Tonight we’ll gather at the church building again, and we’ll take another look at what the stories in Hebrews 11 show us about faith. Here are the notes form the last time we gathered:
Thoughts on what Abel’s story shows us, from Hebrews 11:4:
Faith makes you righteous, like it made Abel righteous. And that’s because faith leads you to do things that are the kinds of things that God wants done, especially in the way you worship God—it makes you take action that pleases God, and so you offer the kind of worship God puts his stamp of approval on.
What is faith? It’s actively worshiping God in the ways that please him. That’s what it looks like. That’s how it comes out. Maybe part of this is that faith includes caring enough to listen and learn and find out what pleases God, because you believe he really is God, and really made everything, and that therefore, you’re really appreciative of that, of existence, and the chance to know him, and so you want to please him. You want to be close to him, and have things be good between you and him. You think it’s worth it, and so you want to actively do the things that are part of that good relationship.
This might kind of underwhelm us at first, since it’s not “changing the world” or anything right? But then—it’s the only thing on this list that got someone killed. “Offering worship that pleases God” sounds pretty safe, but evidently, the kind of worship that God’s puts his stamp of approval on is often offensive to the world. It is something they oppose. People who don’t have faith can be offended by the worship of people who do. It can even enrage them. And that’s important to know. Just because someone gets mad at you, it doesn’t mean you’re not walking by faith. It doesn’t mean you’re not righteous—that you’re out of step with God. The anger of those who refuse to worship God in faith might in fact be the evidence that my faith is legit.
Thoughts on what Enoch’s story shows us, from Hebrews 11:5-5:
What is faith? You know you have it when your worship, and your whole life, pleases God. You know you’re living by faith when you’re in rhythm with God—walking with God moment by moment. This “conviction” that God is, and that he rewards those who seek him, diligently makes you live like Enoch, and be ripe for the taking.
That’s how you defeat death. Believe that no matter what, God will come through; It will be worth it. That’s how faith feels about living for God—it’ll be worth it. Whether they kill me, or God takes me, it’s worth it. Maybe Abel died young. That’s the impression we’re given. But Enoch lived more than three centuries—that’s a long time. Faith is pleasing God when you’re young and your own family hates you for it. Faith is pleasing God daily for a long, long time, even when everyone around you isn’t. You can live like Abel and Enoch when you remember and trust in the fact that God will make it all worth it. Verse six tell us that Faith doesn’t say things like, “Well, pain is good just because.” Nope. Faith says, “This is really hard, but one day soon life is going to be awesome, no matter what, because God promised it will be—so I’m not going to stop worshipping him and walking with him.”
And verse six means that if someone won’t trust god like that, if the difficulty in life makes it seem not worth it, or the time it takes to see God’s promises come true makes it seem like God can’t be trusted, and you give up—that’s the opposite of faith. That’s what not having faith looks like. And then that person can’t be like Abel or Enoch. They can’t please God.
Thoughts on what Noah’s story shows us, from Hebrews 11:7:
What is faith? Noah’s experience shows us that faith is what makes you build what God wants built, when he tells you to act in response to what he’s about to do. Noah built the ark. Based on what God was about to do in the world, God told Noah to build a wooden boat, because God wanted Noah to survive the flood. Hebrews is written to Christians. We live a long time after that flood, and we know that God promised to never use water to destroy the earth like that again. But here is Noah, held up as a picture of Faith for us, in 2020. Noah built a boat, but that’s not what faith will make us build. We haven’t been told a flood is coming, we’ve been told that the wrath of God is coming on the whole earth, and it will end history and destroy everything that ignores God. And, we’ve been told that Jesus Christ will come back soon and deliver everyone who trusts him from God’s wrath. We haven’t been told to build a physical structure to survive God’s judgement, because nothing will this time. In fact we’re specifically told that the judgement in Noah’s day was water, so a wooden boat was perfect, but the coming judgement is by fire, so that won’t work this time around.
So we’re not building boats, but we’ve been told, in response to the fact that Jesus is coming soon, to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8), to go everywhere telling people what Jesus did (Lk 24:47), and what he taught (Mt 28:18-20). The house God wants built is a family of people that comes from every nation (2 Peter 2:5). Like Noah, if we have faith, we will continue spreading the message, despite opposition. And that’s because, like verse 7 says, faith is moved by godly fear. When someone trusts God, they stop fearing other things, because they realize that God is the weightiest thing they have to deal with. The fact that he is—that he really is there, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him, and also a punisher of those who refuse to acknowledge him—that fact means more to the man or woman who has faith than anyone or anything else that use to make them afraid. And so no matter what anyone else says, they fear God, and they press on and build what he wants built. The public testimony of that boat exposed that the world was condemned, and should be condemned, and it displayed that Noah was righteous. Noah’s faith pleased God.
Faith is not believing in something that may or may not exist, like Santa or the Matrix. Faith is knowing God to the point that you trust his description of how your world came into existence, and therefore you do things that bring him glory, and you spend day after day close to him, and you actively work at doing what he wants done in the world, even when it’s hard, and even when everyone opposes you, and you’re the only one in your family, or the only one in the whole world, but you don’t stop…even if it takes three hundred years.