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Feb 17, 2013

More Than Throw-Away Faith

Passage: Hebrews 10:32-11:36

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Faith Journeys

Category: Faith

Keywords: faith, hope, trust, satisfaction in life


This message looks at how God defines faith and challenges people to ground their hopes in life and for life to come on the person of Jesus Christ.


More Than Throw-Away Faith

Faith Journeys Series

February 17, 2013


CONNCECT QUESTION:  What’s one of the most challenging things you have experienced (or are currently experiencing) when it has comes to living out your faith?  


One of the greatest challenges in the history of the Christian church in every century for every believer has been to remain faithful…faith-filled…from start to finish, in our walk with Jesus Christ.  Over and over again, throughout various books of the New Testament, God is found calling His people to start, learn to live, and persevere in FAITH. 


In Galatians, a book written to a whole region of churches in the province of Galatia, Paul challenges Christians not to go back to some sort of legalistic religious practice that thinks God’s favor is won by anything other than faith. 

He put it this way in Galatians 3—

Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

In other words, we began this journey in Christ by simple faith in Him, not some religious human effort.  We received the Holy Spirit by faith.  So if that is how we got going in this amazing relationship with God, how do we keep going in it?  Vs. 11--

11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”

Or a contemporary paraphrase of that last statement might be, “Those who are right with God…in right standing with Him… are the people who are living BY faith.  You keep going the same way you began—through faith!”


So when we come to the book of Hebrews, we find this faith issue being addressed to another large group of people.  They, too, have “suffered” a lot for becoming Christians.  In chapter 10 of Hebrews, where we were last week, the writer had this to say about their suffering for following Jesus.

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.


I don’t know about you but I marvel often at the level of life challenge and difficulty other people go through while remaining faith-filled towards Jesus.  I feel like a real spiritual pigmy sometimes.  All it seems to take for me to begin to question God is, say, a bad head cold for 5 days…or a pastors luncheon where we’re all sit around playing the “look what God is doing at my church” game.  J 

            But that’s not the kind of “trouble” that seemed to send the early church Christians off the rails of their spiritual journey.  Their threats seem to me to be really genuine, serious stuff.  Publically exposed to insult and persecution”???  “Prison”???  “Confiscation of property”???  I can see how that might really strain your faith in God.  But the Hebrews here have already experienced all that.  They are in the thick of suffering because they have chosen Christ.

ILL:  One month ago today, this story was posted about a Christian brother of ours in Iran. 

“Farshid Fathi, who is an Iranian Christian pastor, is beginning the third year of a six-year prison sentence on a conviction of “being chief-director of foreign organizations in Iran and gathering funds for these organizations.” Farshid is one of several believers arrested over the past few years in the Iranian government’s attempts to suppress Christianity. The details of his arrest were only recently released.

At about 6 a.m. on Dec. 26, 2010, security officials wearing plain clothes surrounded the home of Farshid’s father. When Farshid’s father opened the door to go to work, they forced their way into the home. They woke everyone in the house, including Farshid and his family who had stayed there Christmas night.

The authorities began a thorough search of the house. They questioned everyone present and, after completing the search, allowed Farshid to take his daughter to school.

“At the same time, another group of government agents attacked Farshid Fathi's own house to arrest him, not knowing they were not home,” a source told Mohabat News. “They broke into the house illegally, destroying the entrance door, and searched everywhere confiscating whatever they thought could be used as evidence against Mr. Fathi, including his photos, flash drives, camera memory cards, the hard drive of his PC, laptop, documents, and even some money and his gas card.”

After authorities from the two raids communicated, they realized they had accidentally allowed Farshid to leave his father’s house. Livid over the mistake and sure Farshid had fled, the agents threatened the family with “harsh consequences” if he did not return.

But an hour later, Farshid did return. Authorities then beat him, insulted him and handcuffed him before transferring him to the Ministry of Intelligence building in Tehran. From there, he was taken to Evin prison, where he spent several months in solitary confinement.

A Christian prisoner who was Farshid’s cellmate for a few weeks asked Farshid why he returned home, knowing that the agents were waiting to arrest him. “I couldn’t leave my wife and children alone,” he replied.

Farshid’s faith remains strong even in prison. In December, he responded to the Newtown, Conn., tragedy by writing the following letter to parents of the victims:

To the fathers and mothers who lost their precious children in the Connecticut tragedy,

I really don't know what word in the world could comfort you, what relief could be helpful for your broken heart, and [what] hand could clean the tears which fall from your cheeks. I just want to say: I am so sorry and you are in my prayers.

I am sure these high walls cannot stop my prayers for you.

