Let us take our Bibles this morning and turn to Hebrews 11. We are going to be looking at Hebrews 11:11-16, which is in the chapter on faith. We are looking at the honor roll of faith. Please do not get the impression that the people included here are perfect. They are saved by grace, but still sinners who are being sanctified day by day as they struggle and strive as sojourners on this Earth. They are Christian pilgrims who desire to be more Christlike as they long for Heaven.
But it is never the perfection of our life, but the direction! Is the direction of your life to please God? Is it to love the Lord, obey His Word, and strive to walk by faith in a way that really honors Him? When the eye of faith is fixed on the goal, then the faith of that person becomes visible to other people in the way they live their lives.
So far, each example of what it means to have faith and live by it actually gives us an idea on what it really looks like. It helps us to see what living by faith actually is and what it is able to do for us in an acceptable manner. The only way to approach God is through this way, this sacrifice.
Enoch living by faith is walking with God in a pleasing manner. He walked right into Heaven and did not even die. Living by faith is obeying God’s Word in an unquestionable manner. For example, in the story of the Flood: eventually judgment did come with the flood but God saved Noah and his family who already learned that what makes any person pleasing to God is faith and that without it, there is no possibility at all in pleasing God.
Abraham is no different, his example highlights some part of the meaning and essence of faith. It helps us to gain a clear understanding about how we may live by faith so as to please our Lord. For Abraham, living by faith is obeying God in a patient manner. All generations up until Abraham provoked the Lord and closed their ears to God’s Truth. This is one of the characteristics that was very unique about Abraham, that he listened to God.
When God called, Abraham hearkened to His commands. In other words, Abraham obeyed and went on his way patiently and obediently. So far, I would like to highlight two characteristics of his faith. It is a patient faith that trusts fully and listens. It is a patient trust that carefully perseveres through difficult circumstances through long periods of time with an inward longing for home, which God is building in us.
Today, I want you to not another characteristic about Abraham’s faith. That is that he had a patient trust that carefully rested in God’s faithfulness. Look at Hebrews 11:11, and I want to show you what it says here:
By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.
The problem here in understanding this passage is trying to figure out the subject. Is it Sarah or Abraham? Most of our translations has translated it as Sarah. But according to the Greek, I disagree. If Sarah was the subject of the passage, it would not be faithful to the Greek construction. If she is the subject, this is how it would read:
By faith even Sarah herself received ability to [cast down seed].
“Casting down seed” comes directly from the Greek but that is alone a male function. The woman has the egg and the man has the seed, according to anatomy. In fact, the word here is spermatose. So the result of casting a seed into a woman is that she conceives! The product of the seed and egg coming together of course is a baby.
Sarah cannot be the subject! Abraham has to be the subject here in this passage. He remains the focal point of this passage and there is no good reason for him to be removed from being the subject. The translation would then be:
[By faith even Abraham himself was able to have a child, even though Sarah was barren and he was too old, he believed.]
Actually, it is the New International Version that handles this passage the best. This is what Hebrews 11:11 reads as in the NIV:
By faith Abraham, even though he was past age–and Sarah herself was barren–was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.
Now Abraham is still the main subject in all of this Scripture. Both had no ability to bear children. Not only when they were young, were they unable to bear children, but also, they were past age! Abraham was ninety-nine and Sarah was ninety years old and biologically that makes it impossible to have any children. The main point of our passage is not that since she considered but he considered Him to be faithful of the promise. That is the point of this passage, that Abraham considered God to be faithful.
Abraham’s faith looks past human impossibility to the source of the One who promised. In other words, Abraham took his impossible situation and weighed it against a greater impossibility. It is that God who made the promise could actually break the promise. But He can never break a promise. That is what Abraham is banking on.
Here is where Abraham’s faith really shines brightly because he knew that God could be safely and patiently relied upon. Faithfulness is so essential to the divine character of God, that for God to be unfaithful is to deny Himself. As Paul told the young pastor Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:13:
If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
For God to be unfaithful to the Word of His promise means that He would cease to be God. He would be just like us, for we have a hard time keeping promises. The circumstances of life bring us to a place where we cannot keep the promise even though that was our intention. God does not have any of those problems. To be like Abraham would be to accept the faithfulness of God and then act upon God’s faithfulness just as in Hebrews 10:23 where it says:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
This goes back to the Old Testament, that He cannot lie, and He cannot deny Himself in any way. If He did not keep His promise, He would deny His very nature, and that is not possible.
