DEVOTIONS AND SERMONS

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Acting On Our Faith
 

The point of faith is believing. Moses chose to believe. Those who followed him out of Egypt choose to believe-though for some the belief was short-lived. Many who heard Jesus speaking that day in the temple choose to continue to follow Him...while others turned away and may have been among those in the crowd whipped to a frenzy as they shouted, "Crucify him!"

There will always be those who choose not to believe, but for whatever reason, we have chosen to believe. We have locked arms with faith and determined to hold on tight...no matter what. We have reached a unique point in the call: a call to action.

The question we need to ask is : what do our actions say about what we believe, even in the worst of times?

Let's take a deeper look at what Hebrews 11 said about specific men and women of our faith's history. Before we do, however, let's look at the verses found at the beginning, in the center, and at the end of the "hall of faith ," paying close attention to the last lines.

Hebrews 11:1-3
1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
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.


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. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 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.

Hebrews 11:13-16
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. And they admitted that they were aliens 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.


These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Vs. 39,40)

THE HALL OF FAITH

Who Were They: Abel and Enoch

What Did They Do: Abel gave an offering that pleased God. Such an offering was his, that in the day of the writing of Hebrews, it was still being spoken of. While his sacrifice put a smile on God's face, it caused his brother, Cain, to become jealous...to the point of murder. Abel's faith resulted in his death.

Enoch "pleased God." Enoch walked with God so much so that God took him home in such a way other than by death.

Genesis 5:22
And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters.

Can you imagine this for a moment? One minute he's there, walking with God in a spiritual sense and then, in the next second, literally walking with God. Having sought His face, he then beheld it.

We don't know about bad times for Enoch, but we do know that he lived in the pre-flood era, a time when men were becoming "corrupt and wicked." (Genesis 6) For a man of God to live in a time of wickedness is difficult. We today who walk in the Light should know this situation well.

We also know that Enoch was born in the 7th generation after Adam and three before Noah, whose family alone survived the great flood of Genesis 6. According to the records of the family from Adam to Enoch (through the lineage of Seth), Adam alone had died a natural death. All the rest were still very much alive. But the important thing to note about Enoch is that he walked with God before God took him up and that he did so for three hundred years. He didn't wait until the sweet "by and by" to have constant fellowship with God, but grabbed hold of the minutes in the every day to deepen their relationship.

If we walk with God, we have the testimony that we please Him; we have the sweetness of communion with God, the testimony of His Spirit, His intercourse with us in the sense of His presence, the consciousness of walking according to His word, which we know to be approved by Him -in a word, a life which, spent with Him and before Him by faith, is spent in the light of His countenance and in the enjoyment of the communications of His grace and of a sure testimony, coming from Himself that we are pleasing to Him. A child who walks with a kind father and converses with him, his conscience reproaching him with nothing-does he not enjoy the sense of his parent's favour?

Who Were They: Noah and Abraham

What Did They Do: Noah, Genesis 6 tells us, found favor in the eyes of God while the rest of the world lived in corruption. This was a very bad time in the history of man. We know, based on God's words to Noah, from the time Noah got the word to build a boat until the actual flood, was 120 years. That's a long time to work on a God-project with no proof that what you are doing is even necessary. But, look at what these lines of Scripture tell us:

Genesis 6:9
This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.

Genesis 6:22
Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

Genesis 7:5
And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.

Noah's faith preceded the warnings about the flood, held true during the instructions from God, and stayed on course just before the floodgates opened.

Abraham's story is fascinating. Nearly everything (though not all) about it shouts: MAN OF FAITH! He is not noted for one single act of faith, but by many acts of faith. Even within the verses of Hebrews 11 we learn that:

1) Abraham was willing to leave his home for a place God had prepared for him, even though he didn't know where it was.

2) He lived as a nomad in a place that was foreign to him, and raised his children there.

3) He looked forward to a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

4) He believed and was enabled to become a father, not only as an old man but also by a barren woman. From his seed would come not just one, but also billions.

5) When tested, Abraham was willing to lay his son Isaac on the altar and sacrifice him if need be. But by his words found in the Genesis story, we can ascertain that not once did Abraham lose the belief that from Isaac would not die and by him would come many nations.

Who Were They: Isaac and Jacob

What Did They Do: Isaac, the son of Abraham, was the father of twin boys, Esau and Jacob. Esau was the older and the one closest to his father's heart because of their common interests. When Isaac blessed his sons, he thought he was giving the "good blessing" to his older boy, but rather had been conned by the younger, Jacob.

This was, however, how God had intended it. Isaac was a man who trusted God and God did not falter from His ultimate plan for His people, in spite of Isaac's devotion to Esau.

Jacob...well, Jacob was a bit of a con artist. No...not a bit of one...he was one! Yet, God loved him dearly and placed on him a patriarchal calling. From Jacob's sons would come the twelve tribes of Israel.

Though Jacob had twelve sons, only ten would become the heads of the tribes. Levi's offspring would serve as priests over the people while Joseph's two sons took the place of himself and Levi.

When Jacob was dying, Joseph brought his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to be blessed by his father. Because Manasseh was the older, Jacob's right hand was to rest upon his head with the left hand upon Ephraim. But Jacob, this man who had conned his older brother out of a blessing by their father Isaac and who had preferred marriage to the younger sister Rachel over the older Leah, switched his hands, giving the greater blessing to the younger son.

Why? It was God-ordained. Jacob, no longer the young con artist, was guided by the Spirit of God in all he did as he blessed his sons and grandsons.

Who Were They: Joseph and Moses

What Did They Do: Joseph, despised by his brothers and sold into slavery, became the governor of Egypt after a long period of imprisonment due to a false testimony against him. Because of his faithfulness to God, when the Hebrews were in the midst of a famine and near starvation, they were received by the prosperous Joseph. In spite of the fact that his nation of people now lived on foreign soil, Joseph believed with his dying breath that they would return to the land God had promised them and that his very bones would be buried in his homeland.

Four hundred years later, with the man named Moses, this came to be.

Not only was Moses a man of faith, his parents were people of faith. They believed that he was no ordinary child and when the king declared that all the male Hebrew babies were to be slaughtered, they hid him. Though he grew up in the home of Pharaoh's daughter and could rightfully be heralded as a prince, he protected his own people, who were now slaves, to the point of murder. He fled into the land of Midian where, forty years later, he heard the voice of God directing him back to Egypt to set the Hebrew prisoners free. By faith he returned and-if you haven't ever seen The Ten Commandments and just don't know the story-he displayed the power of God, trusted God in the first Passover, and led the people out of Israel, even across the waters of the Red Sea.

Who Were They: The Army of Israel and Rahab

What Did They Do: Once the Hebrews had crossed into the Promised Land, God instructed their new leader, Joshua, to take it by force. They came upon the city of Jericho, a fortified city. The walls that surrounded it could have very possibly been double-walled. It was at the heart of the land and may have been the center of worship for the "moon god." How is it that a ragtag bunch of nomads who have wandered the desert for forty years are to come in and conquer this, their very first enemy?

By faith. The walls literally crumbled to the earth after the army marched around the city walls once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day. Ludicrous? Yes! But, by faith they believed God and by faith they obeyed!

Everyone within the city died with the exception of one: a prostitute named Rahab who had given the Hebrew spies shelter and peace, something she could have easily been killed for. In time she adapted the Hebrew culture, then married and gave birth to a son named Boaz, who grew to be a man, the husband of Ruth...and the grandfather of a king named David.

What About Us?

Remarkable. If we have the time, let us go to Hebrews 11 and study in detail those mentioned there. Con artists, murderers, slaves, adulterers, and prostitutes manage to find their names among those who are icons of the faith because of their belief. There's nothing perfect about a single one...and yet they are united by two words: they believed.

According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, one of the definitions of "believe" is "to have a firm conviction." The men and women mentioned in Hebrews 11 were people of "firm conviction." If you go back to the list, check out what each of them did specifically that proved them to be believers. Now, let us ask ourself: in the same circumstances, could we have have done the same? Could we make the same sacrifices and choices?

Could we, like Enoch, walked with God though everyone else lived within the sensual pleasures? Could we, like Noah, have stayed with the boat plans...for 120 years? Could we, like Abraham, have laid your son on an altar or left your home without a map or a direction? Could we, like Moses, returned to a land where we were considered a criminal, only to lead several million people to their freedom?

Let us take some time to write down all the things we believe about God. Now...why do we believe it?