If Faith Took A Selfie…Hebrews Chapter 11
Last post (please click HERE), we looked at two times that the Bible recorded Jesus as being amazed—one was at the strength of faith of a Roman commander; the other was at the lack of faith of Jesus’ own people in Jesus’ own hometown.
We looked at a few of the characteristics of the Roman commander’ strong faith that amazed Jesus—the commander:
-Actively sought out Jesus with the situation he was facing
-Believed Jesus had the power to help him through that situation
-Realized that Jesus didn’t even have to be physically present in order to help him through that situation because Jesus fits in no box, whether coffin or china cabinet; He is not limited in the ways that we are limited;
-Admitted that he did not deserve to have Jesus bless him or even meet with him; he was humble and saw himself accurately—as being unworthy of Jesus’ love but also as being loved by Jesus!
-Trusted the power of Jesus’ words;
-Understood that EVERYTHING is under the authority of Jesus; that Jesus is King over EVERYTHING and EVERYONE and EVERY SITUATION that we face.
We also saw some of the characteristics of the lack of faith of the people of Jesus’ hometown:
-They saw Jesus ONLY through their physical eyes and not through the eyes of faith; to them He was ONLY a human and not also God, the Savior;
-They were offended by His wisdom, by His authority, by His miracles; they did not want to submit and surrender to this carpenter Who “grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.”
-They put Jesus in a box, they limited His ability to do miracles because their faith only offered Him a tiny area on the shelf instead of total access to their souls.
And so this during this post, we are going to continue to look at Biblical portraits of strong faith, of faith in Jesus that amazes Him. If faith were to take a selfie, what would it look like? We will get a clear picture of strong faith in Jesus by looking at Hebrews chapter 11, the so-called “hall of fame” of faith.
But before we turn there, let’s briefly talk about why this matters. Some might be asking in their minds,
“What’s the big deal? If I can get into heaven with a weak faith in Jesus, why would I go through the trouble of having Jesus strengthen my faith in Him, especially since that strengthening is probably going to be painful and difficult?”
Imagine you are an eagle—strong, majestic, a hunter, the lion of the skies, broad powerful wings and an inner desire, an inner sense that you were created to soar high and far in ways and places that no other creature can.
Now imagine that you spend the majority of your eagle-life splashing around in puddles on the ground. At first you realize deep-down that this isn’t really what you were made for, what you were destined to do, it’s not really that fun, you can’t get very far on the ground, you’re kind of stuck in the same place…
…but eventually you start to have a little fun, you kind of like lounging around on the ground, you connect with a bunch of other puddle-eagles—it’s safer in some ways than flying (can’t fall, can’t crash, aren’t beaten around by the wind, can’t get shot by the crazy two-legged creatures, etc.). “I like the ground—I’m a low-rider—I’m just chillin! This is how I roll!”
And by the end of your eagle-life, you may have avoided certain dangers, but you have also missed out on your destiny.
You have avoided falling but you’ve never flown;
you have avoided crashing but you’ve never soared,
you have the tools of an eagle but you haven’t BEEN/ACTED LIKE one.
You weren’t a lion of the skies you were a mouse of the fields.
THIS is what happens when we Christians do not ask Jesus to strengthen our faith in Him, this is what happens when we Christians do not regularly put ourselves in a humbled posture at Jesus’ feet so that He can transform our faith in Him—we miss out on soaring. JESUS CREATED US TO HAVE STRONG FAITH IN HIM, and nothing less than that will satisfy the deepest desires of our souls, NO PUDDLE on the ground can replace flying with and for Jesus Christ…
(Bible verses below in bold italics, my thoughts in regular type)
Hebrews 11 (NIV)
Faith in Action
11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
[Many modern people say, “I will believe in Jesus if I see Him.”
Jesus wants us instead to say, “I will see Him if I believe.”
Mark 15:32: Mockingly people said, “Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.”
John 11:40: “Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
Notice the distinction?
