So much of who we are and what we become has to do with the kind of people we spend time with and respect. In this new series we will be looking at some of the people that God highlights as true heroes of history. Our hope is that by spending time with these heroes we’ll actually become more like them. Hebrews 11 is a catalog of biblical heroes of the faith. The first hero on the list is Abraham.
Question: Who in your life has influenced who you are? Who is currently in your life that you respect to the point of wanting to become more like them? What attributes do they have that you would like to emulate?
Read Hebrews 11.1–19.
In Genesis 12, God made a promise to Abraham. Even though he and his wife were very old and had been unable to get pregnant, God promised that He was going to build a great nation from their offspring. The promise was so outrageous that Sarah just laughed when she heard it. But eventually Abraham and Sarah did get pregnant, and had a son named Isaac. All the promises of God looked like they were going to come to fruition. Then, in Genesis 22, something shocking happens that still puzzles theologians today. God comes to Abraham and asks him to sacrifice his precious son Isaac.
On the one hand, we know from some of Abraham’s comments that he knew God wouldn’t ultimately take Isaac’s life. But on the other hand, Abraham must have felt massive levels of tension when it came to how his current situation would affect the promises God had given him. How could God build a nation through Isaac if Isaac is no longer around?
Many of us have experienced some of the emotions that Abraham must have felt that day. As followers of Jesus, we know that God has spoken some amazing promises over our lives. For example:
- Provision. “God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phillipians 4.19)
- Freedom. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5.1)
- Fulfillment. “Take delight in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37.4)
- Redemption. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8.28)
- Forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1.9)
And this is just the beginning. His word also promises peace, healing, restoration, protection, power, and more. How encouraging! Still, many of us, like Abraham, have experienced circumstances that make it difficult to actually believe in these promises. But what is so fascinating about Abraham is that even though he had every reason to give up on God’s promise, he still held on. Hebrews 11.19 tells us that the reason he held on is because he believed God could raise the dead. In some ways that is exactly what happened. When Abraham and Isaac got to the place where the sacrifice was supposed to happen, God actually provided a ram for the sacrifice, and that ram saved Isaac’s life.
Question: What circumstances have you faced in the past that made it difficult to believe in God’s promises? How has that changed? Do you still struggle with believing His promises?
Abraham was in a position where he had every right to abandon God’s promises. But he held on to God’s impossible promises in impossible circumstances because he believed in a God of the impossible!
If Abraham could hold onto God’s promises knowing that God could raise his son Isaac from the dead, how much more reason do we have to hold onto God’s promises knowing that God did raise his own son from the dead on that very first Easter morning! 2000 years ago, Jesus came to earth claiming to be the Son of God. He predicted that He would be killed and He predicted that He would be raised from the dead three days later. As history records and hundreds of people witnessed, that is exactly what happened.
Unlike Abraham, our hope isn’t based on a “God could,” our hope is based on “God did!” Our hope isn’t based on a God who can or might do great things, but a God who did the greatest thing when His son, Jesus, died on a cross and then was raised to life three days later! It was this event that forever changed how the early Christians viewed the promises of God. After the resurrection they began to say, “No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1.20)
The early church realized that once Jesus was raised from the dead, He became the foundation and the fulfillment of every one of God’s promises. When they experienced sickness, they believed God for healing. Despite the pull of addiction, they believed God for freedom. Despite their shortages, they believed God for provision. Despite their tough circumstances, they believed God for hope. The early church knew their hope was no longer based on a God who could, but a God who did.
We have the same reason for confidence in God’s promises that the early church did. Even today, 2,000 years after the resurrection of Jesus, we don’t serve a God who could or might, we serve a God who did! This means every promise of God spoken over our lives—every promise of freedom, forgiveness, healing, strength or provision—isn’t a maybe or a hopefully, but a YES in Christ Jesus.
Question: What are some promises God has for us collectively? What are some promises God has for you individually? Which of His promises speaks the most into where you are in life right now? How can you embrace the YES that is yours in Christ Jesus?
There’s another thing Hebrews 11 tells us about Abraham and everyone else in the chapter.
As much as Abraham saw God’s promises begin in his lifetime, he knew they wouldn’t be completed until eternity. As much as he was hungry to experience the fruit of God’s promise, he knew he wouldn’t get to experience all of that until God set this world right once and for all. Revelation 21 gives us a picture of what this world will look like when Jesus returns to set all things right:
“‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He [Jesus] who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21.3–5)
So while it is right for us to seek the promises of God right now, we should also know that what we experience of those promises right now pales in comparison to what we will experience in eternity.
Question: How does your view of time affect the promises God has for you? What do you think the fulfillment of God’s promises in eternity will be like?
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Abraham held on to God’s impossible promises in impossible circumstances because he believed in a God of the impossible!
Our hope isn’t based on a God who can or might do great things but a God who did the greatest thing when His son Jesus died on a cross and then was raised to life three days later!