THE MANY FACES OF FAITH:
FINAL PROMISES IN THE FINALE
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
September 15, 2019
32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
— Hebrews 11:32-40, ESV
The inspired writer of the book of Hebrews finishes his Hall of Faith with a flourish. A few prominent faces are featured and many more can be seen in the shadows. The names and faces are a means to an end, and the end is for you to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to keep faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and to wait for the Lord Jesus Christ, until you see Him, perfectly, face to face.
Many present and future promises of faith come into focus in this grand finale. Faith worked in and through the lives of the saints of old, and faith works today in the lives of true followers of Jesus Christ. Let’s look into these final faces of faith at just a few of the things faith can do on your face.
Faith Enables You to Stand Alone
One thing that stands out in the faces and the names mentioned in the Hebrews Hall of Faith is their ability to stand alone for God. They all arose to prominence when Israel was in retreat, when faith was hard to find, and when enemies of faith were in power. Faith gives you the power to stand up to indifference and enemies.
Gideon stood virtually alone and was always outnumbered by the Midianites. Samson was the only Israelite in the room when he reigned down vengeance upon the Philistines. The only thing David had with him when he faced Goliath was a hand full of rocks and a heart full of faith. Prophets like Elijah, Elisha, and Daniel often stood alone for God, as did God Himself when Jesus stood before the corrupt High Priest and the cowardly Roman governor.
Genuine faith in God has never been and never will be the majority opinion in this present world. Israel was the smallest of small countries in Old Testament times, and only a remnant of Israelites had real, saving faith in God. Christianity is adhered to by one-fourth of earth’s inhabitants today, but that includes hypocrites, nominals, and true believers. When faith is defined by the five solas of The Reformation, the percentage of Christians on the planet sinks into the single digits, and it seems to be getting smaller as the return of Jesus Christ draws nearer.
You may be the only committed Christian in your workplace, your peer group at school, your family, even your marriage. It is hard to follow Christ when it seems no one else is with you, which was the burden of the early Hebrew Christians. Being a lone believer may be your cross to carry when you leave the four walls and faithful people of this church fellowship. By faith, stand alone if necessary, for by faith you are never alone. God is with you and God can use you to make a difference.
Faith Empowers You to Succeed
Many of these great faces of faith stood alone and many of them succeeded, royally. Gideon defeated the Midianites. David slew Goliath. Daniel lived through the lions’ den and his three friends defied the fiery furnace. Elijah an Elisha both raised a widows’ sons from the dead. Faith is powerful and often yields positive outcomes.
Let’s face it, faith, like anything else, is more fun when you win! That’s why we rooted for Tony Dungy when he won the Super Bowl and Tim Tebow when he won the Heisman Trophy and love it when other athletes put Bible verses on their sweatbands or point to Heaven when they score. God loves winners, right?
This is not exactly a trick question. Many of the faces in this Hall of Faith were winners, because they trusted God against great odds and were victorious, by God, by grace, through faith. I have no problem with any athlete or other person who wants to give God glory for the blessings in life, for we should always praise God from whom all blessings flow, and God should get the glory for them all.
But lest we fall into the heretical trap of the prosperity gospel, let us examine why and when God enables people to succeed by faith. Is it for money? No, there is no evidence in this chapter or any chapter of the Bible where people get rich by faith. Is it for health? No, for every example of physical healing is more than matched with the ultimate healing of God when He allows a saint to die and thus calls them home. Then what is faith for when it comes to success?
Faith empowers you to succeed at sustaining the faith, keeping the covenant, and winning souls. The Hall of Faith inductees succeeded at times when faith was waning, the covenant community was in danger, and souls were in the balance. By faith they turned the tide, kept the covenant, and spread the faith. Faith itself is the victory, “Oh glorious victory that overcomes the world!”
By faith John Knox captured Scotland with the gospel, William Carey reached the unreached in India, Jonathan Edwards sparked revival in America, Charles Spurgeon built a great church in England. Faith can bring success in the church and community in which we live, but faith can also bring suffering.
Faith Endures When You Suffer
By faith God can enable you to win. And, by faith God can help you endure when you lose. For every winner in this Hebrews 11 finale there is a lovable loser for the Lord.
Talk about blowing to smithereens so-called “word of faith” theology, look at these testimonies of the most faithful: “Some were tortured … others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment … they were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about … destitute, afflicted, mistreated.”
The early Christians had a different mindset about suffering than postmoderns (ref. Matthew 16:21; John 16:33; Acts 9:16; Romans 5:3; 1 Peter 2:20, Revelation 2:10; etc.) It seems as if suffering more than success is the system by which faith is strengthened and shared. The original recipients of Hebrews had lost sight of this, and I’m not sure the modern church has caught even a glimpse.
The popularity of Christianity in America peaked before I was born. People of the 1950’s had suffered through two world wars and a great depression. Abundant prosperity followed, and Christianity followed suit. Protestant churches flourished with attendance figures and baptismal numbers that reached all time highs. For there rest of the millennium, however, those statistics became stagnant. Now, the new millennium has ushered in a decline in believers and a rise in the “nones” (those with no particular faith in God or religious affiliation).
It is no longer an advantage in America to be a member of a church. It is no longer admirable in America to be one who believes in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way. It is no longer tolerable in certain circles to hold to the Bible’s teachings on sexuality and other realms of morality. The day is soon coming when true Christians in true churches we will suffer for the truth.
What will you do? If you have sure faith, you will surely endure. You will stand alone if necessary, succeed in keeping the faith and sharing the faith, even if you have to suffer. This is called the perseverance of the saints, the evidence of saving faith.
Faith Enrolls You with the Saints
When all is said and done, by grace, through faith, you will be able to meet every member of the Hebrews Hall of Faith. As a matter of fact, you will be one of them. If there has ever been a time when you stood alone for Jesus Christ, a time when you succeeded in sharing your faith in word and deed, a time when you suffered because of your convictions as a Christian, then your faith is the same substance as theirs, “The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (ref. Hebrews 11:1, KJV).
All of these great saints have “not received what was promised,” and won’t, “apart from us.” The reward we shall all receive together is to be “made perfect” at the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The raptured from Earth and the souls in Paradise will come together in a perfect, new Heaven and Earth.
When faith becomes sight, you will spend time getting to know Abraham, Moses, David, John the Baptist, John the Apostle, and the Apostle Paul. You will have an infinite amount of time to spend with them, and they you. You will hear from their lips the tales of their faith, and they will be equally interested in your faith journey. Think of the tales to be told, and of course they will all be the truth.
When faith becomes sight, you will be reconnected with your family and friends, those with faith, those whom you enjoyed time with on earth before you were separated by distance or death. Anything bad will have been buried by the apocalypse, only good times will be recounted and shared. Tears will be wiped away, joys will be permanent, and you will have all the time in the world to be together.
When faith becomes sight, you will see Jesus, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (ref Colossians 2:9). To see Him is to see the Father (ref. John 14:9), to be with Him is the outworking of the Holy Spirit (ref. John 14:17). When you see Him and when you are with Him, along with all the saints, you will finally experience the “perfect” day, a day that will never end.
It will have been well worth it to stand alone if necessary, to succeed in making Christ and faith in Christ your first priority, to suffer for the cause of the kingdom of God. It will have been well worth it to be one of the faces of faith, and be with the faithful forever and ever.
There's a land that is fairer than day, and by faith we can see it afar;
For the Father waits over the way, to prepare us a dwelling place there.
In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore;
In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.
— Sanford Fillmore Bennett
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org