Let us pray: Dear God we thank you for the many blessings you give into our lives. Yet we thank you even more for all the blessings you show us in the lives of those who have gone on before. Help us not just get to know but to fully know all of these Heroes of the faith. Lord in the same way I implore you to help me to be your messenger this morning. Delivering a word that is not my word but your word. Help me to share their lives in a new and vibrant way so we do not see them as characters from a book but flesh and blood people who through faith struggled through their earthly lives. This I pray in Jesus Holy Name. Amen
This morning we are going to continue our look at faith. Let’s begin by restating our definition of faith. Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
All through the bible we have examples of faith, usually in the context of danger.
I would like to use a teaching from Hebrews as our guide this morning. Paul was preaching to the people and wanted them to know how faith carried the people of God through the years.
He begins with the Children of Israel fleeing from Egypt. In his words by faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
This brings me to today. At a modern seminary a professor of old testament theology was walking across campus very much the keeper of rational thought. Suddenly he heard a sound that is so seldom heard at the seminary some one oohing and ahhhing. He quickly located the source being a young man sitting on a bench. “What has you so excited?” He asked. Professor I was just doing our reading and it is incredible the children parted the waters of the red sea and crossed as if on dry ground.”
The professor just shook his head and said, your confusion comes from a translation error it was not the red sea but the reed sea the water was only eight inches deep and not really a miracle.” Having struck a blow for rational thought the professor continued on his way.
Then suddenly the student came running up hooting and hollering. And said, “Professor it’s a miracle Pharaohs men just drown in eight inches of water!”
Paul then fast forwarded to after the 40 years of the children wandering in the dessert. They were preparing to enter the holy land they sent spies to search out the land. Spies who were almost caught saved only by the Prostitute Rahab, who Paul talks about that by faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
When the Children entered Israel they found great cities like Jericho. With walls so wide that chariots raced on top. When the Children addressed the city they were laughed at thinking no one can get inside of our mighty walls. Yet By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.
Then Paul goes into a litany of Heroes of the faith. He begins with Gideon, the one chosen by God who three times fled from His duty only to return and through faith do what God calls him to do.
Next Barak the mighty warrior that God called through Deborah but who refused to battle unless Deborah would go with Him.
Samson who even though did not always live a faithful life at the end prayed to God for help and support. Through faith in the end He overcame his enemies.
Jephthah, the first son of Noah who by faith helped his father not just build his ark but with his brother covered his father to avoid further shame.
Good king David who Paul is right lived a life that was too much to go into, just know that his overall life was one of faith.
Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Here I would like to take the time Paul does not. There are ten cases of people being brought back from the dead. Some are cases of prophets raising children for their mothers others are loved ones being raised for their family. Elijah raised the son of the Zarephath widow from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-22), Elisha raised the son of the Shunammite woman from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-35) A man was raised from the dead when his body touched Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:20, 21) Many saints rose from the dead at the resurrection of Jesus (Matt. 27:50-53) Jesus rose from the dead (Matt. 28:5-8; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:5, 6) Jesus raised the son of the widow of Nain from the dead (Luke 7:11-15) Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Luke 8:41, 42, 49-55) Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44) Peter raised Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:36-41) Eutychus was raised from the dead by Paul (Acts 20:9, 10). J. L. Meredith, Meredith’s Big Book of Bible Lists, (Inspirational Press, NY; 1980)
Then Paul address what happened to so many of the Old Testament Prophets. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.
They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword.
They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
So what do they all have in common? They were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Now, how does this relate to us? As Paul writes in Hebrews I reinforce in the hallowed halls of Pitcher Hill. 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.
We must look at those around us not just those we can see but all of those who are in that great cloud of witnesses all our loved ones and Heroes of the faith who have come before not only are they watching and helping to guide us but with their help we will throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles all in this world.
This battle of faith may have begun in the Old Testament. This battle of faith may have continue through the New Testament yet it is one that is alive and well today.
Just like them we are struggling with this eternal battle. Just like them we have the power that the Prophets, that Jesus and all who have come before can call on the power of God. In 1853, when young Hudson Taylor was making his first voyage to China, his vessel was delayed near New Guinea because the winds had stopped.
A rapid current was carrying the ship toward some reefs and the situation was becoming dangerous.
Even the sailors using a longboat could not row the vessel out of the current.
“We have done everything that can be done,” said the captain to Taylor. But Taylor replied, “No, there is one thing we have not done yet.”
There were three other believers on the ship, and Taylor suggested that each retire to his own cabin and pray for a breeze.
They did, and while he was at prayer, Taylor received confidence from God that the desperately needed wind would be sent. He went up on deck and suggested to the first officer, an unbeliever, that he let down the mainsail because a breeze was on its way.
The man refused, but then they saw the corner of the sail begin to stir. The breeze had come!
They let down the sail and in a short time were on their way! W. Wiersbe, Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 240.
As Paul concludes with words of encouragement for his audience these same words need to be applied to our own lives today.
Let us hear words that are so appropriate to the Olympics currently going on.
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. So we must use Jesus as an example and run this race called life and just like every hero of the faith we have looked at this morning. We must walking in faith keep our eyes on the Pioneer and perfecter of faith. How did he do this? The same way Jesus did.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. If Jesus could bear all He did, all he endured the shame of the cross. Can’t we?
Today I lift up one last encouragement for our faith. This is our being able to see the one sitting at the right hand of the throne of God, face to face.
One last illustration, when I was a chaplain in the service if I was praying to a large crowd and did not know who was gathered I was under orders to not use the name of Jesus when I prayed. Yet one of the things a Catholic Chaplain Father Salditos taught me in the service when I had to do this I should pray in the name of the one who sits at the right hand of the throne of God.
Those who know what this means knew who I was preaching too. Those who did not would not be offended.
No matter what we suffer through we will be rewarded if we live by faith, and who knows one day some two thousand years from now we may be lifted up as the heroes of the faith. Amen