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Last week’s message theme was “You need to persevere so that… you will receive what he has promised.” Live with patience and faith, believing that there is great reward. As such, the author of Hebrews continues to encourage the believers of the Early Christianity in great trials. The second half of 12: 1 says, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” Hebrews chapter 11 is focused on faith, and it is written in the context of encouragement of focusing on the goal and living with patience. Among the recommendations that begin from 10:19, it encourages us by giving us great examples of faith from the Old Testament. Let’s look back at some of the words of encouragement that have been spoken so far. Hebrews 10:22 says, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart.” Then, in verse 23, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,”
In verse 24, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” And verse 35 says, “so do not throw away your confidence;” In this way, there are a number of recommendations written in this chapter. And even in Chapter 12, new recommendations will continue. Considering these recommendations, we can learn from these people of faith in the Old Testament, who lived their lives in this way.
In Hebrews 11: 1, the definition of faith is written. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” The faith shown here has a different perspective from Paul’s justification by faith and the gift of faith given by God. The faith that the Bible speaks of is also diverse. The author of Hebrews focus on faith practically and specifically. First, it says that faith is confidence in what we hope for. The Greek word for confidence (or guarantee) is a noun and is also used in Hebrews 1: 3. There it is translated as his being(the essence of God. “Being” and “confidence” are the same words. God also gives us faith that is being sure what we hope for. Let me give you a specific example. With faith, I married my wife, and with faith I started a church here in Minami-Nagareyama. One of the reasons is that there was no church in this area at that time. This year is the 35th anniversary of our church. I rented a small house, worked for a missionary organization, taught English, and my wife also taught piano, and we started a small gathering. Our hope has been for people to come to worship and for people to be saved. With that hope in mind, we started a small church. All of these are such a great memory for us.
Now it is said that faith is a confidence in what we hope for, but did you notice that it comes true with reality and essence? Looking back now, I realize that God has shown the reality and essence through faith in various situations. By faith, we can see a group of believers raising up, with reality and essence, even if they are not happening now. Faith is also assurance about what we do not see. What we do not see will appear in the future, and it is the attitude of waiting for unseen. So will the completion of salvation and the blessings of heaven. Faith is what you can be sure of and confirm in the future by having faith even if you cannot see it now. Let me give you more example on this. You may have taken the entrance examinations before. As Christians, we might pray for getting in the specific school we want to attend, but at the same time we trust God that He will lead us to what’s best for us. By having faith, what is unseen is confirmed and we can have a confidence in it.
Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s commend,…” I studied biology at university, but I have doubts about evolution. I can’t believe that such a wonderful earth, nature, animals and plants were formed by chance. “The universe was formed at God’s commend” means that the world was made by the word (rhema) of God. God said, “Let there be light.” I have faith in believing that the world was created with the word of God. By faith in God, my world view and perspective has been changed a lot.
Hebrews 11:4 says, “By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous…”. Genesis 4:4 says, “And Abel also brought an offering-fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering,”. The figure of Abel’s worship that expresses his sincere gratitude to God is written here. Unfortunately, the sad event of Abel being killed by his brother Cain happened, but God remembers Abel, who expressed his sincere gratitude. As it is written, by faith, our church service is also dedicated to God, and we want to serve with a sincere heart that pleases God. Those who believe in Christ are justified, and live with faith. Even if we might be in a difficult situation, let us believe that God’s help is just around the corner.