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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, Hebrews 11

John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, Hebrews 11


John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, Hebrews 11
John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, Hebrews 11
TOPICS: Great Chapters of the Bible, Heroes of Faith

This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. Several years ago, one of the world's most well-known magicians performed an illusion in which 13 randomly chosen audience members were somehow sensationally transported from the stage in the front of the audience to the back of the theater in which the magician was performing. Of course, the audience was amazed. But one night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, one of the chosen 13 was apparently injured during the trick, and he sued the entertainer. Unsuccessfully, as it turned out. But the entertainer was forced to reveal the secret of his illusion in court, and, of course, it was no surprise. No, the magician was not really able to miraculously transport 13 people from one end of a theater to another.

While a magician might be able to mesmerize the senses, there's actually no power in a magician to cause people to disappear and reappear. A magician is just a clever entertainer. So who can do the impossible, the miraculous, the supernatural? The Bible says that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". The same book talks about a global flood. It talks about an entire people group walking out of a country, across the floor of a sea, as the waters of that huge body of water part to let them through. For 40 years those same people were miraculously fed by manna, which just appeared on the ground six mornings a week before evanescing with the rising of the sun.

The Bible talks about water coming from a rock, a virgin giving birth, water turning into juice, people walking on water, a fisherman catching a fish with a coin in its mouth, and more, with the most impressive claim of all being that the dead are raised to life. And an entertainer claims that he transported 13 people from the front of a theater to the back? If you can't believe the entertainer, then how can you believe an ancient book that claims that people will one day soon be transported from earth to heaven? A place, by the way, that you and I have not seen. It all comes down to one simple little word. And we're going to look at that word as we continue our series, "Great Chapters of the Bible".

Hebrews chapter 11 deals with the subject of faith, and the chapter opens by defining faith. This is Hebrews chapter 11 and verse 1: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". There's a lot about the Bible that we don't or cannot see. There's plenty in the Bible for which you would say that we don't have what you call proof or evidence. No one was there at Creation. Neither of us has been to heaven and met God. I don't personally know a single soul who was there when Jesus died on the cross. Now, that's not to say there's no scientific evidence for Creation, or that the Resurrection didn't happen. There is, and it did. But ultimately you've got to take someone else's word for the reality of Creation, for the virgin birth, for the resurrection of Jesus.

Now, fortunately, that someone else is God. The evidence for things we haven't seen, the substance of our hope is faith. The basis of this hope is simply found in the source of all creation: God's word. "Through 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 do appear". Hebrews 11:3. The Apostle Paul, who many believe authored the book of Hebrews, tells us in his letter to the Romans that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God". Romans 10:17. The ability of God to perform any of His promises is found in the Word itself. "The substance of things hoped for" is believing what God says and believing that what He says will come to pass.

In Matthew chapter 8, a centurion came to Jesus, and he said something, well, if you read this thing through, it is remarkable what the centurion said to Jesus. "'Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.' And Jesus said to him, 'I will come and heal him.' The centurion answered and said, 'Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, "Go," and he goes; ...to another, "Come," and he comes; and to my servant, "Do this," and he does it.' When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!'"

Great faith. The centurion wanted his servant healed. He wanted the Lord to do it. But when Jesus said, "I will come and do it," the centurion said, "No, no. Speak the word only, and it shall be done". Now, what did the centurion expect would heal his servant? The word only. Cultivating true faith is the essence of Hebrews 11. And that's never dependent upon our feelings, emotions, or circumstances. True faith is found in the all-powerful, assuring, and eternal Word of God. The Bible says, "So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it".

That's Isaiah 55:11. If God inspired the writing of the Bible, and He did, and if, as Titus 1, verse 2 says, God cannot lie, and He cannot, then trusting God's promises is always the right thing to do and will bring enormous blessings into your life. And God has given us a gold mine of beautiful promises that can help us in every time of need. The promises written in God's Word are for you. So take the time to read or study the Bible, and you'll find those promises from Genesis to Revelation. Remember them. Write them down. Claim them. And have faith that God will do what He says He will do. Hebrews 11 chronicles the tests and victories of men and women that believed in God's word in spite of their circumstances. And although many of them were weak and faulty people, they were champions because of their unwavering faith in God.