Before this tragedy happened, I was thinking about my suffering that I'm going through because of my Lord Jesus Christ, especially being far from my lovely kids. But when I imagine how hard your pain is I forget my sufferings. Because I know by God's grace I will see my kids at the latest in 2017 when I come out from prison.

But unfortunately you have to wait a bit longer. So I would like to express my deepest sorrow for your loss.

I believe we will have enough time in heaven with our lovely children forever. There [are] no gun[s] there, there is no prison, and there is no pain.

In the hope of that glorious day.

Your Brother in Christ from prison in Iran,

Farshid Fathi
17 December 2012


God’s church has always been a global church, experiencing various levels of suffering, pressure and troubles.   

            So the writer of Hebrews, by God’s inspiration, begins to build his case for the kind of life that will see us through this life with a growing resilience and relationship with Christ.  He talks with us about a LIFE of living by faith.  Not a day…or month…or even year.  A LIFE!  Whether it’s a hangnail or a hanging judge you’re contending with, the answer is the same:  FAITH.  And he is going to build that case by telling us some straight-out truths about faith…AND by pointing to some straight-up examples of triumphant spiritual faith.  So let’s ask God to give us hearts that will grow in faith by this passage today.  [PRAY.]


Let’s begin with 10:35-3935 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For in just a very little while,

“He who is coming will come and will not delay.
38But my righteous one will live by faith.
And if he shrinks back,
I will not be pleased with him.”

39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.


I do not think the kind of destruction spoken of here is eternal separation from God.  Nor do I think the kind of salvation or being “saved” mentioned here is about being saved into God’s family by faith.  “Saved” is a very broad word in the N.T. that can refer to initial salvation in Christ at conversion AND can refer to a lifetime of experiences of being saved from sin’s power and destructive control.  

I think this text is addressing what happens to people who, having known God through faith in Jesus Christ, at some point in their spiritual journey, “shrink back” from the faith… peel off of their spiritual journey…and destroy their lives and their walk with Christ by giving up. 

On the other hand, we have another option when the pressure rises, the troubles mount, and life gets hard:  “…believe and [be] saved.”  Just as we began this spiritual journey by faith in Jesus Christ at some point in our life, so we must continue this spiritual journey by faith in Jesus Christ all along our life.  To stop exercising faith because life is tough is going to lead to real damage to ourselves.  But continuing to trust, continuing to believe in what God has said and promised, that will day by day “save” us from a life void of the power and work of the Holy Spirit.


From that realization about life, Hebrews 11 is launched.  The writer of Hebrews is going to give us dozens of examples of how God’s people throughout the centuries have found saving power for life through persevering faith unto death.  But here he starts with a sort of working definition for God-grounded faith.  And that is precisely the most important first step of faithChoose the object of your faith carefully. 

            Of course, we all exercise faith in things and people every day, all day long.  Most of the time, the objects we exercise faith in don’t disappoint us too terribly.  When they do, you might become a likely contestant in “American’s Funniest Home Videos”…or end up in the hospital…or the morgue.  But it’s probably pretty safe to say that even when inanimate objects fail your faith, there may be a high degree of human error involved in the failure.


But the object of much of our faith in life is human beings, right? To a certain degree, there isn’t anything wrong with that.  To live without a reasonable measure of faith in other people isn’t a badge of honor; it may just be a sign of mental illness. 

But what determines whether or not someone is a person in whom we should or shouldn’t put our faith?  It’s all about the reliability of them as a person, isn’t it?  It’s about their ability to carry through with the kind of person they are presenting themselves to be. 


ILL:  When Sandy and I were working in college ministry during our seminary days, there was a very tall, dark and handsome fellow who sort of floated into the group one fall.  He was in a PhD program in Counseling Psychology, of all things, the area.  Little by little his story kept building.  He had been a star quarterback for his high school, an accomplished musician of professional caliber and a tennis champ in college, valedictorian of his graduating class…and on and on it went.  He had just enough proficiency at some things to make people believe he had near star quality in just about everything.  And guess who the people were who pretty much melted whenever he showed them personal interest? 

            Then all of a sudden it all unraveled.  As truth has a way of doing, it caught up with his string of lies.  He was kicked out of the PhD program and slid out of town in disgrace.  And guess who was hurt most by his con?  Sure, the college co-eds who went from melting hearts to molten anger. 


Nobody is perfect, but not everyone deserves to be the object of our faith.  The bigger the issue, the more important the character. 


I think it is safe to say that the quality of the objects of our faith will often determine the caliber of our satisfaction with life. Trusting in people or things in life that don’t deliver what they promise will lead to continual frustration.  But finding people and things worthy of our trust will lead us to a life of great fulfillment. 


