Scripture: “Whose weakness was turned to strength.” (Hebrews 11:34 NIV)
1-2 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:1)
Do you remember how you felt when you were very young and your birthday approached?
You were excited and anxious. You knew you would certainly receive gifts and other special treats. But some things would be a surprise.
Birthdays combine assurance and anticipation, and so does faith!
Faith is the confidence based on past experience that God’s new and fresh surprises will surely be ourse.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:1)
The beginning point of faith is believing in God’s character: He is who He says.
The end point is believing in God’s promised: He will do what He says.
When we believe that God will fulfill His promises even though we don’t see those promises materializing yet, we demonstrate true faith (See John 20:24-31).
3 By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:3)
God called the universe into existence out of nothing, He declared that it was to be, and it was.
Our faith is in the God who created the entire universe by His Word. God’s Word has awesome power.
When He speaks do you listen and respond?
How can you better prepare yourself to respond to God’s Word?
4 By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That’s what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, that belief continues to catch our notice.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:4)
Cain and Abel were Adam and Eve’s first two sons. Abel offered a sacrifice that pleased God, while Cain’s sacrifice was unacceptable.
Abel’s sacrifice (an animal substitute) was more acceptable to God, both because it was a blood sacrifice and, most important, because of Abel’s attitude when he offered it.
5-6 By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. “They looked all over and couldn’t find him because God had taken him.” We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken “he pleased God.” It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:6)
Believing that God exists is only the beginning; even the demons believe that much (James 2:19-20).
God will not settle for mere acknowledgment of His existence. He wants your faith that leads to a personal dynamic relationship with Him.
But does faith make sense, really?
Do you believe because faith makes sense, or because faith doesn’t need to make sense?
Some Christians think people cannot understand God and should not try. Others believe that nothing true is irrational, including true faith.
The truth is, God gave us minds that should be developed and used. To ignore intellectual growth is to live a stunted and naive life.
God wants our trust and faith, even while we ponder and wonder about so many matters mysterious to us.
Even so, we do not believe in a void nor leap into the dark.
Faith is reasonable, though reason alone cannot explain the whole of it.
So use your mind to think things through. But, leave room for the unexplainable works of God.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:6)
Sometimes we wonder about the fate of those who haven’t heard of Christ and have not even had a Bible to read.
God assures us that all who honestly seeks Him – who act in faith on the knowledge of God that they do possess – will be rewarded.
When you tell others the Good News, encourage them to be honest and diligent in their search for truth.
Those who hear the Good News are responsible for what they have heard (See 2 Corinthians 6:1-2).
7 By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and acted on what he was told. The result? His family was saved. His act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the rightness of the believing world. As a result, Noah became intimate with God.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:7)
Noah experienced rejection because he was different from his neighbors.
God commanded him to build a huge boat in the middle of dry land, and although God’s command seemed foolish, Noah obeyed.
Noah’s obedience made him appear strange to his neighbors, just as the new beliefs of Jewish Christians undoubtedly made them stand out.
As you obey God, don’t be surprised if others regard you as “different”. Your obedience makes their disobedience stand out.
Remember, if God asks you to do something, He will give you the necessary strength to carry out that task.
8-10 By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:8-10)
Abraham’s life was filled with faith.
At God’s command, he left home and went to another land – obeying without question (Genesis 12:1). He believed the covenant that God made with him (Genesis 12:2-3; 13:14-16; 15:1-6).
In obedience to God, Abraham was even willing to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19).
Do not be surprised if God asks you to give up secure, familiar surroundings in order to carry out His will.
11-12 By faith, barren Sarah was able to become pregnant, old woman as she was at the time, because she believed the One who made a promise would do what he said. That’s how it happened that from one man’s dead and shriveled loins there are now people numbering into the millions.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:11-12)
Sarah was Abraham’s wife.
They were unable to have children through many years of their marriage.
God promised Abraham a son, but Sarah doubted that she could become pregnant in her old age. At first she laughed, but afterward, she believed (Genesis 18).
13-16 Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:13)
That we are “foreigners and nomads” on earth may be an awareness forced on us by circumstances. It may come late in life or as the result of difficult times.
But the world is not our home. We cannot live here forever (See also 1 Peter 1:1).
