The Upward, Inward & Forward Vision of Faith

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews. More specifically today’s passage is found in the eleventh chapter of this New Testament book. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were famed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:1-3).

 

            “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 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. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. 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” (Hebrews 11:4-7).

 

            “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, 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. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore” (Hebrews 11:8-12).

 

            “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. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

 

            “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promise offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, In Isaac your seed shall be called, concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith, Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones” (Hebrews 11:17-22).

 

            “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command. By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked for the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned” (Hebrews 11:23-29).

 

            “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace. And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barack and Samson and Jephthae, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sown in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Hebrews 11:30-40).

 

            When you come to the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews you will find the author of this epistle appealing to the myriad of faithful men and women who went before—those who walked in manners which pleased the living and eternal God. As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find the author opens the chapter by making a bold and emphatic statement regarding faith. In the opening verse of this chapter the author of the epistle makes the declaration that faith is the substance of things hoped for—and not only the substance of things hoped for but the evidence of things not seen. This is actually quite interesting when you take the time to think about it for there are essentially two different components to that which the author wrote and spoke of in this passage of Scripture. On the one hand the author speaks both of substance as well as evidence while on the other hand the author spoke of things hoped for and things not seen. I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for they bring us face to face with an understanding concerning faith. It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and understand the words which are found here in this passage for when speaking of faith the author not only speaks of faith as being the substance but I would also argue and contend that faith must needs have substance. What’s more is that when you read the words in the opening verse of this passage you will find that faith both is the evidence but also has evidence that is directly connected to it.

 

            It would be very easy to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and focus solely on the reality that faith IS the substance [of things hoped for] and IS the evidence [of things not seen]. While we can indeed make the argument that faith is by definition the substance, the essence and the foundation of things hoped for I would also argue and contend that faith in and of itself must needs have substance. We know that in the final verses of the tenth chapter the author quotes the words of the ancient Hebrew prophet when declaring the just shall live by faith. It is indeed true the just shall live by faith and it is true that we are justified by faith alone according to the free gift of the eternal and living God through the sacrifice and death of the only begotten Son, however, what we must needs recognize and understand is that when we think and speak about faith we must needs recognize that faith not only is substance in and of itself but it also has substance to it. I would dare argue and contend that faith must needs be the substance of things hoped for within this life and within our walk with God, however, at the very heart and core of faith we must recognize and acknowledge that faith must in fact have substance directly linked and connected to it. Not only must faith have substance connected to it but that substance is something that directly positions us in a manner whereby we are able to please the living and eternal God.

 

            If there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it’s that the ultimate result of faith is the testimony which the author wrote concerning Enoch. In the fifth verse of this passage we find the author writing of Enoch that he was taken away so that he did not see death and was not found because God had taken him. The author goes on to declare that before Enoch was taken he had this testimony—namely that he pleased God. This is something we must needs recognize and understand when seeking to understand and comprehend faith for in the sixth verse of the same chapter the author of this epistle writes and declares that without faith it is impossible to please God. Moreover the author goes on to declare that he who comes to God must believe that He is AND that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. The words which are found in this passage of Scripture are incredibly unique and powerful when you take the time to think about it for while it is indeed true the just shall live by their faith it is also true that without such faith it is impossible to please God. I am convinced the ultimate and end result of faith—both in this life as well as in the life to come—is that we have the testimony of pleasing God. The ultimate testimony of faith is not necessarily in those things which we believed for or even those things which the LORD wrought through our hands and lives. Without a doubt the ultimate testimony of faith is a life that was well pleasing in the sight and presence of the living and eternal God. The ultimate testimony of faith is simply that we pleased God—that God was pleased with us. Much like the Father broke the silence and the moment of Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan River to express His pleasure and delight in His Son so also must we recognize the Father desires to speak the same words over us in this life.

