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12/19/2012

CONFIDENT FAITH

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Most of Jeremiahs life was spent ministering in a country that was backslidden and approaching the impending judgment of God. Born and raised a few miles northeast of Jerusalem, he was close enough to see what was happening there, but far enough away not to fall under the influence of those that were swiftly leading their nation towards disaster. He was born into the lineage of the priesthood but he was called by God to be a prophet to his condemned nation while he was still just a young man. For the next forty years, his life was a prophetic ministry. In addition to the stirring messages and prophecies that God gave him, many times it was the actions of Jeremiah that spoke louder than the words he uttered. Like the prophet Hosea, God often called him to act out his faith. Sometimes, even Jeremiah questioned the things that God asked him to do, but his obedience stands through the ages as a testimony to the depth of his faith in the promises of God. I want to draw from a specific event that took place in the tenth year of Zedekiahs (King of Judah, righteousness of Jehovah, prosperity) reign. It was a volatile time. The dark prophecies of Jeremiah were in the process of coming to pass. Zedekiah had allied himself with nations that were committed to throwing off the yoke of the Babylonians, while continuing to pay lip service to Babylon. Eventually his rebellion came to the attention of Nebuchadnezzar, who invaded Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem. Even as events unfolded around him, Jeremiah continued to prophecy the downfall of both Zedekiah and the holy city. As result he was confined in the court of the prison. Zedekiah thought he would silence the prophet by locking him up but what Zedekiah didnt understand is that you can attempt to shackle the man of God, but you cant bind the word of God.

12/19/2012

CONFIDENT FAITH

Its an eternal principle that Paul shared with Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:9, Gods word is not bound! It operates, regardless of circumstances! It operates in spite of governments and kingdoms. It doesnt know the limitations of human weakness. And so, right there, in the court of the prison, Gods Word came to Jeremiah. The message the God had for Jeremiah seemed to defy logic. God told him that his cousin Hanamel was coming with an offer to sell a piece of property in their hometown of Anathoth. What makes this property so interesting is that it was land that had already been seized by the armies of Babylon. The field was virtually worthless, and Jeremiah knew it. It would be 70 years before the Babylonian captivity would end. There was no way that Jeremiah would ever reap any benefit of purchasing the field, he was no longer a young man and there was no chance that he would live to see the end of the coming captivity. That, my friend, is exactly why God told him to buy the field. That is what faith is all about, its about obeying God in spite of what we see, how we feel, and what is going on around us. By purchasing the field that was already possessed by the enemy Jeremiah was declaring that he had confidence in the promises of God. He even went so far as to declare, as he was finishing the deal, in Jeremiah 32:15, For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land. Jeremiah defied conventional wisdom and human understanding when he bought, at full price, the land that had already been hopelessly lost to the enemy. What he bought had no value, but he didnt even endeavor to drive a bargain, he simply paid the asking price, buying the land as if the enemy did not possess it. Jeremiah had declared, to all that would listen, that Jerusalem was about to fall under the wrath of God. This time Nebuchadnezzar was playing for keeps.

12/19/2012

CONFIDENT FAITH

It would seem, from the perspective of human wisdom that the purchase was the result of some wishful thinking or some blind leap of faith. But thats not what it was at all. Faith isnt wishful thinking. Faith isnt blind trust in the face of contrary evidence. Faith isnt the product of a blind leap. Faith -- true biblical faith, the kind of faith that the writer of Hebrews is writing about, is a settled confidence in things that have been promised but have not yet been seen. It was an act of faith that bought the field. It was Jeremiah putting his money where his mouth is and buying into the promise of God. It was by the word of God that he had declared that, even as bleak as the future looked at that moment, there was a day coming, seven decades in the future when once again they would buy and sell vineyards, when once again they would build homes, have families and enjoy peace. When Jeremiah bought the field he was making the declaration that he had full confidence in the word of God. Thats faith! Faith is founded on God. When the writer of Hebrews admonished us to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, he gave the faithfulness of God as the basis for our faith, saying that He who promised is faithful (10:23). Faith is a confident obedience to the word of God. It is a confidence that acts upon the promises of God regardless of circumstances. Faith doesnt try to coerce God. Faith doesnt try to conjure something up from wishful thinking. Faith doesnt try to force God to do something outside of his will or his plan. Rather, faith agrees with God. Biblical faith finds its point of conception in God and ultimately finds its fulfillment in God as well. It begins in God and it ends in God. This is the faith presented to us in Hebrews chapter 11. By faith Noah built an ark but it wasnt his idea, the plan came from God.

