Our sermon today is on Overcoming Faith. What makes faith a unique characteristic of a Christian discipleship is that faith requires a childlike responsiveness to God’s leadership and planning. Faith does not question whether God is going to fulfill his promises of salvation, but waits patiently. Faith believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Faith requires us to make righteous responses in the midst of our struggles.
FAITH defined from the Greek begins with conviction of the truth, God is and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation; Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we gain eternal salvation. It includes fidelity, the character of one who can be relied on; and one who keeps promises.
Hebrews 11.23-29, 30-31::: When we look back on the canvas of history, we are witnesses to the Responsible Choices of Moses’ parents, Moses, Joshua, and Rahab the prostitute who gained victory over their situations by faith. Each one preferred loyalty to the invisible God rather than submitting to the visible reality of their circumstances. They pursued fearlessly the righteousness of following this invisible God. Responsible means that their choices were dependable, trustworthy, and fully accountable. When we make responsible choices, we react to our circumstances as if we are standing before Almighty God in judgement.
When we think about Moses’ parents, we can only imagine the courage that it took to conceal an infant with dirty diapers and 2am feedings. To be sure faith believes that God sees the oppressed and preserves their lives.
When we look at the story of Rahab, her faith was dynamic enough to believe that a scarlet thread hanging from a window could save her family. This is the perfect example of what we might call “hanging from a thread.” When we think of this idiom, we realize that something bad is about to happen yet by faith Rahab believed that God would deliver her from that negative experience. Because faith believes that God sees the repentant and rescues the perishing.
Hebrews 11.31-35::: We are witnesses of characters like Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets who experienced the Vindication Preference that conquerred evil, confronted politics, addressed social justice, sought the prophetic promises of God for the future of God’s people, obtained personal deliverance from troubles to vindicate God’s people, and gained victory over death. Vindicate means to make choices that are valid, defendable, and justifiable. When we make vindicating choices, we reflect on our choices as if we were standing before Almighty God in judgement.
Faith looks beyond the here and now to what God intends for his people. Faith is individual realized and community focused. Faith never looks to our own interests but looks to the fulfillment of what’s best for God’s community. Faith within both individuals and communities leads to experiences of God’s miraculous power among God’s people. Faith believes against impossible odds.
Hebrews 11.35-38::: We are witnesses to the many who where unfairly treated by torture and imprisonment, particularly involuntary mistreatment that was coerced and forced upon them. Hardship Consequences of faith come when one is under duress (pressure, coercion) of punishment, defamation of character, calamity, and rejection. Hardship choices come as adversity, suffering, and difficulty and require us to choose rightly before a Holy God who desires us to line our will up with his. Faith believes in the ultimate outcome of salvation.
Former Bishop of Kingston England Huge Montefoire wrote in Black’s New Testament: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, “The world has rejected such people [of salvation history]; and yet the world [godless] does not deserve to have them even if it were to accept them” (211). By the word “world” the writer is referring to those who are without God. The author of Hebrews inspires us to press on into the difficult places of decision-making to seek to do what is righteous before God.
Hebrews 11.39-40::: Each of these witnesses have won their testimony of faith. They each have completed their lives by creating an Enduring Legacy. Enduring means long-term, permanent, and lasting effects. When we make choices in our lives, we must understand that each one has an effect on the rest of our days. To be sure we each and everyone will stand before God for the decisions we make today, but the author wants us to know that history stands incomplete without each one of our faithful decisions. Faith believes in leaving a legacy of righteousness for God’s sake not thinking of their own name.
Hebrews 12.1-3::: We are witnesses to the climax of faithfulness as witnessed in Jesus Christ. Christ stands as victor because of his Obedient Lifestyle. Jesus inspires us to endure the shame of being misunderstood in our culture. His witness enables us to not tire or lose heart when we find ourselves facing great opposition. When we read the first verses of chapter 12, it is easy for us to imagine a stadium full of people – the great cloud of witnesses, and us as the final participants in a immense relay race. This great cloud of witness are not merely spectators, but have themselves participated in the relay race and are now rooting on their team mates until the race is completed. Faith believes that it is critical to do what is right no matter the cost, even unto death.
The text calls us to lay aside every thing that might get in our way of successfully completing the race. Whatever is getting between you and God, get rid of it! This is a marathon and we are called to prepare to remain faithful through every leg of the race. We are called to take our eyes off ourselves – our own selfish ambition and physical comfort – and place our eye on the goal that lies ahead of us which is not heaven, but Jesus Himself.
Our goal in this race is not to save ourselves for eternity by knowing the guy who can get us into heaven. Our goal is to know Jesus as the prize we seek. Jesus is the One who inspires us to live into our faithful witness. Jesus is not only the source of our faith, but the guide for our faithfulness. Faith calls us to look to Jesus as our example.
Christ silently endured with steadfast faithfulness the strain of persecution. His faithful response to opposition brought about judgement on those who brought him trouble. The author is unclear as to where the opposition has come from, but nevertheless the call to faithful perseverance remains clear. The author wants us to meditate on Jesus’ attitude unto death. Whenever our faith is being tested we are to cling to the image of Jesus.
As we reflect upon the text today let us remember that faith calls us to accept hardship, reproach, and contradictions as a part of our journey. We are to stand boldly with courage, fearlessly being heroic, enduring all things, persevering through troubles, and living with vitality. Faith always captures our attention that we make good choices, motivates us to respond righteously, and rescues us from the dangers of being apathetic in what we believe. Salvation history with all her witnesses stand to inspire us to live lives of radical hospitality for our neighbors. The future belongs to God, and we belong to God. Let Jesus be your guide for how you respond in times of trial by child-like faithfulness.
Our testimony remains for us to complete. We have the opportunity to share our lives with others by our Faithful Witness. The author instructs us specifically to lay aside every obstacle that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us that we might run the race laid out for us by keeping our eyes upon the goal of our salvation, Jesus Christ. This race we are running is a pre-planned course that has its hazards along the wayside. To be sure believers are not to seek out opposition but opposition will surely come to those who are imitating Christ.
Today you will be handed a pencil on your way out. It is a symbol of a racing baton. I urge you to run your race before God and humanity setting your eyes on Jesus. Take your baton and share your faithful endurance with someone else this week.