Our everyday life is based on faith. Many people today state that they simply cannot believe in a God who can?t be seen. A young student at John Marshall High School made that statement to me one day when I was speaking to his history class several years ago. I was speaking about the history of Christianity and at the end of my talk I asked the kids if they had any questions. One young man raised his hand and said, ?Have you ever seen God?? I said, ?No, I?ve never seen God with my eyes, but I see His fingerprints everywhere I go throughout each day.? The young man said, ?I just can?t believe in a God that I can?t see?? I said, ?I would assume then that you don?t believe in anything that you have never seen before.? He said, ?If I can?t touch it or see it I don?t believe it exists.? I turned from the young man and asked the class, ?How many of you feel the same way?? Some of the other kids raised their hands and others began to make statements along the same lines. I said, ?Okay, I understand what you are saying, but the fact of the matter is that you do believe in things that you have never seen before. How many of you listen to the radio?? All of the kids either raised their hands or shouted their favorite radio station. I said, ?But I thought you don?t believe in things that you can?t see? How many of you have ever seen a radio wave??The room got quiet. I said, ?You experience the effects of radio waves when you turn on your radio, but you?ve never seen a radio wave.? I said, ?How many of you have ever flown a kite?? Most of the kids had flown a kite at one time or another. I said, ?But if you don?t believe in what you can?t see or touch then why would you believe that the wind would lift your kite into the heavens?? Uh? Duh? The class got real quiet. I thought to myself, ?Hey, we?re on to something here! Keep rolling!?
I asked the kids, ?How many of you believe in a place called Australia?? Everyone knew I was up to something so hardly anybody raised their hand. I said, ?How many of you have ever been to Australia?? Nobody raised their hand. I said, ?Surely, since you have never seen Australia, you don?t believe that there is really a place, a literal place, called Australia?? One kid spoke up and with bravado in his voice said, ?I believe there is a place called Australia cause I saw it on television!? I said, ?So if we see it on television then that means it?s real? That?s funny because I saw a car fly in ?Back To The Future,? I saw an extraterrestrial in ?Men In Black,? and I saw a vampire in ?Dracula,? but I don?t believe in any of those things. Do you??
I said, ?You know what? I?ve never been to Australia, but I believe that there is a place called Australia because I have read about it, seen pictures of it, and I even know someone from Australia these evidences cause me to have faith that Australia is real.?
The fact of the matter is that all of life is based on faith. It doesn?t matter if someone is an atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, Muslim, New Age practitioner, liberal or fundamentalist Christian everyone has faith. You demonstrate your faith every time you sit down in a chair and have no assurance that it will hold you. You demonstrate your faith every time you eat food at a restaurant without worrying if it has been poisoned. You demonstrate your faith every time you put a piece of mail in the mail box and walk away believing it will be delivered to whom you have sent it to. You demonstrated your faith when you stood before the preacher, looked into the eyes of your loved one, and said, ?I do.? Everyone has faith. Whether we can ?believe? or have faith is really not the question. The real question is, ?How firm is your foundation??
In our study for today we are going to take a look at the opening verses of Hebrews 11. Take out your Bible and let?s read together.
1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of 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.(Hebrews 11:1-3 NIV)
When we begin a new chapter in our study it is only natural to believe that we are beginning something new, but not in this case. The beginning of Hebrews 11 is really a continuation of the end of Hebrews 10. Let me share with you the last part of Hebrews 10 that we studied last week so that you can see how they flow together.
36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For in just a very little while, ?He who is coming will come and will not delay. 38 But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.? 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (Hebrews 10:36-39 NIV)
The writer of Hebrews says, ?We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.? Believe! Have faith! Trust! Don?t waver! Stand strong! We are of those who believe! The very next sentence leads us into the next chapter and it carries the thought even further. The writer of Hebrews describes for us what ?faith? is and what ?faith? does. Take a look again at verse 1. ?Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.?