12/19/2012

CONFIDENT FAITH

By faith Abraham left all he had ever known and journeyed in search of the promise of God but, first, God called him. By faith Sarah conceived a child, but both Abraham and Sarah first laughed at the proposition, God promised it before they believed it. By faith the walls of Jericho came tumbling down, but it only after the Israelites confidently obeyed the word of God and marched around the walled city as prescribed by God. Over and over again we see that biblical faith is in harmony with the word of God. It is completely in line with the plan and purpose of God and it is built upon a confidence in the promises of God. faith, as it is presented in Hebrews is only as good as its source. As long as the source of faith is God, the results of faith are out of this world, but if the source of our faith is anything other than God then the results will be dismally disappointing. When Jeremiah bought the field, he did so in an act of faith. It was a faith that was rooted in the promise of God. It was a faith that declared that God was, indeed going to fulfill his word! God is the one that said that the field will have value again, somewhere in the unseen future. Jeremiahs purchase was the declaration of his confidence in the promise of God. In Hebrews chapter 11 the writer, building upon the fact that the just shall live by faith (10:38), presents to us a description of faith. It demonstrates the link between faith and hope while underscoring the nature of confident and enduring faith. The faith described here is based upon divine initiative and describes how humans respond to the promises of God. The examples given show us how men and women, young and old, Jews and Gentiles act out their faith as a result of their unwavering confidence in God. It is a settled confidence in the word of God. It doesnt have to see evidence to believe and ultimately it doesnt even have to receive the reward of its obedience to believe.

12/19/2012

CONFIDENT FAITH

Indeed, we find out that these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them (11:13) even though they never received them! Faith, the writer says, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. The two key words that the author used to describe faith are substance and evidence. They are, in and of themselves, powerful testimonies of the nature of faith. Taken together they serve to define confident faith. Substance is derived from the Greek word hupostasis, which is a contraction of two words. Hupo means under and stasis means to stand. It is, by definition, that which stands under, or a foundation. Faith, then, is the foundation of things hoped for. Hope is built upon faith, not the other way around. Hope may be placed in things unseen but it is not founded upon things unknown. Hope is founded on faith and Biblical faith finds its source in the promise of God. The word of God is the known quantity that provides the foundation for our hope that is placed in things yet unseen. Hope can fully invest itself in what it has not yet seen because hope has full confidence in the word of God. Hope is founded on the truth that He who promised is faithful! Hope is invested in things yet unseen because it fully believes that God, who spoke those things, will bring them to pass. Faith is the substance of things hoped for! Several translations render that word substance as title deed. This is because the original Greek word was commonly used as a legal term that describes the whole body of documents that have bearing on the ownership of a piece of property. It is the title deed that provides the evidence of ownership. That understanding leads to the second phrase in the description. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. The Greek word behind the English evidence reflects this thought: The means by which a thing is proven.

12/19/2012

CONFIDENT FAITH

Unseen things, things that are only hoped for, the writer says, are proven by faith. One can invest their hope in unseen things because the evidence of faith declares that the one who promised to bring those things to pass has never failed, his word has never returned to him void, he has always delivered on his promises. Faith is the title deed to things that we now hope for. It is the assurance that God will deliver to us promises that remain unseen. There is a lot of significance in the idea of a title deed. You see, until I receive a title deed to piece of property, I dont really own it! As long as a bank somewhere has a lien on that title deed then I dont have clearly established ownership of that property. If the house burns and my insurance writes me a check for my losses, they will address the check to both the bank and me because, until I pay them off, they have some claim to the ownership of the property. However, once I pay them off and they send me the deed to the property, my possession of that property is established. It is mine. Faith is the deed that establishes our ownership of things unseen. We can fully invest our hope in things that havent yet come to pass because of the evidence of faith! Its my deed. I own the promises of God through my faith! My faith says, that He who promised is FAITHFUL! It says that my hope is founded upon faith that flows from the word of God and His word has never, ever failed! Whenever God told Jeremiah to buy a field in the land that was already occupied by the enemy, He enacted an illustration of faith in action. Jeremiah bought the land, but, even though he owned it, he didnt yet have possession of it. As a matter of fact, he couldnt take possession of it. The enemy was camped upon it. The armies of Babylon were there to defy any claim of ownership. So Jeremiah did the next best thing. Right there, in the confines of the court of the prison, he set in motion a faith that would transcend his life. He weighed the money, gathered the witnesses, signed the deed and placed his seal upon it. It was all carried out according to the law.

12/19/2012

CONFIDENT FAITH

Ownership was transferred and the deed was registered. Jeremiah became the proud owner of a field he would never see. He became the owner of a field that was possessed by his enemy, a field that would not be liberated for at least 70 years. And Jeremiah knew it. But hope, founded on faith, said there is a day coming when this deed is going to matter. There is a day coming when that land will be plowed, when vineyards will be planted and when homes will be built. In an act of faith Jeremiah told his scribe take the deeds and seal them in an earthen vessel. The vessel, and the process, was special because of its durability. Jeremiah wanted to insure that the deed would survive the years of captivity. This title deed has to endure the test of time because it is the evidence of my ownership of the property. The method of preservation that he chose was selected for its longevity. His title deed was endowed with endurance, it was equipped to stand the test of time! As a matter of fact, when the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered, in modern times,they were preserved in this same manner, sealed within earthen vessels completely protected from the passing of time perfectly preserved for hundreds of years. When Jeremiah had the title deed to his new property sealed in earthen vessels, he was establishing the foundation for the hope that, in a time yet unseen, God would show mercy to Israel and restore them to the land of their promise. He was saying, you cant see it from here, its way off in the future, but Im going to preserve the evidence. He told the scribe, preserve it, keep it and protect it because its the source of our confidence. The deed validates our hope. It declares that God has promised to restore this land. This title deed is our evidence. This is the foundation of our hope! Thats what faith is. It validates our hope and establishes our ownership of the promise of God. This is what the writer is doing in these precious chapters of Hebrews.

12/19/2012

CONFIDENT FAITH

He is providing the witnesses that validate our faith. He doesnt just tell us the He who promised is faithful the writer produces the evidence of Gods faithfulness. Thats why theres a roll call of the heroes of the faith through the years, because its the testimony of the witnesses that reminds us of the faithfulness of God. If he did it for them, faith says, he will do it for me. Thats the significance of the great cloud of witnesses, they remind us of the faithfulness of God. They produce the evidence that becomes the foundation of our hope. Heres the truth. Somewhere along the way, life is going to rear its ugly head and circumstances are going to try to rob you of your faith in the promises of God. It happened to Jeremiah. After Jeremiah recorded his deeds and established that they would survive the years of captivity, he began to question himself. He began to question God. Why did you have me publicly purchase that land? It seems so silly now. It seems to have been such a futile thing. The land is barren, it is a desolation, it is given into the hands of the Chaldeans. You can mark it down and take it to the bank, circumstances are going to rise up and call your promise into question. The enemy, is going to try to undermine your ownership of the promise of God. Things in this life are going to happen that cause us to face the reality that weve placed our hope in things unseen. Sometimes situations will mock us and try to cause us to forsake our promises. David sat in Sauls tent and pointed out to that ugly Philistine giant and said, I havent ever faced a giant, but God delivered me from a lion and God delivered me from a bear. That same God will deliver this uncircumcised Philistine into my hand! He reviewed the evidence and helped Saul and his advisors come to the conclusion that God is faithful. Hes still able! Thats what the writer is doing, throughout the whole of the book of Hebrews, but particularly in the eleventh chapter.

12/19/2012

CONFIDENT FAITH

He is establishing the fact that He who promised is faithful! Thats what Hebrews chapter eleven is, it is a reminder of all the times that God delivered on his word! It provides the evidence that supports our hope. As we read through its pages we are reminded that He is faithful! And we are challenged to believe that, if he didnt fail then, He wont fail now! The testimony of faith is, ultimately, the source of faiths confidence. And faiths confidence is the key to finally reaping faiths reward. Thats the message of Hebrews 3:14, We are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end. The confidence of our faith is what will sustain our hope in the promise. When our circumstances arise that provide visual evidence that is contrary to the unseen thing that our hope is invested in, it is that confidence of faith, the conviction of things not seen (11:1 ESV) that will sustain us. This, the word tells us, is how the elders obtained a good report (11:2). They held on to their hope with confidence that god would deliver on all of his promises! He who promised is faithful! He has proven over and over again, time after time, through the ages and beyond that He is faithful. In a final effort to describe faith before he rolls out the great cloud of witnesses, the author turns to the most obvious reason that we should place our confidence in things unseen. Directing us to the whole of creation he declares that through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God. God, speaking into a vast expanse of nothingness, spoke the worlds into existence. The physical world was created form nothing. All the things that we can see, were made out of things that are unseen. What the writer is saying is that when you look at the things that you can see and they seem to defy the things that you have been promised. then you should remind yourself that the God who made the things you can see out of things that are unseen is well able to bring the things that are yet unseen into the reality that you can see.

12/19/2012

CONFIDENT FAITH

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Dont abort the promise of God in your life. He isnt finished yet. You can draw your confidence from his record. He is faithful. Tonight I want to encourage somebody to let faith rise anew in your heart. Let it become the foundation of your hope, the title deed to your promise. I wish somebody would get a grasp on the evidence and make a declaration, Im not letting go of my promise! It may be a while before it comes to pass, but Ive got the kind of faith that doesnt need evidence to believe, because my confidence is in God. Ive got the kind of faith that will believe in the unseen, in spite of what I can see, because my confidence is in God. That, my friend, is the confident faith of Hebrews 11:1. I wonder tonight if somebody would like to reestablish your ownership of the promise. My faith says, I own it. My Faith is my title deed. Its all the evidence I need. My field may be in the hands of my enemy, but Ive registered my deed. My faith says, that one of these days, its gonna be mine!