It is always in times of difficulty when people look for heroes. No one is looking for Superman to save them when things are going well. But it is time of crisis when we expect heroes to lend a hand. In this series we are going to look at some heroes, who through their faith were able to overcome the difficulties of life. But before we can look at the heroes, we need to see why they are recorded for us. What is the purpose of the writer of Hebrews recording this section of scripture describing the heroes of the past? Open your Bibles to Hebrews 10. In verses 32-33 we find out that the audience had endured persecution. They were enduring deep suffering. We often want to look at the suffering of others and compare. We compare so that we can ignore the advice and encouragement of others. We want to think that no one has gone through what we are going through. But look at what kind of suffering the Hebrew Christians had endured. After they had been baptized, they “endured a hard struggle with sufferings.” Some of them had been abused with insults publicly. Some had been physically mistreated and afflicted. If they had not personally endured this suffering, then they were closely connected to someone who had. A spouse, a relative, or a close friend had endure this mistreatment (10:33). Some of them had been arrested and placed into prison. They even had their property and possessions plundered and seized. How demoralizing to have experienced such a severe trial!
I wonder how many of us would have endured such mistreatment and still put our trust in God. This was surely a faith shaking situation. But they continued to show themselves to be disciples of Jesus. They had compassion on those who were suffering. In fact, they accepted the plundering of their possessions knowing that they had a better and lasting possession. They kept their eyes on the goal of heaven and the hope of eternal life. But what they had endured was difficult and it had shaken them. So the writer of Hebrews feels compelled to offer words of encouragement.
“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” Don’t give up on your faith now! You have endured so much. Don’t give up now! Why not give up when times are tough? Why not throw in the towel after going through so much? I believe all of us have such think when going through life’s difficulties. Why should I continue to serve and trust in God?
(1) The writer of Hebrews points out that their confidence and trust in God has great reward. There will be an eternal benefit by continuing to trust in the Lord. The reward is greater than what has been lost. Therefore, endurance is needed in life because we will receive the promised reward when we continue to do the will of God through our difficulties.
(2) The righteous live by faith. This is a defining attribute of the righteous. They have placed their trust in God. We cannot be people who think that we are going to get through life without finding times where our trust in God will be tested. Faith is following through with what we believe. We believe that God is in control and our faith will be tested. But the righteous live by faith.
(3) Those who shrink back are destroyed. You cannot go half way and then shrink back. What good is it to begin the journey with God, go through some difficult times, only to give up when things get more challenging? There is no point in starting the journey with God if we are not committed to completing the journey. Thus, the writer of Hebrews confidently states that we are not the ones who will shrink back. We are the ones who have faith and will have our souls saved because we continue to trust God.
We are left with another unfortunate chapter break. The writer is talking about our need for faith. Particularly, the writer has discussed why we should continue to serve God and trust God in the midst of life’s trials. The writer has just made three important points: our faith will reap a great reward, the righteous live by faith, and those let go of their faith are destroyed. Now the writer of Hebrews will tell us why our faith is so important.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence (conviction) of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Understanding the Importance of Faith
This passage has become difficult because we do not understand the word “substance” very well. Today, substance has taken on more of the scientific meaning of an object. This concept of “substance” leads to great confusion. This was one of my memory verses as a child and I could never understand what faith was the substance of things hoped for.
But the word “substance” is a compound word: “sub”+”stance.” We have many compound words that begin with “sub.” A submarine is under water. Subterranean means under ground. Substance is standing under. Faith stands under our hope. When we go to the Greek, we see this is exactly what the word means. Thayer: “a setting or placing under, thing put under, substructure, foundation.” Strongs: “a setting under.” NAS Greek: “a support.” Faith stands under our hope. Or, faith is the foundation for our hope. Or, faith supports our hope. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a translation that gave us these words like this, because I believe the statement becomes much more coherent and fitting to the context. If hope is the bridge, then faith are the pilings under the water holding the bridge in place. Therefore, our hope is only as strong as our faith. Our hope is only as secure as the strength of our faith. What does this have to do with the heroes we will read about? These heroes all have one thing in common: they put their undivided confidence in God. All of them had a faith foundation and that gave them reason for hope in the midst of great trials. Back in Hebrews 10:39, those who shrink back from putting their trust in God are destroyed. Faith was the foundation upon which these heroes hoped for a great reward. Faith was the foundation for believing in what had been promised to them. Faith was the foundation that gave them hope that their souls were being preserved, though enduring trials.
Let us now look at the second statement about faith. “Faith is the conviction of things not seen.” The word translated “evidence” in the NKJV literally means “conviction, proof.” Faith gives us the conviction concerning these unseen things. Faith is not seeing the seen, for then it is not faith. Faith is seeing the unseen. This is how Paul told us to handle afflictions and difficulties.
17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
A little bit later Paul would say,
We live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Notice it is essentially the same point. Faith gives us the conviction to see the unseen. With faith, we are able to see the goal. With faith, we are able to see the eternal things of life. With faith, we are able to have hope in the future. It is by faith that these heroes were approved by God (11:2) because they were able to see the unseen. Their great faith gave them great hope in the unseen that they could endure such physical calamities. But there is more being told to us in verse 2. Yes, it is this great faith that led them to be found approved by God. But the New English Bible gives a very literal rendering: “It is for their faith that the men of old stand on record.” That word translated in many versions as “commendation” or “approved” literally means “to testify, to give witness.” These people of old are on record, giving their testimony for their faith in God. Their faith was not blind. Nor was their faith baseless. Their faith had reason which brought about the conviction within them concerning the hope they looked forward to, seeing the unseen.
We must have this kind of vision. We cannot look at life and see only the things that are seen, that is, the physical. If this is all that there is to life, then we are most miserable of people. We have to see that there is something more. We have to see Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. We have to see the eternal reward that awaits the righteous. We have to see the coming justice of God.
Speaking of faith, the writer begins with an event that no one has ever seen. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:3). Here is one of our faith foundations. When I begin to lose my faith and am in need of endurance, I come back to the creation of the world. It is the only logical, rational answer. We have spent many studies looking at how impractical and how impossible it is for this universe to have come into being by time and chance. The creation is an unseen event. No one was there and we must accept it by faith. It is rational faith, but it is faith nonetheless. Creation is one of the great faith foundation pillars.
The Faith Foundation
1. Faith is the foundation for your hope. Your hope in God and your conviction in the unseen is directly correlated to your faith. If you find that your hope is weak, then your faith is weak. If you find that your conviction wavers, then your faith is shallow. You may be thinking within yourself that I do not have that kind of faith that we have discussed this morning. This series of lessons are for you to help you build your faith. We are going to look at the heroes and our study will give you confidence and courage to place your trust in God.
2. Faith is what gets us through life’s difficulties. As we read, “you have need of endurance.” Our endurance will come only by the strengthening of our faith. Even if we have a strong faith, we need to add more to our faith, making it stronger. Satan is always trying to ram our faith, trying to destroy the pillars of our faith, causing our hope to come crashing down.
3. God’s righteous live by faith. We need deeper faith to be called righteous by God. Too often we live by sight, making decisions in the best interests of our physical needs rather than our spiritual needs. Those pronounced righteous by God do not live in that way. God’s people look beyond the immediate world and look at the spiritual impact. God’s people draw close to God not to the material world.
4. Do not give up now! You have already endured much in your life. Don’t give up on God now. Don’t forfeit your reward. In this lesson we will see how the heroes did not quit so that we will not quit when our trials come.