Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses nine through nineteen of the eleventh chapter of the epistle. When you continue in the eleventh chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews, you will find the author seeking to write unto this particular audience concerning faith. What is so incredibly interesting and unique about this particular concept is that the author doesn’t seek to define faith in the epistle as much as they desire to describe and demonstrate it. I continue to hold to the tremendous belief that there are more men and women in the church who can define faith than there are those who actually demonstrate it. In all honesty, that which is found and contained within this chapter is a powerful demonstration of faith, and not merely faith as mental assent or that that which can be defined and described. As you read the words which the author of this epistle wrote unto this audience you will find that when writing and speaking of faith, it is more about demonstration than it is declaration. We spend so much time wanting to speak of and declare countless truths and realities concerning the faith we profess to have, and so very little time actually demonstrating it. Perhaps the greatest question that must be asked is why. Why do we seem to be more content defining and describing faith than we do actually demonstrating it in real time and in real life? Why do we seem to think that it’s of more worth and value to define faith than it is to actually demonstrate it. Would it shock and surprise you if I told you that the Lord is neither pleased, nor is He impressed with your definition of faith. The Lord has never and will never be pleased and impressed with your ability to speak about faith as much as He is with your ability to actually demonstrate that faith which you so adamantly speak of during the course of your days.
In all reality, I believe that we have heard more sermons about faith than we have actually seeing faith in action. I am convinced we have heard more teachings concerning faith than we have actually seeing faith demonstrated within every day life. What’s more, is that when we think of faith we tend to think of it as only being connected to the supernatural—I.e. miracles, signs, wonders, healing, prophesying, and the like. When we think of and speak of faith we recognize and understand that it is one of the nine gifts of the Spirit given unto the saints of the living God, yet we know absolutely nothing about actually demonstrating our faith in real time and in real life. Throughout history the true crux of faith has never been in its definition or description as much as it has been in its demonstration. The Spirit of the living God has always and will always call us to a powerful life of the demonstration of faith in our every day lives. The Spirit of the living God has always moved upon the hearts of men to ride up and take action as opposed to simply packaging our definitions, our descriptions, and our thoughts about faith in a nice and neat package. I am utterly and completely convinced that the eleventh chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews is a chapter about faith in action—a reality that is as much connected to that of love in action than anything else. I am convinced that faith in action goes hand in hand with love in action, and as surely as we cannot say we love God and yet hate our brother whom we see, so also is our faith dead when it is a mere declaration without action. DECLARATION ABSENT ACTION! I am absolutely convinced that the very Spirit of the living God needs to take the faith of many within the house of the Lord, set it on fire, and send it forth into the earth. Away with all these sermons and teachings about and concerning faith instead of an actually demonstration of faith.
Tell me—when was the last time instead of the preacher or speaker preaching a sermon or message on a Sunday morning, they called the congregation to action? When was the last time the preacher declared unto the saints of God that rather than hearing another message concerning faith, they would actually go out and out their faith to the test? When was the last time you witnessed a preacher stand before the congregation and assembly and declare unto them they were going to leave the four walls and pews of the church and go out into the streets to actually put their faith where their mouth is? How many men and women within the house of the Lord would even respond favorably to such a shocking action within the house of the Lord? How many men and women could actually handle such a deviation from the normal script and schedule of Sunday morning services? I am convinced that such a drastic action would dramatically and radically shock those who sit in the pews of our churches week after week. Such an action—particularly and especially on a Sunday morning—would undoubtedly completely shock the members of the congregation, and I would even dare say that many would strongly consider coming back the following week. Pause for a moment and consider this if such an action came unannounced and without warning on a Sunday morning and you didn’t have the chance to come to church in clothes with which to serve. Consider the looks of shock and perhaps even the side whispers and side conversations that would ensue in the pews should such an announcement be made. In all reality, I would dare say that many within the church are more content hearing sermons and teachings about faith than they are actually putting their faith in action and demonstrating it in their every day lives. “Preacher, you can speak to me and preach about faith all you want, and I will agree with what you say, but just don’t ask me to put that faith in action. Please don’t tell me that faith demands action and that it can’t remain in the four walls and pews of the church.” There is not a doubt in my mind that these thoughts and many more continually go through the hearts and minds of countless men and women each and every Sunday as the preacher stands before them and proclaims the word of God.
While it is incredibly powerful Gotham the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews declared that faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, it’s imperative that we recognize and realize that the author of this epistle themselves didn’t seek to simply define faith for the sake of defining faith. The author could have spent an entire chapter defining faith and using the various teachings of Jesus and the apostles, as well as appealed to the Old Testament, and provided a sound doctrine concerning faith. The author could have taken an entire chapter and filled it with theological truths concerning faith, and could have brought their readers and audience to a place where they had a knowledge of what faith was, and could perhaps even define and describe it to others. The truth of the matter is that such a definition and such a description would have accomplished very little if anything within the hearts and lives of the readers. I am convinced that we benefit not from definitions and descriptions of faith as much as we benefit from an actual demonstration of faith, and what it looks like, and how it operates among men within the earth. With that being said, it’s important to note that the foundation of our faith is an understanding that the worlds—everything we see with the naked eye, and even that which we don’t see with our naked eye—were formed and framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made which do appear. It’s important to note that the foundation of faith is a belief that God is, and that He is a rewarded of those who diligently seek Him. With that being said, it would be incredibly easy to get caught up in defining faith for the sake of defining it—and even understanding faith and the foundation in belief in God and in His word—and yet we are completely incapable of actually demonstrating that faith in the earth. It is true that without faith it is impossible to please God, but with that being said we must recognize and understand that faith without works—faith without action and deeds—is completely and utterly dead. James held no punches when he wrote concerning faith, and declared without hesitation and reservation that just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. James was not seeking to sugar coat anything in the epistle he wrote unto his audience, for he wanted them to recognize and understand that when it came to faith, it was about more than simply professing and confessing, but actually about action, and word and deed.
I am absolutely and utterly convinced that our faith is being called out and called into action by the Spirit of the living God. I am convinced that our faith is being enlightened and awakened by the very Spirit of the living God, as the Spirit seeks to awaken within our hearts and souls a powerful call to action. The eleventh chapter found within the epistle written unto the Hebrews—though it did in fact contain a definition of faith at the very outset—would not continue to progress with various other definitions of faith. The author took one verse, and one verse alone—and the first verse of the chapter at that—to define faith for their readers and audience, and would spend virtually no time within the rest of the chapter continuing to define it. It would be very easy to read the first verse of this chapter and be confronted with the definition of faith, and to continue reading the chapter and scratch our heads as we wonder what happened to the rest of the definition of faith. WHERE DID THE REST OF THE DEFINITION GO? I have to be honest and state that for the longest time I considered the eleventh chapter as a description of what faith was rather than a powerful demonstration of what faith actually looks like. We are so content with understanding what faith is that we completely neglect, ignore and lose sight of the fact that it is not so much what faith is as much as it is what faith looks like. When you read the eleventh chapter of this particular epistle you will not encounter a definition of faith as much as you will encounter a powerful demonstration of what faith looks like and how it operates within the earth. The entire eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews is a chapter dedicated and devoted to providing the readers of the epistle with a strong understanding of what faith looks like in the earth, and how faith operates in real time and real life. Can I be bold and ask a serious question? What are we so afraid of? When it comes to faith—what are we so afraid of when it comes to doing more than simply defining and describing it? Why are we so afraid of actually demonstrating our faith rather than merely defining and describing it? What is it about faith that is so incredibly provocative within our hearts and lives that we tend to shy away from, and even shun it? What about faith seems to bring us to the place where we cower in fear, and shrink back rather than moving forward? I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the author of the epistle unto the Hebrews wrote in the previous chapter beginning with the thirty-fourth verse:
“For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:34-39).
