Faith Overcomes All Challenges

daniel“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” (Heb. 11:32-33).

An attitude of faith is an overcoming attitude. It is not a defeatist attitude. It is a winning attitude. It is a victorious attitude that trusts God to overcome any challenge. In v. 33, the verb “conquered” (katagonizomai) means “conquer, defeat, overcome.” (Gingrich) The “kingdoms” (basileia) refer to Israel’s enemies (Deut. 3:21; Ps. 79). People of faith did not just win battles. They conquered kingdoms. It speaks of literal conflict, not merely spiritual conflict. Hence, Gideon led Israel to defeat the Midianites (Judg. 7:1-25). Barak conquered the armies of Jabin, the king of Canaan (Judg. 4:1-16). Samson defeated the Philistines (Judg. 16:23-3). Jephthah overcame the Ammonites (Judg. 11:29-33). David conquered the Philistines (2 Sam. 5:17-25).

They also “enforced justice” (v. 33). The context is about the rulers of Israel, such as Samson, Jephthah, and David, who enforced justice in the land. “So David reigned over all Israel. And David administered justice and equity to all his people” (2 Sam. 8:15).

By faith, they “obtained promises” (v. 33). It refers to receiving God’s promises in the present time on earth. Thus, Abraham, “having patiently waited, obtained the promise” (Heb. 6:15). It does not contradict what is written in Heb. 11:13-16, and 39. There, the writer speaks about not receiving God’s promise of a future homeland, a better country, the city of God.

By faith, they “stopped the mouths of lions” (v. 33). It refers clearly to Daniel in the lions den (Dan. 6:16-23). In Dan. 6:22, the angel of God stopped the lions’ mouths. But in Heb. 11, faith stopped the lions’ mouths. Hence, the faith of Daniel moved God to shut the lions’ mouths. Faith trusts God to overcome trials.

Faith Works

sermon_faithworksNow Rahab lied to the soldiers of Jericho who were looking for the spies. She claimed that she did not know where they came from. She said that the men already fled. She did not know where they went (Josh. 2:4-5). But in Hebrews 11, the writer is not focused on her act of lying. Rather, he points out her act of receiving the spies. Her act of receiving the spies was an act of faith. Rahab did not just trust God and sit down there doing nothing. She took action. She received the spies. She hid them in her house.

Faith in Christ is not trusting without working. True faith in Christ takes action. It is a faith that works. Rahab’s faith was demonstrated by works. That is the point of James in James 2:25-26,

And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

How about your faith in Christ? Is your faith expressed in your works? Are you giving back to the Lord? Are you helping some poor person? Are you encouraging others in the name of Christ? Faith acts. If your faith does not act, it is a dead faith. If it acts, it is a living faith–growing, thriving, and bearing fruit.

Conclusion

Faith takes the risk in obedience to God. Faith persists in obeying God. Faith takes action.

Faith Takes Action

Rahab-banner“By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Heb. 11:31). The writer cites Rahab’s act of receiving the spies (Josh. 2:1-14). Let’s review the story in Joshua 2:1-3.

And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, ‘Go, view the land, especially Jericho.’ And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. 2 And it was told to the king of Jericho, ‘Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.’ 3 Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, ‘Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.’

Why did Rahab welcome the two spies of Joshua? The reason is in Joshua 2:8-11. Rahab had already put her faith in Yahweh, the God of Israel. Read how Rahab explained herself in vv. 8-11.

8 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, ‘I know that the LORD has given you the land [emphasis added], and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt [emphasis added], and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.’
[emphasis added]

Rahab believed in the promises of Yahweh (v. 8). She believed in the power and fear of Yahweh (v. 10). She believed in Yahweh as the only true God in the heavens above and the earth beneath (v. 11).

Then she asked for a favor from the spies (vv. 12-14).

12 ‘Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign 13 that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.’ 14 And the men said to her, ‘Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.’

After the fall of Jericho, the Israelites spared the lives of Rahab and her family. The writer of Hebrews is concerned about how Rahab exercised her faith in God. He notes that by faith, Rahab welcomed the spies. “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Heb. 11:31). In the Greek, it reads literally, “having received the spies with peace.” (Young Literal Translation) The writer uses the aorist participle—“having received” (dexamene). The aorist participle speaks of time of action simultaneous to the main verb which is also aorist. The main verb “perish” is aorist (sunapoleto). Thus, by faith, having received the spies, Rahab did not perish with the disobedient.

The faith of Rahab is in the act of receiving the spies.

Faith Persists in Obeying God

jericho_walls_25-162“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days” (Heb. 11:30). The writer recalls the fall of the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6:1-21). Joshua 6 reads,

2 And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. 4 Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. . . 15 On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.” . . . . 20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.” (1-4, 15-16, 20).

In Bible study, we must understand the text from the point of view of the writer, not from our point of view. There are many details of the story in Joshua 6. But the writer of Hebrews focused only on the encircling of the walls for seven days. He seems to point out the persistence of the Israelites. They obeyed God’s instructions. They marched around the walls once for six days. On the seventh day, they marched around the city seven times.

They could have decided to stop what they were doing. They could have said that what they were doing was crazy. “What are we doing marching around the walls for six days now?” They could have complained against the LORD. But they didn’t think that way. Rather, they persisted until they finished marching for seven days. Their marching was an act of persistent faith. Their faith was marked by perseverance.

