J.G. Stipe - "Faith is like a toothbrush. Every man should have one and use it regularly, but he shouldn't try to use someone else's"
Ernest Wadsworth - Pray for a faith that will not shrink when it is washed in the waters of adversity."
V. Raymond Edman - "Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light."
Frank Clark - "A fellow shouldn't abandon his faith when it weakens, any more than he'd throw away a suit because it needs pressing."
Harold Walker - "We live by faith or do do not live at all. Either we venture--or we vegetate. If we venture, we do so by faith simply because we cannot know the end of anything at its beginning. We risk marriage on faith or we stay single. We prepare for a vocation by faith or we give up before we start. By faith we move mountains of opposition or we are stopped by molehills."
King James: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
Amplified Bible: "Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things we hope for, being the proof of things we do not see and the conviction of their reality -- faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses."
A simple word by word translation from the Greek text:
"Now faith, of things being hoped for, is the reality; of things not being seen, the proof."
If we asked people of today's culture how to determine reality; most answers would involve the senses.
People would say: "Well, if you can see it, touch it, hear it, smell it, etc. then you know that it is real."
This total dependence upon our sensory perceptions puts people of today in a real dilemna when it comes to speaking about faith or about spiritual matters, for in our age we have separated the spiritual into a separate private category.
For the greatest part of recorded history, man understood his life and his world in terms of a unified field of knowledge. What that means is that man understand the supernatural, human history, science, ethics, economics, etc. to be all a part of total reality.
But then some philosophers entered the picture of human history who introduced the concept of rationalism. Rationalism denied the very existence of the supernatural, including -- especially including -- God.
A prime target of rationalism was the Bible. Every supernatural claim of scripture was challenged and reinterpreted. As a result all knowledge and reality was reduced to the area of natural reason.
Natural reason dealt with only what the physical senses could measure and with what the human mind could interpret on its own. Man became the measure of all things. Everything outside the sphere of man's physical experience and intellectual understanding was denied as not existing or minimized as not being important.
However, some philosophers could not accept such a radical approach to reality for it left too many questions unanswered. So they made a place for the supernatural which they called, "the upper story".
The "upper story" was a different category or order of reality than everyday life. They taught that the supernatural, or the "upper story" could not really be known in the way that the everyday world could be known.
Because it could not be known, every person was free to create their own "upper story" according to what they wanted it to be. Thus, you can choose your own supernatural and only what is real to you is really real. You can create your own god, you can create a god as you know him/her or as you want him/her to be (No matter what Scriptures say about who God is). Or you can simply believe in having faith in faith.
Such beliefs obviously led to doing away with all absolutes and standards in spiritual and moral areas. You cannot believe in absolutes when everyone is free to create their own "upper story" according to their own wants and desires. This has led to the relativism of our age which makes the human person the measure and judge of what is truth for him or her.
Such thinking has also impacted theology. A god that may be there, that may be good, that may care is hardly a god that inspires devotion and commitment. A god that man makes and imagines, is a god that man can remake and reimagine.
Thus the messages of our culture; that you can only have faith in what you can see. You can only live for now because there is no eternal meaning to life. There is no real meaning in life in which you can place your faith except whatever meaning you create for yourself. The person next to you places their faith in whatever has meaning to them. Everybody has their own god who does for them what they desire.
For one person their god is drugs. For another person their god is alcohol, or sex, or money, or material things, or education, or status, or power, or a prestigious title, position, degrees, music, sports, success, ownership, etc.
We reveal who our god is when even a Christian parent will say to a child: "No you can't go to a Bible college or go into a ministry vocation because there's not enough money to be made there. There's not enough security."
We reveal who our god is when any of these substitutes make the decisions for us about how to use our time, talents, and treasure.
Looking for their own private personal individual god, people escape into witchcraft, astrology, reincarnation, and countless cults. They are looking for meaning and sense and reality....often while denying that there can be any meaning, sense, or reality beyond self.
The result is hopeless living and hopelessness regarding the future. Nothing matters because there is nothing real to hold on to.
All of this is foundational to understanding how the modern mind and its way of thinking has been developed. For when we read: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."; we are being introduced to a world and to thinking that is foreign to modern man.
Note when you read these scriptures that this is not faith in an uncertainty...this is not faith which leads to a hopelessness which tells us that no one can ever be sure. It is faith with a foundation. It is faith rooted in the God of the Bible, not the god of one's imagination.
