Introduction: What exactly is faith? How do we know we have it? If
we have it, do we have enough? What good thing happens if we have
faith? The most famous chapter of the Bible dealing with faith is
Hebrews 11. That is our study this week – so let’s dive in!
- Faith Defined
- Read Hebrews 11:1-3. What does verse 1 tell us is faith?
- When verse 1 says “sure of what we hope for and
certain of what we do not see,” is it just repeating
the same idea? (I think we have two different ideas.
Faith looks both backwards (“certain of what we do
not see”) and forward (“sure of what we hope for”).
The reference to God being the Creator is “backward-looking” faith.)
- Is there something wrong with your faith if you
believe in Evolution? (Verse 3 suggests there is a
problem. Faith in our Creator accepts that something
was made out of matter that was not visible.
Evolution, on the other hand, involves a slow change
in things that are seen.)
- Why do you think the “faith chapter” starts first
with a discussion about Creation? (Belief in the
Creation (and for that matter, the Sabbath memorial
to Creation) are fundamental to the issue of who God
is and what He means to us. These are bedrock faith
issues as we will discover next.)
- Saving Faith
- Read Hebrews 11:6. Can we be saved without faith in God?
- Lawyers like to speak of the “elements” of proof in
litigation. That is, what do you have to prove to make
out your case in court? What are the elements of proof of
a “saving faith?” (This text lays out two elements: first,
we must believe God exists; and, second, we must believe
that He rewards those who come to Him.)
- How is Creation tied to belief in God’s existence?
(Evolution allows for a godless creation. The writer
of Hebrews says (v.3) that faith in God is based on
our belief that He exists. Faith in the fact that God
created us and our surroundings is an acknowledgment
that He exists. Whenever I am tempted to doubt God’s
existence, I always go back to the fundamentals – do
I believe that everything around me was created? Or
do I believe that this complex universe (and complex
me) came about by chance?)
- The second element of belief is that God rewards
those who come to Him. Why do we have to believe that
God “rewards” those who come to Him? Why isn’t just
believing in Him good enough?
- What does it mean to believe that God “rewards” those
who come to Him? Does it mean we will get rich? We
will marry well? We will be famous? We will have good
health? Our children will obey? (This idea is very
interesting and important. It teaches us that faith
is not simply believing in God, but our belief must
have an impact on how we live. The Hebrew word
translated “rewards” literally means “to give back
wages.” “Payback” is another way to say this. True
faith believes that God exists and what we do
matters. God impacts on every aspect of our life.)
- Faith Payback Illustrations: Abel and Enoch
- Read Hebrews 11:4-5. What was Enoch’s reward for his
faith? (He was taken to heaven without first dying.)
- Would you like that reward?
- What was Abel’s reward for his faith? (He got
murdered by his brother.)
- We were doing just fine on our reward (payback)
theory until we got to Abel. How do you explain that
Abel was “rewarded” for his faith?
- Look at Hebrews 11:4. What does the Bible say is
Abel’s reward? (That God commended him as a righteous
man and spoke well of his offering.)
- Let’s skip ahead a number of verses to Hebrews 11:32-35a.
Are these stories more like Enoch or more like Abel?
(These are all like Enoch, they are success stories here.
They “won” here on earth based on their faith.)
- Read Hebrews 11:35b-39. Are these stories more like Enoch
or more like Abel? (They are like Abel. They suffered here
- Read Hebrews 11:13. When do we receive God’s reward for
- What do the stories of Enoch and Abel and the
illustrations in Hebrews 11:32-39 teach us about God’s
rewards? (Some of God’s rewards to us for faith are now,
but other rewards are later.)
- Does it matter to you when God rewards you? Should it
- Illustrations of Faith: Abraham.
- Read Hebrews 11:8-10. Do you think that Abraham would have
preferred to live in a city, rather than in a tent? (Verse
10 says he was looking forward to city life!)
- This week I was in Palm Springs, California and the
wind in the desert was blowing very hard. It made me
think of Abraham in his tent. What are some
advantages to living in a house in a city over living
in a tent? (Verse 10 mentions that houses have
foundations. In a high wind, that becomes important!)
- The city mentioned in verse 10 to which Abraham was
looking is no ordinary city. Which one is it? (If the
builder and architect is God, this is God’s city in
Heaven, the New Jerusalem.)
- Read Hebrews 11:11-12. Are you familiar with this story?
If you are not familiar with this story you can read it in
Genesis 15-17. If you already know the story, just read
- What kind of faith does Abraham have? (He laughed
when God told him he would have a son with Sarah.
Worse, he asked God to accept the son that he had
worked out with Hagar — when it seemed God was not
coming through on his promise.)
- Go back to Hebrews 11:1 where faith is defined as
being “sure” of what we hope for and “certain” of
what we do not see. How does laughing when God
promises you something qualify as being “sure” and
“certain?” (First, a disclaimer. I read five
commentaries on this and they all concluded that
Abraham laughed with pleasure and not because of
doubt. However, I have some serious doubt about the
conclusion of these commentaries. First, the word for
“laugh” is the same as that used in Genesis 18:12 to
describe Sarah’s reaction to this promise. Genesis
18:13-15 makes clear that she laughed because of
doubt. Second, Abraham’s further reaction in Genesis
17:18 and God’s response in v. 19 (in which he
reiterates the promise) is evidence that Abraham was
uncertain of God’s promise. Abraham’s entire history
of this promise of a son reflects weakness in his
- Read Hebrews 11:17-19. If you are not familiar with this
story read Genesis 22:1-19. If you were Abraham, would you
have sacrificed your son Isaac?
- How was Abraham able to reconcile that Isaac was the
answer to God’s promise that he would have many
descendants with God’s command to sacrifice the young
man? ( Hebrews 11:19 is the answer. Abraham decided
that God could (would) raise Isaac back to life after
he had been killed.)
- What is Abraham’s level of faith at this point?
How “sure” is he of what he hoped for and
“certain” of what he did not see? (This is the
ultimate proof of faith! Faith doesn’t get any
better than this.)
- I wanted us to review the “before” and “after” stories of
Abraham’s faith for a reason. What lesson is there in
Abraham going from laughing to being willing to sacrifice
his son of the promise?(If your faith is weak, this
reassures us that walking with God can make it stronger.
Living in faith is a progressive experience.)
- As you consider Abraham’s life, was he more like Abel or
more like Enoch? (I think Abraham is like most of us. He
did receive some rewards for his faith now. However, he
did not see the fulfillment of God’s promise described in
Hebrews 11:12 and he did not get to live in that city
- Read Hebrews 11:40. Friend, do you want to be part of that
“something better” that God has in store for us? If you
do, I invite you to step forward in faith. To believe that
God exists and to earnestly seek Him who rewards those who
come to Him.
- Next Week: Women in Scripture