This may not be a popular statement to make, but it’s one you must either hear for the first time or be reminded of: your life is dependent upon what you do with Jesus. I’ve received comments and questions around the blog name, Divinely Interrupted. Funny enough, some of my soul sisters and I were talking about it Sunday morning after prayer. I learned—thanks to my favorite English teacher—that the root word “rupt” (like interrupt, disrupt, abrupt, etc.) means to “burst” or “break.” Seasons feel like that sometimes, don’t they? You’re just cruising along in life and then suddenly something breaks. Your rhythm was disturbed. Oy. It’s in those times that we must pause and recognize that even though the interruption was untimely or hurtful, God can bring good from it. That doesn’t mean it’ll be painless, but He is able to convert brokenness into wholeness. Your life is dependent upon what you do with Jesus.
In Hebrews 11, we’re going to learn about people who chose to place their entire dependence upon God. What I find amazing about this chapter is if you go back and study these individuals in the Old Testament, their flaws and sins are not hidden. In the New Testament book of Hebrews—because of Christ’s perfecting blood—we see only what God sees. Their failures are not highlighted, but only their faith. Friends, if you have chosen to commit your life to Christ, that’s exactly how God sees you, too. Let that soak in.
I’ve used The Message version this week to help us as we cover several chunks of scripture at a time:
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.
- Let’s talk about faith for a moment. “Faith is a hope that is absolutely certain that what it believes is true and that what it expects will come” (Wiersbe). It is the conviction of believers that it is better to suffer with God than to prosper with the world. That is an extremely anti-mainstream approach. True Christians go against the grain of culture in a non-showy manner. (And, remember, just because people attend church doesn’t make them true followers.) Believers recognize that it’s better to stake everything on God because we are built for eternity and not this fleeting life.
3 By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.
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.
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.
- There’s a key truth we don’t want to overlook in these verses: “…anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.” We must believe in God. There can be no relationship without belief. That is the first hurdle. Secondly, we must recognize that He’s not only true, but He is intimately involved in our situations. James 4:8 tells us, “Come close to God and He will come close to you.” That’s a promise, friends. God keeps His promises to us.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- I bolded a few verses above because they are worth re-reading. Even when we don’t see wholeness; even when we’re broken; even when the relationship failed; even when it’s incredibly hard—we must believe that the future is bright. You must wave your joyful greeting and accept the fact that you are a stranger in this world. Misfit. Foreigner. Refugee. Beloved, you weren’t made to belong in this world. Once you accept this truth, you begin to rise above the chaos instead of trying to only survive in it.
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.
20 By an act of faith, Isaac reached into the future as he blessed Jacob and Esau.
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.
22 By an act of faith, Joseph, while dying, prophesied the exodus of Israel, and made arrangements for his own burial.
- By faith, by faith, by faith. You see this phrase repeatedly because we must remember. We don’t need much new truth; we typically only need to be reminded of the known truth. That’s why Peter said in 2 Peter 1:12-14, “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.” It doesn’t bother me to remind you (and myself) how faith is a hope that is absolutely certain that what it believes is true and that what it expects will come.
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.
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.
29 By an act of faith, Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. The Egyptians tried it and drowned.
- I always must pause when I read about Moses, especially in this chapter. He’s one of those people I am drawn to and there is a fundamental word used in these verses that we must grasp: chose. “He chose a hard life with God’s people rather than an opportunistic soft life of sin with the oppressors” (Hebrews 11:25). Another version reads, “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.” This refers of the anti-mainstream approach I spoke of at the beginning. Moses made a choice and he refused the path of this world. He chose suffering because he was willing to stake everything on God because he was built for eternity and not this fleeting life. He had faith. Oh, sisters—don’t miss this. We must make godly choices. It doesn’t mean we feel like it. Love is a choice. Attitude is a choice. Behavior is a choice. That’s a hard truth, isn’t it? I mean, there are weeks where I have been “on” all week—lots of people, lots of interactions, morning-to-night. I’m exhausted and I seriously just want to be grumpy when I get back in the office. And you know? I have all the reason to be grumpy. I’ve emptied my cup, I’m tired, I haven’t slept in my own bed in several nights, I’ve been away from my family, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve…and then I remember Moses. He chose suffering. He refused this world. He made a choice despite how he felt. That’s what Christ asks of us, too. To make a choice about what we will do with Him. To make a choice about how we will show up today. To make a choice about how brightly we will allow Him to shine through us. He wants us to make a choice that reflects His goodness even though we don’t feel like. It is a freewill decision; and, once we fully own that truth, we will rise above the feelings. Feelings are real, hearts are messy, but how we feel and what’s going on inside isn’t necessarily truth. Those words probably need to simmer in your heart. I know they need to do so in mine.
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.
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.
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.
- It’s hard to read this last section of verses without it stirring my heart. There are examples where God miraculously intervened—walls came down, people weren’t burned in the fire, breath was breathed back into dead bodies. And, there were examples where it appears Satan won: people were tortured, sawed in two, murder in cold blood, homeless, friendless, powerless. Both versions of the story are penned by God because each person chose to submit the ink of their life to a perfect God who cares enough to be intimately involved in each experience—whether that experience is miraculous or painful. Death is not the end. What will you choose to do with Jesus?