When you read these words you will notice similar language to what we find and read in the eleventh chapter of the same epistle. In the thirty-fourth verse we notice faith in action as those to whom the epistle was written had compassion on the author in their bonds. What’s more, is that they took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, for they knew that they had in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Did you catch that? Go back and read the thirty-fourth verse again and see if you notice the word that was used. That’s right. The word “substance” was used—as in “faith is the substance of things hoped for”—thus directly connecting and linking the two. What’s more, is that this reality and concept of substance in the thirty-fourth verse is also directly linked and connected to the second part of the first verse in the eleventh chapter, for not only does the author write concerning “things hoped for,” but they also write concerning “things not seen.” When we read of there being in heaven a better and an enduring substance, we must understand that such a reality not only touches the realm of “things hoped for,” but it also touches the realm of “things not seen.” While we hope for this enduring substance which is found in heaven, we cannot see it with our physical eyes, nor even experience it with our natural senses. Thus, we are left to look forward and look toward a reality that is so far beyond us, and so far removed from where we are right now. What’s more, is that in the thirty-fourth verse of this chapter—when reading concerning the compassion the readers had in the bonds of the author—we must recognize this is faith in action. This is particularly and especially true when you consider the words which our Lord Himself spoke unto His disciples concerning the Last Days and the end of time. If you turn and direct your attention to the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, you will find the following words concerning faith in action, as well as love in action:”
“And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:32-46).
There is within Jesus’ words spoken unto His disciples the concept of ministry—not only unto those which hungered and those which thirst, and not only unto those which were sick and naked, but also unto those who were in prison. Please don’t miss that, for that which the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote concerning bonds was a statement concerning chains, and shackles, and most likely prison. Thus, the author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews undoubtedly experienced chains and undoubtedly did some time in prison. When writing unto the Hebrews the author commended them for having compassion on them in their bonds—and not only having compassion on them in their bonds, but also taking joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing in themselves that they had in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Please don’t miss or lose sight of this tremendous reality, for it brings us face to face with faith in action—especially faith in action engaging ourselves in that which is neither convenient, nor comfortable. Perhaps one of the most intriguing thoughts and truths concerning faith in action is that it cannot and will not always touch that which is convenient and that which is comfortable within our lives. When we think of faith in action we tend to think of it in terms of that which will be comfortable and convenient for us, and yet there is nothing convenient or comfortable about engaging those who are sick and naked. There is nothing convenient about engaging those which are hungry and thirsty, nor is there anything comfortable about engaging those which are in prison. I am absolutely and utterly convinced that the demonstration and action of faith touches the realm of that which is so far beyond us than we are even aware of. Faith in action takes us beyond ourselves and calls us into the vast expanse of the great unknown, and calls us to do more than simply define, describe, and declare truths concerning faith. In the thirty-fourth verse of the tenth chapter of this epistle we find the author of the epistle writing concerning compassion in the midst of bonds, and an understanding of a better and enduring substance in heaven that far transcended that which we have here in the earth. What’s more, is that as you continue to read the words which the author of this epistle wrote in the tenth chapter you will find them going on to instruct and appeal to the audience to cast not away their confidence, which has recompense of reward. Moreover, the author goes on to declare unto them their need of patience, in order that after they had done the will of God, they might receive the promise. The author goes on to declare unto them that the just shall indeed live by faith, and that any man who draws back—the Lord will have no pleasure in them. The author further writes and declares that we are not of those who draw back unto perdition, but of those that believe to the saving of the soul.
Please don’t miss the reality of “confidence” that is mentioned within this particular section, for when the author writes concerning faith being the “substance” of things hoped for, the author is speaking of the confidence of things hoped for. What’s more, is that in this passage the author speaks of patience—a tremendous reality that is also directly linked and connected to faith, for we cannot and will not understand faith separate from the reality and concept of the need for patience within our lives. Towards the end of the tenth chapter of the epistle the author speaks of substance, the author speaks of confidence, and the author speaks of patience, and I am convinced that each of these realities directly speak to the reality of faith within the hearts and lives of the saints of God. In the eleventh chapter of the epistle the author declares how faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, and then immediately moves into the practical application and demonstration of faith. After writing concerning Abel, and Noah, and Enoch, the author of this epistle then immediately transitions to writing concerning Abraham who we know and understand according to Scripture as being the father of them who believe. When the author introduces us to Abraham, they do so by declaring that Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed. What’s more, is that Abraham went out, not kn owing where he went, where he was going, or even where he would end up. The only thing Abraham knew was that the Lord had called him out of Ur of the Chaldeans, out of his native country, out of his father’s house, and into a land which he would be shown by the Lord. As you continue reading the account of Abraham you will find the author describing how Abraham—by faith—sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. What the author does next is absolutely incredible and powerful, for the author writes and declares of Abraham that he was looking for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. When Abraham obeyed the voice of the Lord when he was called out of Ur of the Chaldeans, he was looking for something that was so far beyond himself, and something so far beyond the reality of what he had previously known. IN the eighth verse of this chapter we read how Abraham went, while in the ninth verse we read how Abraham sojourned or journeyed, or traveled in the land of promise. Please don’t miss or lose sight of this, for Abraham sojourned in the land of promise although the land would not yet be given unto him. What’s more, is that although Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, and dwelt in tents, the land would not yet be given unto him. Aside from the birth of Isaac, Abraham spent his entire time serving the Lord believing in that which the Lord had promised unto him concerning his descendants, and the land in which he sojourned and dwelt in tents therein.