The scoffers want their sight to fuel their faith;
believers realize that their faith will fuel their sight.
- Hebrews 11 is CHOCK FULL of normal, ordinary, broken people through whom God shined BRIGHTLY, in whom God planted, grew, developed and strengthened a great faith in HIM that produced an ABUNDANT HARVEST of worship, works, and witness!!!
3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
[Our faith in Jesus will fuel our understanding, but many of us want our understanding/intellect/experiences to fuel our faith:
Jesus wants me to forgive them, but I’ve SEEN what they did to me, and so I won’t
Jesus wants me to serve others, but I’ve SEEN how little time I have, so I won’t
Jesus wants me to pray, but I’ve SEEN that it hasn’t made a difference in the past, so I won’t
Jesus wants me to sacrificially give money back to Him, but I’ve SEEN my bank account, so I won’t
Jesus wants me to invest in my marriage, but I’ve SEEN what my spouse has done, so I won’t
Jesus wants me to read the Bible regularly, but I’ve SEEN how difficult it is, so I won’t
Jesus wants me to introduce others to Him, but I’ve SEEN how scared/”unqualified” I am, so I won’t…
Etc. etc. etc.]
4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
[This verse teaches us that what we offer to God–our time, talents, and treasures–
is based on our FAITH in Him,
not on our abilities/talents/experience/training/circumstances/stage of life, etc.]
5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”[a] For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
[Our faith in Jesus is lived out, like Enoch, in relationship with Jesus each day. Enoch was one who “walked with God,” not one who simply thought about God every now and then]
7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
[Our faith in Jesus is lived out, like Noah, in obeying Jesus though He asks us to do actions and believe Truth that seems FOOLISH and RIDICULOUS to others. Many 21st century American Christians work HARD to not seem weird/strange to non-Christians, to fit in with them, but as we grow closer to Jesus there will be parts of our actions and beliefs that should seem VERY strange to them, that will not and should not fit at all…]
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
[Like Abraham, our faith in Jesus doesn’t need to have “all the answers,” we don’t need to have it all figured out before we can trust Him. We often, before we follow Jesus, want Him to give us the Mapquest itinerary with destination, detailed directions (turn here after 2.4 miles), alternate routes (oh how we LOVE alternate routs–this way has traffic/construction [e.g. I don’t LIKE this way!]; let’s find another way that we like better!), and restaurants/motels along the way. Jesus often simply says to us, “Follow Me, one step at a time, and the route will unfold before you.”]
11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
[Faith in Jesus is not just believing that He is real, it’s also believing that He is GOOD, that He is TRUSTWORTHY, that He is FAITHFUL, that HE knows what He is doing in our lives even when we DON’T know what He is doing! 🙂 Thus Psalm 136 (please click HERE) begins with declaring that the LORD is GOOD…]
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
[Faith in Jesus continues to believe even when we don’t get what we think we should get when we think we should get it. Those with faith in Jesus still suffer, still wait, still long, still hunger, still die, but they live by faith in Him THROUGH all of that—none of those things STOPS or DEFEATS our faith in Christ because our faith isn’t based on how EASY He makes our lives but instead on how PAINFUL He made His life on the cross for us…]
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[c] 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
[Faith in Jesus sacrifices, pours itself out for God & others, empties itself, just as Jesus did the same for all of us on the Cross. Faith in Jesus is NOT easy, is not painless, is not neat/tidy—it is not the painfree cutting off of an infant’s umbilical cord but the daily amputation of self—faith in Jesus HURTS, just as it did for Abraham in the verses here]
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
[Faith in Jesus worships Him even when we are dying, even when a delightful situation is fading away, even when God is answering our prayers for healing differently than we want Him to. It takes FAITH in Jesus to start singing a worship song of praise on earth that we will only finish in heaven]
22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
[Faith in Jesus believes the unchanging Word of God by preparing for tomorrow even though today feels like the end of the world, just as Jeremiah, when Judah was about to be destroyed by Babylon/be deported to a foreign country as slaves/have their land taken from them, just as Jeremiah right BEFORE all that happened decided to purchase a field from his family member because Jeremiah believed God’s promise that eventually He would allow His people to return to their homeland. Now THAT’S faith…”God has promised me a child, so before he/she is even conceived I’m going to pay for his/her college education!” As someone has said, “Love and faith are planting a tree under whose shade you will never sit.”]
