A Faith That Never Fails
Hebrews 11:1-2, 6, 36-40
If you have ever heard me preach, you will no doubt recall hearing me say on any number of occasions that we are not in the sweet by and by just yet but we are indeed still in the nasty now and now. And folks, that’s the reality we must face until we either pass from this sinful old world or until our Lord returns. South Philadelphia as great as it is not the sweet by and by and just yet, South Philadelphia, in more than one sense of the saying, is still the nasty now and now.
And because we’re still in the nasty now and now, this sinful old world we will still have trials come our way! We will still have relationships that will fail. We will still have heartache and sorrow. Now folks, that’s not said to get you down in the dumps, that’s reality. That’s Bible. We will still have to deal with the unpleasant things of this world!
And you know what? When the trials come, when our relationships fail, when we have heartache, sorrow, and all the rest we can tend to feel as though our faith has left us stranded like a broken down car on the side of the road. We begin to feel as if our faith has failed us, as if God has abandoned us! Yet dear friend here this afternoon and this will be the main point of the message, if Jesus Christ is truly the basis and center of our faith, we do not have to doubt His desire to help us work through the challenges and questions of this life. Very simply put, even when it feels like it, we still have a faith that never fails! And the reason it never fails is because what we have is not a feeling but it is a faith in risen, resurrected, coming again Saviour!
Hebrews 11 where we will be this afternoon, we find that the author who many believe to be the Apostle Paul because the point of view is Pauline, begins to illustrate how that the great men and women of God from ages past had lived by the principle of faith. They were men and women who were rooted and grounded in the faith. That’s one of the reasons people today turn to and from faith is because they have never been rooted and grounded in that faith they claim to have.
Paul illustrates how these men and women of faith had “a full assurance of faith” (10:22). Sadly, not many today have a full assurance of faith. I believe that’s because the Devil has given so many different false religions, faiths, and cults for people to choose from, they don’t know what’s right! The author of confusion is indeed at work in this sinful old world.
One thing which distinguishes the new covenant from the old, and we see it on display in this chapter, is the emphasis upon faith. It always has been there. But now it has come to the forefront. The last half of this chapter continues the lengthy list of Old Testament saints who, because they took God at His Word (faith), accomplished what they did. The emphasis continues upon how faith is the motivating force by which God’s people do what they ought to do, both then and now.
That’s what faith is folks; taking God at His Word, allowing it to motivate us as His people to do what we ought to do! From verse 4 onward, Paul presents what we could call a great ‘hall of faith’ of men and women down through the centuries who by faith accomplished what they did.
For our purposes here this afternoon, we will look at three different sections seeing just where the hope of our faith is found, a faith that despite how you may feel, never fails!
Hebrews 11:1-2, 6, 36-40
Before we get into the main sphere of the message this afternoon, the hope of our faith, let’s look at these verses a bit closer.
Vs. 1 – Now faith is the substance of things hoped for.
The sense of the word translated as substance here is ‘assurance’ or ‘the substantiating of.’ In effect, the phrase says, ‘faith is the conviction of things hoped for.’ A simple definition of faith is again‘taking God at His word.’ The confidence of faith is anchored in the Word of God. When God has said it, that settles it. Therefore, we can totally rely upon it. Faith is total dependence upon God and His promises. The contemporary English word trust, perhaps even more accurately, conveys that sense.
Faith is the evidence of things not seen. The word translated evidence has the sense of ‘proof’ or ‘conviction.’ Thus faith becomes the proof or evidence of that which we have yet to see (Jesus himself, heaven, the promised kingdom, and the rewards ahead). The logic is simple. Even though we have yet to see what has been promised, the fact so many have been convinced is evidence of its veracity. Faith therefore becomes part of the evidence for things not seen.
Something else that we have not seen and yet where we get the most hope from is the empty tomb of Christ. The basis of our faith is an empty tomb! The Christian faith is based upon the validity of the resurrection. In I Corinthians 15:12-20, we find the Apostle Paul asking the question “if?” What if there had been no resurrection? What would it matter if Christ had not risen again as He had said He would? Well folks, it’s very important that Christ kept the promise of His resurrection. Let’s see why, turn to I Corinthians 15 with me.
