Hebrews 11:1–16 live by faith these men did
Leap of Faith!
There are times in our lives when we just have to make that leap of faith. For the newly married it may be the decision to buy a house or have kids. Every year that a farmer decides to plant a field; they are taking a leap of faith that rain and sun will come at the appropriate times to allow him to collect a crop. This can also happen when we are faced with a serious illness and options are placed before you. Whether it is a once in a lifetime decision, or yearly ones sometimes you just have to have faith that it is going to work out.
Our text today has mentioned most of the big names who we could say made the ultimate leap of faith. It’s kind of a Biblical “Hall of Fame”…or maybe we should even call it the “Hall of Faith” and it is quite a list. Able died for his faith. Enoch preached against evil and never died. Noah built a boat against all common sense and appearances and was saved from annihilation. Abraham left his home for a land that was his, even though no one else recognized it; and Sarah gave birth to a miracle baby in her nineties. Why did these people do these things? More importantly how did they do these things?
The text is clear: in all instances it was by faith. They lived and died in faith, trusting in the promises of God even if they did not see them come to fruition. They took that true leap of faith. And at the end of the reading we hear “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” This is incredibly high praise for these people; their names and stories truly belong in the Hall of Faith. So perhaps like me you find yourself saying, “I wish that I had that sort of faith.” I can’t imagine leaving home for a foreign land or building the ark or suffering death for my faith. I’m not like that. I wish I could be like that but I’m not, I don’t have faith like them.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, rejoice. You do have faith like them. You have the same faith of Abel and Enoch, Noah and Abraham and Sarah. And I would like to give you some more of God’s word to consider.
Ephesians 2:8, 9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” What is the gift of God? Faith is, along with grace. Faith is given to you by God with forgiveness. It is not something earned by works. Faith is a gift and your belief in Jesus is a gift from God. It has to be this way. If we believe the Scriptures to be truth that you and I were born dead in sin, then we couldn’t make ourselves alive. God had to give us life, which He does at our baptism by giving us forgiveness and faith.
The next verse is 1st Corinthians 12:3: “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” This teaches us two things. First, the gift of faith is the work of the Holy Spirit. Second, what does faith do? It believes in Jesus. It clings to the Savior and the forgiveness He has won. To have faith is to believe that Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, became flesh and died on the cross for you. You cannot believe in Jesus without faith. By faith, you believe in Him, and so forgiveness is yours.
But, who died for the sins of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah? Jesus did. In whom did they believe? They believed in God and His promise of Salvation, they believed in Jesus, the one God promised and who was yet to come. Their faith held onto Jesus, just like your faith does. It is the same Jesus, the same faith. The Savior, salvation. forgiveness and eternal life is our “Hall of Faith” five.
Yet we always want to compare things, to put ourselves on a scale and say that the Bible speaks of strong faith and weak faith. So to be a part of the Hall of Faith you need to have strong faith to be able to resist temptation and accomplish more good works than weak faith. Think of it this way: if you have a heartbeat, you are alive. You’re alive whether your heartbeat is weak or strong—though a strong heartbeat is far better than a weak one. Likewise, with faith you are alive in Christ.
Whether your faith is weak or strong, it is a saving faith. The promise is yours, but just as exercise and a healthy life style is good for a strong heart, your faith needs help as well. So how is your faith strengthened? Romans 10:17 tells you: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” The Holy Spirit gives faith and strengthens your faith through the Word of God. That’s why it is good that you remember your Baptism and thank God every day for your faith. Your baptism is where God gave you faith by water and the Word. That’s why your faith can hardly wait to gather at His church to hear the Word of God and gain strength. This is why your faith delights to feast upon the Savior’s body and blood, present in, with and under bread and wine by the Word of God.
In short, faith is a gift given by God, as it was to the people in our text. Faith clings to Jesus and His forgiveness. Faith comes by hearing the Word—as you and the people in our text have heard God’s Word.
I have often heard it said that believing in Jesus is a leap of faith, but that is untrue. It is a gift from God. If you believe that faith is something you’ve come up with in order to please God, repent. It is His gift to you for your salvation. To claim it as your own doing is to rob God of His glory for yourself. If faith is something you do, then your work and salvation would never be certain. If faith is God’s gift, then your salvation is secure in His promise.
Rejoice! because you are God’s child and a good Father always rejoices in His children. God gives you faith and counts you among His saints for Jesus’ sake.
· You may not suffer death like Abel because of your faith, although there may be times of suffering; but God grants you the faith to endure.
· You will not avoid death like Enoch unless the Lord first returns, but you have been given the same faith. Therefore, like Enoch God says of you, “I am well pleased with you, because Jesus has taken away all of your sins.”
· You may not be sent to a faraway land to live as a stranger as was Abraham; but like Abraham, your destination is sure: The New Jerusalem forever, whose foundation is Christ.
· And like Sarah, by faith you know that the one who promises is faithful, and so you can be sure of your salvation.
Your name is written in the Hall of Faith; so rejoice as you come together as God’s children to hear and read His Word. To partake of His Holy Supper, and know that by doing so, you have strengthened the faith that God has given you; that is His promise to you.
Your life may or may not display historic acts of obedience like Abel, Enoch or Noah, Abraham or Sarah. But of this you can be certain; God’s promise has been fulfilled in Jesus and He has given you faith and forgiveness. So the writer of Hebrews says to you: God is not ashamed to be called your God, and He has prepared a city for you.