This is the sermon for Sunday March 2nd, 2008.
GOTTA HAVE FAITH PART 14
A persecuted, enduring Faith.
Last time we looked at the faith that accomplishes something. It moves beyond the fear of the circumstances and get out of its boat of comfort so that God could accomplish great things through them.
This week we are going to look at a difficult subject, and that is a faith that is persecuted, and yet endures.
I don’t know about you, but I really am not a fan of persecution. Persecution often not only affects you by the way you are persecuted (like emotionally, or physically), but it can affect the entire person. And sometimes you just want to strike back when you are persecuted. But Jesus says to us to turn the other cheek, don’t strike back.
I believe that God allows persecution because whether we like it or not, it is part of His plan. It is in persecution, that the light of the truth we believe in really begins to shine.
Now do you face persecution today? How about problems, or struggles as well? Sadly, we live in a day that if you go through hard times and problems, it is not part of God’s will. We have churches filled with “Job’s comforters,” who do not think that God can get any glory today, out of persecution, hard times, difficulties, sorrows, and struggles. They will tell you it is because you lack enough faith, as if faith is something that can be measured in a cup or something to that effect. They can even spout out some bible verse, pulled and stretched out of context to prove their point. It doesn’t prove a thing though, except one thing, they don’t have a true understanding of the Bible, God, and His ways. He is in a nice box they have placed Him in.
Persecution, hard times, problems, sorrows, and difficulties all have a purpose in God’s plan, let me share one story with you.
Pastor J. H. Crowell, when about sixteen, shipped on a sailing vessel, where he was the only Christian, in a crew of twelve. Before leaving his mother he promised to meet her three times a day at the throne of grace. So regularly he went below and prayed aloud. He thought he must. They threw wood at him and poured buckets of water over him, but could not put out the fire in his soul. Then they tied him to the mast and laid thirty-nine stripes on his back. Still he prayed. They tied a rope around his body and threw him overboard. He swam as best he could, and when he took hold of the side of the ship they pushed him off with a pole. At last his strength gave way, and, supposing they meant to kill him, he prayed that God would forgive them, and called out: “Send my body to my mother and tell her that I died for Jesus.” He was then pulled on deck unconscious, but after some time came to. Conviction began to seize the sailors. Before night two of them were gloriously converted. Inside of a week every one on board, including the captain, was blessedly saved.
Like this story, God does have a plan and a purpose for our hard difficult times.
Let’s look at the text this morning and see what God would say to us.
1. Examples of enduring in faith.
Hebrews 11:35-38 GNB – Through faith women received their dead relatives raised back to life. Others, refusing to accept freedom, died under torture in order to be raised to a better life. (36) Some were mocked and whipped, and others were put in chains and taken off to prison. (37) They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they were killed by the sword. They went around clothed in skins of sheep or goats—poor, persecuted, and mistreated. (38) The world was not good enough for them! They wandered like refugees in the deserts and hills, living in caves and holes in the ground.
A. Here we see many examples of faith during difficulties. Most discussing the fact of persecution, but two talking about death of family members (though they were resurrected) and another talking about the poor believers of the past.
Last week we saw believers that overcame the difficulties and conquered them because of their faith. Here we see those who endure because of their faith. They both have one thing in common, God values both types of believers, and approves of commends them for their faith in Him. Lets look at these examples.
B. Those receiving their dead back by resurrection (v. 35a).
I believe the Author is referring too the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:22) and the woman from Shunem (2 Kings 4:34). They both suffered the loss of a loved one and saw them restored to life again. For believers we have this promise: death may come, but so will resurrection.
C. The tortured (vv. 35b-36).
The Author has been dealing with many great Old Testament saints from the past. All of these had one thing in common, they all put their faith in the one true God, and they were commended or approved for their faith in Him. Here the Author deals with those who are tortured in the midst of having faith in God. They were tortured physically, as well as verbally and emotionally. They refused to give in to the torture, looking toward a resurrection to a better life. Let’s bring this passage up to our day and time. Women face emotional and physical abuse, children and youth are being mocked at school as well as those who are tortured through some unspeakable acts. To all of these I say, “Find your strength in God.” Let Him be your hiding place, your shelter. You have a better life awaiting you. It is a resurrected life that all believers are promised. In this life is no more sorrow or pain. Hold on to that promise.
