Peninsula Community Church
By Faith: The Triumph of Faith
November 20, 2016
Hebrews 11:32-40 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
Well we are at the end of our journey in the Hall of Fame of Faith. It has been a fun adventure and we have learned so much about faith and about those who exhibited their faith under very difficult circumstances and situations. As we come to the end of this chapter, we find that the writer of Hebrew realizes there is not enough space or time to write about everyone who exhibited faith qualities in the Bible. Because of this, he summarizes many of the examples of faith in just a few words. It is almost like he posted a collage of people who were considered to have walked in faith to save time. For many of the stories there is no name associated with them, or there is a name without any detail to what they accomplished. All we know is that at the core of their story is a faith in God.
As we read this passage, we find these folks faced hardships and difficulties that were unbearable but their faith helped them to overcome every obstacle and every problem. What we learn today confirms what we have already experienced in the other exhibits in the hall of fame of faith. No matter what they faced they continued to focus on the one who was faithful and trustworthy. That is the lesson for us today. While the characters changed in the story and the circumstances that led to their difficulty changed, the focus of their faith did not change. Their faith in God helped them make it through whatever came their way.
That is what we must do also. No matter what comes, we must stay focused on the one who does not waiver or change. That is what we see in Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (and how do we do this, we do so by) looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. No matter what comes into our lives, we must stay focused on Jesus who is not only the founder/author of our faith but He is also the perfecter of our faith. Therefore, Jesus does not only originate or begin our faith He also brings it to completion. The word here for perfecter or finisher means to make complete. That means we do not need anyone or anything else to give us spiritual faith. We do not rely on people or circumstances to establish our faith in God it is God’s doing and His work in us that brings faith and then brings our faith to a level of completion.
Do you get this? Jesus is the one in whom our faith is founded and He is the one who makes our faith complete. Without Jesus there would be no faith. So when we lack faith we turn to Christ. How do we accomplish this? We stay focused on Jesus. We keep our eyes on Him. You see we will go where our eyes take us. Have you ever been concentrating on something in front of you when you have been driving and then find yourself drifting off the side of the road when the car in front of you turns off. We must focus our attention on the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God. When we do that we will follow Him. That is why we are commanded to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, your soul, your strength, and your mind.
Secondly, focusing on God may cost us but God will keep you. How do I know this? I know this because of the story of Daniel. This is just one of the many stories in the collage of faith at the end of the tour. By faith, the mouths of the lions were shut so that they could not cause him any harm. The amazing story here is that Daniel was taken into captivity by the Babylonian empire. He and others of Israel were chosen because they were young, smart, and good looking. The desire was to train them in the ways of Babylon but God had other plans for them. In the process, Daniel found favor with the king and was raised to a position of authority within the king’s court. Things were going well but those around the king became jealous. In fact the word that as used was “maliciously jealous.” They wanted to see Daniel taken out. As a result Daniel was forced to choose between worshipping the monument built to honor Nebuchadnezzar or to continue to worship God almighty. His choice was a life or death choice. He had to choose between worshipping God and worshipping the false gods of Babylon.
Even though he had to make a choice he was a righteous man and he trusted God with his life. His faith was counterpoised against the will of the King and what Daniel’s convictions called for. Daniels’s faith and his trust in God was being tested. For Daniel this was a crisis of faith. Would he make the right choice or would he succumb to the temptation to gain favor through compromise? For many of us that is the great challenge of life. Will we obey God or will we compromise our beliefs to gain favor with those around us or who those might impact us in either positive or negative ways?
If you have read the story, you know that Daniel made a choice that could cost him his life. He refused to bow down to worship the idol that had been erected. He chose rather to worship his God whom he trusted. For Daniel he did what was right in the sight of God but he was punished anyway. Others close to the king made sure he knew that he had not bowed his knee. They were jealous of Daniels’s relationship and it was their opportunity to exact revenge. There is a lesson here for us in that it is somewhat easier to accept punishment when we know we deserve it but it is extremely hard to receive a punishment when we know that we stood for truth and have done the right thing. It is much harder to navigate the issues of life when we know that we have done the right thing and still experience the negative effects and reactions of the issue.
If you know the story, you will remember that Nebuchanezzar was forced to put Daniel in the lion’s den because it was his edict that Daniel transgressed against. The next morning when the king came to look in on Daniel they expected the worse but as they opened the gate they were amazed at what they found. To their amazement Daniel walked out of the den without a bite mark or a scratch. God had intervened and the lions had not touched him. This reminds me of the words of Peter who stated that the enemy of our souls is like a roaring lion who is seeking who he can devour. The enemy can growl, roar, and swipe his claws at us but if we remain faithful he cannot harm us. He can frighten us and scare us but he can not take away our faith.
The greatness of this story is found in Daniel’s response to this miracle. Daniel proclaims O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths (God gets the glory for this), and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces (Daniel 6:21-24).
Notice something about this story. Daniel’s faith in God propelled him into the lion’s den because he would not compromise but it was also his faith in God that saved him. Because he was a righteous man and a passionate follower of God he was righteous in his thinking, his attitudes, and his focus. He trusted God and God came through big time. God kept the lions at bay. If you do not believe this look what happened to those who were found guilty of setting Daniel up. His accusers were thrown into the den and the lions did not hesitate to devour them. It is as if God wanted them to know that the reason that Daniel was saved was not a lack of appetite on the part of the lions but the glory of God that kept Daniel safe.
Finally, our focus is on Christ but it is also on what is yet to come. As we read at the end of this passage we find And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. What the writer is saying is that there is something much better for us. The future is ahead and God has great plans. While we have to live life in the present we do so with a future in mind. The problem is that we get so trapped in the present that we miss what is ahead. We can be so trapped in what is happening now or in the past that we miss that God is moving and working on our behalf for our future.
Most of those who are listed in Hebrews 11 never saw their dreams totally fulfilled but that did not stop them from being obedient. They were waiting for a day that they would come and they would live with God forever. Their faith was based in the hope of God but also in the future promise given to them. They looked to the day that Messiah would come and they looked for the day that their eternal home was prepared for them. They realized that this world was not their home. It was only a stopping off place. God had a better place and He had a better life for them.
In the final analysis, the overall lesson of the Hall of Fame of Faith is that we must trust Christ and He is worthy of our trust. He is the Lion and the Lamb that sits on the throne and is fighting for us every moment of every day. He is with us and that means everything. So in the few moments we have left I would ask that you focus your attention on Christ. No matter what you are facing turns your eyes toward Jesus. He is faithful and He is trustworthy.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom