After discussing specific heroes of faith who exhibited their belief in God, the writer begins to conclude his words of encouragement for these suffering Christians. Read Hebrews 11:32-40. The writer seems to be emphatic with the statement, “What more can I say?” The point is that the writer could continue on and on about the great faith of so many people who lived for God before us. It would take up too much time and space to continue talking about the great faith of the people like Gideon who was willing to tear down his father’s idols and lead Israel to victory with only 300 men. Barak who served with Deborah in judging Israel. Samson with his great strength judging Israel. David repeatedly shows great faith, relying on God for deliverance. Samuel was a great judge who served the Lord fully. The writer goes on to describe other great acts the heroes of the past performed. Often students of this text try to figure out who the writer of Hebrews is talking about. For example, stopping the mouths of lions may refer to the prophet Daniel, or refer to some of the judges who defeated lions. Discussion is made about the one who was “sawn in two” which likely refers to Isaiah, who is believed to have been sawn in two under the rule of Manasseh. But this is not the point of the text. The writer did not record these events so that we could play a game of “who did this?”
Great Faith Does Great Things (11:32-35)
Instead, let us consider what is the common factor in these descriptions so that we can determine the point the author is making. Look at what these people did “through faith!” They conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight, and women received their dead back by resurrection.
I think the point becomes clear when we really think about what these heroes did. Great faith does great things. This whole chapter has been about how great faith does great things. How were these people able to do great things? How could they shut the mouths of lions? How could they administer justice? How could they gain strength after being weak? How could they be might in battle? The answer, according to the writer of Hebrews, is that they all had great faith. Great faith does great things.
Point #1. What great things are we doing for the Lord? What great things have we done for the Lord? If we are not doing great and have not done great things, we are proving that we do not have great faith. Faith will cause action. Faith caused all of these heroes to act. So what great things have we done for the Lord? Is our great thing pew sitting on Sundays? Is this all that we have to offer? Do we suppose that we will stack up to those of great faith who have gone on before us? Obviously we are not talking about the need to go find a lion and try to wrestle it. We are not talking about trying to subdue nations. Remember, greatness is not defined by human wisdom or human standards. But there are a number of great things, by God’s standard, that we can be doing for the Lord.
Teaching. There are so many places and so many areas that we should be teaching. The writer of Hebrews, in fact, makes this very criticism.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God’s revelation. You need milk, not solid food. (Hebrews 5:12; CSB)
It is a great thing to be a teacher, to be teaching, and to work toward being a teacher. Be a teacher of your family about the spiritual things of God. It is important that we teach our children the scriptures and teach them the importance of God. This is a great act, but requires true faith in God, not laziness. We need to not only teach our children but others’ children. Can you think of other important things that you are preparing for in your week than to come here and teach these young children the word of God? Our jobs are not more important than this great act of teaching children God’s word. Yet, we act like it is too much work and too much to ask. We need to be teaching one another. You teach others by being a good student of the Bible yourself. You teach from the seat on Sunday morning, Wednesday night, and Friday night. But only if you have prepared yourself by studying the word of God, recording your observations, and sharing aloud what you learned. Discuss Bible things. I love to talk about Bible topics. Let’s talk about Bible things and teach one another.
Preaching the gospel. We need to be preachers. Unfortunately, we can easily adopt the attitude that we hire a preacher and therefore we do not preach. But nothing could be further from the truth. We are all called to be preachers, both men and women, and there are a number of ways that we preach. We preach through purity of life. People see if our lives are pure, or if we are at clubs and bars. We must be preaching to our friends and neighbors. We can preach by talking about Bible topics, by inviting to church services, by inviting to Bible studies, by asking Bible questions, and by discussing how God has affected your life. We show great faith by doing the great thing of proclaiming the gospel.