D. The Martyred (v. 37a).
Many followers of Christ willingly have laid down their lives for Him. We must be willing to do the same.
Larry Norman was an example. He passed away this passed week. Most people don’t know who he was. He is the Father of Contemporary Christian Music. He was also a prophet. He proclaimed the truth no matter what. I’ve been reading stories about him this week, one about how on the streets of Dallas, he led four police officers to the Lord. He truly was a man after God’s own heart. But the world, and the Christian world would not accept him, why, because of his message. He never made money, in fact, he died a poor man. All because of one song, the world, nor Christians would not accept him because of this song. Here are the lyrics.
Sipping whiskey from a paper cup,
You drown your sorrows till you can’t get up,
Take a look at what you’ve done to yourself,
Why don’t you put the bottle back on the shelf,
Yellow fingers from your cigarettes,
Your hands are shaking while your body sweats,
Why don’t you look into Jesus, He’s got the answer.
Gonorrhea on Valentines Day,
And you’re still looking for the perfect lay,
You think rock and roll will set you free,
You’ll be deaf before your thirty three,
Shooting junk till your half insane,
Broken needle in your purple vein,
Why don’t you look into Jesus, he’s got the answer.
You work all night, sleep all day,
You take your money, throw it all away,
You say you’re going to be a superstar,
But you’ve never hung around enough to find out who you really are.
Think back to when you were a child,
Your soul was free, your heart ran wild,
Each day was different, and life was a thrill,
You knew tomorrow would be better still,
Things have changed you’re much older now,
If you’re unhappy and you don’t know how,
Why don’t you look into Jesus, He’s got the answer
You see, he wasn’t martyred physically, but he literally gave his life for one message, and he boldly told the world, in a language that they understood, “Why don’t you look into Jesus, He is the answer.”
E. Those who don’t have anything (vv. 37b-38).
These saints listed here don’t have a penny to their name, but they had faith in God.
And faith in God is richer than all the wealth of the world. Faith in God can take you somewhere that all the wealth in the world can’t – His very throne room. What was the reward for this enduring faith?
Hebrews 11:39 ISV – All these people won approval for their faith but did not receive what was promised…
A. They were approved by God for their faith, not for what they received.
B. In fact, you do not see that they are attacked at all for a lack of faith in their part. In fact they were approved by God equally with those who overcame the obstacles they faced.
C. We need to be careful about rushing to quick judgments when it comes to those going through times of difficulty and sorrow.
They don’t need our words of judgment, they need our words of prayer and comfort.
3. We all receive our reward together.
Hebrews 11:40 GNB – because God had decided on an even better plan for us. His purpose was that only in company with us would they be made perfect.
A. Many people think that the ultimate reward is heaven itself, or maybe even living eternally in God’s presence.
And while that is an awesome reward, it is not the ultimate reward I feel. It is a by-product of that reward.
B. The ultimate reward that these Old Testament saints receive with us is the promised Messiah – Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
C. You see, He is Lord of all – and all of us receive redemption at the cross.
If it wasn’t for Jesus and His sacrifice, none of us would have eternal life – that is why Jesus is the ultimate reward.
Hebrews 2:5-15 TNIV – 5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified: “What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? 7 You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor 8 and put everything under their feet.” In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. 9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12 He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.” 13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.” 14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
How can we apply this message to our lives this morning?
• God has a plan and purpose for persecution and suffering.
• Cry out to Him and cling to Him during those times.
• Don’t strike back against those who are persecuting you or who are doubting your faith, keep trusting the Lord.
• Know that you have already been rewarded – Jesus is your Lord and Savior.
• Rejoice that there is coming a better life, when we are resurrected by Jesus to a life of no more sorrow or pain.
How many of you are going through a difficult time this morning? Maybe you are being persecuted. Maybe you are facing some other type of suffering, and the nay-sayers are weighing you down. I’d love to pray for you this morning. I want you to leave here encouraged in the Lord. Please come forward this morning if you need prayer.
Next week will be our last sermon on this subject. We will be discussing those setting in the stands.