Monday, December 22, 2008



We have been making our way through the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews. And in verses 32-40 the writer begins to make some general swipes over the history of faith. And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. (Hebrews 11:32-40) Wow! Who wouldn't want to have these experiences of faith? This list is amazing!

God specializes in using ordinary people and producing extraordinary results through them! Gideon (Judges 6:13-14) believed the promises, but was pretty shaken up as to how God does His work! Barak (Judges 4:5-6) believed, but wouldn't go into battle alone! Samson (Judges 13:24;16:28-31) believed but his strength became his weakness! Jephthah (Judges 11:9) was a son of a harlot, but was a valiant warrior! David (I Samuel 16-17) was a young lad whom God mightily used to stop the giants! All of these are illustrations of ordinary faith!

Now, let's go on in this list. The writer shifts gears at this point and continues with people who have the same kind of faith, but in each of the experiences now listed the results are all negative, filled with pain and heartache. This sort of result is rarely referenced. Listen to this: and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

Then, in summary of these faithful people with the same faith as those he listed earlier, he says: And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. So these people who walked by faith didn't receive the ultimate answers to their prayers that were to be culminated in the coming of the Messiah. But now that the Messiah has come, we who place our faith in Him are actually completing their faith. We are partners in this walk of faith.

This is spelled out more completely earlier in this same chapter in verses 13-16. All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

In the next chapter we find out how ordinary faith is exercised. Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

This faith-walk with God is all about being in a race-the race of life. You are already entered in this race. There is no way to back out. It's a win or lose kind of race. To be a winner you must exercise your faith and trust in God. 

There are four observations here I want to make: FIRST-There are already a lot of winners who stand as witnesses, all testifying that it is winnable and the victory is worth all the effort spent in the race.

SECOND-To win you must follow certain racing procedures. You must put off all encumbrances that might weigh you down in this race. Marathoners don't run in combat boots or heavy clothing. Also, you must put aside that sin-that weakness-that so easily entangles you.

THIRD-Fix your eyes on the best example ever in this race of life-Jesus. All that Jesus did and said can become your model for racing well in this life.

FOURTH-Count on God to turn the results of your faith-whether positive or negative-into something meaningful and extraordinary.

Your ordinary faith will allow God to produce extraordinary results with eternal value to your life. It's ordinary people living by faith, leaving the results completely in the hands of the God of gods that will make life extraordinary. You know what this faith-walk really comes down to? God doesn't want to change your circumstances until he changes you! So, God's work is all about you after all!



As we make our way through this Hall of Faith I want to offer you several real-life examples of a faith-lift. In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews this is illustrated by many key characters-Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua. Now we come to a most surprising person who is listed as a Hall of Fame person of faith. This one is very different. This one is a woman, but not any woman. This person of faith in God is a prostitute by the name of Rahab. It says: By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.

Rahab was very instrumental in the destruction of Jericho and the siege of the land of Canaan. When Joshua sent spies into the land, it says: So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there.

Here's how the story unfolds: It was told the king of Jericho, saying, "Behold, men from the sons of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land." And the king of Jericho sent word to Rahab, saying, "Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land." But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them, and she said, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. "It came about when it was time to shut the gate at dark that the men went out; I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them."

To sum up, Rahab hid the spies and lied to the king's men about it. So, she hid them on her rooftop until the king's men left the city and the city gate was shut. But before they went to sleep, she asked for a commitment that she and her family would not be harmed in the battle for Jericho. They agreed and told her to make certain to place a scarlet thread in the window.

Rahab confessed her faith in the Lord and said: "I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath."

The next morning she let them down out of the city through that window. After letting them down out of her window, Rahab tied the scarlet cord in her window and no one in her home was destroyed when the children of Israel took the city of Jericho.

James used Rahab to illustrate his major point of the balance of faith and works. He says: You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. Her faith in the Lord was clear and her works that demonstrated her faith was when she risked her own life in order to hide the spies from the king's men.

Rahab was a harlot. She used to manage a place called Rahab's Rest Stop! HOWEVER. And this is the great HOWEVER of God. God used her for His great purpose. No matter what you have done in the past or are now doing in the present, God will accept your faith. Her works proved her faith conclusively.

Do you ever feel that your past or present lifestyle holds you back from being used by God? Rahab had a very colorful past, but when she was given an opportunity from God, she seized it. Note that she seized it by her faith in the God of Israel and the proof of her faith was clear through her works.

The pendulum swing is between faith on one side and works on the other. Many are into faith alone. Others are into works alone. But there must be a union of both faith and works. It's like a rowboat with two oars-one is faith and the other is works. If you insist on using only one of these oars, you'll just go in circles-you'll go nowhere.

So how does Rahab's story help you to demonstrate the balance of the two? FIRST-No matter your past or your present situation, God will honor your genuine faith.

SECOND-God will honor your genuine faith when He can see your faithful works.

THIRD-God will honor your genuine faith and faithful works by using them for His purposes.

FOURTH-God will reward your genuine faith and faithful works with personal protection for you and your family in the worst of times.

Rahab demonstrated the works of faith-the fact that faith and works are never alone. Martin Luther put it this way: "Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone." In other words, the work of faith is the only faith that works! All other expressions of faith without works are simply empty.