Greetings to you all. I pray that you are well.
As we conclude our look at the book of Hebrews today, my effort will be to help encourage all of us by understanding the answer to a question most of us ask, though we do so in many different ways, at different times in our lives. The question is this: What’s the point of it all? What’s the point of my having a relationship with God? Why is heaven important? What’s the purpose of all this stuff that preachers keep telling us that we need to do?
Now, this is a bit of a challenge for me in the amount of time that I have with you. But if we stick to God’s word, and if I don’t get in the way or trip over my sentences, together, we might just figure it out. Let’s begin with Hebrews 11:1,
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
Now there are many wonderfully inspiring verses in the Bible. We all have our favorites. But here, in this first verse, whether it was spoken first by Paul, his friend Barnabas or Apollos, or someone else; we find a most common-sensical phrase for the Christian believer. I love this verse.
Because, without this scripture as guidance, we have, as children of God, the most difficult time trying to describe our faith.
A few weeks back we talked about how hard it is for the average human to be able to keep their focus on God.
Today our text is talking about something invisible. How do we stay focused on something invisible?
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Well, that then begs the question: What do we hope for?
What’s your answer? Jesus, an eternity in heaven, to see God? Or maybe you’re short-term, like hoping to win the lottery, get a new sofa, or just have a weekend off.
Then there is the second part of this verse, certain of what we do not see.
What are we certain of that we do not see? My first response to this question is the Holy Spirit. I am sure of God’s Spirit being present in my life. I know that many of you feel this way also. Yet I don’t see the Holy Spirit.
In fact, in my low points, I take solace in the knowledge that God’s Spirit is with me, many times encouraging me, ministering to me, the same way that heavenly angels ministered comfort to our Lord Jesus.
In addition to God’s Holy Spirit, can it not also be testified that there is an entire spiritual realm that exists, yet is unseen by us? I don’t see it, but I do feel it. Hebrews 11:2 then tells us,
“This faith is what the ancients were commended for.”
The ancients were commended for being sure of what they hoped for and certain of what they do not see.
The ancients described here are all of those who would be considered heroes of the faith and chapter 11 of Hebrews reminds us of their testimonies. Abel, who had the better sacrifice, Enoch, who did not experience death, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab the prostitute, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets.
They had this faith that we’re talking about. They passed it on, and many of them died while passing the faith on. Hebrews 11:3 then mentions something very important about this faith.
“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”
We know that before our creation, the earth was formless and empty. Genesis 1:1-2,
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
It is hard to picture nothing. Try it, the nothing that I picture always looks like something. Usually, the sky is what I picture. But verse 11:3 says what was seen was not made out of what was visible. We know that Jesus was the creative agent of God, what did he use?
So this faith, in a God who is unseen, a God who formed the universe, so that what we see now, was not made by anything visible. On top of that, all of our biblical heroes are commended for having this faith and being certain of what we do not see. There is a great amount of not seeing here.
What is it that we do not see, yet we are made aware of it, just? It is God’s Spirit, with us from the beginning, tickling us, prodding us, encouraging us, forgiving us, and picking us up when we screw up. The Holy Spirit will also teach us, if we let him.
Visualize this if you can, all those heroes in the Bible along with all of the great teachers, theologians, and friends and family who have encouraged us over the years, are now gone, unseen, but still rooting for us, encouraging us, willing us on through our lives, carrying on the faith they exemplified to us. Visualize this, as we read Hebrews 12:1-3,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus (focus), the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Yes, there is a spiritual realm that we do not see. Yes, there is a Holy Spirit that we do not see. Yes, we were created for and believe in a God we have never seen.
But, we are saved by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who we have seen, who died our death on the cross to set us free from our slavery to sin.
But each of us has our part to play. Hebrews 12:5-6, which includes a teaching from Proverbs 3:11-12,
“And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons (and daughters), ‘Do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son (or daughter).’”
I know that many of you are struggling now. With health, as caregivers to loved ones, and family members who are struggling, and in a world that does not understand us, and is set against us. It’s difficult to see what’s true, what’s right, and what’s wrong.
This is the point of it all. This is the time for us to act. Pass it on.
Pass on this faith, being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Pass on the living Christ.
So often, at our lowest points, we think that we are alone. But we’re not. That’s just Satan, trying his best to make us think that we’re alone. But we are never alone. We have Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and that great cloud of witnesses to lean on.
There are many around us, who do not believe in Christ and who also feel this confused and lonely feeling. Pass on that which you have been taught. All that you have learned about Jesus throughout your life has prepared you for now.
Pass it on. Now is the time. Pass it on.
All of us will experience tests and corrections from the Lord. We will have bad things that happen to us. But these are the times that make us stronger when we survive them. And always remember, this is when Satan attacks. When he senses our personal weaknesses. But these attacks mean nothing compared to who we serve and what we believe. Remember, when we are at our weakest, Jesus reveals his strength.
Pass it on.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC