When you read through this very impressive array of names in Hebrews 11 you quickly discover a multitude of differences. Obviously the names are different. There is difference of gender (both male and female), different backgrounds, different circumstances, different experiences, different instructions, directions, or commands. In this same chapter we find both the really messed up and the saintly- as well as everything in between.
Some experienced great victories and deliverances while others endured cruel mockings, sufferings and were martyred for their faith. When I am asked- ‘Who in this list do you most identify with?’- my answer is the same: “It depends on the day.” I hope you do not overlook the value of that statement. One of the great truths of the chapter is that someone has already lived through the kind of day you are having- and the faith that worked for them is equally sufficient for you in the midst of your day. In the presence of all the differences the one very obvious reality they all shared in common was faith. They are listed here by this New Testament writer as illustrations (examples) of that very reality. When I come to the end of Hebrews 11 the one thing I am absolutely sure of is that regardless of how I may see the lives of those named their faith remains constant and it can never be taken from them. In closing out this unintended series on Hebrews 11, I want to consider the other common thread that runs through this chapter. The first I have already mentioned- the one thing these men and women had in common- the one reality they all experienced and shared was faith. But the far more important question is this: What is the common thread that runs through all true Biblical faith? Here then is the theme of today’s message- and perhaps you have guessed it by now- ‘Hebrews 11- The Common Thread’ Let me do a daring thing. I am going to read this entire chapter. I prefer that you just listen to me read it. As I do, I will try to emphasise the common thread when we come upon it. Every time you think you hear it I want you to speak these words: ‘There it is.’ At the end of the reading I will ask you what it is. 1 In this chapter there are sixteen names recorded as well as a very enlarged unnamed host of people referred to in verse 32 as “the prophets”, and in verse 36 we read- “and others”. The one thing we know about the sixteen people named and the much larger host of people not named is that regardless of what their experience was- and regardless of how different their experiences were- they all gained approval before God by, in, and through their faith. And that brings us to the question: ‘What was the common thread that ran through the faith experience of each of these ?’ If the apostle Paul were asked this question- we know exactly how he would answer it- for in fact he did answer it in his letter to the church of Rome. Rom.10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. I know of no statement regarding faith that is as clean and uncluttered- as crisp and clear as this one. How does faith come? Only by hearing. Mark this down- you cannot believe what you have not heard. But just as emphatically I can assure you that each of us right now believe whatever we have truly heard- whatever we are hearing- be that negative or positive. We are well familiar with the expression- ‘What you see is what you get.’ In the context of Rom.10: 17 that looks more like this- ‘What you hear is what you believe- and what you believe is what you get.’ Look at the last phrase of Rom.10:17… hearing by the word of Christ. The basis of our faith- that is the basis of the assurance of what we hope for, the basis of the conviction of the reality of what is not yet visible- is from start to finish the word of Christ. But- and this is where the whole thing turns- our relationship with the word of Christ is expressed in the single word ‘hearing’. You cannot hear a word unless it is spoken. A word cannot be spoken unless there is a speaker. And the implication of this is intimate, immediate and personal relationship with the speaker. If you were to ask each one of those named in Hebrews 11 along with that enlarged host not named why they did what they did- they would have one common answer to that question. We did what we did because we heard what we heard. 2 God does not only speak a word of direction but He empowers (enables) us by His Spirit- He sovereignly provides all things necessary to obey and walk that direction out in this time space world. And therein lies the difference between mere religion and true spirituality. Mere religion is the best effort of the soul in performing and maintaining the established patterns of tradition. It is soul based and requires neither the Spirit of God nor the spirit of man. True spirituality is the obedience made possible only by the energy of the Holy Spirit within the spirit of man in response to the word that has been heard within his or her spirit. Noah, why did you build that silly looking boat? I heard God! Abraham, why did you leave a city to find a city? I heard God! Joseph, why did you endure what you endured? I heard God! David, why did you take on the awful responsibility of kingship? I heard God! Moses, why did you give up all the comforts of Egypt? I heard God! Gideon, why did you risk all in battle? I heard God! Joshua, after witnessing the sufferings of Moses, why did you “step up to the plate”? I heard God! Elizabeth, why would you subject yourself to pregnancy at your age? I heard God! Mary, why would you risk scandal and even death to mother the Christ? I heard God! Joseph, why would you risk scandal and reduced economy to marry this scandalized woman? I heard God! Jesus, why would You leave where You were to come to a place like this to endure all that You endured? I heard the Father! Kingston Christian Fellowship, why are you going to that field with all its risks and costs and labours? ………see you in September. 3