I Corinthians 15:12-20
Notice here folks, the importance of Christ’s resurrection. Paul tells us that if Christ be not risen our preaching is without purpose, our faith is without forgiveness, our death is without deliverance, our service is without significance, and we are men most miserable! That’s if Christ be not risen! If … If … If! But is there any answer, any hope, or any reason to believe in the resurrection of the dead or of Christ? I’m glad you asked, verse 20.
Here is Paul’s answer, clear as a bell, bright as the sun, and truth with no mixture of doubt whatsoever! Consider for a moment how much hangs on those two little words – “But now.” The resurrection of Jesus, our coming resurrection, and the resurrection of all those who died in the faith, all of it depends on those two little words.
But now! Up from the grave he arose,
But now! With a mighty triumph o’er his foes.
But now! He arose a victor o’er the dark domain,
But now! And he lives forever, with his saints to reign!
But now! He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
But now because of the empty tomb, a place many of us will never see, we have a faith that never fails! Because Christ made a promise, kept His promise, and His Word records that promise! The promise of our faith is the empty tomb!
But not only do we have the promise, we have the proof. Again, not seen but remember, faith is taking God at His Word and He gives us proof in His Word of our faith.
Acts 1:3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
What are some of the infallible proofs Acts is talking about. Well for starters, the way the tomb was left when Christ arose.
John 20:6-7 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
Many who deny Christ arose, claim His body was stolen. Well, had His body been stolen, the linen clothes would not have been so neatly arranged in the tomb. But not only is their proof in the empty tomb, there is proof in the appearances of Christ.
John 20:16-19 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her. Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
Jesus was seen after the crucifixion by more than 500 people. He was seen by Mary Magdalene and by His 11 disciples. So we have the proof of the empty tomb, the proof of his appearances, but we also have the proof of the early church. Within weeks of the crucifixion, thousands of Jews became convinced and followed Christ. Even persecutors of the church, like Saul of Tarsus, turned to Jesus Christ for their salvation.
Acts 2:32-33 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.
Acts 2:40-41 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
The proof of our faith is found in the empty tomb, the proof of his appearances, and the proof of the early church. But perhaps the greatest infallible proof of our faith are the changed lives that prove the power of the gospel!
And folks with the promise and proof of our faith comes peace of our faith. Peace for your heart and for your home. Peace in the promises of Christ, of His Salvation and His Second Coming.
John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
What a great thought that as Christians we have the promise, proof, and peace of Christ that holds our faith up. The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. That’s what faith is folks, taking God at His Word. He said he’d give us these things and He will. We simply have to have the faith in it. And folks even when you don’t feel like it, when it feels as if your faith is failing, you still have a faith that never fails! Back to Hebrews 11.
This sentence here might be paraphrased as follows: For by it (faith), the elders obtained a good report. The word translated as good report is the word translated as ‘to witness’ or ‘to testify’ It here is in the passive voice. (The idea is how that they were witnessed or observed.) The thought is, throughout Old Testament history these great men and women of God (the elders) were a testimony of faith. In other words they lived out their faith even perhaps when they doubted their faith. The encouragement for us is this: live a faith filled life, so much so, that others take notice of you and want what you have! Even on your worse day, allow the faith that you have in Christ to shine like a light in the darkness! Why you might ask.
Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Very simply put, if you don’t have faith, you’re not pleasing God! Faith pleases God. God is pleased when we as His creatures turn to Him and trust Him for our needs and desires. God is pleased when we depend and rely upon Him. To rely upon anything else is to not rely upon Him at all. God desires that we trust and rely upon Him for every need of our life, beginning with our salvation to the smallest detail thereafter. When we so live out our faith even on our worse days, it pleases Him!
