Saturday, March 25, 2017

Victorious Faith

My Life Group lesson for March 26, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Lynn Pryor and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

We don’t even know what to believe anymore, from politics to scientific studies on coffee/wine/chocolate/sleep, and everyone says they have their own “truth.”

You wouldn’t know this, but the internet is filled with false information.

I used to listen to the Art Bell Show on the radio in the middle of the night, and it was full of conspiracies about civilizations on Mars, time travelers, Area 51 and everything kooky you can think of.

When you question their facts, someone will inevitably say “I know it’s hard to believe, but just accept it as true. Take it on faith.”

Really? Is faith just jumping blindly into belief?

In the Bible we see a different idea of faith. Hebrews chapter 11 features those with true faith, even when God called them to believe some pretty incredible things.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Last week we talked about victory over sin and repentance. Today we’re talking about victory in faith.

*** Pastor John Harrison in North Carolina combines them: "Repentance is turning away from sin and turning to God. Faith is turning to God in all areas of your life."

*** Our Scripture today is Hebrews chapter 11, the roll call of the faithful. It has encouraged many believers in times of persecution and suffering to have a victorious faith.

TRUE FAITH (Hebrews 11:1-3)

1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about 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.

*** A really big bang.

--- Verse 1 is clear on what faith is, how it works and what it does.

--- Faith is an inward conviction.

Faith means trusting God and believing (even knowing) that He will do what He says He will do—because He always does.

--- Faith gives us confidence.

Faith has substance. It’s an assurance based on the reality of what God has already done and said.

--- For example, we know the universe exists. But verse 3 separates believers from unbelievers.

--- Think of all the things scientists theorize about, that the Big Bang started with a tiny speck and somehow it exploded and all of the billions of galaxies are now in existence.

--- For all we’ve learned and keep learning about creation, science alone simply can’t answer the most fundamental questions about its existence—especially the question “Why?” Is the universe merely a giant cosmic accident? Or is there some purpose or plan?

--- As Christians we know the answer to the “why” question because of our faith: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command.”

--- Our universe isn’t some accident of physics; it’s the work of a Creator.

--- God started with nothing and brought all that exists into being from nothing.

--- Therefore, we can be confident and have faith that God will continue to work His will in our world—and in our lives.

*** Question - What helps you have faith in God even though you can’t see Him?

HEROES OF THE FAITH (Hebrews 11:4-6)

4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. 5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 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.

*** Dead men do tell tales.

--- There are many great heroes of the faith in Hebrews chapter 11, people who joined God working in their world.

--- Abel is the first example, who was killed by his brother after Cain’s offering was rejected.

--- It wasn’t the offerings themselves that made them acceptable or unacceptable; it was the attitudes behind those offerings.

--- Cain had no faith in God and, as a result, his offering was a ritual, not a true act of faith and worship.

--- Cain’s offering simply didn’t mean much to him; therefore, it didn’t mean much to God.

--- Abel expressed confidence and obedience through his worship.

--- Abel’s example spoke through the centuries even in death, showing us that living righteously matters in the face of hatred and violence.

--- We say that God alone is God and He affects all of our lives, so why would we want to bring less than our best to Him?

*** For my next trick, I will make Enoch disappear.

--- Enoch was the second example of a person who lived by faith.

--- We don’t know much about Enoch, but in Genesis 5:21-24 we can deduce that he was extraordinary.

--- So much so, in fact, that Enoch never died. God just brought him into eternity.

--- Genesis 5:22 says Enoch “walked faithfully with God 300 years.”

--- Genesis 5:24 says “he was no more” because “God took him away.”

--- That’s all we’re told.

--- He must have had amazing faith and confidence in God’s will.

*** Faith’s rewards.

--- The writer of Hebrews emphasized this point: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”

--- The Bible makes it clear that those who live to please God are rewarded.

--- But how? Riches? Fame? No.

--- To quote Yoda: “Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.”

--- The men and women in Hebrews 11 didn’t have easy lives of leisure in mansions given by God. They had difficulties, but they were seen as victorious through their faith.

--- Abel’s faith led him to bring a sacrifice that God approved. It pleased God. But his life was cut short.

--- We want the victory God gave Enoch – an eternity walking with God.

--- But we should be ready to lead any life that offers testimony to a righteous God.

--- The rewards are not earthly and material, but heavenly and eternal.

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

When I was little I would study maps. The Rand McNally map was my friend. I knew the ins and outs of roads and mountains and rivers all over America.

Why do we trust maps and GPS?

Someone before us has gone and knows the way.

God will not take us someplace He has not been. When God says “Turn here” we turn because He knows what he’s talking about.

In Hebrews 11 we read about the men and women who did something by faith, obeying God’s instructions.

We should pay attention as well to God’s plan for our lives and have a faith that is victorious.

*** Trust. Take a moment each day to verbally express your trust in God through prayer. Tell God that you will trust Him throughout the day, and tell Him why you will trust Him.

*** Read. Read the Old Testament stories of the men and women mentioned in Hebrews 11. Read about their lives and find out how they expressed confident trust and faith in God. Consider recording what you learn from each person.

*** Encourage. Even as God uses the lives in Hebrews 11 to encourage us, choose to be an encouragement to someone else. Encourage their faith and trust in Christ by telling them how you trusted Christ in a similar experience.

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