I want to encourage you to cultivate faith. No. I want to encourage you to cultivate great faith. You absolutely can, because faith in God isn't faith in yourself. It isn't faith in your faith, and it isn't faith in your willpower. Faith takes God at His word and believes that the God who calmed a storm on a lake can calm the storm in your life. That the God who healed 10 lepers can bring healing today to you or your loved one. That the God who says He will supply all your needs will actually do so. And why? Because He is God, and He has promised that He will. So, who were the great heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11? Some of them might surprise you. And how did they manifest faith in God? We'll find out in just a moment.

Thanks for joining me on It Is Written as we continue our series, "Great Chapters of the Bible". Hebrews 11 is a monumental chapter on cultivating faith. Let's look at verse 6: "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". In order to please God, it's necessary to believe in God, that He is sovereign, the Potter, as opposed to the clay, the Eternal One. We're to believe that He is, that He exists. And logically, if we believe in God, we expect Him to be true to His word. That's faith: expecting God to be true to His word. Which means that God is looking to people to be more than surface believers, to do more than simply assent that there's a God. What God models here is living faith.

The heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 were people who were in close contact with God, who were truly connected to God, who based their faith on the word of God. They let God into their lives and, in spite of their shortcomings, surrendered their lives to Him. Now, keep in mind we're not talking about, mmm, fuzzy faith, weak faith. We are talking about living faith, not just going through the motions, not just ritual, not just agreeing that a certain belief system has merit. Real faith will change your life because your life is now being lived entirely by God's word. What did we read in Hebrews 11 in verse 3? We know that God created the world because the Bible says He did, by faith. Not only is there good science for it, but we believe by faith. There's enough in the Bible to convince us that God can be trusted, and therefore we trust that when God says He created the world, that He actually did.

By the way, the bottom line is this: When you choose to believe in a different version of the Creation story, you are calling God a liar. I wonder if you've thought about it like that. God says He spoke the world into existence. So if you say, "No, I think we're here because of evolution" or some such thing, you are declaring that you don't believe God. But faith tells us that we were made in the image of God by God. The writer then mentions Abel, who brought his offering to God by faith, and Enoch, who was taken to heaven without seeing death. Both individuals were people of faith. They lived according to God's word. And then verse 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".

So why is this a great example of faith? Well, it had never rained when Noah started building the ark. For 120 years Noah went about his work, and it's clear he met opposition from his contemporaries. How do we know that? Well, none of them joined him on the ark, only his family. At a time when science suggested it wouldn't rain, in the face of rejection, in a world that was profoundly wicked, according to the book of Genesis, there was "evil continually," and the world "was filled with violence", you read that in Genesis 6, Noah stuck to his task out of love for God. To build an ark to survive a rainstorm when there'd never been rain?

Now, that's faith. And why did Noah do it? Because God asked him to, that's why, and that's faith. God told Noah about the wickedness of the world, and He planned to destroy it, that Noah was to build an ark and bring animals into it. Noah's response is stated simply in Genesis 6:22. "Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he". Why would Noah do something so incredibly extreme? Simple answer: faith. Noah took his direction from God. What God said was paramount to Noah. God spoke; Noah acted accordingly, by faith. The faith chapter then mentions Abraham, who, like Noah, did something unlikely. Living in Mesopotamia, Abraham uprooted his home and his family and went to, well, at the time he wasn't sure just where he was going.

This is Hebrews 11 and verse 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". Notice how God connects faith with obedience. Faith in God will lead you to honor and obey God. It isn't faith that motivates you to rebel against the God of heaven. Then, two more examples of faith concerning Abraham and his family: Hebrews 11:11, "By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised". If you recall the story, you'll know that both Abraham and Sarah found the idea of Sarah giving birth to be preposterous. Who ever heard of such a thing? She was an elderly woman.

Writing to the Romans, Paul described Sarah's womb as being dead. But ultimately, she didn't let the seeming impossibility of her situation cause her to disbelieve God or to doubt that what God said He could do, He could do. And against all odds, Sarah gave birth to a baby boy that she named Isaac. Now, right about now you might be thinking, Faith? Sarah? How much faith did she have when she laughed at God's suggestion? When she proposed that Abraham get together with her servant and have a child that way? Well, right, there is that, I suppose. But Hebrews 11 isn't the lack-of-faith chapter. One of the things that makes this chapter so encouraging is that it speaks of people who didn't always get it right. They grew in faith. Sarah certainly did.

