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HEBREWS 11:1-7
Series:  Running By Faith - Part One

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
September 12, 2010

Over the next few Sundays we’re going to be looking at faith.  Looking at Hebrews 11 and 12.  Hebrews 11 being one of the great chapters in the Bible on faith.  Hebrews 12 being a great chapter on living by faith.


But before we come to Hebrews and faith I’d like to have us think a bit about fear.  In many ways fear is the opposite of faith.


Our society lives in fear.  That’s why coffee cups come with warnings about hot liquid.  Why insurance companies make fortunes.


This year each of us has a 1 in 7,000 chance of being injured by a malfunctioning television.  Every year 3,300 Americans are injured by room deodorizers, 8,000 Americans are injured by musical instruments, and 5,000 Americans sustain injuries from playing pool.  January is the most likely month to die.  September is the least likely.  If you’re planning any high risk activities - texting and driving - sky diving - this is the month to do that.  100% of people who are born die - making birth the leading cause of death.  There are people who lie awake at night struggling with all that.


These aren’t in any particular order.  But the top of the list of what people fear.  See if you can relate to any of these.


A fear of spiders.  Anyone relate to that?

A fear of flying.  Yes?

A fear of public speaking.

A fear of heights.

A fear of clowns.

A fear of rejection.

A fear of failure.

A fear of intimacy.

A fear of death - or having some kind of terminal illness.  Along with that is the fear of your spouse dying or having some kind of terminal illness - not necessarily in that order.


One last fear.  A fear of exposure.


A woman was trying hard to get the ketchup to come out of the bottle - doing the old knife in the bottle and banging on the end of the bottle with her hand thing.  During her struggle the phone rang so she asked her 4-year-old daughter to answer the phone.


“It’s the pastor, Mommy,” the child said to her mother.  Then she added, “Mommy can’t come to the phone to talk to you right now.  She’s hitting the bottle.”


Fear of exposure.  That people would really know what goes on deep inside us.  That they would see us for the frauds we know we are.


Fear effects us.  It effects our attitudes and actions.  We do things that we would never do if we didn’t fear.  So many times I’ve left the house - gone out to the car - gotten into the car - gotten out of the car - gone back the front door to check to see if its locked.  Even though I know that I locked it.  But did I?  Is the water running at home?  Did you turn all the lights off?  The stove?  On and on we go with these internal conversations.


Are we tracking here?  There are a lot of us who live with fear.  Maybe not always big fears.  But fear.


Fear - in many ways - fear is the opposite of faith.  Fear effects our relationship with God - our willingness to trust God.  Can I really let go of this and trust that God’s got it covered?  Stuff going on in my marriage?  With our finances?  My health?  Stuff at work?  In the church?  At school?  With the whole direction my life is headed?  Or not headed?    There are huge uncertainties here.  Can I trust God with that?  What will happen if I really give God control of my life?


The more we live in fear the less we’re trusting God.  The more we’re trusting God the less we live in fear.


Jesus said, “I came that they - meaning His followers - us - I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  (John 10:10)  Excessive life - satisfying life - confident purposeful life - over and above any type of life that we could possibly dream up on our own.  God offers us so much more than what we allow to bind us.


So as we’re looking a faith grab on to this truth.  God has not created you to live in fear but by faith.  Say this to yourself, “God has not created me to live in fear but by faith.”  Share that with the person next to you, “God has not created you to live in fear but by faith.”


What we’re going to be looking at over the next few Sundays should encourage us to set aside the fears that drag us down and to step out in increasing faith and to trust God with our lives.


Turn with me to Hebrews 11 - starting at verse 1.  These verses may be familiar to you.  Verse 1 is the great definition of faith.  Let’s read this together.  Its on the overhead here.


Hebrews 11:1:  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the men of old gained approval.  By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.


Faith is what?  Two things.  The assurance of things hoped for.  The conviction of things not seen.


Assurance is kind of like the Matrix - the reality behind the reality.  We can’t see it.  But its there.


How many of you have cement slabs under your houses for foundations?  How do you that there’s dirt under there?


We have these ants that are continually working under our house and I have this fear - good word right - fear - that one day they’ll have removed enough dirt that the whole house is just going to go “wumpf” and sink down a couple feet.


