Posted by: phillipmway | February 11, 2011

Faith Works

In Hebrews 11:4-16 we find a description of several individuals who had faith and as a result they did certain praiseworthy things. We know that faith directly affects behavior, that is to say, faith that is real, true, alive, and active is a faith that works. Now Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Faith is believing that He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Jeremiah 29:13). So we see here not only that faith works, but that without faith we cannot please God.

It’s true. Faith in Christ is so vital and so necessary for living the Christian life that we are told in Romans 14:23 that anything we do that is “not from faith is sin.” If we do anything or say anything or think anything that is not motivated by our trust in God then that action, word, or thought is inherently sinful.

This coming Sunday, February 13, we will examine the people of faith mentioned in these verses and see what kind of works their faith produced. Here is a preview as we prepare to meet for worship:

Abel Offered a Sacrifice

Hebrews 11:4
By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.

By faith Abel obeyed God and offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. Abel knew what God expected. So did Cain. Abel gave God what God wanted. Cain offered God what he wanted to give Him. There is a huge difference between the two, isn’t there?

Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice. It was superb, unmatched, and unequalled. Why? Because Abel acted by faith and gave God exactly what God asked of him. As a result Abel obtained this witness – God said he was righteous. What is it to be righteous? It means that God proclaimed that Abel was right with Him. On the basis of his faith, faith that worked its way out through his actions of obedience, God made Abel right with Him. Not on the basis of the works, but on the basis of the faith behind the works.

God testified to the goodness of Abel’s gifts. God was pleased. Remember, without faith it is impossible to please God, but with faith, all things are possible. There is such a powerful result of faith working in his life that the Bible tells us that even though Cain murdered Abel out of jealousy, Abel “being dead still speaks.” We still hear his testimony. Abel has been declared righteous before God by God in the pages of Holy Scripture for every generation of the world to hear the story about Abel’s incredible faith.

So many people want to leave a legacy to those who come after them. Abel wanted to please God. He trusted God. As a result he acted in a way that pleased God. He obeyed God, and God testified to his righteousness and continues to talk about him even today as we read this text. Do you want a legacy that glorifies God? Have faith and read more about Abel in Genesis 4.

Enoch Pleased God

Hebrews 11:5-6
By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, and was not found, because God had taken him; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

Did you notice the same words that appear in the accounts of Abel and Enoch as we continue through our text? They both had faith, a testimony, and were a witness. They both pleased God.

As a result, in this account we see that Enoch did not die. Imagine that. The account of Enoch’s life found in Genesis 5 tells us that he walked with God. He had this testimony – this is what they said about him – he pleased God. He had such fellowship with the Father and walked so closely with Him that one day God just took Enoch to heaven. He did not die a physical death. He was not buried. He was taken directly to heaven to be in God’s presence.

What a testimony. Pleasing God, walking with God, and trusting God, until he was taken and was not on the earth any longer. He lived on earth 365 years, which actually was a short time at this point in human history. His father Jared lived 962 years. His son Methuselah, the oldest living human being recorded in Scripture, was born when Enoch was 65 years old and then lived to be 969 years old. Enoch had lived what amounted to just about a third of his life but he was walking with such faith and such obedience, pleasing God so abundantly, that God took him on to heaven and he was able to forego death.

Noah Had Godly Fear

Hebrews 11:7
By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Noah, in Genesis 6, was warned by God of things about to happen as God was planning to judge sinful mankind. Noah responded with faith. He believed what God was telling him and the result was that Noah moved with godly fear. He worshipped, loved, honored, respected, and feared God. The outworking of that godly fear, which is really just having areverent and right view of God, was that Noah prepared the ark, preached to the lost, and saved his family.

