Giants of Faith
Introduction: What exactly is faith? How do we know we have it? If we have it, do we have enough? What good thing happens if we have faith? The most famous chapter of the Bible dealing with faith is Hebrews 11. That is our study this week - so let's dive in!
- Faith Defined
- Read Hebrews 11:1-3. What does verse 1 tell us is faith?
- When verse 1 says "sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see," is it just repeating the same idea? (I think we have two different ideas. Faith looks both backwards ("certain of what we do not see") and forward ("sure of what we hope for"). The reference to God being the Creator is "backward-looking" faith.)
- Is there something wrong with your faith if you believe in Evolution? (Verse 3 suggests there is a problem. Faith in our Creator accepts that something was made out of matter that was not visible. Evolution, on the other hand, involves a slow change in things that are seen.)
- Why do you think the "faith chapter" starts first with a discussion about Creation? (Belief in the Creation (and for that matter, the Sabbath memorial to Creation) are fundamental to the issue of who God is and what He means to us. These are bedrock faith issues as we will discover next.)
- Saving Faith
- Read Hebrews 11:6. Can we be saved without faith in God?
- Lawyers like to speak of the "elements" of proof in litigation. That is, what do you have to prove to make out your case in court? What are the elements of proof of a "saving faith?" (This text lays out two elements: first, we must believe God exists; and, second, we must believe that He rewards those who come to Him.)
- How is Creation tied to belief in God's existence? (Evolution allows for a godless creation. The writer of Hebrews says (v.3) that faith in God is based on our belief that He exists. Faith in the fact that God created us and our surroundings is an acknowledgment that He exists. Whenever I am tempted to doubt God's existence, I always go back to the fundamentals - do I believe that everything around me was created? Or do I believe that this complex universe (and complex me) came about by chance?)
- The second element of belief is that God rewards those who come to Him. Why do we have to believe that God "rewards" those who come to Him? Why isn't just believing in Him good enough?
- What does it mean to believe that God "rewards" those who come to Him? Does it mean we will get rich? We will marry well? We will be famous? We will have good health? Our children will obey? (This idea is very interesting and important. It teaches us that faith is not simply believing in God, but our belief must have an impact on how we live. The Hebrew word translated "rewards" literally means "to give back wages." "Payback" is another way to say this. True faith believes that God exists and what we do matters. God impacts on every aspect of our life.)
- Faith Payback Illustrations: Abel and Enoch
- Read Hebrews 11:4-5. What was Enoch's reward for his faith? (He was taken to heaven without first dying.)
- Would you like that reward?
- What was Abel's reward for his faith? (He got murdered by his brother.)
- We were doing just fine on our reward (payback) theory until we got to Abel. How do you explain that Abel was "rewarded" for his faith?
- Look at Hebrews 11:4. What does the Bible say is Abel's reward? (That God commended him as a righteous man and spoke well of his offering.)
- Let's skip ahead a number of verses to Hebrews 11:32-35a. Are these stories more like Enoch or more like Abel? (These are all like Enoch, they are success stories here. They "won" here on earth based on their faith.)
- Read Hebrews 11:35b-39. Are these stories more like Enoch or more like Abel? (They are like Abel. They suffered here on earth.)
- Read Hebrews 11:13. When do we receive God's reward for our faith?
- What do the stories of Enoch and Abel and the illustrations in Hebrews 11:32-39 teach us about God's rewards? (Some of God's rewards to us for faith are now, but other rewards are later.)
- Does it matter to you when God rewards you? Should it matter?
- Illustrations of Faith: Abraham.
- Read Hebrews 11:8-10. Do you think that Abraham would have preferred to live in a city, rather than in a tent? (Verse 10 says he was looking forward to city life!)
- This week I was in Palm Springs, California and the wind in the desert was blowing very hard. It made me think of Abraham in his tent. What are some advantages to living in a house in a city over living in a tent? (Verse 10 mentions that houses have foundations. In a high wind, that becomes important!)
- The city mentioned in verse 10 to which Abraham was looking is no ordinary city. Which one is it? (If the builder and architect is God, this is God's city in Heaven, the New Jerusalem.)
- Read Hebrews 11:11-12. Are you familiar with this story? If you are not familiar with this story you can read it in Genesis 15-17. If you already know the story, just read Genesis 17:1-5,15-18.
- What kind of faith does Abraham have? (He laughed when God told him he would have a son with Sarah. Worse, he asked God to accept the son that he had worked out with Hagar -- when it seemed God was not coming through on his promise.)
- Go back to Hebrews 11:1 where faith is defined as being "sure" of what we hope for and "certain" of what we do not see. How does laughing when God promises you something qualify as being "sure" and "certain?" (First, a disclaimer. I read five commentaries on this and they all concluded that Abraham laughed with pleasure and not because of doubt. However, I have some serious doubt about the conclusion of these commentaries. First, the word for "laugh" is the same as that used in Genesis 18:12 to describe Sarah's reaction to this promise. Genesis 18:13-15 makes clear that she laughed because of doubt. Second, Abraham's further reaction in Genesis 17:18 and God's response in v. 19 (in which he reiterates the promise) is evidence that Abraham was uncertain of God's promise. Abraham's entire history of this promise of a son reflects weakness in his faith.)
- Read Hebrews 11:17-19. If you are not familiar with this story read Genesis 22:1-19. If you were Abraham, would you have sacrificed your son Isaac?
- How was Abraham able to reconcile that Isaac was the answer to God's promise that he would have many descendants with God's command to sacrifice the young man? ( Hebrews 11:19 is the answer. Abraham decided that God could (would) raise Isaac back to life after he had been killed.)
- What is Abraham's level of faith at this point? How "sure" is he of what he hoped for and "certain" of what he did not see? (This is the ultimate proof of faith! Faith doesn't get any better than this.)
- I wanted us to review the "before" and "after" stories of Abraham's faith for a reason. What lesson is there in Abraham going from laughing to being willing to sacrifice his son of the promise?(If your faith is weak, this reassures us that walking with God can make it stronger. Living in faith is a progressive experience.)
- As you consider Abraham's life, was he more like Abel or more like Enoch? (I think Abraham is like most of us. He did receive some rewards for his faith now. However, he did not see the fulfillment of God's promise described in Hebrews 11:12 and he did not get to live in that city yet.)
- Read Hebrews 11:40. Friend, do you want to be part of that "something better" that God has in store for us? If you do, I invite you to step forward in faith. To believe that God exists and to earnestly seek Him who rewards those who come to Him.
- Next Week: Women in Scripture