The word translated as impossible has the sense of ‘not possible’ or ‘powerless.’ When we are not trusting Him, we move ourselves out of the parameter of pleasing God. Further we see, “he that cometh to God” must (1) “believe that he is.” The genesis of faith begins with the acknowledgment and realization that God exists. “He is.” The word translated as cometh has the sense of ‘drawing near.’ Before one can draw near to God, he must begin with the simple faith and realization that God exists. But (2), he must also believe that God “is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” As individuals diligently seek Him, God rewards, recompenses, or blesses.
The key is to “diligently seek him.” And that is accomplished by a trust and reliance upon Him which leads us to do all He has said to do. Faith therefore, is the realization that God is, and that he will richly bless those who diligently seek Him. Do what God has instructed you to do, even on your worse of days! Because in so doing, you will please God! As we prepare to close here this afternoon, I would like to do so with a bit more of encouragement.
I know what you’re thinking, how on earth are those verses encouraging?!? Here’s how. We all have days when we feel as if things could not get any worse. We all have days when we feel like our trials, our heartache, our sorrow only happen to us. But right here in our passage we see some Old Testament saints who had some trials, who had some heartache, who had some sorrow yet they kept the faith, they kept doing what God told them to do. The encouragement is twofold and we’ll look at the closing verses of this chapter in a minute but the first encouragement is this; you’re not alone when it comes to having trials, heartache, and sorrow. Those before you had them and those ahead of you should Christ tarry will have them. Why? Because those before lived in the nasty now and now of their time and those ahead of will live in the nasty now and now of their time. This sin sick world will forever be the nasty now and now until Christ returns!
Now I want you to notice verse 39 and not knowing it’s context and if the chapter were to end with verse 39, it doesn’t provide much hope. But verse 39 is tied to verse 40 and you must know the context. So first, let’s look at verse 39.
Remember now what the phrase “having obtained a good report” means. It means to ‘testify or ‘witness.’ A paraphrase might be, ‘And these all, who bore witness through faith, received not the promise.’ In other words, they kept the faith, they exhibited faith in their lives, and did what God would have them to do. Yet the verse says they received not the promise. You mean to tell me, we kept the faith for nothing! We don’t get anything, there’s nothing to look forward to! And again if this were to close chapter 11, not much hope. But just what is the promise? The promise is that of eternal life with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 10:36 and Hebrews 11:13
So, the promise is eternal life but again the verse says they did not receive it. What’s it mean? It means that the ancient heroes of faith saw the fulfillment of some of God’s promises; but despite their faith testifying that they were people of faith, “they did not receive the promise” of eternal life in their lifetime but as Hebrews 11:13 shows us they saw them afar off, were persuaded (or believed), and embraced them because they knew God would keep His promise!
The phrase translated having provided something better could be also translated ‘having foreseen something better.’ God foresaw better promises. Eternal life with Him someday!
So, what’s the application for us? Very simply, faith is prepared to accept that there may be no reward for the faithful in this world; and if that be the case, then the reward will come in full when we all meet the lovely Lord Jesus someday. So, what do we do until that day?
Christian, keep the faith because He is faithful! Listen to me, the Bible speaks of a day when we will be hated for His name’s sake! Not everyone’s going to be happy that you’re a Christian! To a degree, we’re already there folks! Just look at the world we live in today! As Christians, we are hated simply because we believe what this Book says! Well you know what, keep believing the Book. Keep believing God. Keep living for God. Keep doing what God would have you have you to do. Keep believing in the fact that there is something better for us someday and that is eternity with our lovely Lord Jesus!
As we prepare to close this afternoon, is your faith truly resting in Jesus Christ? As you navigate this sinful old world, this nasty now and now, as the trials and heartaches come, are you rooted in your faith? Or do you feel it failing a bit? Do you feel as if God has abandoned you? Folks, you need not feel that way. Yes, it’s one thing to know about the promises of our faith. It is even another thing to prove the faith. But it is a personal joy and miracle to know the peace of our faith through Jesus Christ. And you can know that here this afternoon because we have a faith that never fails!
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