Sermon: Faith is the Victory (Hebrews 11:30-40)

Faith is the Victory

Hebrews 11:30-40 (ESV)

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.  [31] By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

[32] And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— [33] who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,  [34] quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.  [35] Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.  [36] Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  [37] They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— [38] of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

[39] And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,  [40] since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Sometimes if we’re not careful when going through a text like Hebrews 11 we can miss the forest for the trees.  In other words, we can get so caught up in minute details we miss the big picture.  As we wrap up Hebrews 11 today I think the Lord would have look to the big picture.  It seems the apostle who wrote Hebrews wrote this section with that intention as well.  Here the minute details are spared for an overarching big scope.  If we’re to understand the text in light of the author’s intent we should do the same.

As we looked early on at the characteristics of faith, I think it would do us well to look again at the beginning verses.

Hebrews 11:1-2 (ESV)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  [2] For by it the people of old received their commendation.

Faith believes God regardless of the circumstances.  Faith is trust in what God said simply because it’s God who said it.  Faith is unconditional trust in the promises of God.

We either live our lives based on that or we don’t.

Faith doesn’t seek after signs or need to ask a bunch of questions.  It acts because it trusts in God regardless what things may look like.

Matthew 12:39 (ESV)

But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

If you’re always looking for some proof before you carry out God’s will, you’re not walking by faith but by sight.

Faith trusts God’s Word even over one’s own judgment.  God’s Word is true our reasoning and logic is often fallen and sinful.  Don’t obey God because it makes sense, obey God because He’s God and is always right.

Did it make sense for Noah to build a ship in the desert?  Did it make sense for Abraham to leave his home and wander his whole life?  Did it make sense for Moses to leave the riches of Egypt and become poor with God’s people?  Follow the Lord because He’s worthy to be followed not because it always makes sense.

Why did these all follow God?  Why did they do things that seemed a little strange?  These men were not perfect.  They all were sinners like us but they followed because they had the right view of God.  They followed because of proper theology.  It’s important for us to have a correct view of God and not a view that we or someone else has invented.  Fabricated god’s are not worthy of our devotion.

Human Need- To not allow suffering to affect our faith

Truth Taught- Faith allows us to overcome suffering or to be strengthened through suffering.

1. Faith is Courageous through the Present Victory (Hebrews 11:30-35)

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.  [31] By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

[32] And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— [33] who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,  [34] quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.  [35] Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.

The writer of Hebrews is just getting started in the Book of Joshua when he mentions two examples, Joshua and the walls and Rahab and the spies.  Joshua believed God when He told him that He had given the city to Him and the Israelites.  They followed what God said and the city fell to the Israelites that day.

Rahab believed all the talk about the God of the Israelites.  She had heard about the plagues of Egypt and she heard about the Exodus.  While the others in the city cowered in fear, Rahab acted and by faith aligned herself with the people of God.

Joshua 2:11 (ESV)

And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.

Those are amazing words coming from a former pagan Canaanite harlot.

The writer of Hebrews must have been a preacher.  He does here what preachers do when they still have a lot to say but the hour is getting late.

[32] And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of…those who conquered kingdoms etc

In these examples we see that faith overcomes political power, evil, doubt, physical danger, violence, deadly persecution, weakness, fear, hostility, and even death.

Romans 8:37 (ESV)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

In many of these situations we might be tempted to water down the gospel.  In light of liberalism, for example, we might be tempted to want to fit in.  Rather than standing by faith in the truths of Scripture we may cave in so that someone will like us.  However, in light of these verses we must see that faith wins over in the end.  Without faith it is impossible to please God.

So the difference is pleasing man or pleasing God.  Faith does not compromise when faced with danger or obstacles.  Faith stands firm.

In this passage in each case there was an explicit trust in God.  David goes up against Goliath with these words, This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands.  The three Hebrews before being cast into the fiery furnace declared, Our God whom we serve…will deliver. Daniel’s story even has his persecutor declaring, Your God, whom you serve, continually, He will deliver you.

Faith is courageous through the present victory.

What about when we have faith and still suffer.  What about when we believe and the pain and suffering never seems leave?

2. Faith is Courageous through the Future Victory (Hebrews 11:35-38)

Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.  [36] Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  [37] They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— [38] of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

The focus now shifts.  Before we read about those who escaped death and now we are reading about those who had as much faith as the others but they did not escape.

How are we to understand this passage when we’re told faith overcomes?  In some cases faith win present victories and in others it wins future victories.  Sometimes faith wins over suffering and sometimes it wins through suffering.  Which happens is determined by God.  In which way will your life bring the maximum glory to God?  A Believer must be prepared to suffer

Acts 14:21-22 (ESV)

When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch,  [22] strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

The way in which Paul strengthened the souls of the new believers was to teach them that a part of being a Christian is enduring tribulation and suffering.  This sort of teaching strengthens us because it prepares us for the time when it happens.  We are not caught off guard by suffering.

Then, we have Jesus teaching the same thing in John.

John 16:33 (ESV)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

In light of these truths, How should we face suffering and how can we encourage others when they suffer?  We can encourage them by showing them these types of texts and explaining that God loved these people and they suffered.  Because we suffer does not mean God doesn’t love us or that we don’t have faith.  We suffer because we live in a fallen world.  We suffer because God will get the most glory through our suffering.  We suffer in this sinful world, but don’t forget, Christ has done battle with Satan and has been victorious.

1 Peter 4:12-16 (ESV)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  [13] But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.  [14] If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  [15] But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.  [16] Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

When we suffer because of righteousness we can rejoice.  We can rejoice because we are sharing in the suffering of Christ.  We can rejoice because whatever is going on we’re reminded of the fact that someday there will be no more pain and suffering.  It only lasts for a time and then we all will be brought to completion in Christ.

3. All God’s People are Brought to the Goal (Hebrews 11:39-40)

[39] And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,  [40] since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Faith not only wins present and future victories but faith lives in expectation of our inheritance.

The basic point being made here in these final words from Chapter 11 is that the Old Testament heroes as commended for their faith as they were, waited for the promise of the New Covenant to be fulfilled.  None of them ever saw it during their lives.  They lived in a time of expectation.  We, however, live in a time of fulfillment.  The New Covenant is here.  The writer masterfully is showing the Hebrews who were being tempted to look back to Judaism that they are living in the time that all the Old Testament believers waited for.  Why would you want to forsake the New Covenant and all its riches to go back and slaughter lambs?

The something better for us, is the better Covenant.  In other words, we have the final revelation from God and they didn’t.

The logic of Hebrews is that the Old Testament believers walked by faith in the promise of a New Covenant which would work to overcome sin and glorify the believer.  The Hebrew Christians during the time of the writing of Hebrews had the New Covenant and like us were waiting for the fullness of it.  If Old Testament believers could live by faith in the light that they had, how much more should we live by faith seeing that we have more fulfilled promises than they.

Conclusion

Whether God calls you to have victory over suffering or victory through suffering the bottom line is the same.  Walk by faith.  Whether you’re rich or poor, walk by faith.  Whether you’re young or old, walk by faith.  Regardless what life God has you to live, live it to the fullest by faith.

God is trustworthy.  God will bring all believers to completion and sometimes suffering is a part of that process.

Human Need- To not allow suffering to affect our faith

Truth Taught- Faith allows us to overcome suffering or to be strengthened through suffering.