It is best for us not to be so attached to this world’s desires or possessions that we can’t move out at God’s command.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:13-16)
These people of faith died without receiving all that God had promised, but they never lost their vision of heaven (“a better place, a heavenly homeland”).
Many Christians become frustrated and defeated because their needs, wants, expectations, and demands are not immediately met when they accept Christ as Savior.
They become impatient and want to quit.
Are you discouraged because the achievement of your goal seems far away?
Take courage from these heroes of faith, who lived and died without seeing the fruit of their faith on earth and yet continued to believe (see Hebrews 11:36-39).
17-19 By faith, Abraham, at the time of testing, offered Isaac back to God. Acting in faith, he was as ready to return the promised son, his only son, as he had been to receive him—and this after he had already been told, “Your descendants shall come from Isaac.” Abraham figured that if God wanted to, he could raise the dead. In a sense, that’s what happened when he received Isaac back, alive from off the altar.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:17-19)
Abraham was willing to give up his son when God commanded him to do so (Genesis 22:1-19).
God did not let Abraham take Isaac’s life because God had given the command in order to test Abraham’s faith.
Instead of taking Abraham’s son, God gave Abraham a whole nation of descendants through Isaac.
If you are afraid to trust God with the possession, dream, or person you treasure most, pay attention to Abraham’s example.
Because Abraham was willing to give up everything for God, he received back more than he could have imagined.
What we receive is not always immediate or in the form of material possessions.
Material things should be among the least satisfying of rewards. Our best and greatest awards await us in eternity.
20 By an act of faith, Isaac reached into the future as he blessed Jacob and Esau.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:20)
Isaac was the son who had been promised to Abraham and Sarah in their old age. It was through Isaac that God fulfilled His promise to eventually give Abraham countless descendants.
Isaac had twin sons, Jacob and Esau. God chose the younger son, Jacob, through whom to continue the fulfillment of His promise to Abraham.
21 By an act of faith, Jacob on his deathbed blessed each of Joseph’s sons in turn, blessing them with God’s blessing, not his own—as he bowed worshipfully upon his staff.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:21)
Jacob was Isaac’s son and Abraham’s grandson.
Jacob’s sons became the fathers of Israel’s 12 tribes.
Even when Jacob (also called “Israel”) was dying in a strange land, he believe the promise that Abraham’s descendants would be like the sand on the seashore and that Israel would become a great nation (Genesis 48:1-22).
True faith helps us see beyond the grave.
22 By an act of faith, Joseph, while dying, prophesied the exodus of Israel, and made arrangements for his own burial.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:22)
Joseph, on of Jacob’s sons, was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers (Genesis 37).
Then Joseph was sold again, this time to an official of the Pharaoh of Egypt. But eventually, because of Joseph’s faithfulness to God, he was given a top-ranking position in Egypt.
Although Joseph could have used that position to build a personal empire, he remembered God’s promise to Abraham.
After he had been reconciled to his brothers, Joseph brought his family to be near him and requested that his bones be taken to the Promised Land when the Jews eventually left Egypt (Genesis 50:24-25).
Faith means trusting in God and doing what He wants, regardless of the circumstances or consequences.
23 By an act of faith, Moses’ parents hid him away for three months after his birth. They saw the child’s beauty, and they braved the king’s decree.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:23)
Moses’ parents trusted God to protect their son’s life.
They were not merely proud parents; they were believers who had faith that God would care for him.
As a parent, have you trusted God enough to take care of your children?
God has a plan for every person, and your important task is to pray for your children and prepare them to do the work God has planned for them to do.
Faith allows us to entrust even our children to God.
24-28 By faith, Moses, when grown, refused the privileges of the Egyptian royal house. He chose a hard life with God’s people rather than an opportunistic soft life of sin with the oppressors. He valued suffering in the Messiah’s camp far greater than Egyptian wealth because he was looking ahead, anticipating the payoff. By an act of faith, he turned his heel on Egypt, indifferent to the king’s blind rage. He had his eye on the One no eye can see, and kept right on going. By an act of faith, he kept the Passover Feast and sprinkled Passover blood on each house so that the destroyer of the firstborn wouldn’t touch them.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:24-28)
Moses became one of Israel’s greatest leaders, a prophet, and a lawgiver.
But when he was born, his people were slaves in Egypt, and the Egyptian officials had ordered that all Hebrew baby boys be killed.