 

            I sit here today thinking about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding faith and its ultimate testimony and objective of faith is not in accomplishment or accolades in this earthly and natural life. There would be those who would like to think and believe the ultimate objective of faith is what we can accomplish in this life for the kingdom of God. There would be those among us who would like to think that the ultimate objective and testimony are those things we have been privileged to be able to accomplish for the living God within the earth. The truth of the matter, however, is that the ultimate objective of faith is what the author of this epistle spoke concerning Enoch when they wrote that Enoch had the testimony that he pleased God. Moreover the author goes on to declare that without faith it is impossible to please God. This is something we must needs understand and recognize for the author didn’t say that without faith it was difficult to please God but rather that without faith it was impossible to please God. Please pay close attention to this for if you have a desire within your heart to please God and to walk in a manner in which He is both pleased and delighted in you must have at the very core and foundation of your being faith. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the ultimate objective and testimony of faith. What’s more is that when you read the words found in this passage is that while it is indeed true the author began this chapter by declaring that which faith was he didn’t spend the rest of the chapter building a theological argument for faith. The author did not take the other thirty-nine verses of this chapter and build an entire doctrine around faith that we might be able to add to our understanding of faith itself.

            As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you can and will encounter and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the understanding of faith—not necessarily that you might be able to define it but that you might live it. There would be those who would read the words found in this passage and seek to understand what was written by the author that they might be able to adequately and accurately define faith. I am convinced this is an absolutely tremendous farce and something which we dare not and must not do within our hearts and lives. If we truly wish and desire to please God in this life we must recognize that we have not been called to define and explain faith but rather to live faith in this life. If you take the time to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find the author didn’t take time to define and set forth a doctrine concerning faith but rather how faith worked itself within the lives of those faithful men and women who had gone before in previous generations. The author did in fact begin this chapter declaring of faith that it was the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, however, immediately after this in the second verse the author expressed the ultimate purpose of faith in this life—namely obtaining a good testimony. It is in the second verse of this passage of Scripture we find the author writing how by faith the elders obtained a good testimony and it is this obtaining a good testimony that is in direct alignment with what the author wrote of Enoch and how Enoch had the testimony that he pleased God. What was the good testimony the author spoke of in the second chapter but the testimony that one pleased God?

 

            Please do not miss and lose sight of the intrinsic link and connection that exists between the second and fifth verses of this chapter for the good testimony which the author spoke of in the second verse was indeed the testimony that Enoch pleased God. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that while Enoch did in fact please God and have the testimony that he did so it is possible for us to please God in our generation. Enoch pleased God in his generation and was taken away that he might not see death. While we might not be those who are taken away that we might not see death as Enoch experienced—unless of course we partake in the second coming of Christ and are gathered together with those who have died in Christ and have gone before in the air—we can indeed have the testimony that we please God. What we must needs understand when reading the words is that while we might not be taken away as Enoch was—or even as Elijah was by a horse and chariot of fire—we might very well be caught up together with the dead in Christ to meet the Lord in the air. The underlying truth concerning this particular truth is that the only way for us to participate and partake in the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is indeed if we have the testimony that we have pleased and do in fact please Him. Enoch had the testimony in this life that he pleased God and it was because he pleased God that God saw fit to take him away that he might not taste death. Oh this is something we must needs recognize and understand for when we think about faith we must be careful we don’t fall into the trap of being able to define faith while being absolutely unable and incapable of living it. There are countless men and women who are able to define faith and even speak to it and yet they have absolutely no clue how to live faith within their hearts and lives.

 

            Concerning this reality of living faith and actually walking and fleshing our faith it I am absolutely convinced we must needs consider the words which James wrote in the second chapter of his epistle to the saints which were scattered and suffering. If you turn and direct your attention to the second chapter of the epistle written by James you will find him writing both of favoritism within the house of God as well as faith needing works. It is impossible to read the words found in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle written by James and not encounter and come face to face with the truth that faith does in fact and does indeed need evidence and substance. Faith in and of itself—merely believing that God is—is not enough for there must be tangible evidence and substance to that faith. It is indeed true that those who come to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, however, faith must be demonstrated and manifested within the lives of the saints of God and disciples of Christ. This is something we dare not miss and lose sight of for when we think and speak about faith we must recognize that at the very heart of faith is the ability to live it out in this life and doing so in such a manner that pleases the living and eternal God of heaven and earth. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written by James beginning with the first and opening verse:

 

            “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come  in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, You sit here in a good please, and say to the poor man, You stand there, or Sit here at my footstool, have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? If you really fulfill the royal low according to the Scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder. Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:1-13).