The house rests on the foundation.  The foundation rest on dirt.  I’ve never seen it - the dirt under the foundation.  But I have assurance that its there because the foundation rests on something and the house stands.


Assurance is the reality that everything else rests on.  One more time:  Assurance is the reality that everything else rests on.


Here in Hebrews we’re told that our hope rests on that assurance.  That reality behind reality.  Hope here in the original Greek is a word that has a spiritual side to it.  The idea of Israel’s hope that God’s Messiah would come.


There are a lot of things that we could hope for.  I can hope that I’ll walk outside and someone just bought me a Jaguar and it’ll just be sitting there waiting for me.  Good luck.  Lots of things we hope for.


But hope here concerns what God promises us.  God’s Messiah has come.  Jesus has come.  So our hope is in what comes next.  Jesus coming back.  The part of our salvation that means being with God forever.  Our assurance that that will happen is God Himself.  The reality - the person  -behind reality.


Conviction  means being convinced.  What I know convinces me about things that I don’t see.  Wind for example.  We’re convinced that wind exists because we see plants moving or dirt flying around.  But who’s ever seen wind?  We’re convinced of things we haven’t seen because the evidence of what we do see convinces us that these things exist.


Look at verse 3.  We’ll skip verse 2 for now.  Verse 3 is an illustration of assurance and conviction that hopefully will make all this clearer for us. 


Creation.  How many of us were there when God created creation?  Not many.  A few of you are thinking about it.  None of us were there when God created creation.


So how do we know that creation exists?  Look around.  How do we know that God created what we see?  Slightly different question.  Isn’t it?


Do you know who this is?  Stephen Hawking.  Very famous well respected British theoretical physicist and cosmologist.  Not cosmetologist.  Cosmologist.


Last week Stephen Hawking came out with his new book:  The Grand Design - in which Hawking takes on the ultimate questions of life and the universe and everything - origins.  Hawking - who speaks for a huge part of the scientific community - makes this statement:  “The universe can and will create itself from nothing.”  Hawking writes, “Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”


Are you hearing what he’s saying?  When we put together all the mathematics and theories and philosophies about how all this came about the bottom line is that all this exists because all this exists - poof - out of nothing.  That answers a lot of questions doesn’t it?


Hawking writes, “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper - the fuse - and set the universe going.”


There are two explanations for all of what exists - how all this got here.  One is speculation.  The other is revelation.  Both are accepted by faith.  Right?  Because none of us were there.  We can speculate that some kind of big bang started all this spontaneously out of nothing.  Or we accept that the explanation for what happened is in the Bible.  God is revealing to us what He did.


We have a choice of what explanation - speculation or revelation - we have a choice of what explanation to have faith in.  To have enough faith in that explanation to make choices in how we live our lives.


Hawking speculates that it just is because it is.  Existence out of nothing.


Genesis says that God created all of this out of nothing.  Hebrews 11:3 says, “The worlds were prepared by the word of God.”  Same truth.  The origin of it all is God.  God spoke and it was.  Nothing became something. 


Revelation invites us to look at what is and see that there’s a reality behind the reality.  That there’s design and there’s order.  One can even argue that there’s intent and purpose.


The universe is infinitely complex in its great vastness and in its minute detail.  One of these days all these scientists and philosophers and mathematicians are going to find some infinitely small sub atomic particle that has a label on it “Made by God” and just possibly - we need to pray that this is true - that they will come to know the God behind that reality. 


The author of Hebrews’ point is this:  We weren’t there when God created all this.  But we see what He created.  And so we believe - have faith - in the creator.  What we see assures us that we can live convinced of those things we don’t see.


Faith is not a roll of the dice - chuck your brains at the door - religious happy time experience for easily brainwashed people who can’t cope with life and have no clue how to do science - who “just” believe because they know that it ain’t so but “you gotta have faith.”


God reveals that He is the reality behind the reality.  The foundational substance of faith is God.  There’s no speculation in that.  Just bedrock reality.


When we see creation we have evidence that God not only exists but that He is worthy of our placing our faith in Him.  That the God who spoke creation into existence by His word speaks promises to us - such as eternity with Him - promises that we can live convinced that He will fulfill - not based on speculation but based upon the assurance - the unchanging reality - of the unchanging Creator God.


Are we together?


Verse 2 says that the people who lived way back then - gained approval - they became God approved examples for us - they gained a reputation not because they were such wonderful holy righteous people - in fact we’re going to see that some of these people were far less than holy - they struggled with the same stuff we struggle with - but they obtained approval - example status - because they had faith in God.  Through it all they lived by faith based on what they knew to be true about God.


What we’re going to see as we go through chapter 11 over the next few Sundays - are those examples.  Men and women that God holds up before us and says, what they did - the faith in Me part - what they did you need to do.  They learned to set aside their fears and to live trusting Me.  That’s how to do life.  That’s where abundance in life comes from.


This morning - here in verses 4 to 7 - we’re going to see three examples of people who lived by faith before the flood.  Read verse 4 with me.


Verse 4:  By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.


Abel is an example to us of The Way of Faith.  Let’s say that together, “The way of faith.”


This is pretty familiar.  Right?  We read in Genesis that Abel is a shepherd.  Cain is a farmer.  One day Cain brings an offering to God made up of what he’s grown.  Abel also comes with an offering from the his flocks.  Hebrews tells us that God thought Abel’s offering was better than Cain’s.


On the surface there’s not much difference between the two offerings - salad verses meat.  Genesis tells us that Abel’s offering was from the firstlings of his flock and their fat portions.  Theologians have suggested that God may be foreshadowing animal sacrifices - shed blood - what’s coming later in Jesus.  But the point here is that God thought Abel’s offering was better.


Hebrews tells us that the offering testified that Abel was righteous.  Same truth we read about Abraham in Romans 4:9.  Abraham’s faith was “credited to him as righteousness.”  God looked at Abraham’s faith coming out of his heart - Abraham trusting God from the core of who Abraham is - and God says, “Abraham is right with me.  He’s got it.  His faith is the kind of faith I’m looking for.”


We know this about God.  God looks at the heart.  We can do all the religious stuff we want but if our heart isn’t in it its just a bunch of religious mumbo jumbo.  Abel’s heart was sold out to God.  Cain’s wasn’t.  That’s why Cain wasn’t  Abel.


That’s probably why Cain - when God has a higher regard for Abel’s offering - Cain’s pride and self-sufficiency come out - he gets all angry and bent out of shape - refuses to listen to God - and in anger he murders Abel - his brother.  Abel’s life is about God.  Cain’s life is about Cain. 


Verse 4 tells us that “through faith, even though Abel is dead, he still speaks.”  When God confronted Cain - after Cain had murdered Abel - God says to Cain, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.”  (Genesis 4:10)  Same truth that’s in Hebrews 12:24 - that the blood of Jesus “speaks better than the blood of Abel.”


For thousands of years Abel’s blood has spoken to us about God.  What kind of testimony is that?  He got murdered.  So much for faith in God.  Trust God and get murdered.  Well, yes.  Same thing happened to Jesus and a lot of our siblings in Christ that have followed Jesus.  Might even happen to us.


Hear this:  The way of faith means that everything we are is brought in sacrifice before God.  Sacrifice of firstlings and fat portions represents all of who Abel is.  He was martyred because of that faith. 


The blood of Jesus speaks greater than that.  The blood of Jesus speaks of forgiveness.  Jesus’ blood testifies of God acting to vindicate the faith of the righteous.  That the God who created all this will ultimately act on behalf of those who trust Him with their lives.  Abel. 


What did Abel know about God?  We don’t know.  We can ask him when we get to heaven.  We do know that Abel’s heart was in his sacrifice.  His faith in God was one of trust and loving acceptance of whatever God would do.  That faith speaks volumes to us about trusting God with everything that we are.


Abel is an example to us of the way of faith - total commitment of everything we are to God.


Let’s go on - example number 2:  Enoch.  Read verses 5 and 6 with me:  By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.  And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.


Enoch is an example to us of The Walk of Faith.  Let’s say that together, “The walk of faith.”


The Genesis account indicates that for the first 65 years of his life Enoch didn’t walk with God.  He probably went along with the immorality and crud of his time.  Then at age 65 Enoch’s son Methuselah was born.  Interesting how the birth of our children has an effect on us.  Isn’t it? 


Genesis indicates that at the birth of Methuselah - for the next 300 years Enoch was a changed man - he walked with God.


