Looking to Jesus
Speaker: Rev. Scott Strickman
Sermon Series: Faith, Hope & Love
Hebrews 11:1-19, 39-12:2 (ESV)
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 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 for them a city.
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
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.
12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Faith is a way of seeing that sustains us as we move towards God-focused hopes and goals.
1. Looking At
12:1 “since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (11:2, 39 “commended for their faith”)
11:1 “assurance” “conviction”
11:6 “must believe that he exists and that he rewards…”
11:13 “seen and greeted [what was promised] from afar… strangers and exiles”
2. Looking To
12:2 “the founder and perfecter of our faith”
12:2 “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…”
12:1 “let us lay aside every weight and sin… and run…”
Questions for Reflection
What are your main goals in life? What do you want or hope for at the end of it all? What is your biggest or chief desire or aspiration?
If faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”, is faith opposed to reason? What role does reason (if any) play in this conception of faith?
How does a future hope or goal affect your present? What role does faith/trust have in staying on track with goals? When is faith needed? How does faith function?
Do you visualize reaching your goals? How does one visualize the promises of God?
What affect does looking at the lives of those who have lived by faith have on you? As you read the list of people who sought God, trusted God, and were commended for their faith (Heb 11), how are you impacted?
How do you make sense of the fact that this list of faithful individuals trusted God but died without receiving the things they ultimately hoped for? How does this work?
How is Jesus the “founder” of our faith?
What does it mean that Jesus is the “perfecter” of our faith?
Jesus endured the cross “for the joy that was set before him”. Faith in Hebrews 11 seems to have an aspect of a present experience that is tied to a future hope. Do you consider your future hopeful, and is it something you ever think about? How can a conviction about the future bring something of that joy into your present?
What can you do about a lack of assurance that your future is hopeful? How can you grow in the conviction of things unseen? How do you move forward while these are lacking?
Prayer of Confession
Our Father, how often we run from you rather than to you. How often we wander down dead ends instead of staying on the path that you have called us along. Instead of looking to you, we have looked at what misleads us, and we have looked to what will only disappoint us. Thank you that Jesus went before us, enduring the cross so that we would have the reward of seeking you. Thank you that though he despised the shame, he bore it, while we deserve the shame but have been set free from it. We look to him by faith, making the appeal that you would forgive us and increase our faith. Amen.