Faith persists in obeying God. The mark of true followers of Christ is perseverance in Christ. It is endurance in Christ. It is persistent faith in Christ.

That is the theme of the book of Hebrews—enduring faith in Christ. Enduring faith is faith that endures over time. It endures over many trials. It endures over the present troubles.

Is your faith in Christ enduring? Does it endure through trials and troubles? Does it endure through time? Is your faith there today but gone the next day? Is your faith a one-time experience or an ongoing journey? Enduring faith in Christ is never a one-time experience. It is an on-going, long-term journey of walking with God.

Faith Takes That Risky Step of Faith

09b5e5680a117cec425d5ce241813c8eThen the LORD spoke to Moses.

The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. 16 Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground . . . 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.” (Ex. 14:15-17, 21-23).

The writer of Hebrews points out that by faith the Israelites crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land (Heb. 11:29). Before crossing the Red Sea, they lacked faith. After they heard Moses, their faith grew. By faith, they moved forward and crossed the Red Sea. But the Egyptians crossed the Red Sea, and were drowned.

What is the attitude of faith of the people of Israel? They took the risk in obedience to God. They were terrified. They were complaining. But they obeyed God. When they took the risk of crossing the Red Sea, they proved their faith in God. (James Moffatt)

Taking that risky step of faith proves your faith in God. You may be afraid like the Israelites today. You may even complain like the Israelites today. But by faith, I urge you to take that step of faith and move forward. By faith, take the risk in obedience to God’s command. Stop fearing. Stand firm. See the salvation of the LORD today!

Faith Takes the Risk in Obedience to God

Moses and the Jewish People Crosses Red Sea - Hebrews 11“By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned” (Heb. 11:29). The writer goes back to the story of the escape of Israel from the Egyptian army (Exodus 14). The people of Israel were encamped in the night at the Red Sea. Behind them were the Egyptians. They were getting nearer and nearer. The Israelites felt a great fear. They cried out to the LORD.

11They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is not this what we said to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” 13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Ex. 14:11-14).

They were complaining loudly to Moses. They said that Moses should have left them alone in Egypt. It was better for them to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert. They showed a remarkable lack of faith in God. In reply, Moses told them three things—stop being afraid, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD today. The Egyptians you see today, you will never see again, said Moses. The LORD will fight for you.

That’s a good message for all of us today. What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of someone or something today? Are you afraid that you will not be healed of your sickness? Are you afraid that you will lose your job? Are you afraid that you cannot pay your debts? Are you afraid of rampant terrorism and criminality? Let me tell you what Moses told the Israelites. Stop fearing, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD today! The LORD will fight for you!

Faith Continues Steadfast by Looking to God

mosespartingtheredsea200pxBy faith, Moses renounced the power and privileges of a son of  Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to suffer maltreatment with God’s people. He chose to reject the fleeting pleasures of sin. He counted the reproach of Christ as greater wealth than the wealth of Egypt.

“By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27). He was looking to the reward. Because of that, Moses left Egypt by faith. When he left Egypt, he was not afraid of the anger of the king. That was an act of faith also.

Moses endured in his faith in God. The verb “endured,” from kartereo, means “persevere” (Gingrich); “endure patiently, persevere, persist.” (Friberg). This is an important quality of true faith—endurance. True faith perseveres.

How did Moses endure in his faith in God? The writer gives us the reason in v. 27—“for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.” Translated literally, the Greek reads, “for, as seeing the Invisible One—he endured” (Heb 11:27, YLT). Moses endured because he “saw” the unseen God.

Does this mean that the writer is talking about Moses seeing God? No, because his emphasis is more of the faith of Moses, rather than on the visions of Moses. He is not so much concerned with Moses’ seeing God literally, as in Moses trusting God actually. The writer is speaking more about Moses’ endurance of faith, rather than his visions of faith. (Attridge) He is referring to Moses’ steadfast faith in the purposes of God when he left Egypt. (Ellingworth) The context is about looking to a future reward of God (v. 26). Thus, the writer is saying that Moses’ faith endured because he is looking unto the invisible God, i. e., the faithfulness of God and the fulfillment of the promises of God. On the same vein, the writer can then urge his readers to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus” (Heb. 12:1-2).

A good example of Moses’ God-focused faith is when he kept the Passover. “By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them” (Heb. 11:28). God promised to deliver Israel from the Egyptians. But God had to judge the Egyptians. His judgment came with the death of every firstborn in Egypt. Yet God promised that He will spare the firstborn of Israel. Now because Moses looked forward to the fulfillment of God’s salvation of Israel, he kept the Passover.

The Passover was a memorial of God’s passing over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt. It was a memorial of how the LORD spared the Israelites from the destroyer of the firstborn. The LORD commanded the Israelites to kill the Passover lamb. They were to dip hyssop in the blood of the lamb. They were to touch the two doorposts of their houses with the blood of the lamb. When the LORD saw the blood of the lamb on the doorposts, He passed over the door. He did not allow the Destroyer to enter the house to strike them.

By faith, Moses kept the Passover. He established the Passover for Israel. It was an act of faith. It shows that he fixed his eyes on God’s plan to save Israel. Moses’ faith endures because it keeps on believing on the fulfillment of the purposes of the invisible God.

Conclusion

Faith cancels the fear of man. Faith chooses the plan of God over the pleasures of sin. Faith counts on God’s future reward over worldly wealth. Faith continues steadfast by looking to God.