the great God, And the great King above all gods.
4. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; The heights of the hills are His also.
5. The sea is His, for He made it; And His hands formed the dry land.
6. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
*Real worship flows out of faith in the greatness of God. Real worship also flows out of faith in the goodness of God. So Psalm 100 urges us to:
4. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
5. For the Lord is good. . .
*Real worship flows out of faith in the love and mercy of God. That's why in Hebrews 2:9, by faith: "We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone."
*Real worship also flows out of faith in the presence of God. For in Matthew 18:20, Jesus promised: "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." And surely the presence of the Lord is in this place, but we can only know this truth by faith.
*Retired teacher Helen Christiansen learned this lesson as a little girl in Sunday School. In Billy Graham's "Decision Magazine," she explained: "As a child trying to grasp the mystery of God, I was given this analogy by my Sunday school teacher:
*'Touch me,' she said. I shyly reached out and touched her arm. 'Oh, no,' she said. 'You've touched my arm. Touch me.' I rose from my chair, stood beside her and touched her shoulder. 'You've touched my shoulder. Touch me.' I stretched out my hand and placed it against her lips. She took my hand in hers and said, 'That's only a part of my face.
*Don't you see? The part that IS ME is my spirit living inside my body. You can't see my spirit or touch my spirit, but you can talk to me. You can't see or touch God's Holy Spirit either. But you can talk to God. You know that I am here. And you can know that God is with you. Just talk to him in prayer. He will listen, and he will answer your prayer. You will know that it is God's Holy Spirit answering you, for He will speak to you and direct your life. If you listen to him, you will know that He is with you.'" (8)
*The Lord was with Helen that night when she trusted in Jesus Christ, and she knew that by faith. By faith we also know that the Lord is here with us today, and this matters, because it is the only way we can really worship God. We need faith because it gives us real worship.
4. We also need faith because it gives us a good report.
*In vs. 2, "For by (faith) the elders obtained a good testimony, or a good report the KJV says. Faith gives us a good report. Again in vs. 4: "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks."
*Now faith does not guarantee us piece-of-cake life in this world. Abel was murdered by his own brother. But faith gave Abel a good report, and it will give us a good report too.
*Abel's sacrifice shows us how, because Genesis 4:4 tells us Abel sacrificed a lamb. Abel sacrificed an innocent, spotless lamb, and he did not fully understand it, but Abel was pointing us to the cross. His sacrificial lamb pointed to the time thousands of years later when God would become a man.
*Jesus Christ came into the world to die on the cross for our sins. He is the true Lamb of God who died to take away the sins of the world. Jesus took our punishment, so that we could have His righteousness. Then He rose again.
*So when we put our faith in the Risen Savior, we get a good report from God. But it must come through the cross. It must come through faith in the cross of Jesus Christ.
*Abel got a good report from the Lord. So did a little boy named T.J. Dr. Diane Komp told T.J.'s story in her 1992 book titled, "A Window to Heaven." Dr. Komp is a pediatric oncologist and a retired medical professor at Yale. She was brought to the Lord by the amazing ways God worked as her very-sick patients neared the end.
*T.J. was not one of Diane's patients, but his story echoed what she had seen God do in the hospital. T.J.'s young mother was named Ann, and one day she was perplexed when her little boy tried to give her an early Christmas present. Mom insisted that he wait a few more days.
*Then, T.J. did something else strange. He blurted out, "Mama, I love you more than anything in the world, except God. And I love Him a little bit more!" That really startled Ann, because both she and her husband were atheists.
*These upscale parents had no time for church. Their children had never been to Sunday School, and God was never mentioned in their home. I wish I knew how God got the good news to T.J. and perhaps one day we will. But on that day, he blurted out, "Mama, I love you more than anything in the world, except God. -- And I love Him a little bit more!"
*Two days later, T.J. was playing near a creek when he fell through the ice and was drowned. A few days after that, Ann found her Christmas present from T.J. It was a small cross necklace. And in spite of their unbelief, Ann and her husband felt God's presence comforting them. Not long after that, they became Christians, and they started "T.J. Ministries." It was a support service for parents who had lost a child to accidental death. (9)
*Ann and her husband lost T.J. for a little while. But by faith they will see him again, because they put their trust in Jesus Christ. And like Abel, though T.J. is dead, he still speaks about his faith in Jesus Christ.
*By faith, T.J. gave a good report for God, and he got a good report from God. But it can only come by faith. So what we need more than anything else in the world is childlike faith in the cross of Jesus Christ.
*Why do we need faith? It gives us a rock-solid foundation for life. It gives us a revelation of the unseen world. It gives us real worship. And faith will give us a good report: A good report for God, and a good report from God.
*We all need more faith. Let's ask God for it, as we go back to the Lord in prayer.
(1) Words: Frederick W. Faber, Jesus and Mary (London: 1849); refrain by James G. Walton, 1874 - Music: St. Catherine, arranged by James G. Walton in Crown of Jesus Music, by Henri F. Hemy (London: 1864) - www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/f/a/faithoof.htm
(2) "Robertson's Word Pictures" by Archibald Thomas Robertson - Hebrews 11:1
(3) Adapted from "Matthew Henry's Commentary" - Hebrews 11:1-3
(4) Adapted from Sermons.com sermon "You've Gotta Believe" by James Merritt - Hebrews 11:1-40
(5) From "See You at the Top" by Zig Ziglar, Pelican Publishing Company, p. 18
(6) Words: Maltbie D. Babcock (1858-1901) - Music: Terra Beata, traditional English melody, arranged by Franklin L. Sheppard in his Alleluia, 1915 - www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/t/i/tismyfw.htm
(7) KERUX ILLUSTRATION COLLECTION - ID Number: 939 - SOURCE: Internet: Http://www.willmar.com/wag - TITLE: There Is No God - AUTHOR: Michael Jackson, Senior Pastor, Willmar Assembly of God Church
(8) Adapted from Decision Magazine - June 1993
(9) Diane M. Komp, M.D. - "A Window to Heaven" - Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1992, pp. 81-83 - Source: "Dynamic Illustrations" - Oct, Nov, Dec 2001 - Topic: Suffering