When we look at this verse we see the centrality of faith. ?Faith? is ?being sure of what we hope for.? It is also ?being certain of what we do not see.? John MacArthur writes in his commentary on Hebrews,
The Greek word ?hupostasis,? translated here as ?assurance,? appears two other times in Hebrews. in 1:3 it is rendered ?exact representation,? speaking of Christ?s likeness to God, and in 3:14 it is rendered ?assurance,? as in 11:1. The term refers to the essence, the real content, the reality, as opposed to mere appearance. Faith, then, provides the firm ground on which we stand, waiting for the fulfillment of God?s promise. Far from being nebulous and uncertain, faith is the most solid possible conviction. Faith is the present essence of a future reality. (John MacArthur, Hebrews. pg. 288)
Our faith differs in one sense from the faith of those who clung to their faith before the time of Jesus. They longed for the promise of God to be fulfilled. History has recorded for us, those who live after the time of Jesus, the fulfillment of God?s promise of salvation through His Son Jesus. That is not to say that we no longer need faith. Faith is all we have to hold onto. We must continue to believe that God is true to His promises, that He does not lie, and that we will receive everything the Lord has promised — in His time.
We need to understand that ?faith? is not just ?wishful thinking,? a ?positive mental attitude,? or ?hope.? Faith is much more than crossing your fingers and wishing upon a star. Faith does not need eyes to see. Faith does not need ears to hear. Faith does not need a laboratory to believe. Faith leans upon the promises of God, rests in the evidence of the ages, and stands upon God?s Word at every turn. Our faith rests not on those around us or the resiliency and tenacity within us our faith is founded and grounded upon Almighty God.
Paul points the people of Corinth in this direction when he reminds them that his message wasn?t persuasive, his speech wasn?t eloquent, and he wasn?t a master communicator. What Paul shared he shared by God?s power so that their faith would be based on God?s power and not man?s wisdom or powers of persuasion. Read along with me in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit?s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men?s wisdom, but on God?s power.(1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NIV)
A great example of ?faith? for you and me is Abraham. God had promised Abraham that he would be the Father of many nations, but Abraham and Sarah didn?t have any kids they were way past their childbearing years, but Abraham believed God. Abraham had faith. Read along with me in Romans as Paul tells us about Abraham and his faith in God?s power above all else.
18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ?So shall your offspring be.? 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead?since he was about a hundred years old?and that Sarah?s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why ?it was credited to him as righteousness.? 23 The words ?it was credited to him? were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness?for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:18-25 NIV)
Abraham is a model of ?faith? for you and me. When was the last time you faced insurmountable odds? Did you take stock of your resources or did you cry out to the God who holds all power in His hand? I can?t answer for you, but I know there have been far too many times that I have looked to what I could muster or who I might know who could help me out of my jam. Through Abraham?s example we can have ?faith? that God holds all power in His hand to do what He has promised. I love verses 20-21. Let me read it to you again.
Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. (Hebrews 11:20-21 NIV)
Our faith is not in wishing upon a star or crossing our fingers, but our faith is in the promise of God to do what He has said He would do. How strong is our faith? I want to take a moment to look deeper at the word John MacArthur wrote about in the section I just read to you. The Greek word for ?being sure? is the word, ?u`po,stasij? (hoop-os’-tas-is). The word means, ?confidence, assurance, conviction.?
The same word is used in Hebrews 3:14, but in that instance it is translated, ?confidence.? Read along with me.
14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Hebrews 3:14 NIV)
What are you placing your confidence in this morning? There are so many people who have placed their faith in things, organizations, and people that have in the end shown themselves not to be worthy of faith.
Lee Atwater was a man who was well known in the political arena. He got his start with the Nixon campaign, but really made a name for himself during President Reagan?s time in the White House. After serving in the Reagan White House, Atwater helped elect George Bush president and then chaired the Republican National Committee (RNC) until he died in March 1991 of brain cancer. Throughout his life, Lee Atwater, was known as a no-holds barred political bulldog.
Lee Atwater was cocky, if not arrogant. He would take on anybody, anywhere. He destroyed political opponents like they were nothing. Then he met an opponent who stopped him in his tracks. Lee Atwater, still a young man in his prime, found out he had brain cancer. The disease caused the well-known political powerhouse to stop and assess his life and the way he had lived it.
It was at this point that Lee Atwater was confronted with truths he had known for a long time, but had neglected so that he could pursue his own agenda. In February of 1991, Lee Atwater, the man who would bow before no one, bowed his feeble knees before the throne of Jesus Christ and confessed his sin. In an interview conducted just after his conversion, Lee Atwater said, ?I’ve found Jesus Christ – It’s that simple. He’s made a difference.” After having destroyed numerous political careers so that he could further his own, Lee Atwater surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. After his conversion, Lee Atwater stated,
I don’t hate anyone anymore. For the first time in my life I don’t hate somebody. I have nothing but good feelings toward people.
Is your foundation firm? Is the ground you are standing on solid? How firm is your foundation? The writer of Hebrews assures us that those who stand on the solid rock of faith in God?s promises are standing on the firmest foundation of all! The writer of Hebrews assures us that those who have faith in God can have absolute confidence that their faith is not in vain. I am more sure of the validity of God?s promises than I am of my own existence! God?s Word gives me the confidence that God is true to His promises. He has been in the past, He is in the present, and His promises stand without fail!
There is no other way to please God. You can give your life to helping the poor as a humanitarian endeavor. You can give your money to just causes around the world. You can sell all of your worldly goods and give them to your local church. You can move away to a secluded monastery and chant verses from God?s Word all day long. All of these things are good and fine, but they will not garner you God?s praise. Who is the person God is pleased with? The man or woman, boy or girl who possesses faith in God! Hebrews 11:6 tells us,
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.(Hebrews 11:6 NIV)
It is by faith alone that you and I are saved. It is by faith in God?s promises and living in the confidence that what He has said is true that we are found pleasing in His sight.
In Hebrew 11:2, we are told, ?2 This is what the ancients were commended for.? What were the ancients commended for? Faith! The rest of chapter 11 is a recital of great biblical figures from the past that clung to their faith in the face of desperate times and were sustained by God?s promises. The same faith that carried them is available to you and me my friends.
In verse 3, we are told, 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.? There is so much debate today about creation vs. evolution. How was the world, the universe made? Where did life come from? Did we evolve from a ?primordial soup?? Were our ancestors really apes? Is the creation story from Genesis 1-2 a myth, or is it a literal story of God creating humanity in His image by His own hands? The debate rages today and there is no stronger arena for debate than the public school system.
Within the past few months Congress signed a new bill allowing school systems to teach the problems within Darwinian evolution. The supporters of ?intelligent design? have been greatly encouraged, not because schools are now allowed to teach Biblical creation, but because science teachers in our school are now allowed to honestly teach our kids about the problems with Darwin?s theory of evolution. Let me share with you an article by Dr. Bruce Chapman of The Discovery Institute. The article was written on December 21, 2001. The article is entitled, ?Congress Gives Victory to Scientific Critics of Darwin.?
The new bill represents a substantial victory for scientific critics of Darwin’s theory and for all who would like science instruction to exercise thoroughness and fairness in teaching about contemporary science controversies. The bill was strongly supported by supporters of the “intelligent design” movement in science who want to see scientific arguments against Darwin’s theory of evolution made available to students, along with arguments that support the theory. When Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education (NSCE), a group organized to fight against the teaching of any alternative to Darwin’s Theory, stated that “virtually every reputable scientist in the world” supports (Darwinian) evolution, Discovery Institute-home to many in the intelligent design movement– quickly responded. It enlisted over a hundred scientists to publish their names in a “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.” The list included five-time Nobel nominee Henry F. Schaefer, University of Georgia chemist, and members of the faculties of Princeton, Notre Dame and Berkeley, among others. (By: Bruce Chapman President)
Why would someone be so opposed to teaching a theory of how life began when so many holes have been found in it? That is a great question! Dr. Eugenia Scott?s stance that ?virtually every reputable scientist in the world? supports Darwinian evolution is far from the truth. The great British scientist, mathematician, and astronomer, Sir Frederick Hoyle, who was raised by a father who believed in Darwinian evolution, could not embrace his father?s beliefs once he studied the theory for himself. Dr. Hoyle once said,
The likelihood of the formation of life from inanimate matter is one to a number with 40,000 naughts after is… It is big enough to bury Darwin and the whole theory of evolution. There was no primeval soup, neither on this planet nor any other, and if the beginnings of life were not random, they must therefore have been the product of purposeful intelligence.”
Dr. Hoyle died on August 20, 2001, but throughout his life he spoke time and time again about his belief that the universe was the product of a ?plan? which flowed from intelligence. His idea of where that intelligence comes from is different than what we believe God?s Word teaches, but even a man who didn?t embrace Christianity could see that the created world did not just happen. Dr. Hoyle once again states,
The probability of the formation of just one of the many proteins on which life depends is comparable to that of the solar system packed full of blind people randomly shuffling Rubik’s cubes all arriving at the solution at the same time ? and this is the chance of getting only one of the 400 or more proteins of the hypothetical minimum cell proposed by the evolutionists (real world ‘simple’ bacteria have about 2,000 proteins and are incredibly complex).
We believe that God did it. How did He do it? Well, scientists have been trying to figure that out since long before any of us were ever born. There have been many theories and hypothesis, but the greatest scientists have all pointed back to God. How can we who are not scientist say with confidence that God has created everything that was or ever will be? We can say this with confidence because we have faith. We trust that what God says is true.
Everyone likes to believe that science, because it states only what is observable and repeatable, deals only with facts, but this is not the case. Science deals with theories as well. Many of the lessons scientists have learned, later turn out to be disproved, or shown that there are exceptions to the rules. Let me give you an example. The CNN website, on February 11, 2002, listed an article called, ?Goofy Galaxy Spins In Wrong Direction.? The article, by Richard Stenger, states,
Most spiral galaxies have arms of gas and stars that trail behind as they turn. But this galaxy, known as NGC 4266, has two leading outer arms that point toward the direction of the galaxy’s rotation, according to Hubble researchers. NGC 4622 suggests that maybe people do not know all that there is know about spiral structure yet. “It is pretty clear that there are both clockwise and counter-clockwise spiral arms, so something funny is going on,” Keith Noll, a Hubble scientist said. NGC 4622 resides 111 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Centaurus.
This recent article shows us that scientists, even the greatest scientific minds in the world, do not understand all that is going on in the Universe. When they discovered this abnormality in a galaxy spinning the wrong way some 111 million light years away, the world was shocked, but God was not. He is the one who spun backwards. Another illustration of the limits of science are made evident to us by the words of the famous atheist Richard Dawkins who told the story.
I once asked a distinguished astronomer, a fellow of my college, to explain the big bang theory to me. He did so to the best of his (and my) ability, and I then asked what it was about the fundamental laws of physics that made the spontaneous origin of space and time possible. ‘Ah,’ he smiled, ‘now we move beyond the realm of science. This is where I have to hand you over to our good friend the chaplain.’ (Dawkins, Richard, “Snake Oil and Holy Water,” Forbes ASAP, Oct. 4, 1999, p.236)
The earth is the Lord?s. He has made it. He alone understands it. We can take God at His Word and have faith that what He has said is more true than any laboratory can ever invent or discover.
An even greater step of faith than believing that God created the Universe is the step of faith that is required by anyone who is confronted with the Truth of God?s provision for our sin. Knowing that God has promised to give eternal life to those who will accept His Son demands a response. Will you believe it? Will you place your faith in the hands of the One who had His hands nailed to Calvary?s cross for you? Won?t you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior today?