Making promises today does not seem to carry the same weight it once did. Even on the level of humanity. Arthur Pink commenting on faithfulness said, “Unfaithfulness is one of the most outstanding sins of these evil days. In the business world, a man’s word is, with exceedingly rare exceptions, no longer his bond.” We need at least a hundred pages of legal documents to make sure that we do what we have to do.
In the social world, marital infidelity abounds at every turn. The sacred bonds of wedlock are broken with as little regard as discarding an old garment. In the Ecclesiastical realm, thousands have solemnly covenanted to preach the truth but have no scruples now about setting it aside and attacking and denying it.
In the church realm, those who started off listening to the Word of God are now dull of hearing and have some how stopped listening to sound preaching. They have started looking for talks that suit them better and that suit their consciences. Scripture surely affirms the rarity of faithfulness.
I went and did a little study of this and found three passages of Scripture that are very pointed on this. For example, the question is, whether or not there is any faith out there. This is what it says in Psalm 12:1:
Help, LORD, for the godly man ceases to be, For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
Proverbs 20:6 says:
Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, But who can find a trustworthy man?
In Luke 18:8, it says:
I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?
It is rare to see this quality of faith in people. It ought to be found in the people of God, it is communicable attribute that He has given us. We are to be holy as He is holy and faithful as He is. If we were not faithful in the past, we ought to be from today on if we are a believer in Christ Jesus. God is working in us the desire to be faithful but also to trust the One who is faithful.
In fact, when faithfulness is identified, it is highlighted even by the Lord Himself. Let us see in Luke 7: 1-10 when Jesus meets up with a Centurion officer. He found in this officer a characteristic worth noting.
When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum. And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.” Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. “For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
Jesus is looking for people who have this kind of faith. He highlighted and identified it and made sure people knew what to look for! This is the character of the people that ought to follow Jesus.
Dwayne ran across a story that he told me a couple of weeks ago. It was called One Crazy Gringo, and I just had to read it. It is about a guy named Doctor Cameron Townsend, co-finder of the Wycliffe Bible Translators. He went to Peru and had a conversation with José Jiménez Borja, a leading government official, in order to ask for permission to do carry out his ministry. This conversation went like this:
Mr. Townsend, who is going to do all this work?
It will be done by trained linguists-young men and women with college degrees who are willing to spend their lives among the indigenous peoples.
This is a difficult task. How many are willing to go?
None, yet. But when I go back to the U.S. and challenge them, many will volunteer.
The jungle is impossible. How will you get those people out to the villages?
I plan to use airplanes to land on the rivers and airstrips that can be cleared in the jungle.
How many planes do you have?
None. But when I share the need, God will give us enough planes.
Who will fly these planes?
Hundreds of young people, seasoned pilots and mechanics will volunteer.
How many pilots and mechanics do you now have?
None, but God will send them along.
There is much disease in the jungle. How will you stay healthy?
We’ll have clinics staffed by doctors and nurses.
How many doctors and nurses do you have?
None, but God will supply them.
Who will finance all this? The U.S. government? A wealthy foundation?
No. I’ll go home and tell the people of the United States about this plan. God will supply. All the workers will raise their own support.
At this I stared at the strange man and told him, “When all that comes to pass, come back to me and I will bless you.”
He got up, gave me a big hug, and said, I’ll be back soon.
“When Mr. Townsend walked out of the door, I
turned to my secretary and said, ‘Alla va el gringo mas loco que jamas he visto.’ (There goes the craziest gringo I’ve ever seen in my life.)
“A few months later, Mr. Townsend was back and ready to start! Now, 25 years later, all he dreamed has happened, plus much more. Only God could do such a mighty thing.”
Townsend’s vision turned into the largest movement of Bible translation in the world! This is a God-sized task, which always takes faith. God wants the Word to go to the world and to be translated in other languages, so He will provide, and He is still providing because He is faithful.
Usually when a promise is made, it is only as good as the character and integrity of the person who makes it. It says in Psalm 36:5:
Your lovingkindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Faithfulness is one of the glory perfections of His being. Psalm 89:8 tells us:
O Lord God of hosts, who is like You, O mighty Lord?
Your faithfulness also surrounds You.