 

            In the first thirteen verses of the second chapter the author James writes and speaks of showing partiality and favoritism in the house of the living God. James writes unto his audience and encourages, admonishes and even warns them against the sin and danger of showing partiality and favoritism in the midst of the house of the LORD. What’s more is James speaks of this and declares that doing so is holding the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ with partiality. Moreover James also goes on to declare that those who show partiality have become judges of evil thoughts and are guilty of transgression in the sight of the living God. Not only this but James also goes on to describe and declare unto them how they dishonor the poor man among them when they show partiality and favoritism and therefore dishonor the living and eternal God. James then goes on to speak of fulfilling the royal law according to the scripture which speaks of loving their neighbor as themselves. Further, James writes that those who showed and demonstrated partiality they commit tin and were convicted by the law as transgressors. James would further go on to declare that whoever kept the whole law and yet stumbled in one point was guilty of all. This is something we must needs understand when seeking to read the second chapter of the epistle written by James for before speaking of the demonstration and manifestation of faith by and through works he first spoke of showing partiality and favoritism in the house of the LORD. I can unequivocally and without hesitation say that showing partiality and favoritism in the house of the LORD does not please nor does it honor the living and eternal God. Those who show partiality and favoritism in the house of the LORD commit open, flagrant and blatant transgression and iniquity in the sight and presence of the living God.

 

            It is at this point I find it necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written by James. Within this second half of the second chapter we find James writing and speaking of faith without works. What’s more is not only did James speak of faith being without works but he would also be bold in declaring that faith without works is dead. The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews declared that faith both is the substance and is the evidence and yet I am absolutely convinced that as much as faith is the substance and is the evidence so also must faith possess substance and evidence. With this being said I finds it absolutely necessary to declare that the greatest testimony of your faith is not in the words you speak but in the life you life. There are many among us who would like to think the witness and testimony of their faith comes from and through the words they speak concerning it, however, I am absolutely convinced that faith that must be explained rather than demonstrated is not faith at all. There are many people within our churches today who think and believe that merely defining faith is enough without having any tangible evidence and manifestation of faith. In all reality that which we find and read in the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews is not the author defining faith but rather the author showing how faith is both demonstrated and manifested in the lives of those who had gone before.

 

            That which we find in the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews is incredibly powerful when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the demonstration and manifestation of faith within our hearts and lives. Faith that can only be defined and not demonstrated is a faith that is of no value or worth in the sight and presence of the living God. The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote of faith that it is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, however, we must needs acknowledge and understand the undeniable truth that faith is more than simply belief within our hearts and our spirits. Faith is more than simply that which we hope for in this life as the apostle Paul and the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote. Faith does indeed hope for that which is not seen and that which is not yet manifested in the earth yet I am convinced as much as faith believes faith also acts, faith also demonstrates and faith also manifests itself within our hearts and lives. We must needs acknowledge and understand the fact that faith within our hearts and lives is such that requires demonstration, manifestation and action in order for it to please the living God. I continue to believe the ultimate testimony of our faith is that we have pleased and do in fact please the living and eternal God. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of when thinking and speaking about faith for it brings us face to face with the absolutely remarkable and astonishing truth that faith demands action and faith demands demonstration and manifestation. You cannot read the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews and not encounter and come face to face with the truth that the author set out—not to define faith nor call attention to some type of doctrine of faith but rather to show how faith was demonstrated and manifested within the lives of those to whom they were writing. The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews sought to convey to their readers and audience that faith was more than simply something we define but is something that we live within and throughout our every day lives.

 

            Before returning to the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written by James. Here in the second chapter beginning with the fourteenth verse we find James speaking of faith and emphatically declaring that faith without works is dead. For James faith was something that required and demanded action within one’s life and was not merely some type of internal belief one possessed within their heart and spirit. Faith has always been and will always be something which must be demonstrated and manifested within our hearts and lives. For those who wish to have the testimony within their own hearts and lives that they pleased God they must be such who have a demonstration and manifestation of faith in the sight and presence of the living God. The “great cloud of witnesses” which was spoken of and mentioned in the opening verse of the twelfth chapter looks back to the list of faithful men and women whom the author wrote and spoke of in the previous chapter when writing of faith. This “great cloud of witnesses” were those who obtained the testimony that they pleased God because their faith had both substance and evidence. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality of faith within our lives being such that must have a tangible proof in the sight and presence of the living God. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written by James beginning with the fourteenth verse:

 

            “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, Depart in peace, be warmed and filled, but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it posit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and trembled! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14-26).

 

            Pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for what we find here is James making an incredibly bold statement concerning faith. What’s more is that not only does James make a statement concerning faith but he also directly linked and connected faith together with works. James initially asks the question what it profits if someone says they have faith but does not have works. James then goes on to ask the question whether or not faith can same him before transitioning to speaking of those who are in need among us or within our community. James writes and asks if a brother is naked and destitute of daily food and one of us says to them “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled” but do not give the things which are needed for the body then what profit is it for them and for us. This James wrote and spoke to illustrate that faith alone by itself—if it does not have works—is dead. James goes on to write how someone will say unto him that he has faith but they have works to which James would respond by saying, “Show me your faith without your works and will show you my faith by my works.” Please carefully consider the words which are found here when James speaks of showing his faith by his works for this is at the very heart and center of what we find in the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews. At the very heart of the very heart of the eleventh chapter is not a definition of faith but rather the demonstration of faith within the hearts and lives of all those who were mentioned. This is something we must acknowledge and recognize within our hearts and minds for it brings us face to face with the incredible truth surrounding faith needing both substance and evidence. There is the element of things hoped for and things unseen, however, for our faith to be such that pleases the living God there must be substance and evidence.

 

            Permit me to take a step back and ask you who might be reading these words whether or not you do indeed and do in fact have both substance and evidence to your faith. If you were to carefully examine your faith right now is it something that is defined or is it something that is demonstrated? Is the faith which you profess to possess within your heart and spirit something that is tangible and is in fact demonstrated and manifested in the sight of the living God? What’s more is when asking ourselves this question we must acknowledge that our faith is not somehow put on display or put on show in the sight and presence of others that we might somehow receive accolades and praise from them. The faith which we say we possess is no something which we put on display for those in the house of the LORD to somehow receive recognition from them. IN fact this is precisely what Jesus spoke of when delivering His famous Sermon on the Mount concerning giving, concerning praying and concerning fasting. What’s more is this is also what Jesus spoke of when indicting and condemning the scribes and the Pharisees in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the sixth and twenty-third chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:

 

            “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otero wise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, so not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret: and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew 6:1-4).

 

            “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts and we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:5-15).

 

            “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly”  (Matthew 6:16-18).

 

            Before getting into the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew I find it absolutely necessary to call your attention to the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples concerning the Last Days and that final hour when the King will separate the sheep from the goats. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew beginning with the thirty-first verse:

 

            “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me: I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you? And the King will answer and say to them, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me. Then He will also say to those on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Then they will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you? Then He will answer them, saying, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46).

 

            Pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for what we find here are an incredibly powerful picture of the demonstration and manifestation of faith. If you take the time to read the words present within this passage of Scripture you will find similar language to that which was written in the epistle written unto James. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely incredible truth surrounding the demonstration and manifestation of faith being found in our treatment of others. At the very heart and center of the words which Jesus spoke in this passage of Scripture is the demonstration and manifestation of our faith in the lives of the least of these. There is something truly awesome, wonderful and beautiful about the words which we see here for Jesus speaks of those who were willing to demonstrate their faith through their actions. There were those who were willing to demonstrate their faith through caring for the least of these. Jesus spoke of those who were hungry, those who were thirsty, those who were strangers, those who were naked, those who were sick and those who were in prison and how there was a mighty demonstration and manifestation of faith unto and among them. Jesus emphatically declared and spoke of those who demonstrated and manifested their faith in feeding the hungry, in giving drink to the thirsty, in visiting the sick, in coming to those who were in prison and clothing the naked. What we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture is that it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth of what the demonstration and manifestation of our faith looks like. Not only this but it’s important to understand that this demonstration and manifestation of faith is seen and observed in heaven and is rewarded by the One who sits upon the throne and sees in secret.