There’s some indication that Enoch may have been given a revelation about the coming flood - God’s coming judgment.  One example of that is Methuselah - who’s name in part means “death.”  Imagine naming your child “death.”  Methuselah died the year of the flood.


We don’t know for sure.  But something happened to Enoch.  Brought him to do an about face.  Genesis tells us that Enoch spent the next 300 years walking with God - living by faith - living a life that was pleasing to God.  Then - at the age of 365 - Hebrews says, “He was not found because God took him up.”


People looked for him.  The guy was 365 years old.  Maybe they thought he’d wandered off some place.  Whatever.  They didn’t find him.


God rewards those who put their faith in Him.  Enoch was rewarded with a daily intimate walk with God for 300 years of his life.  That’s reward. 


God took Enoch to heaven.  Of the billions who have lived and died - only two out of that vast number have never died.  Remember who?  Enoch and Elijah.  That’s reward.


More than escaping the “I don’t want to grow old and fall apart and die of some lingering disease” fear that we all have.  Enoch lives in heaven with God.  That’s the ultimate in rewards.  Isn’t it?


Verse 6 tells us that without faith we can’t please God.  We may please ourselves.  We may please others.  We may be doing all kinds of good stuff.


Hear this:  God rewards those who turn from trusting themselves and live day by day trusting Him.  We may struggle doing it.  But its worth it to walk with God through life.

Example three - verse 7 - Noah.  We’ll read this verse together and then our Creekside Drama Company is going to help us visualize Noah and his boat building project.


Verse 7:   By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.


(Drama:  Noah)


Noah is an example to us of The Witness of Faith.  Let’s try that, “The witness of faith.”


Have you ever wondered what that was like?  Building a huge ship a hundred miles from any large body of water - continually telling anyone who’d listen that a cataclysmic flood was being sent by God in judgment to wipe out everyone because of their sin and that only he - Noah - had the inside track on this and unless people joined him in the ark they were all going to die.


What a nut case.  His neighbors must have really loved it when he started filling the ark with animals.


By the way:  What pair of animals did Noah not trust?  Answer:  The Cheetahs

Noah testified to a generation of morally depraved corrupt violent people who had no use for God.  Who’s main interest was themselves and whatever brought them pleasure.  Day in and day out Noah got up - went to work on the ark - testifying of God - scornfully rejected - ostracized - ridiculed.


Do you think Noah ever struggled with all that?  Do you ever find yourself struggling - the whole world is going one way and you’re going counter current - because you’re following God.


Noah’s dogged - obedient - persistent faith stands as a testimony to us of what it means to live life trusting God - witnessing of Him - ostracized from our society - maybe even family and friends - knowing that judgment is coming - our hearts breaking for our family and friends - and yet trusting that God saves those who trust Him.


Abel - Enoch - Noah.  They’re examples of what it means to live convinced that behind it all is God.  Examples of what it means to commit everything we are to living each day in obedience to God - whatever the cost.  Knowing that God rewards.  Knowing that living by faith - not fear - living by faith in God is worth our lives.


In your bulletins is an envelop and a sheet of paper.  Each bulletin should have two.  So, share.  Everyone should have one envelop and one sheet of paper.  Between you and God think about how you would fill in the blank of this statement:  “God I need to trust you with _______________.”

Whatever that it is I’m going give you about two minutes to do three things. 
First - on the sheet of paper - write out that statement this way:  “God I’m going to trust you with _______________.”  and fill in the blank.


Over the next 2 months we’re going to be talking about faith and encouraging each other to have increasing faith in God.  In the next two months where would you like to grow in faith?  Two months from now where would you like to look back and see that God has been at work in your life - that as you’ve been growing in trusting Him - He’s been at work proving that He’s trustable?  Write that down.


Second - put the sheet in the envelop and address the envelop to yourself.


Third - there’s a box up here in the front.  As soon as you’ve done that sealing and addressing - bring it up here and drop it in the box.  Go ahead and do that even if I’m up here talking.  


No one else is going to look at what you’re writing.  That’s between you and God.  What we will do is in December we’re going to put a stamp on your envelop and mail it to you.  Its always a great day when a letter comes that isn’t a bill.  Isn’t it?


I hope that’ll be an encouragement to you.  When you open up that envelop and can look back and remember today and remember, “I began trusting God with this and this is what God has been doing.”  Maybe we’ll have some God stories we can share together then.




Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.