23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
[Faith in Jesus puts the cross before the flag,
puts Christ before culture,
puts the Savior’s Truth before society’s tweets and tantrums]
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
[Faith in Jesus wants the slimy oatmeal of reality instead of the succulent steak of the Matrix;
faith in Jesus is willing to suffer today by following Jesus because of the Truth that He will lead us tomorrow (someday!) to His Father’s House where suffering will be at the top of the extinction list;
faith in Jesus flexes today by focusing on tomorrow;
faith in Jesus perseveres because our eyes are on Christ and not our circumstances,
because our faith in Christ is not an annual event (when things go well!)
but a daily reality (even when things go wrong).
Though probably RIDICULOUS to the ancient Egyptians, like Moses’ faith that applying the blood of a lamb to their door frames would save his family & people from God’s earthly judgment, faith in Jesus believes that applying the blood of the Lamb of God—Jesus—to our lives/to our sins will also save us from God’s Final Judgment.
29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
[Faith in Jesus follows Him into places where no human has ever travelled, the uncharted, the unprecedented, the unimagined, the unprepared for–because we believe that God Himself goes with us, that though WE might not be prepared God has been preparing us for this portion of the journey and has been preparing this portion of the journey for us…]
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.
[Faith in Jesus believes that ONLY GOD can deliver us from the trials that we face and that God’s commands for us in such trials, however foolish to the culture around us, are to be faithfully followed in our daily lives]
31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
[Faith in Jesus believes that His grace can forgive ANYONE who is willing to be forgiven, even prostitues]
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[e] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
[Faith follows Jesus THROUGH ANYTHING today because of what He went through for us yesterday, because He is with us today, and because of where He is taking us tomorrow—faith in Jesus is informed by God’s promises in the past, the present, and the future]
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
[Now I don’t know exactly how that all applies to your particular life right now, but I do know three things from this morning’s Bible passages:
- Jesus will help you apply His Truth to your life if you will let Him.
- Jesus is AMAZED by the faith—or lack of faith—that humans have in Him.
- Jesus can take even the weakest/non-existent faith in Him and transform it into a Hebrews 11 faith in Him, if we will let Him.
I recently read an illustration of a boy becoming a man by being left blindfolded overnight on a tree stump in the middle of the rainforest. He had to stay in that spot all night no matter what happened around him and could only remove the blindfold once he saw the sun’s rays in the morning. After a terrifying night of howling wind, torrential rain, crashing thunder, and the fearful sounds of jungle predators, when he took off the blindfold he saw his Dad sitting right next to him and found out that he had been there the whole time, keeping watch over him through the night.
God asks us to have the same faith in Him, that even though in one sense we are blindfolded (physically seeing Him) we can trust through the eyes of faith (and the light of His Word, the Bible!) that He is there with us transforming us into men and women of His in the midst of the wind, rain, thunder, and predators!
Ephesians 3:16—“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
Paul prays for God’s power so that Jesus can live in our hearts through faith. We need the same—we cannot have faith in Jesus on our own but we need His power every moment of every day!
“Increase our faith!” the disciples asked Jesus in Luke 17:5—and HE DID…He transformed their faith in Him to the point that they willingly and joyfully suffered and died in order to share Him with others! May we have the courage to ask Him to transform our faith in the same way…
We just read through Hebrews chapter 11 together…let’s declare “chapter 11” bankruptcy to Jesus, let’s admit that our faith is empty/weak/not nearly as strong as it could be and that we need Him to strengthen it, to fill our bank account of faith with His limitless assets of faith, hope and love!