Moses was spared, and Pharaoh’s daughter raised Moses in Pharaoh’s own household (Exodus 1-2).
IT took faith for Moses to give up his place in the palace, but he could to it because he saw the fleeting nature of great wealth and prestige.
It is easy to be deceived by the temporary benefits of wealth, popularity, status, and achievement, and to be blind to the long-range benefits of God’s Kingdom.
Faith helps us look beyond the world’s value system to see the eternal values of God’s Kingdom.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:26)
True wealth is eternal.
Consider the most powerful or well-known people in our world – how many got where they are by being humble, self-effacing, and gentle? Not many!
But in the life to come, the last will be first – if they got in last place by choosing to follow Jesus.
Hebrews has a critical message for earth-loving Christians. Don’t forfeit eternal rewards for temporary benefits.
Like Moses, be willing to make sacrifices now for greater rewards later.
29 By an act of faith, Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. The Egyptians tried it and drowned.
30 By faith, the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days, and the walls fell flat.
31 By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:31)
When Joshua planned the conquest of Jericho, he sent spies to investigate the fortifications of the city. The spies met Rahab, who had two strikes against her – she was a Gentile and a prostitute.
But, she showed that she had faith in God by welcoming the spies and by trusting God to spare her and her family when the city was destroyed.
Faith helps us turn around and do what is right regardless of our past or the disapproval of others.
32-38 I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more—Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:32-35)
The Old Testament records the lives of the various people who experienced these great victories.
Joshua and Deborah overthrew kingdoms (The book of Joshua; Judges 4-5).
Nehemiah ruled with justice (the book of Nehemiah).
Daniel was saved from the mouths of Lions (Daniel 6).
Shadrach, Mesghach, and Abendego were kept from harm in the flames of a blazing furnace (Daniel 3).
Elijah escaped the swords of evil Queen Jezebel’s henchmen .
Hezekiah regained strength after sickness (2 Kings 20).
Gideon was strong in battle (Judges 7).
A widow’s son was brought back to life by the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 4-8-37).
We too, can experience victory through faith in Christ. Our victories over oppressors may be like those of the Old Testament saints, but more likely, our victories will be directly related to the role God wants us to play.
Even though our body deteriorates and dies, we will live forever because of Christ.
In the promised resurrection, even death will be defeated, and Christ’s victory will be made complete.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:32-40)
These verses summarize the lives of other great men and women of faith.
Some experienced victories, even over the threat of death. But, others were severely mistreated, tortured, and even killed.
Having a steadfast faith in God does not guarantee a happy, carefree life. On the contrary, our faith almost guarantees us some form of abuse from the world.
While we are on earth, we may never see the purpose of our suffering. But, we know that God will keep His promises to us.
Do you truly believe that God will keep his promises to you?
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:35-39)
Many think that pain is the exception in the Christian life.
When suffering occurs, they say, “Why me?” They feel as though God deserted them, or perhaps they accuse him of not being as dependable as they thought.
In reality, we live in an evil world filled with suffering, even for believers. But God is still in control.
He allows some Christians to become martyrs for the faith, and he allows others to survive persecution.
Rather than asking, “Why me?” it is much more helpful to ask, “Why not me?”
Our faith and the values of this world are on a collision course. If we expect pain and suffering to come, we will not be shocked when they hit. But, we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus also suffered. He understands our fears, our weaknesses, and our disappointments (see Hebrews 2:16-18; 4:14-16).
He promised never to leave us (Matthew 28:18-20), and He intercedes on our behalf (Hebrews 7:24-25).
In times of pain, persecution, or suffering, we should trust confidently in Christ.
39-40 Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:39-40)
Hebrews 11 has been called faith’s hall of fame. No doubt the author surprised his readers by this conclusion: This mighty Jewish heroes did not receive all that God had promised because they died before God came.
In God’s plan, they and the Christian believers (who were also enduring much testing) would be rewarded together.
Once again, Hebrews shows that Christianity offers a better way than non-belief ever could.
Reflection: (Hebrews 11:40)
There is a solidarity among believers (see Hebrews 12:23).
Old and New Testament believers will be glorified together. Not only are we one in the body of Christ with all those now alive, but we are also one with all those who have ever lived.
It takes all of us to be perfect in Him.