 

            If there is something we must needs understand and recognize when reading the words which are found in these passages of Scripture it’s that we need to be able to do more than simply define our faith. We as the saints of God and we as the people of God must needs be those who truly understand that faith without works is dead and that we have been called to show our faith by our works. There is a great need to be men and women who recognize that faith is substance and faith is evidence, however, faith must also possess within it substance and evidence. Faith does in fact appropriate those things which are hoped for and those things which aren’t seen this reality is found throughout the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews. With this being said it is absolutely imperative to recognize that while the author of this epistle took one verse to describe and “define” what faith was they would take the rest of the chapter to show what faith looks like. In all reality we have to recognize that faith is more than simply an internal belief within our hearts and spirits and does indeed have an external appearance and manifestation within our lives. Faith must needs be more than simply that which we attest to and profess within our hearts and lives and must needs be something which we demonstrate and manifest within this world. What’s more and what we must needs understand is that we do not do our works to be seen, recognized, praised and acknowledged by men. The single greatest audience to and of our faith is not men and women in this life but the One who is seated upon the throne and the One who rewards those who diligently seek Him. It is indeed true our faith might be on display for others to see as the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews demonstrates, however, we must recognize that we do not demonstrate our faith to be seen, heard, recognized and praised of men.

 

            With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples which are recorded in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. It is within this passage of Scripture we encounter and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the scribes and Pharisees and how everything they did they did to be seen and praised of men. Everything the scribes and Pharisees did was to receive praise, glory and honor of men and they cared absolutely nothing about pleasing the one true and living God. In all reality we might very well be able to say that the scribes and Pharisees had the testimony that they pleased man while at the same time not having the testimony that they pleased God. While it is indeed true that without faith it is impossible to please God I would also argue and contend that if we seek to please man we cannot and will not please the living God. There is absolutely no way to please God while at the same time we seek to please man and make man’s praise and recognition our sole ambition and desire. Those who are referenced in the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews lived their lives for an audience of one while the scribes and the Pharisees performed for an audience of many. Perhaps the single greatest question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are indeed living for an audience of one or whether we are performing for an audience of many. Are we those who are living our lives that we might please the One who sits upon the throne or are we one who lives our lives performing for others that we might receive their praise, their honor and their accolades? The scribes and Pharisees were such who would and could not please the one true and living God because they were too consumed with pleasing men and those who were before and all around them. Consider now if you will the following words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning with the first verse:

 

            “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But you, do not be called Rabbi: for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father: for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:1-12).

 

            “But woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. Woe to you, blind guides, who say, Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it. Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? And, Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it. Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. He who swears by the temple swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe do you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Woe yo you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your father’s guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:13-36).

 

            If you take the time to return to the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews you will find the author of this epistle writing of things hoped for and things not seen. What we must recognize concerning this is that at the very heart and center of these two principles is the very foundation of the faith which men such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and others possessed within their hearts and spirits. If you want to truly understand the words found in this passage of Scripture you must needs understand that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen and it is while we are waiting for such realities within our lives that we live our lives in a manner that pleases and glorifies the living God. I read the words found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth surrounding faith being intrinsically linked and directly connected to things hoped for and things not seen. It is impossible to read the words presented in this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with how those who were strong in their faith kept their eyes looking forward and looking upward. In all reality those who are strongest in their faith are not only able to keep their eyes looking upward, and not only keep their eyes looking forward but they are also able to keep their eyes looking inward. FORWARD, UPWARD & INWARD! This is precisely what is found in the sixth chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah when in the year that king Uzziah died the prophet Isaiah saw a vision of the holiness and glory of the living God. It was in the midst of this vision this ancient Hebrew prophet not only had a vision that was upward, and not only a vision that was forward but also a vision that was inward. The upward vision of the prophet was seeing the LORD high and exalted and seated upon the throne and His train filling the Temple. The forward vision the prophet saw was when the living and eternal God asked who would go for them and whom they would send—to which the prophet Isaiah responded by emphatically declaring that He would available and would go. The inward vision the prophet Isaiah saw was manifested and expressed through his words of his being a man of unclean lips and dwelling in the midst of an unclean people. Oh consider if you will the following words which are found in the sixth chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah beginning with the first and opening verse:

 

            “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flesh. And one cried to another and said: Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts: The whole earth is full of His glory! And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said, Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, here am I! Send me” And He said, Go…” (Isaiah 6:1-9).