The more we have at stake by placing our faith in someone, the greater both the joy and the disappointments can be.  And the farther out in life our faith is asked to reach, the greater that joy or disappointment factor gets too.

ILL:  For instance, if you decide to give one day this year to volunteer to work in, say, some local charity, and you get paired up with someone who is a royal pain in the dairy-aire, it’s disappointing but probably not devastating. 

            But if you spend several years investing your life and heart into a love relationship with someone, you develop faith in their character to the point that you promise your entire self and life to them in marriage, and then 10, 20 or 30 years later discover that they have one or more major character defects, the disappointment isn’t minor, it’s MASSIVE.


When it comes to the god you will trust in, it is THE biggest relationship we will ever have in life with THE biggest and longest consequences imaginable. 

And that’s precisely where the book of Hebrews comes in.  Having spent 10 chapters examining how far superior Jesus Christ is to any former religious system even the chosen people of God, the Jews, had, the author now invites us to put our whole, unreserved and complete faith fully in this most amazing Being in the universe—God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


Vs. 1 begins with a working description of what faith in God should be.

NASB (UPDATED): Hebrews 11
  1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2For by it the men of old gained approval. 3By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.    

That word “assurance” in vs. 1 (hupostasis) basically means "to place under" or "to stand under." Our faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ both past, present and future is to the underlying foundation for what we hope for in life.  So if the life and work of Jesus isn’t the foundation upon which we are building our hopes in life, then we can be pretty sure that we’re going to be in for some pretty big disappointments. 


EX:  Let’s take finances, for example.  If Jesus is the foundation of our financial hopes in life, then we are going to take everything He said about money and wealth and handling finances to heart.  We will order our financial well-being around His commands regarding finances, not our culture’s or financial advisor’s or even our family’s view about wealth. 

For instance, hoping for what Jesus has said we should hope for financially will protect us from looking to this world’s wealth and our ability to save it up for our sense of self-worth or even our security.  Jesus has already told us what will happen to this world’s wealth, hasn’t he?  He warned us very clearly that it can and probably will be stolen or lost or even eaten away by inattention, inflation or ineptitude.  So instead of making the acquisition and building of material wealth our objective with our life, what kind of “hope” will faith in Jesus’ teaching about money lead us to?  [Answers?]

  • Won’t we seek to be as generous with what we have as possible?
  • Won’t we try to invest as much as we can possibly make of it into kingdom ministry as possible?
  • And when the market crashes or the dollar becomes worthless, won’t we shout and say, “Yes, God was right again.  Boy am I glad I didn’t stake my hope on this world but instead invested what I could in the eternal kingdom of Christ”? 

APP:  I think this is going to have HUGE implications in the not-too-distant future for all of us.  If you know anything about economics, you know that the value of our money is being daily eroded at an ever-growing pace by the massive deficit spending of our government and the massive printing of paper money to prop up that deficit.  The result we are already seeing in rising inflation, something that will continue to happen the more we borrow and spend.  It’s a not-so-invisible form of “taxing” every one of us so that the government can keep spending like a drunken sailor.  And contrary to what we are being told that inflation is just around 2%, the reason we’re being told that is because they’ve changed the numbers by changing what gets calculated into the CPI.  Today’s CPI leaves out two of the biggest inflationary items in my family’s budget…and probably yours:  food and energy/gas prices.  If we were using the same criteria used in 1980 for the CPI, actual inflation would be running at more like 10%.  Is anybody here really shocked by that?  Not if you’ve filled your car or grocery cart up lately. 

            Now we can certainly ask our national leaders to be better economic managers of the country.  But even if they are, Jesus’ words about the fleeting nature of wealth will still be true.  And what he has asked us to do with our wealth still doesn’t change. 


PERSONAL:  As you may know, I’m heading to India this Thursday to speak at the Indian National Inland Mission’s Annual Pastor’s Conference  in New Delhi.  One of the reasons I’m so excited to do that is to see firsthand what 40 years of my parent’s financial investment in that ministry has done.  Since I was a young person, I remember seeing my parents write the checks to this ministry. I remember reading the stories of what God was doing with Paul Palai and the Bible College there.  And today, what started as a little college and orphan ministry is touching thousands of places in India.  I feel very privileged to be a part of the pastoral team that will be ministering God’s word to some 5,000 pastors and Christian workers, many of whom have and will pay with their own blood for doing the same thing in their home towns and villages. 

            And before we finish this service today, I’d like to ask you to pray for these men and women…and for our ministry among them over the next 2 weeks.  Your pastor could come back utterly “ruined” by these next two weeks…ruined in the sense of never being the same by having spent a few days with fellow pastors in a part of the world that is living out their faith in a way I’ve never perhaps done in my entire life yet. 


