The Future of Faith
Text: Hebrews 11:20-23
Theme: God’s grace is greater than our sin. His power is greater than our failures. His wisdom is greater than ours. Our capacity to rejoice as we go through life’s journeys will be dependent on how we accept God’s choices over our own, God’s ways over our own, and God’s purposes over our own. All of God’s dealing with us is on the basis of grace and when we accept this fact by faith, we enjoy spiritual rest and peace.
1. Our author puts forth the argument, by mentioning Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, that faith succeeds when all human enterprise has failed.
a. These three men’s experiences in blessing the future generation have this in common – human moral failure, even fraud, deceit, hatred, and cruelty surrounded the situations where blessings were passed on to future generations.
b. These three men’s experiences also shared the common ground of faith in God and in God’s purposes, that in spite of all that had gone wrong with people, God would fulfill His promise.
2. This is a message for parents but more than just a message for parents.
a. For us parents, it is important for us to realize the resiliency in our children and, if they have received Christ as Savior, that God will not give up on His own.
b. For all of us who have taken Christ as Savior, however, it is important for us, in light of the failures in our lives and the times we even acted against the purposes of God in Christ Jesus, to realize that God will not give up on us, either. We are brought to maturity not by our own power, nor even our own resolute will, but by the power and will of God.
c. For this world, as well, with its geo-political concerns, with worries over ecology and economy, pollution and population, we also need to realize that God has a plan and that He will work His plan.
3. What did their faith consist of? In what did they believe or in who?
a. They believed in God, that He was greater than we are
b. They believed in grace, that where sin abounds grace super abounds
c. They believed that in spite of the weakness of man, God continues to be strong
d. They believed that in spite of the foolishness of man, God continues to be wise
e. They believed that in spite of the unpredictable nature of life, that God continues to be steadfast and reliable.
f. They believed that in spite of the vacillating purposes of men, that God’s purposes never change.
4. Embracing these truths results in a happy life, a less pressured life.
5. Why not just be happy?
6. What prevents people from being happy?
c. Perfectionism, among Christians – Does your Christian joy depend on you being perfect? Do you need to have a perfect day in order to be happy? Is your happiness just a mask you wear to impress others?
d. Poor prospects for the future
7. I would like to describe the attitude of faith with regard to the future as one that can relax and rest in God. We can describe it in oxymoronic language as relaxed tension. Someone who plays sports knows what this is. It is the combination of a rest and speed that results in a great drive in golf, a great serve in tennis, a great hit in baseball. It celebrates the strength of God and does not get into a hurry about the future. The one who possesses this is happy with the role God has for him to play, the experience God desires him to have, and the responsibilities God entrusts to him. Just like in sports, if we try to force the issue we end up, somehow, in taking some
God’s choice is superior over human choice – Isaac chose Esau, but he knew that God chose Jacob
There is a message for us as a church in this: we are to see one another through the eyes of grace, not holding failures of the past to judge one another with, nor standards that we think are just. We are, first and foremost, to see one another through the eyes of grace, trusting in the sovereignty of God.
Do you feel that God loves you? That is an interesting question. You may say, “No, pastor, I don’t feel loved right now. Life has been hard and tough”, or you may say, “I carry failures from my past with me all the time and I feel rejected by God.” The question is whether we are ruled by our feelings or by God’s truth. The Bible says that God loves you. Do you believe it? If you are a person of faith you are learning to operate on the principle of faith in the revealed truth of God.
Often I have noticed people who feel that they cannot be loved very much by God since they do not seem to have many talents or abilities, or perhaps some might say that they do not possess the impressive spiritual gifts. Or, maybe they haven’t gotten the position in church that they really long to have, and so, they would think, “God must love others more than me.” Such thoughts reveal that someone is evaluating the love of God by observations rather than by faith. Your talents and your positions in life, even your capacity to earn money or enjoy good health, none of those are the supreme display of God’s opinion about you. If you want to know if God loves you, look at the cross! There is proof positive that God loves you deeply and has a wonderful intention toward you.
I have known some fathers who have sons in the ministry and they want to use their influence to secure for their son a position of importance and prestige in some church. Well, who could blame any father for wanting to help his son? That is a good desire! But, in another sense, it is a dangerous thing in Christian ministry to do so. As the psalmist was inspired to write: “For exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another.” (Psalm 75:6-7, NKJV) Dad, don’t do it! Don’t exalt your son over someone whom God has chosen. Let the Lord lift him up and not you! Church work is not about the exaltation of any human personality; it is about the exaltation of the Lord Jesus.