Good old Abraham, the great man of faith, lied about the identity of his wife, claiming Sarah was his sister, would have ruined everything if God hadn't intervened. And that's the key of this whole chapter. These heroes of faith were regular people. They were people who made mistakes, but they didn't let those mistakes turn them away from following God. Remember, their faith was in God, not in themselves. And we see that God works well with faulty people, patiently growing them. Now, that tells us that if God can work with Abraham and Sarah in spite of their flaws, and with people like Samson, who God mentions in Hebrews 11, in spite of his checkered history, and with Rahab, and Jephthah, and others, if God can work with them, then God can certainly work with you and those you love. Now, you can grow your faith. I've got more examples of great faith coming right up.

Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. Hebrews 11 really is one of the great chapters of the Bible. Now, that's not to say that the other 1,188 chapters of the Bible are not great, but Hebrews 11 is one of the truly epic chapters of the Bible, not only because of the accounts of the faith of many of the luminaries of the Old Testament, but because there's so much to be learned from what the chapter says. People preparing for eternity want to grow their faith. Faith is something we ought to know something about. The Bible tells us salvation comes "by grace...through faith" in Ephesians 2, verse 8. Jesus asked a searching question about faith in Luke 18:8 when He asked if He would find faith on the earth when He returned to the earth. And in the book of Revelation, those who were described as the saved at the end of time are said to "keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus".

The faith of Joseph is mentioned in Hebrews 11:22. "By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones". So why was that an example of faith? Well, look at Genesis 50:24 and 25. "And Joseph said to his brethren, 'I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.' Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, 'God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.'" Israel had been in Egypt for years, but here was Joseph telling his people that in spite of appearances, there was absolutely no question in his mind that the children of Israel would exit Egypt and make it to the land promised them by God.

You see, that's faith: believing what God has said simply because God has said it. Joseph was saying, "As grim as things look, I believe we're getting out of here because God has said so". And then Moses is discussed in Hebrews 11. First his parents' faith in preserving Moses' life: They had faith that God would save their baby boy. And then this: Hebrews 11:24 and 25, "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season". Again, this is interesting because the way Moses got away from Pharaoh's household was hardly a prime example of faith in God. He took a man's life. But he identified with God's people after years of being raised in Pharaoh's household. He had everything a person could want in this world, but he chose the service of God. And notice the phrase, "rather than [enjoying] the pleasures of sin for a season".

Now, that's worth remembering. You might find sin pleasurable, enjoyable, but it's "for a season"; it's temporary. Faith in God is forever. And Moses understood that. Verse 27: "By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible". He lived by faith. Experiences like the one he had with the burning bush would have fueled his faith. Moses endured. He hung in there with God. When Israel was stubborn, he clung to God. When they worshiped the golden calf, Moses turned to God. When there was rebellion, Moses fell on his face before God. Faith endures. It doesn't quit, because faith knows that God doesn't quit. Faith is easy when life is good. But when there's an accident, or a loss or a death or a betrayal or a financial collapse or a job loss or an illness, what then?

That's when faith reminds you that God is still on His throne, that His promises are still real and reliable no matter what. Faith believes and trusts in spite of circumstances and appearances, because it recognizes that nothing changes God and that His word is always true. Let's look together in Hebrews 11 and verse 28: "By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them". That's right. God said, "If you do this, you'll be protected from the plagues, and the destroying angel will pass over you". Their faith in God was demonstrated by their actions. "Faith" is an action word.

It moves you to act, to live out, to demonstrate your faith. Verse 29: "By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned". God told them to walk across the seafloor. Reason might have said that was crazy. But God's leading was clear, and they acted upon God's word. Next verse references the fall of Jericho. Same principle. Who in the world would expect a military victory when the plan of attack is to walk around a city and shout? But that's faith. Faith doesn't ask what seems likely. Faith asks what God has said, what God has promised, and believes that.

And the Bible writer rounds out the chapter with this soaring passage starting in verse 32: "And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth".

In all, at least 15 people of faith are mentioned by name, while others, such as Daniel and his three friends are referred to. From the Flood to the Exodus, from martyrs to people resurrected, every one, every experience was a manifestation of faith. Ordinary people who did or experienced extraordinary things because they had simple faith that God could do what He said He could do.

So how is it with you? How's faith working out in your life? When you take time to know God, you'll be convinced that He's all He says He is, and that He can do all He says He can do. The centurion was convinced. Noah was convinced. So were Abraham and Sarah, eventually, and David and Gideon and Samuel, they believed; they trusted; they expected God to come through. They saw God do amazing things. It wasn't easy. But no one ever said that faith is all plain sailing. Let God work for you. Know His promises. Believe them. And expect God to do great things in your life. As Jesus said in Mark 11:22, "Have faith in God".
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