Neither Noah nor the rest of the world had even seen rain at this point (Genesis 2:5-7). Noah really was acting on his faith, working on that ark for 100 years and preaching to the people around him the whole time. He saw no conversions, no repentance, and no faith from others by the time it began to rain. By many of today’s standards, we might think that meant he had a futile and fruitless ministry because there were not any outward signs of success, but God says he was faithful. Because he took God at His Word, Noah, his family, and ultimately the human race were saved from extinction. He believed God, he feared God, he obeyed God, and the Bible says he became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Abraham Obeyed

Hebrews 11:8-10
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

By faith Abraham obeyed God and what an act of obedience this was. God called Abraham to go out of his homeland, the place he was born and raised and now had a wife, to a place God would show him. God did not tell him right away where he was going. He just told him to go, and Abraham obeyed and went. That is faith in action.
He did not question. He seems to have had no doubts. He got up and moved his family, taking his father and other members of the family with them, and he headed out to a place where he did not even know he was going.
The Bible has a lot more to say about Abraham and his faith. We can read about it in Genesis 12 and Romans 4.

Sarah Conceived Past Child Bearing Age

Hebrews 11:11
By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.

So far in our examples we have seen that faith produces the works of obedience, godly fear and building an ark, pleasing God and walking with Him, and offering a more excellent sacrifice. At the root of these we see a common theme – faith worked its way out in obedience.

As we looked at the life of Abraham and the faith he had we are also told in the Scriptures that his wife Sarah had faith as well, but her story is little different. By faith she received strength to conceive and bear a son. She took God at His Word, trusted that He was faithful and would do what He promised, and as a result of her faith received the strength and ability to have a baby although she had been barren and was now 90 years old. Life spans had decreased at this point after the flood though Sarah eventually lived to be 127 years of age. She had persistent faith, as she had first been told about the promise of the birth if Isaac some 25 years before she conceived.

Let me say that again, her faith in God was present for 25 years to the point that she gave birth to a son at the age of 90. This was unheard of – for a barren woman of 90 years to give birth – and yet she did. Was her giving birth an act of obedience? No. Not really. She could no more control the conception and birth of her son than could Abraham. She was at a point in her life where it was naturally impossible for her to get pregnant.
What work did her faith do? Because of her faith God worked the impossible. When we take God at His Word we can see the impossible happen. Why is that? Because true, active, working faith is not faith placed in self or in other people, the object of this faith is God Himself, and when we take God at His Word and trust Him, we must remember that He delights in doing the impossible.

Many things that seem impossible to us are not even a challenge for God. For Him, nothing is impossible (Luke 18:27). Sarah’s faith gave her the strength to see God do the impossible through her. We can read more about this impossibility becoming a reality in Genesis 17-18, and 22.

These All Had Assurance

Hebrews 11:13
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Another common theme here is this thread running throughout these people’s lives is that they had assurance along with their faith. True faith does not leave us doubting or fearing or worrying. True faith leads to assurance and confidence.

As we believe, we obey. We trust God for the impossible, and we are assured that He will do what He has promised. Think about it. How often do we claim to be walking by faith, but we are reluctant, and fearful, and full of worry or doubt? As Jesus responded often to His disciples, we are people of “little faith.” Our faith is weak and insufficient.

We are prone to trust what we can see with our eyes. We walk by sight instead of by faith. Peter is the perfect example of this very thing. He trusted the reality of the howling winds and crashing waves around him instead of trusting the reality that Jesus had called him to walk on the water, and that he had in fact already walked out on the water several steps toward Jesus (Matthew 14:29). When we take our eyes off Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2) we lose heart, we lose faith, we lose hope, and we sink into the sea of doubt and fear.

If, on the other hand, we walk by faith, we know that faith in God is never a blind leap in the dark. We have the Holy Spirit to comfort us and His Word to assure us. His Word is the very tool He uses to give us more faith (Romans 10:17).

Remember these examples. Remember what faith looks like. Remember that faith works. If our faith is not working, then we are not really trusting God – we are not believing Him; we are calling Him a liar. We know that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). If we are not trusting Him we need to repent and find fresh faith in the Word of God so that we might believe what He has said. His Word is sure. His grace is sufficient. His mercy is new every morning and it is everlasting. He can be trusted.

Join us Sunday as we continue on in our series through Hebrews 11. This week we will see that “Faith Works.”

LISTEN to this message here: Faith Works – Heb 11:4-16


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