So back to Hebrews 11:1.  If our faith is the foundation, the underpinnings, the “assurance” of what we hope for in this life and the next, what is it that we are actually HOPING for?


We all have hopes in this life, desires to realize certain things in the future.  That’s one reason why most of us keep pressing on, getting up every day.  We still want to see certain good things happen to us and to those around us. 

ACTION:  Take 60 seconds and write down as many things as you can think of that you will be deeply disappointed about in this life and the next IF they don’t come true.  Make 2 columns: 1.) This Life, and 2.) In Life Eternal. 

That little exercise will probably tell you what you are actually hoping for out of life and God right now. 


Want to know what Paul thought we should be hoping for as God’s kids?  Romans 8:23-25.

23 …we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.


Want to know what Peter thought we should b e hoping for as God’s kids?  I Peter 1:3-9.

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.


Looking back over your list, how SURE are you that the things in List 1 (things you hope for in this life) are going to come to pass?  What about List 2 (things you hope for in eternity)?  Do you feel more sure or less sure about them than List 1? 

            I’m guessing that List 1, if we were honest, has a lot more things we’re hoping for in this life that God may not have given a direct, clear promise about, right?  But List 2—hopefully that list is populated with things God has given us direct promises about.  Hopefully that list of yet-to-be-realized dreams is solidly rooted in the promises of our God who cannot lie. 


Those are, as the writer of Hebrews says in the latter part of vs. 1, “what we do not see.”  It’s not just what we are experiencing right now, that which we can see, which should propel our faith forward.  It should be even more what we have been promised we will one day yet in the future experience in Christ that can move us forward through any experience in this life, through even death. 


And then chapter 11 goes on to show us how the lives of God’s children, many named here and some unnamed, expressed their saving faith in God when they were pressured by life and people to jettison their faith and embrace what could be seen.

  • Abel’s faith led him into sacrificial worship of God that cost him his life but gave him the relationship with God he longed for.
  • Enoch’s faith led him into a life so pleasing to God that he is one of the few people to apparently skip right over death and go from this life into eternal life with God.  But that faith cost him:  he lived about 1/3rd to ½ the length of life that those of his family line before and after him did.  He would have been like a person taken at age 25 or 30 today.
  • Noah’s faith cost him the ridicule by all around him.  Living by faith in God’s promise meant he lived a completely different life from almost everyone around him except his immediate family.
  • Abraham, covered in Hebrews 11:8-19, had his entire life rearranged by his faith in God’s promise of a son that would produce a great nation.  It changed where he lived, how he lived (as a nomad) and what he did for most of his 175 years of life (Gen. 25:7).
  • And the chapter goes on to talk about what faith in a promise-giving and keeping God did to people like Moses, Rahab, Gideon, David, Samuel and a whole lot of unnamed people even greater than them DID in this life because they believed in the God of both this life and the next. 


Vs. 13 lumps all these people…and us…together when it says this:

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.


Living a life of faith in Jesus Christ will not only cause us to change the way we think and live during life on earth; it will change the way we DO life on earth because of what we are convinced life in heaven will be like.  It will change how we handle pressures and disappointments and ever-changing things her and now.  It will decrease how we look to stuff and things and people in this world to satisfy us.  And it will increase how we look to God and life eternal and our future with Christ for what will satisfy forever. 


So faith really is The Great Challenge in this life.  Because the more of it we have in relationship to God, the more this life will change.  The more we will let go of what everyone in this world is grubbing for…and the more we will take hold of what all these great saints in Hebrews 11 grasped by faith…and now experience for eternity. 


APP:  So what are the challenges and pressures assaulting you presently that will either move you into the same path trod by these spiritual forefathers OR move you away from God and into the path of the world around you that lives for what they can see, touch, taste, smell and hear with their 5 physical (and fading) senses?


Faith about what God has promised for us is that spiritual 6th-sense that will enable us to survive and triumph in every one of life’s difficulties.

            Some of you are dealing with physical difficulties and challenges that God is asking you to turn into daily prompts to a life of ever-increasing faith in Him.

            Others may have financial challenges.  Others employment challenges.  Others relational challenges with family or work associates, neighbors or friends.  Others are facing what may feel like gaping holes in your life, holes of loneliness…or disappointment…or emotional challenges…or mental issues. 

            The list is endless of what Satan and this world would like to use to get every one of us off the faith-track of life.  But there is not one thing on anyone’s list that God cannot use to help every one of us join this amazing line of saints throughout history who have lived, triumphed and died by faith. 


So with the writer of Hebrews, I give you the same challenge:  “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”  Hebrews 11:35-36