God is a God who never forgets. He never fails, falters, or will forfeit His Word. The point is our God may be patiently and safely relied upon. Numbers 23:19 says:
God is not a man, that He should lie.
That is what Abraham knew, He could not deny it. That is a faith that patiently trusts God. Considering the faithfulness of the One making the promise is the principle means of strengthening faith in the promise. I believe God, because of His character, must bring to pass the things He has promised.
The problem we struggle with every day is that God delays His promises. He has given us the promise in Word. We have in some way experienced the promise by hearing the Word of God and seeing what He does in the church and with the gospel. We know that the Spirit of God is transforming us and making us new, but still daily there is a challenge to live by faith. Especially when our eyes are dimmed with tears of sorrow and grief. Our ears are distracted with the noises of the world and so many voices vying for our attention.
Our passions to achieve great plans in our life fall apart, when friends fail us, and even when brothers and sisters in Christ betray us, it seems that God’s presence is hidden from us. We have a hard time synthesizing God’s frowning providences with His gracious promises.
There is the struggle we have. We live right there. But does it mean that God is unfaithful? No. He already told us we are sojourners and aliens and that we do not belong here anyway. We belong somewhere else, but we are here to accomplish God’s work. God must fulfill His promises even though His people feel this delay. That is why we need faith. For example, in Genesis 15:13-16, Jehovah declared to Abraham:
God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. “But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. “As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. “Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”
Because God’s promise is based on historical timing, and when a long time passes like 430 years, Abraham’s descendants groan under Egyptian bonding, did that mean that God forgot His promise? For this is what the Scriptures record in Exodus 12:41:
And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, to the very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.
At God’s precise moment, they were delivered through a man called Moses. Many years later, God promised through the prophet Isaiah a deliverer, one greater than Moses. It says in Isaiah 7:14:
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
This would not happen for many hundreds of years later. Does that mean that God has forgotten His promise? No! Galatians 4:4 says:
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.
Through Jesus the Messiah, even we will be made the recipients of the blessing of Abraham. That is what Galatians also tells us in Galatians 3:8
The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in You”
God made this covenant with Abraham, that He will make him a great nation. Also, that He will bless those that bless him, and curse those who curse him. That is what God blessed Abraham and all who believed in God would also be blessed because of Abraham’s faith. It says in Galatians 3:9:
So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
A believer is someone who trusts completely what God has said. Then it says this in Galatians 3:14:
In order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
That is the new covenant. He is bringing all of these together and the point is that our God may be patiently and safely relied upon because God is true and His Word of promise is sure.
Let us look now at Hebrews 11:12 and see the results of living a life of faith in God. I am not going to spend a lot of time here because it is a sandwich. If you look at verse 12, it says:
Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
It basically means that living by faith does not mean that you have the ability to accomplish anything. Living by faith does not mean you have all of God’s promises fulfilled now. It does not mean that the place you live now is the place you will live forever.
It does mean that those who live by faith and patiently rest in God’s faithfulness and ability, because He fulfills His promises and He will bring us safely to the heavenly country. He has already made peace with us through Christ Jesus.
In verse 12, it is saying that he lived without having ability but by faith, accomplished things through God. He accomplishes the unfathomable. God made a great nation out of one. He also accomplished the impossible, and he as good as dead to produce any offspring. God gave the ability and the power to have something that was previously impossible. God accomplishes also the innumerable.
Abraham lived by faith without receiving the promises. Look at Hebrews 11:13:
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
We can either die in sin or in the Lord. Or you can die in vain. You can until the last minute of having breath, believe in God. In fact, today is one year since my father passed away, March 6. It just came to my mind right now that he died in faith. Past seventy years old but trusting Christ. He died in faith! Do you know how much joy that brings to know that someone died in the Lord and in faith? My father died without receiving the full promises, but he knows about them now! More than we do!
Faith sees because God said that this is what will happen. Secondly, look at what faith does. It welcomes! They saw them, and they put their eyes upon them and moved towards them and received the promise and expected to receive all of it. Faith confesses. The saints responded to the promise and agreed with God that this is the best way to bring about the result of the promise and the sending of the Messiah to be crucified. This was God’s plan all the way, and they confessed that God’s plan is the best plan and there is nothing better to save a man’s soul and to provide all the promises that God said He would promise. Next look at Hebrews 11:14:
For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.