This actually brings me to an incredibly powerful truth that I feel deserves to be mentioned and brought up in this writing, and that it is possible for us to sojourn in the land of promise, and yet not actually be given that which has been promised. Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, and dwelt in tents in the midst of the land, and yet the land would not be given unto Abraham during his lifetime. What’s more, is that this land—Although it was promised unto Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants—would not given unto them during their generations. It wouldn’t be until several generations later—after four-hundred years of slavery—the land would be given unto the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What’s more, is that even after the descendants of Abraham were delivered and set free from their Egyptian bondage and oppression, they had to wait another forty years before they could actually enter in and take possession of the land, for they were forced to wander in the wilderness until an entire generation fell in the wilderness. This is quite profound and powerful when you take the time to think about it, for so many times we tend to think that as soon as the Lord gives us a promise we immediately lay hold of and take possession of that which has been promised unto us. Nothing could be further from the truth, for Abraham was promised the land of Canaan as an inheritance and possession, and was even able to dwell in the land, yet the land would not be given unto him during his lifetime and generation. What’s more, is that when Abraham sojourned in the land, and dwelt in tents in the midst thereof, he wasn’t the only one who dwelt in the land, for there were those peoples, and groups, and nations which were already present in the midst of the land. The vast and fundamental difference between Abraham and his descendants is that whereas Abraham sojourned within the land living among those who were already present in the land, his descendants were to completely and utterly drive the inhabitants of the land out. Abraham sojourned in the land as a stranger and pilgrim, which is actually quite astounding to consider, for he lived as a stranger in the land of promise. LIVING AS A STRANGER IN THE LAND OF PROMISE! Such a reality and concept is so far beyond our comprehension that we have a difficult time thinking about—much less accepting it. How is it possible that we can actually be found in the midst of that which has been promised unto us by the living God, and yet we aren’t actually able to lay hold of and take possession of it. What we learn within and through the life of Abraham is that it is possible for us be found in the place of that which has been promised unto us, and yet we aren’t yet able to lay hold of and take possession of it. The Lord never gave permission or authorization unto Abraham, nor unto Isaac, nor even unto Jacob to last hold of and take possession of the land. Instead, they were to sojourn within the land as strangers and pilgrims in a land that had been promised unto them.
What actually challenges me to no end is what we read and what we find in verses thirteen through sixteen of the eleventh chapter. As you read this particular chapter you will notice specific instances and specific occurrences when the author will actually inject a parenthetical statement, or series of statements within the chapter to present a spiritual truth. In verses thirteen through sixteen of this chapter the author interjects such a parenthetical series of statements concerning a generation of those who died in faith, not having received the promises. Consider if you will the words which the author writes in this particular chapter beginning with the thirteenth verse:
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
Consider the tremendous reality and concept of what is found within these verses, for the author writes and speaks of those dying in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off. Those whom the author referenced and referred to as having died in faith, saw the promises afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embrace them, and confessed they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. The author then goes on to write and declare that those who speak in such a manner, and those who say such things are plainly declaring that they are seeking a country. Furthermore, the author goes on to write that if those whom they were writing were mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to return, or perhaps even shrink bank. What we find in this particular series of statements is a powerful call to recognize where we have come from, and to consider how we are living our lives in direct connection and relation to faith, and the powerful call to faith in action, and the demonstration of faith. Oh that we would consider the absolutely incredible reality and concept concerning faith, and how we demonstrate our faith through action more than definition. The Spirit of the Lord is looking for men and women who are willing to engage themselves in matters of faith, and are willing to do more than simply talk about, and define, and describe faith, but are willing to actively demonstrate their faith consistently day in and day out.