St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Lord, Give Us Such A Faith As This

Sermon on Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Text: Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
3 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.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country — a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Many great men of history are held up as examples for us to follow. For example, people point to George Washington as a man who was honest. The story of the cherry tree is told to emphasize that point. People may point to Abraham Lincoln as a man who studied hard and became successful. They will tell the story of how he walked for miles to return a book that he had borrowed. This morning we will look at another great man of history and hold him up as an example. The man’s name is Abraham. The quality that we will focus on is his faith. We pray LORD, GIVE US SUCH A FAITH AS THIS 1. Not Depending On Our Own Experience but 2. Trusting In Your Promises.

The writer to the Hebrews gives us a beautiful definition of faith in verse 1: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Faith deals things that we cannot see or touch or hear. It deals with the future. We do not have it yet, but we hope that we will. A little boy, who was promised a new bicycle, has faith that he will get it.

Children are often more trusting that adults are. Perhaps this is because adults have been disappointed by people who didn’t come through on their promises. They figure that it is better to be skeptical and doubt, so that they aren’t disappointed, rather than trusting someone and having them fail you. People rely on past experiences, which often color their decision not to trust others.

Some people will carry this thought into their relationship with God. When they face certain situations in their lives, they see no hope. Things look impossible. They look at their finances and say that there is no way that they are going to get through it. They see a family problem and, after trying a little, give up because there doesn’t seem to be any solution to the problem. A problem comes into their life, and it looks like it is an insurmountable wall blocking their path. As they study the problem, it all seems so hopeless.

Sometimes, I believe that we all fall into that type of thinking. It appears that a situation is hopeless. We may get depressed and worried. Why? Because we don’t see any way out. Everything looks hopeless. Try and try as we might, we can’t seem to find the solution to the problem. ‘I can’t see how I can make it. I don’t know what to do next. I’ve tried and tried but can’t go on any further.’

The trouble is that I am relying on myself and my strength and my abilities. I am looking inward for the solutions to my problems. Instead of looking to myself for support, I should be looking elsewhere. Instead of depending on my experience, I look to God’s gracious promises. He has promised many things to us. Lord, give us the faith to trust in you.

As an example of faith, God sets before us a man by the name of Abraham. Abraham’s entire life could be summed up in one word: “FAITH.” Our text alludes to two separate examples of the faith of Abraham.

In verse 8 we read, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Abraham lived in the land of Ur. One day the LORD came to him and said, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) That is what God told Abraham to do. Just imagine that for a moment. You are asked to pull up stakes and go to another land. It would mean a separation from your family and friends. It might mean a loss of property. You don’t even know where you are going. Yet, we never hear of Abraham balking at or questioning God. As soon as God gave him the command to go, we read three verses later, “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him.” (Genesis 12:4) He believed in the Lord’s promises and moved some 1,000 miles away.

When Abraham got there, the LORD promised to give the entire land of Canaan to him. In Genesis 12:7 we read, “The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.’” Again, this took a great deal of faith for Abraham to stay there. There were already nations of people living in this land. Yet, God told Abraham that this land would be his. This didn’t happen during Abraham’s lifetime. When Abraham died, he owned only a small field and a cave that was used for a tomb. Yet, we read in our text, “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.” (Verse 9) Even though, outwardly, it did not appear as though God’s promises were coming true, yet Abraham believed in God. He lived in the land that he knew would someday belong to his descendants.

The writer to the Hebrews points out another example of faith in Abraham’s life in verse 11, “And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.” This is one of the greatest examples of faith in the Bible. God first promised a child to Abraham when he was 75 and Sarah was 65. Abraham waited and waited. He waited for 24 years until God came and told him that, by that time the next year, he would have a son. This took a great deal of faith. Obviously, he and his wife were well past the childbearing years. Naturally speaking, there was no way that could have any children. If Abraham relied on his experience, he would not have believed it possible for Sarah and himself to have any children. Yet, Abraham believed God’s promise and, the next year, Isaac was born

Again and again, we marvel at Abraham’s faith as we read chapters 12 through 25 of the book of Genesis. Abraham was a man who took God at his word. Because God said so was good enough for him. Abraham was willing to have God run his life because he knew that God always had the best in store for him. When we read about the faith of Abraham, it is easy for us to pray, “Lord, give me a faith like his.”

Does that mean that Abraham never doubted God’s promises? Of course not. We also read of how he thought he had to protect himself by lying. We read of how he thought he had to help God out with the promise of an heir, so he had a child with his wife’s servant, Hagar. At those times, Abraham had to be reminded not to trust in himself and his abilities, but to lean upon God’s promises.

We, too, need to be reminded of this from time to time. Sometimes, we try to rely on ourselves and our cunning. We think we can handle all the little things of life. We need to remember that we can’t do it all on our own. As it says in Proverbs 16:9, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” We make all sorts of plans, but we must remember that the Lord is in control and will always do what is best for us. This is a promise that God makes to his children. Let us depend on his promises because he has proven faithful to them in the past.

God was not only faithful to the promises he made to Abraham about the land and an heir. He was also faithful in his promise to send a Savior. We needed a Savior on account of our many sins, including those of not trusting God. All these sins earned an eternity of punishment for us. God promised to help us, and he did. He sent his only Son to give us the forgiveness of sins. He even sent his Holy Spirit to create the faith that accepts the gift of forgiveness. Since God fulfilled this promise, surely, he will fulfill all of his other promises. He will take care of everything we need for our lives. May we learn to rely on God and his promises, rather than relying on ourselves.

There were many promises that Abraham had to wait for: the land, a son, the Savior. These all have happened. Yet, there was one more promise that he has already received and one that we still wait for. That is heaven. Heaven has been promised to all who believe in Jesus as their Savior. We wait for that day when we will be in heaven. In the meantime, we are like the people described in verse 13 of our text, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” We, too, are aliens and strangers here on this earth. We are just passing through, staying for a while in a foreign place. Our homeland is elsewhere. It is in heaven. How we long to go home! Let us then, as we go through life, rely on God’s promises, and keep our thoughts focused on our home. God has promised it and God will deliver it. Let us put our faith in him.

On July 15, 1859, there was a man by the name of Charles Blondin, who set up his rope over Niagara Falls. Just two weeks earlier, he had been the first to accomplish the feat of walking on a tightrope over the falls. The crowd marveled as he went back and forth. On this particular day, the crowd watched as he walked backward across the falls to the Canadian side and came back pushing a wheelbarrow. When he got back, he asked the crowd, “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?” The crowd shouted that they believed he could do that. Then, he asked,” Who will get in the wheelbarrow?” Not one person volunteered. These people believed he could do it, but they weren’t willing to back up their words with their actions. My friends, let us not be like that crowd, afraid to trust in God. Let us trust him fully. Let us surrender our entire lives to God, trusting him to take care of us. Let us attempt great things for God. May we follow the example of Abraham and trust in God’s promises. We feed that faith, which trusts in God’s promises, with his Word. We pray that God would give us a great faith, one that does not depend on our own experiences, but trusts in God’s promises. Amen.