Hang in There

Hebrews 11:29 - 12:2

In our text this morning we have a long list of heros... stretching back to Moses. Actually the list of heros who trusted God could have begun with Noah... who appeared to be crazy. After all he built a huge boat on dry land... he must have been the laughing stock of the neighborhood! Then there was Abraham... who left his home land on what must have appeared to others to be no more than a whim. There was Isaac... who went willingly along with his father to the spot where he was to be sacrificed... talk about faith! Let's see... there was Joseph... who had a good life in Egypt... but whose descendants became slaves of the Egyptian Pharaohs.

That pretty much brings us up to Moses... which is where our passage starts. The author of Hebrews ends his list with early Christian heros of the faith... those who suffered... or were martyred in the early church. I'm sure there have been many more "heroes of the faith" since this passage was written... although... today it seems we are pretty hard up to find heros of the faith. Most people who are in the public eye are there because of their "feet of clay"... which makes it pretty difficult to see any of them as heros. But... you know... even in our time... there have been some.

One that I have specially admiration for is Corrie Ten Boom... a watchmaker, in her 50's, in Holland during WWII... who taught Bible study classes to retarded children. When she learned about the early harassment and arrests of the Jews and their being sent off to extermination camps, she could not sit still and let it happen. Even though it meant risking her own life, she began hiding Jews in her own home, getting involved in the underground and smuggling them to safe houses out in the country. Although she was not Jewish herself, Corrie Ten Boom had a great love for these people because of her faith in Jesus Christ.

Because of her heroic efforts, her family was arrested and sent to Nazi prison camps where they suffered unspeakable horrors, including the deaths of her father and sister. Corrie lived in cramped, flea-infested quarters... and praised God for them... because the Bible says to praise God in all things. She was even grateful for the fleas... because they discouraged the guards from entering the barracks... and she was able to start several women's Bible study groups right in the middle of a Nazi concentration camp.

She was released by mistake... due to a clerical error... only a few weeks before all the women her age in that concentration camp were put to death. Instead of retiring... she went on the road for God becoming a "Tramp For The Lord"... traveling the whole world... sharing the joy and blessings that God had given her. She taught that people can be happy and filled with the joy of the Lord standing in line at roll call in a Nazi prison camp, and that God's peace and love gave her the peace and love to forgive and love the guards in the camps.

More recently... I'm reminded of Mother Teresa... who was born in Yugoslavia and traveled to India as a young woman to take her vows as a nun there in a convent. She had felt the "call" at the age of twelve to work among the poor... but it was not until she was thirty-six that she found her place among the poor. She began her work in an open field... in the middle of a slum... teaching the children hygiene... with a good bath! She was the author of many, many projects which help the poor... the sick... the dying in India. I'm sure that she will go down in history as a true hero of the faith!

What do all these people have in common... and do we have anything in common with them? One word appears again and again in our text... that's right... faith! In verse one of chapter 11 we read:

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

A person is said to have faith in something if he/she believes it without having had a physical demonstration of it... or a logical explanation of the truth behind it. A person who believes something without having it proved to him or her is exercising faith.

Are you aware that it is human nature to live by faith? We all live by faith everyday without a second thought. It is standard operating procedure for us... whether we are aware of it or not! Most of us ladies don't know how our car works... and we really don't care to know! We simple believe that it will... and we drive around everyday... taking care of business... trusting that our car will start... that the motor will run... that the wheels will turn... and that it will take us where we want to go. Does anyone here say, "I'm not driving that car until I understand fully how it works." Of course not! And while it's true that we put our faith in our car every day... sometimes... as Mitzie knows... our car can be untrustworthy! You see... there's a difference between having faith in something and putting our total trust in it.

Those of us here today have acknowledged by our presence that we believe in God... whom we cannot see... whose existence cannot be proved!

And yet... every Sunday... we say together:

"I believe in God the Father... maker of heaven and earth..."

We believe that he is able... and yet we know that he does not always do what we want so why should we trust him?

You know... it's very important that God be "real" to us... that God be a part of our experience. Faith in the existence of God is... of course... essential... but it is our experience of God that helps us trust him. You see... we trust him because we have experience his love... because of his saving grace in Jesus Christ. We believe that he loves us so much he provided a means for us to get back into his "good grace"... he sent his Son to pay the penalty for sin... and by this action we are "made right" with God once again. It is our faith in the work of Jesus Christ that enables us to accept God's love... and to trust him enough to live our lives as his sons and daughters.

Thank God... we don't have to trust ourselves... or our non-existent "holiness"... it is God who is trustworthy. You know... if we look a little closer at the heroes in our text we'll see that we have that in common with them as well. Every one of them had "feet of clay!"... just as we do. Every one of the people mentioned here were just as sinful as you or I... and yet they became heroes of the faith!

Jesus tells us that it dosen't take a great deal of faith in order to "move mountains" or overcome obstacles. That's because it's not the amount of faith we have that matters... it's in whom we put our faith. So how does faith the "size of a mustard seed" overcome obstacles and produce miracles? It's through trust... trust in the one in whom we put our faith.

Trust says, "God loves me so much he gave his Son for my sins... therefore, I can trust him. I may not understand what he is doing, but I know he will do what is in my best interest." You see... faith has to do with God's ability and power... one of our favorite praise songs is "God is Able." Trust... on the other hand... has to do with God's agenda and his will for our lives. Our trust in God is based on what he did for us at Calvary... not on what is happening in our lives at any given moment. Trust involves patience... courage... confidence in God... and putting our future into God's hands. Trust means believing wholeheartedly in God's promises... and giving ourselves over to his agenda.

In our scripture today we see several wonderful illustrations of trust in God's agenda. Like those early Christians... sometimes God's agenda for us involves coming to know Christ better through our suffering. Our faith tells us that he is our creator... our sustainer... and our redeemer. Our trust tells us that he can create wonderful results from a very unpleasant experience when he puts it all together.

In closing today I'd like to share with you a poem that Jerilynn found on the internet and shared with me by e-mail:

God's Embroidery

When I was a little boy, my mother used to embroider a great deal.. I would sit at her knee and look up from the floor and ask what she was doing. She informed me that she was embroidering. As... from the underside... I watched her work within the boundaries of the little round hoop that she held in her hand, I complained to her that it sure looked messy from where I sat.

She would smile at me, look down and gently say, "My son, you go about your playing for awhile, and when I am finished with my embroidering, I will put you on my knee and let you see it from my side."

I would wonder why she was using some dark threads along with the bright ones and why they seemed so jumbled from my view. A few minutes would pass and then I would hear Mother's voice say, "Son, come and sit on my knee." This I did only to be surprised and thrilled to see a beautiful flower or a sunset. I could not believe it... because from underneath it looked so messy.

Then mother would say to me, "My son, from underneath it did look messy and jumbled, but you did not realize that there was a pre-drawn plan on the top. It was a design. I was only following it. Now look at it from my side and you will see what I was doing."

Many times through the years I have looked up to my Heavenly Father and said, "Father, what are you doing?" He has answered, "I am embroidering your life." I say, "But it looks like a mess to me. It seems so jumbled. The threads seem so dark. Why can't they all be bright?"

The Father seems to tell me, "My child, you go about your business of doing my business, and one day I will bring you to heaven and put you on my knee and you will see the plan from my side."


A Sermon Preached on August 16, 1998
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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