The God of the Bible is the only rational answer, the only sure answer to our needs. Only the God who created mankind can ever satisfy mankind. Only the God who made reason can make life reasonable. Only the God who made the universe can show man any purpose in it.
Thus, faith as defined by Hebrews 11:1 is not an imaginery product of the mind of man which has been fabricated out of its own needs, dreams, or desires...but rather Biblical faith is that which is firm and of real existence. Look again at verse one. The Greek text speaks of facts and evidence. We are introduced to a faith that is based upon that which is tested. In the King James you have the word, "evidence, and in the Amplified Bible you have the word "proof".
What is this fact which has been tested and for which evidence and proof can be presented? What is it that is unseen, yet tested and proven as real and eternally important?
The Scriptures proclaim that it is the power of God working through His heavenly government over all the events of history. This power may be unseen at times...but the evidence demonstrates its reality.
What evidence? All the testimonials that follow in verse 3 - 40. The stories of men and women from all ages of time who have stood with God and for God. Stories that speak of the reality of God's power working in personal lives, in families, in nations, and in all history. These are the evidences of Biblical faith.
Contrary to the cultic Christian Science doctrine, and contrary to extreme and unbiblical teachings regarding faith: Our faith does not create reality, but it is based upon the reality of God's government and power.
It is by this kind of biblical faith turned loose in history past...and in the history of your own life...that God's power is seen.
How is this faith turned loose? It is turned loose by the faithful and obedient actions of believers past and present. And by these acts of faith God has brought miracles to bear upon nations and their history, upon individuals and their destiny, upon families and their history, upon cities, schools, churches, marriages, etc.
Someone might object and say that there is too much mystery to that kind of faith...too much that you just can't guarrantee. Well, there is a measure of mystery in all kinds of faith...whether it is biblical faith in the biblical God...or whether it is the natural deposit of faith placed in the hearts of all mankind by the Creator God.
For example: I walk into the pharmacy with this piece of paper which has mysterious writing on it. It looks like gobbley gook...or maybe somebody writing in strange tongues. You're not sure what it is but somebody behind the counter has gone to college to learn how to interpret this mysterious writing.
They interpret it and you are handed a bottle of pills or liquid with clear directions in English which tell you what to do with the contents of the bottle. And you go home and proceed to take these contents of which you know nothing about. And this is only one example out of hundreds which could be used to illustrate the function of faith and mystery in everyday life. And then people try to convice me that they don't have faith and that there is too much mystery to the idea of faith in a God you cannot see?
Listen, biblical faith is filled with mystery...but it is not a whodunit mystery. We know whodunit. God done it. We just don't know how He done it!
But Biblical faith is sure...it is certain...that God has done it. Only Biblical faith can save mankind because the object of Biblical faith is God our Father, Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit our Comforter.
Saving faith is faith which rests in Christ. Faith which looks to Calvary and the great mystery of the ages that God would send His Son in human form to live among us, to be rejected, to die for our sins, to be raised to life in supernatural power, to ascend into heaven...and to one day return with His Kingdom.
The New Testament presents the evidence, the foundation upon which saving faith is established. This faith is sure and certain. It is not faith in faith! It is not faith that creates its own imaginary mental reality. It is faith with substance and evidence. Thus it is faith which produces a living hope which is strong enough to see a person through this life and on into eternity.
This kind of faith operates in a spiritual dimension. It operates beyond the realm of physical senses and emotional feelings.
Listen again to the verse: "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction (the proving) of things not seen."
How do your physical senses work: Well, in a way all of our senses take hold of a sensation and then make it real to us or bring it into the realm of experience. Your eyes take hold of light waves which pulsate through space and make real to a person the things he sees. The ears pick up sound waves and translate them into hearing. Your nose picks up the unseen vapors in the air which tell you that the liquid your wife has just placed on her neck is perfume.
However, there is a whole spectrum of waves beyond the range of physical senses. We cannot see them or hear them or taste them or smell them or feel them. But they are real, nevertheless. With the right instruments you can pick up those waves and translate them into a reality that your senses can understand such as a voice on the radio or a picture on a TV screen.
Faith reaches into an altogether different dimension to bring to us God's realities. Faith reachs out into the spiritual dimension and gives form and substance to heavenly realities in such a way that the spirit of man can interpret them, appreciate them, and live in the enjoyment of them. The Amplified Bible renders this verse, "...faith perceives as real fact what is not revealed to the senses." Thus faith sees the facts!