Working harder spiritually. We do great things for God by never being content spiritually. We cannot be content with the lost we have reached. We can reach more. We cannot be content with our acts of service. We can serve more. We cannot be content with our spiritual maturity. We can grow stronger and grow deeper. We need more servants here. Work harder to attain that. Are you reaching out to our visitors? Are you reaching our weak Christians? Are you reaching our suffering Christians? Are you working to be a teacher? Are you working to be a more effective proclaimer of the gospel? Are you working to be an elder? Are you working to be a deacon? Or are we simply spiritually coasting, drifting along with no measurable improvements? Great faith does great things. What great things have you done? What great things are you doing?
Great Faith Makes Great Sacrifices (11:35-38)
In the middle of verse 35 there is a change in the description about these heroes. Rather than continuing to discuss the great things that great faith has accomplished in the past, he records the suffering they endured. Carefully read what happened to these heroes. They were tortured. They refused to accept release, instead desiring to suffer for the cause of Christ. They suffered mocking and flogging. Some suffered arrest and imprisonment. They were stoned. They were sawn in two and killed by the sword (beheaded). They had nothing, wearing the skins of animals. They were destitute, afflicted and mistreated. Then, slow down over the following words in verse 38: “The world was not worthy of them.” We should have emotion invoked as we read of that kind of faith. They had no home, wandering about in deserts, mountains, dens, and caves. I think we can sum up the point of author rather easily: great faith makes great sacrifices. In the previous section the author wants us to see what that these heroes accomplished. Now, the author wants us to see all that they had to give up. Great faith makes great sacrifices.
What is our sacrifice for the Lord? What have we given up for the kingdom? Is that we give up is the ability to sleep in a little on Sunday? Is all that we have given up is being tired on Wednesday but we come anyway? Is that it? We must make great sacrifices if we are going to have the faith God is looking for in us.
Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1; CSB)
What are we laying on the altar as our sacrifice to the Lord? The apostle Paul says that our lives are on the altar? So what have we sacrificed? We have sacrificed God, not ourselves. We think that work has a great priority than God. We will not sacrifice money for God. We will not sacrifice our jobs for the Lord. We will not sacrifice our comfort for the Lord. We will not sacrifice our standard of living for the Lord. The world was unworthy of these heroes. We are unworthy to be with these heroes in heaven. Great faith makes great sacrifices. Why are we not doing great things for the Lord? The reason is because we are unwilling to make great sacrifices for the Lord.
Look for what we can do for the Lord. Then make the sacrifice to do it. We must sacrifice work, school, hobbies, sports, recreation, and anything else that prevents us from doing great things for the Lord. Moses gave up great wealth to serve God. We would try to justify staying where we are so that we could have the wealth and supposedly still serve God. This is what we do. We do what we want to do, and then call it service to God. When we show that we will not forfeit money, good paying jobs, comfort, recreation, school and so forth then we know that we would not have the faith to serve God if we were put to the test like these heroes were.
If the choice is between being paid well or leading our family in righteousness because we can be around, choose God. If the choice is being paid well or having more time to serve the local church, choose God. We might have to live on less money, but we have been called to sacrifice. Yes, we could get paid better. But if it will cause me to have to serve God less, teach my children less, be unable to lead my family to the Lord, we should see the need to sacrifice. Money is not a decision factor for Christians.
Do Not Expect Any Reward Now (11:39-40)
Finally, when you do great things for God and you make great sacrifices for God, don’t expect your reward now. We want to have a pat on the back. We might want some recognition. We want people to know that we are doing something extra. Stop. You have turned God’s work into a selfish pursuit. Look at Hebrews 11:39-40. They did not receive the fulfillment of God’s promises while they lived. We want attention for what we are doing. But Jesus said not to even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing when performing acts of righteousness (Matthew 6:1-3). Let us remember the words of the Savior:
In the same way, when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty.'”(Luke 17:10; CSB)
- Great faith does great things.
- Great faith makes great sacrifices.
- Great faith does not expect reward now or human approval.