Living Faith: Principles from Hebrews 11

Introduction: We all struggle with our faith sometimes. It is a part of being human. Even the greatest heroes of the Bible struggled with their faith. Our aim today is to remind us of principles from Hebrews 11 that will remind us of the LIVING FAITH that God can give us when we trust Him.  This chapter is not a chapter of perfection, it is an appeal for imperfect people who struggle to stay strongly connected to God no matter what we encounter. 

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. 2 Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. 3 By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

Hebrews 11:1-3, NLT

From the beginning of this great chapter, we understand that Faith has to do with our hopes. Faith has to do with spiritual realities beyond our vision. Faith has to do with building our life with God. Faith has to do with trusting a God who can speak and call the universe into order. That kind of faith is demonstrated in the next several verses and we want to build up our faith by looking at these examples and unearthing Principles of Living Faith.

1. FAITH LEADS US TO WORSHIP GOD  (4)

It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did.  Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed  his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.

Hebrews 11:4, NLT

In the opening chapters of the Bible, Cain and Abel both came before God in worship and with an offering.  We aren’t given much detail in Genesis 4 apart from Abel bringing the portions of the firstborn of his flock, and this was an acceptable offering before God.  Here we are informed that faith compels Abel to do this. So as we look at our worship before God, our offerings, the truth is we could never repay the debt that was paid for us.  Our offering is not a payment to God, but instead, with a strong foundation in faith, we know that what we have is not ours anyway, and when we withhold our offerings of money, talents, time, fellowship, or even sin in our life- what does that teach us about our faith (what we hope for, what we put our trust in). Is it with our Lord, or is it with ourselves?  James 4:7 tells us to submit ourselves before God to resist the devil.   What is it that we are offering today, and what are we withholding?

2. FAITH LEADS US TO RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD (5)

It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying  – “he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God.

Hebrews 11:5, NLT

What is strange about Enoch is that he did not die, he was translated. Whatever that means. But what is meaningful here is that God was pleased, satisfied, with the life Enoch lived. Faith calls us to live in relationship with God.  We know from the OT that Enoch walked with God at least 300 years. He released his fears and flesh, gave everything to God! Andrew Murray: “Learn with Enoch to walk with God the walk of faith. … Let every day – the most ordinary one or the most difficult one – be a day with  God, as one of the days of heaven upon earth, a day of which faith is the beginning and the end.”  Build up your faith by living in daily relationship with Him!

3. FAITH IS ACTIVE IN SEEKING AND BELIEVING GOD (6)

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Hebrews 11:6, NLT

I think that this is one of the areas that we get backward sometimes.  It’s human nature to as “What have you done for me lately?”  and we want God to reward us for things we accomplish in our life.  We want material blessings and we want to negotiate with God.  God, if you get me this raise at work, or if you heal this sick person, or if you do this or that, I promise I’ll go to church more,  I promise I’ll be more consistent in my giving, I promise I’ll never ask for anything again.  I imagine that sounds familiar to a lot of people here, but I don’t think that is the order in which faith works.  Seek God first.  He gave us life and breath, and he gave us his son so that we would seek Him, and reach for him and we would find him because He is not very far from us, we are His children.  Acts 17:27.

4. FAITH TRUSTS AND OBEYS (7)

It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He  obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his  faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

Hebrews 11:7, NLT

Noah’s story fascinates for so many great reasons. The Hebrew writer tells us that God forewarned Noah about something about which ‘there was no visible sign’.  Noah’s faith in God was evident as he set about to build the ark that would save his family, and be a testimony against the wickedness of the world around him.  The life of faith is a life of trust.  It was illogical to build an ark, to put his family at risk, and to be subject to ridicule.  But Peter says

“God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood. 21 And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 3:20-21, NLT

Baptism is an initial demonstration that we trust the God who asked us to do it. Faith trusts and obeys!

5. FAITH CALLS US TO BELIEVE NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD  (8-12) 

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without  knowing where he was going. 9 And even when he reached the land God promised  him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did  Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently  looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.  11 It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren  and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. 12 And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.