They were looking for a country not here on Earth, but that which God promised. They were looking it as their own. You may not have wealth on Earth, but you have more than you can imagine in Heaven. We are joint heirs with Jesus Christ, that means that everything He owns we also own.
We are very wealthy in the sense that we are seeking a country that is our own. In verse 15, look here to make sure you do not mistake what was said:
And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.
In other words, when they left they never wanted to go back once they understood the promises. If you believe in Christ, you cannot look back. Once you put your hand to the plow and look back, you are not worthy for the Kingdom of God. Faith brings someone to the point of no return. That comes from an aeronautical jargon that refers to a plane taking off. The pilot knows he cannot turn back and go where he came from because he does not have enough fuel. He knows he has to keep going forward and land. That is the point of no return. It brings us to a place where we know we cannot go back to the world and our sinful practices. We have reached by faith the point of no return. We can only go forward, even though there will be persecution and suffering on all kinds of levels.
If there was nothing at the end of the race, we would have nothing to live for. But God had placed for us something great. Look at Hebrews 11:16:
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.
This is the ability that faith has to distinguish between good and evil, between the eternal and the temporal, between the permanent and the perishable, and to see and choose God’s way and be happy about it. That is what they desire and want. But here is the best of all, that not only did they have faith without ability and without receiving the promises and country. But also, without receiving shame. Look at what it says in the rest of the verse:
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
There is no shame that we have before God because of what Christ has done. This is the best of all, that God is not ashamed to call you His children! There is nothing to keep you away. Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:12:
For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
Until that day, you and I are face to face with God. When that day comes, there is no shame because of our sin. There is only joy upon joy because of what Christ has done. Everything moves out of the way and we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. What we have to look forward to is nothing but joy.
You may notice that this is exactly where the New Covenant is heading. Just to remind you, in the New Covenant will have a new heart, complete, and final forgiveness of sins. Everyone will have the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit God and everyone will have the law inside their hearts. Jeremiah 31:33 says:
I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
God is not ashamed of us. The New Covenant people get to dwell with God in the city of God that He has built for them. It is because they are saved through Jesus Christ and what He has done. He has removed the wrath and satisfied the justice of God. What does that sound like to be free? Turn to Revelation 21:1-6:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.”
In other words, Revelation gives the summation of the New Covenant and where God is heading. He gives the invitation to know Christ as Lord and Savior. The Spirit of God may cause a thirst in you today for the water of life! All you need is to come to Christ with your sin. The full and final glory which is intended for people and by God is made available and secure for those only through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God Himself applies the Word of God with special power to the chosen.
For the ones who have desire see themselves in this way, they must believe in Jesus. He must be trusted because He is the only way to be made right with God. They must actively repent of sin and turn to Him and then of course be awakened to a changed life and confidence in Christ. Then the covenant purpose will be known to them and fulfilled in them when they shall be saved from the wrath to come. That is what God does.
Jesus is inviting all who have not yet come to enter glory through Himself. Ephesians 2:8 says:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Brethren, that is where we are heading. God has prepared us so that when we are in front of Him, there will be no more shame. But those who do not know Him will want to run from His presence. With the Great White Throne Judgment, God’s books are accurate, infallible, and He makes no mistakes. They will have to pay for all eternity for the great, unplayable debt for their sin and offense against God. That is why we need Christ and He is our prize. We need to look at these Scriptures and the challenge is to be like Abraham. We need to be people of great faith, and carefully listen to God’s Word, persevere until we get home. We need to rest on the faithfulness of God, because that is what we have to rest on. Remember, God is faithful. He cannot deny Himself.
God has proved Himself to us throughout history. What God says must come to pass and will come to pass. And all God’s people said, Amen. Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, this morning as we prepare ourselves for the Lord’s Table, the focus is on Your death on our behalf. I praise You, Lord, with the examples of faith that are before us and that are in Scripture. I ask You, Lord, to build in us a faith that is strong and that completely rests in You. I pray Lord Jesus, that You may use our life to bring forth the light of the gospel to those who have not yet believed. When this world is out of control, I pray Lord that people would see You as in control. This world gives no hope, and I pray that You would use us to show a message of hope being lived out. I pray that You would use Your people and church to go into this world and bring the only message where a person may be saved. And I pray that You would use us in that way. This morning, Lord, we give You glory and praise for all that You have done and all that You will do. And I pray this in Christ’s Name, Amen.