 

            I am absolutely convinced there is a great need to recognize and pay closer attention to the words which are present in this passage of Scripture for within it we are brought face to face with the upward, the forward and the inward vision the prophet Isaiah saw. In the year in which King Uzziah died the prophet Isaiah saw an upward vision of the Lord seated on a throne high and exalted and His train filling the Temple. Moreover the prophet saw the seraphim flying and proclaiming the holiness of the living God and even the glory of the living God. The upward vision was the vision of the train of the robe of the LORD of hosts filling the Temple and the posts of the door of the temple being shaken. The forward vision the prophet Isaiah saw was directly linked with the words the living and eternal God spoke when He asked who would go for Him and who would he send. The prophet Isaiah looked forward in that he emphatically proclaimed that He was available and was willing to go. The inward vision the prophet Isaiah saw was a vision that he himself was undone. After encountering and seeing the upward vision of the holiness and glory of the living God the prophet Isaiah would indeed see an inward vision of himself and his own need in the sight and presence of the living God. The prophet Isaiah would see himself as a man who was undone, as a man of unclean lips and as a man who dwelt in the midst of an unclean people. It would be as a direct result of this one of the seraphim would take a live coal from off the altar and would touch it to the lips of the prophet thereby cleansing and purging him that he might prophesy and be a vessel for the living and eternal God.

 

            As you read the words which are found in the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews you will find a wonderful and powerful description of those who would have in fact looked inward but at the same time would have looked upward and would have looked forward. In fact if you begin reading with and from the thirteenth verse of this passage of Scripture you will find a wonderful and powerful description of what this upward and forward vision does indeed and does in fact look like. What’s more is that if you begin reading with the twenty-third verse of this same chapter you will find the example of Moses and how he not only looked upward but also looked forward to what was ahead. I am absolutely convinced that when we speak about faith we must recognize that directly connected to it is an inward vision of ourselves and the need we have for the living God as well as an upward and forward vision in the sight and presence of the living God. Those whom the author of this epistle spoke of were such who not only looked upward but also looked forward to what lie ahead. Even if they could not see what was before them they would still by faith look forward to what could only be appropriated by and through faith. I am absolutely convinced that we demonstrate our faith in this life when we commit ourselves to being men and women who are committed to looking forward and looking upward as we seek to lay hold of those things which are not seen and those things which are hoped for. It was the apostle Paul who would write and declare that hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. With this in mind I invite you to now consider the following words which are found in the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews beginning with the thirteenth verse:

 

            “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. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

 

            “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ great riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26).

 

            Having seen these words which are found in the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in the third chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul beginning with the seventeenth verse. Consider if you will the following words which are found here in this passage and how it is directly connected to the upward and forward vision we have within our hearts and lives:

 

            “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame-who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:17-21).

 

            IN light of this I find it absolutely necessary to leave you with the following words which are found at the end of the eleventh chapter of this chapter within the epistle written unto the Hebrews. If you begin reading with and from the thirty-second verse you will find the author mentioning other heroes of the faith—those who demonstrated and manifested their faith within the earth. The author spoke of Gideon, Barack, Samson, Jephthae, David, Samuel, the prophets and others. The author did not have enough time to write of all the saints of old who walked by faith and who were indeed justified by their faith. The author did not have enough time to describe the demonstration and manifestation of all those who had gone before who were mighty men and women of faith. In the final verses of the eleventh chapter the author of this epistle speaks of how all these mentioned—and those who weren’t mentioned—obtained a good testimony through faith but did not receive the promise. The author declares that God provided something better for us that they should not be made perfect apart from us. Moreover the author of this epistle written unto the Hebrews would go on to write of these individuals and how the world was not worthy of them because of how they lived their lives separated, consecrated and holy in the sight and presence of the living God. This is something we must needs recognize and ask ourselves when reading the words found in this passage for we must ask ourselves who and what manner of man and who and what manner of woman we are truly willing to be. Are we willing to be man and women who live our lives with an upward, inward, and forward vision as we demonstrate and manifest the faith that is present within our generation? Are we willing to be men and women who will demonstrate and show the faith within our hearts and spirits that we too might obtain the testimony that we pleased the living and eternal God? Are we willing to be such who live our lives in such a way that we obtain a good testimony through faith knowing that we are walking in a manner in which pleases, honors and glorifies the one true and living God? Oh with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning with the thirty-second verse of this eleventh chapter:

 

            “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barack and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were San in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Hebrews 11:32-40).

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