Hebrews 11:8-12, NLT

This is where our faith takes substance.  It’s one thing to believe that something unlikely is going to happen.  But to believe that something that is reasonably  impossible can only happen with faith. Faith is the answer when there is no other answer.  Abraham is listed here as a hero of faith, but it seems more fitting that God is the hero, and Abraham simply had faith.  God promised, and Abraham submitted to that promise.  God’s covenant was not going to be derailed because of any of Abraham’s lapses in judgment.  God is faithful, and he is worthy of our faith.  Even when the result seems impossible.  Abraham, along with the other men and women listed in this chapter, are ordinary people who lived extraordinary lives because of their faith.  I believe we have the opportunity to be among the great heroes of faith.  God has done his part, now it is up to us to believe that He is at work and that our lives can be extraordinary- not because we are glorified, but because of His glory through our faith. 

6. FAITH POINTS TO A HOME IN HEAVEN (13-16)

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11:13-16, NLT

Faith calls us to live a certain kind of life now, and that kind of life is lived with a vision toward the kind of life God will provide for us in the future. We haven’t seen it, but we believe it! Great heroes of faith recognized that our passing through this earth is a short term situation that will be followed by the eternal beauty of a heavenly homeland far greater than we can imagine. In our hearts, we all long for a better place where the struggles we face right now will not be present. When life gets extremely difficult one thing we can do is to consider the promises of God in regard to a forever home in His presence. He is not ashamed to be called our God. He plans for our eternity with Him!

7. FAITH IS WILLING TO BE TESTED (17-19)

It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18 even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead. 

Hebrews 11:17-19, NLT

Could you imagine what Abraham’s thoughts were?  What if we imagine that differently.  I’ve always thought about the difficulty that Abraham may have been facing, the battle going on internally as he was tying his son down on an altar,  drawing his knife out, preparing to plunge the knife into his one and only son.  But here, the focus is on the faith of Abraham, Abraham was certain that God was going to deliver Isaac, even if it meant bringing him back to life. Abraham believed with certainty that God was not going to let this happen.  God did deliver Isaac, but not in the way that Abraham imagined.  In a sense, he did bring him back to life, we are told, which means that Abraham was willing to see it through.  This is such a difficult story to talk about, and one that we have a hard time understanding.  Why would God do this?  Why would he push Abraham to the brink of murdering his own child?   But the answer is that this alludes to so much we see later in the Bible, God sending his son, and bringing him back to life.  Also, the tests and trials that we endure in our very own life.  We are not promised a life of ease and comfort, instead, we are told to trust God, even take joy in the difficulties in life because the testing of our faith produces perseverance, in James chapter 1.  The video that we watched earlier portrayed the faith journey as a race, and in the beginning verses of Hebrews 12, we read that the events in our life that hinder us and entangle us can be thrown off to the side, and there is encouragement to run the race, fixing your eyes on Jesus.  If we are able to recognize and endure the tests and trials of this life, and we have faith and seek God above all things, you will not grow weary and you will not lose heart.  

8. FAITH BELIEVES GOD IS AT WORK IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES (20-22)

It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau. 21 It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff. 22 It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.

Hebrews 11:20-22, NLT

We have a trio of stories here that do not require great detail to help us understand that God is at work in all circumstances. Isaac blessed his sons looking into the future with eyes of faith. Jacob on his deathbed blesses Joseph’s sons and worships the Lord.  Joseph was very confident in God’s work in Egypt and the freedom they would enjoy at some point. Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Joseph – these are troublesome stories but in all of them God was at work in amazing ways. In your story when there are troubles, do not be afraid, God is at work and is bringing about something new that you can’t see yet.  Oswald Chambers: “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.”  When we get to the other side of our troubles we will wonder why we worried about them at all. No matter what you are going through, God is at work. He’s never left you alone or behind, He’s there.

9. FAITH FOLLOWS GOD’S LEADERSHIP (23-28)

It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command. 24 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. 27 It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. 28 It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons.