A blind person by using their hands can "see" your face. They cannot see with their eyes but what they see with their hands is real, isn't it?
In the same way, faith sees what the senses do not see. Faith sees that God is. Faith reaches out and touches Him.
Many people think faith is vague and unreal -- a kind of make- believe; trying to convince themselves that fairy tales are actual reality or trying to make themselves feel certain feelings which they call faith.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Faith is a fact, and it reaches out to facts which are more solid, more real, more substantial, and more eternal than anything registered by our physical senses. The foundational fact is that God is!
Someone has put it this way. There are two great truths on which faith rests:
1. There is a God.
2. You are not He.
The evidence declares that God is!
The evidence in Hebrews 11 comes from Old Testament believers who believed God when faced with something entirely new. Noah had never known of rain or of a universal flood. Abraham had never seen the promised land. And on and on the stories of faith unfold. They are stories of triumph...not always from earth's viewpoint...but always from heaven's viewpoint. They are stories of people who traded earthly things for heavenly things, and God honored them.
And now, in our day, God is looking for names He can add to this story of faith. He wants to add your name and my name to the faith story. God is looking at you. He wants your life to produce evidence that God is!
If I asked you what Hebrews chapter 11 is about; most people would say that it is about faith. But really Hebrews 11 is about God; about the God who is. Biblical faith is not a detached quality rooted and grown in man's ability to trust. Biblical faith is attached to the biblical God, the God who is!
Thus, this chapter is about God. It is about a God worth taking risks for....a God worth leaving home for...a God worth obeying by spending 100 years of your life in building a boat...it is about a God worth turning your back on the world for...a God worth dying for. It is about a God who can be trusted with my family, my job, my home, my finances, my future, and my eternity.
It is about a God big enough to get His will done through people who will trust and obey.
Biblical faith is not about feelings! Biblical faith is about trust and obedience exercised in response to the God who is!
READ THE FAITH STORIES!
These stories are not about perfect people who never made a wrong move, who never missed God. These stories are about people who heeded God's voice, who turned around and made the right move in spite of any wrong moves or sins they had committed. These stories are about people who chose not to stay in their sins but chose to trust and obey. That's why their names are written here.
These are people who did not always understand God...who did not have all the answers to all the mysteries...they could not see or forsee the results of their faith-filled and obedient choices, but they laid it all on the line and acted in faith obeying God's Word to them. That's why their names are written here.
But transcending their names and their faith is the faithful Creator God. Hebrews 11 is about God. A God worthy of our trust and obedience. And it is about the stories of people of faith who knew that God was worthy of their trust and obedience and therefore they acted and lived out their faith.
They are people whose lives proclaimed that believing is seeing when all around them they were surrounded by people whose lives proclaimed that seeing is believing.
That is ALL that makes them different from people who refuse to trust and obey...people whose faith is in self instead of in God.
Sometimes people will say, "Oh, I'm not an Abraham, a Noah, a Moses, etc. I just don't have anything in common with people like that!"
Such reasoning is ridiculous and unbiblical! You can be and do whatever God calls you to be and do by releasing faith to God. You can choose to trust and obey and them be empowered by God to do His will. It is God in the picture and history of your life that makes the difference.
And now your name can be added to the story. God is calling us to be people who turn our faith loose in faithful and obedient actions.
God is looking at you and me.
Maybe you see yourself as weak and defeated when it comes to faith. You need strengthened. You may be like the man who came to Jesus saying: "Lord I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief." (Mark 9:24)
Or you may be looking for a magical faith while God is looking for an obedient faith.
Or you may need to let go of a self-centered faith in order to embrace a faith centered in and committed to the God of the Bible.
Or maybe you have been living in condemnation because somebody tried to depreciate your faith and now you are realizing just how far God has already taken you in this adventure of faith and you know that you want to keep growing and never go back.
Whatever your need..know this: God is looking to add your name to the faith story.
How wonderful to be commended by God! Read what verse 2 says again.
I know that some of the youth already consider some of us to be among those who are ancient. But when my life is really history, how wonderful to be received in heaven and remembered on earth as a person of faith. A person God has included in the grand and glorious faith story. A person commended by God!
Other sermons by Pastor John.