I have often heard about the miraculous conversion to Christianity of a celebrity and immediately that celebrity is placed in the limelight to share his or her faith with others, often with disastrous results. We have too often adorned our Christianity with the notion of celebrity. When these come into the church rather than being greeted like newborn babes in Christ, they are pressured to bloom before they have put roots down, and often they eventually become disenchanted with the church. Rather then helping them grow, we show our worldliness by being in awe of their celebrity status. They feel used by the church rather than loved by the church. What did Paul say about the church in Corinth? He described them in this way. “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things…to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor 1:26-29).
Isaac liked everything about Esau. He liked his manliness, his outdoors interests, his personality. He had closed his eyes to his weaknesses and loved him in spite of them. But in his heart he knew that God had chosen Jacob. Even though Jacob had resorted to trickery and deceit, Isaac must have known that it would be through Jacob that God’s promise to Abraham would bear fruit. Where was Isaac’s faith placed? Very simply, he placed his faith in God, not in Esau nor in Jacob, but in God and he blessed them both with the confidence that God would be faithful to them.
Who does God choose? First, we can note those traits that are not determining factors to God: talent, experience, appearance, parental intention, money, noble birth, power, prestige, position, popularity – in short, virtually all those things that we esteem highly in human society. These things will not guarantee someone to be of great use to God.
Who, then, does God choose? We must leave room for God’s arbitrariness. God selects people to play certain roles before they are born. Shakespeare once wrote: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Whereas we want to emphasize the proper attitudes, at the same time we will often feel like we have failed if we haven’t measured up to someone else’s achievements. Thinking like this is always wrong because it fails to take into account the particular circumstances of life. You and I are never held accountable by God for someone else’s opportunities, only our own.
God desires that we prepare our hearts for usefulness in the right way. If we could sum it all up we would say that God uses the person who acknowledges his own weakness and God’s own strength.
· God rejects the proud but embraces the humble, James 4:6.
· God desires, in fact, that the person He uses have a broken and contrite spirit, Psalm 51:17.
· God looks for the person who turns from the wrong things and turns to Him in repentance and obedience, Prov. 28:13, 2 Timothy 2:20-21.
· God’s eyes search the entire world for that man or woman, that boy or girl, whose heart is perfect toward Him, 2 Chronicles 16:9.
· God looks for the person who with expectation prepares himself to be used of God, 2 Timothy 1:14; 2:15.
· God uses the person who has hidden deep within the recesses of his heart and soul and mind the truth of God’s word, Psalm 119:11.
· God uses the person who is rooted and established in the love of God, Ephesians 3:17-19
· God uses the person whose faith has been tried but he has endured, Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4
· God uses the person who learns to work with others, 1 Corinthians 3:6, Mark 9:35
· God uses the person who learns to depend upon God, John 15:5
· God uses the person who is willing to do the task at hand, to meet the need of the immediate situation, who is not obsessed with his own desires, reputation, popularity, but has someone else’s needs on his heart. Good Samaritan.
· God uses the person who hides behind the cross of Christ and the Christ of the cross. John the Baptist, John 3:30, and Paul, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
The good news for you and for me is that God indeed desires to use us to play an important role in His kingdom’s work. What we need to do is to prepare ourselves in spirit and in mind and move when He shows us where He is working. By faith we become God’s person, not because we can always see the benefit of doing so immediately, but because we trust God.
God has a better way for you to live than you could ever find on your own – God’s way is superior over our way
Two events from Jacob’s life are mentioned in this verse, two that are closely linked together both in time and in meaning. Let’s review the circumstances because they surround his son Joseph.
…the story of Joseph…briefly told. Jacob’s favorite, youngest of eleven, spoiled, a bit arrogant, but God did want to use him. Sold by his brothers into Egyptian slavery, Jacob told that Joseph had been killed, Joseph prospered in Potiphar’s household, falsely accused by his wife, sent into a political dungeon, used his God-give gift to tell the future and was released and placed in the highest position in the land, next to the Pharaoh. Time elapsed, twenty years. A famine occurs and his brothers come to Egypt looking for food. They are all re-united and Jacob learns that Joseph had been alive all these years.
He blessed Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Ephraim was the younger but Jacob put him ahead in his blessing of the older. Why did he do this? He did it because of the impression in his heart of the will of God. His blessing is a beautiful affirmation of the goodness of the Lord in his own life continuing into the life of Ephraim and Manasseh. The meaning of the blessing is wrapped up in who Jacob had come to understand God to be. He called him by these names
· The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked
· The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day
· The Angel who has delivered me from harm – Angels had been an important part of Jacob’s life, as they had been of Isaac’s life. Here the reference was primarily to the mysterious experience of Jacob’s life when he wrestled with the angel at Peniel, when his hip was displaced. Later he realized that it was God he had wrestled with in the form of an angel. Jacob’s name had been representative of his character. Literally it meant “heal snatcher” or “trickster” or “usurper”, and he was so named because when he was born he came out of his mother’s womb holding on the heal of his older twin Esau’s ankle. The angel had blessed him spiritually but broke him physically. Jacob then walked with a limp from that time onward. How had the angel delivered him from harm? The encounter happened the night before he was to meet his brother Esau whom he had robbed of the rightful blessing. To summarize the story and the meaning – Jacob the trickster learned that he must succeed God’s way, not his way. God’s way through integrity and honesty, not his way through trickery and deceit.
Jacob was praying, May this God, who breaks us and molds us, who tests us and tries us, and who does it all that He may bless us, may this God bless these boys! But there is more in the way he blessed them. He said, “May they be called by my name.” His name had been changed that night as he wrestled with the angel, from Jacob to Israel (Gen. 32:28). Israel means “he struggles with God,” and became the name of the nation, that signified a chosen people.
Behind all of these words were the experiences of Jacob, Israel, as he walked with God. Jacob could bless these children because he had learned God’s ways. When he was at his weakest, God was at His greatest. Knowing the ways of God is a requirement to enter into the peace and joy of God – the rest of God as our author in Hebrews put it.
Jacob had also learned much about the ways of God through the life of Joseph. Remember, Joseph had been his favorite. Jacob’s plan to raise Joseph was to spoil him and protect him, but God had another way and another plan. God’s greatness is seen in the way He do things that you and I cannot do. He can take something that was meant to harm someone and transform that situation into a tremendous blessing. Joseph stood before old Jacob a different man from who he would have been had Jacob had his way with him.
Our author mentioned that Jacob worshipped God, leaning upon his staff. That actually happened before he blessed his grandsons but our author places it after because it fits more readily into what he mentions about Joseph. Jacob’s experience of seeing Joseph and then seeking the hand of God in his deliverance, how through Joseph his entire family would be preserved, caused him to rejoice in his own heart for the faithfulness of God. God had acted in a way that Jacob could never have dreamt nor could he have orchestrated. Had he tried to do so, he would have failed. In that story (Gen 47) he made Joseph promise to take his body back to Canaan to be buried.
Worship is our response to the revelation of God, not just the physical blessings of God. Worship includes thanksgiving but it is more than that. Worship is the soul’s acknowledgement of the worth of God. We do not encounter God in worship! He encounters us! He shows Himself to us on His time table, when it best suits His purposes and His plans, and most often, when it seems less convenient to us. But there was Jacob, leaning upon his staff as the pain in his hip reminded him of his encounter with God and his deliverance from Esau’s wrath, seeing his son Joseph, whom he had long given up for dead, stand before him not only alive but the ruler of Egypt, in his heart he believed that all this happened not because they were lucky but because God was good!
All of Jacob’s life, God had been working to bring him to that moment that he might acknowledge the worth of God.
Where are we tried today by God to affirm that His ways are superior to our ways?
God has a greater purpose in your life than you do for your life – God’s purpose is superior over our purpose – Joseph passed away when the future looked good in Egypt and it was tempting to remain there, but he knew that God had a purpose for the nation in Canaan. As Jacob had made him swear, now he made his descendants swear, that Canaan would be their home and they should bury him there.
Our direction for the future is not to be based on the expediencies of the present but on the plans of God. Just as Joseph was not attached to Egypt, so we are not to be attached to this world. We live in the world but we are not of the world. We are born again and the purposes of God in Christ Jesus are to be the dearest to our heart.
What are God’s purposes in your life? He wants you to know Him and to grow in the knowledge of His love. As Jesus said, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world…I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you know in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” How do we experience these blessings? By faith. Trusting in God’s word. We cannot see Jesus. He has ascended into heaven but His Spirit is here and we can trust His word.
Do you believe He is here? Your believing does not make Him be here or not be here. He already is here. But your believing will be the thing that you must do in order for God to work in your life. You and I can say by faith: “Lord, I believe You are here. Lord, I believe Your glory is displayed in love. Lord, I believe You love me.”
Where are we like Isaac, choosing the wrong person for the wrong reason? Where are we like Jacob, manipulating the system for our favor, rather than trusting in God? Where are we like Joseph, a bit arrogant and self-centered? By faith we can learn to rest in God, to by faith accept His purposes, to work with Him, to desire Him, to worship Him, acknowledging His worth, and to by faith rest in Him.
Studies from Hebrews 11