Hebrews 11:23-28, NLT

Moses, of all people in the Old Testament, had every opportunity, and every rational reason to devote himself to the riches of the world, and the pleasures of this earth.  However, because of is faith, God worked through him to deliver the people of Israel from the hand of the Egyptians in one of the most fantastic scenes in all of the Bible.  The plagues, the passover, and the crossing of the sea on dry ground.  Moses didn’t think he was good enough to be a leader.  Moses didn’t think he had all of the answers to lead.  Moses didn’t think people would believe what he had to say.  Moses didn’t think he had the charisma to be a public figure.  Moses didn’t think he was qualified to be a leader.  Does any of that resonate with you?  The truth is, Moses wasn’t qualified, but he was called.  And God equipped him. Faith allows God to work through you, not in spite of your shortcomings, but because of what you consider a shortcoming.  When we rely on ourselves, and our qualifications, we will be left lacking in enough areas that we will find ourselves inadequate.  However, when we rely on God to lead us, He will see to it that His plan is successful.  Here are a few areas in our lives that we should let God lead:

  • Evangelism-  If you wait until you know everything about everything, and have  life figured out, before you talk to others about Jesus, you will never get around to it.  God will see it through.
  • Service- If you think that you don’t have the skills, or the time to be of service to others, let God lead.
  • Stewardship- If you need more resources before you allow yourself to share  those resources, you will never have enough, let God lead.

Those are just a few areas that come to mind, but faith is the step that we must take in order to let God lead in our lives. 

10. FAITH STEPS INTO ACTION NOT KNOWING WHAT’S NEXT. (29-31)

It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned. 30 It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down. 31 It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

Hebrews 11:29-31

When we look backwards in these stories, we already know that it’s going to turn out good. They didn’t at the time, but they kept on following after God without knowing.  God called Abraham and he left “not knowing where” he was going.  Israel marched across that Red Sea with no idea what was next.  They marched around Jericho and had no clue that the walls would come falling down!  Rahab went along with a faith filled plan, not knowing how it was going to turn out.  Faith doesn’t require us to figure it all out – in fact it calls us to serve when we have no idea how it’s going to turn out. It’s not up to us!

CONCLUSION

We do not have this kind of faith by accident.  Faith is submitting to the will of God- God is greater, God is stronger, God knows.  That is an active decision that will result in growth, maturity, and discipleship.  Faith is not something you wait for to come knocking at your door.  It is not something that falls out of the sky and lands on you.  You either hope and trust in God, or you hope and trust in something else.  We do not have this kind of faith in ourselves (the failures of faith).  And that is where faith fails us, when it is in something else.  Most commonly, we put faith in ourselves.  We see the world around us, and we have a hard time understanding why things happen the way they do, why people are they way they are, so we confine our faith to ourselves, afraid to step out into the unknown.  This is when our faith fails.  A lack of faith blinds us to God’s work around us.  Our faith cannot be the result of what we accomplish, or our own circumstances, or even our own morality, and how well we behave.  It all starts with faith, the first step is faith.  God has already won the victory over sin and death, and faith is our victory over sin and death.

We put these power principles into action when we….

  • Recognize the reality of unseen paths ahead.
  • Submit yourselves to God who has made himself known.
  • Give your life to God who rewards those who seek and save
  • Remember we are looking for a city of God not made with human hands
  • Follow in the footsteps of Faith 

“It was by faith that (your name) _____________” how would you finish that sentence in your life? Where is God calling you today to exercise powerful faith?

STAND AND PRAY

LifeGroup Discussion Questions

1. If you could name one person you believe lived their life in faith (whether someone you personally know or someone you know of), who would that be?

2. Which of these stories inspires you the most … which stands out above the others?

3. What is the hardest thing about having faith? How do we hang on to faith when facing the hardest things?

4. There were ten principles of faith presented in this lesson. Which one speaks to you today?

5. What is the circumstance when you feel strongest in your faith? How can that help us during times when our faith feels low?

6. This chapter ends with a long paragraph of other stories of faith and perseverance. Read that together in the group and discuss whatever you notice that catches your attention.

7. What else in this chapter did you want to talk about that we didn’t cover?