Faith in Something Better


Hebrews 11:39-12:3

For nearly 4 months we have considered the examples of faith given to us in the lives of saints spanning more than 3 millennia of human history. From the second child of the first parents to the prophets, patriarch and matriarch, Jew and Gentile, prominent and obscure, each of these remind us that:

“We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace.”

Before you get too sentimental for the “good old days”, remember the great struggles these saints endured for the sake of the Gospel. Remember, also, just how faint and obscure at times was the picture of Christ they possessed. Yet they had faith in something better, something God was preparing and for which he was preparing them throughout the centuries. In fact,the preparations continue even now – remember what Jesus told his disciples: “In my Father’s house are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you.”

Verse 2 of Chapter 11 tells us it was by faith the saints of old received a good testimony; verse 39 repeats the same theme, indicating that all of the saints highlighted in the intervening verses actually did obtain a good testimony even though they did not have opportunity during their lifetime to experience the fulfillment of what God had promised. That was kept in store for future generations.

We have a much clearer picture of the Promised One than Old Testament saints held; however it is still obscure in many respects. The best is truly yet to come, “when he appears [and] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”1 John 3:2But we still live in the here and now, works in progress like Abraham and Noah and Rahab and the prophets. God is preparing each of us to be fit residents in the place he is preparing for us.

In God’s dealing with us, his saints on this side of the Incarnation, he has provided us with something better. God has issued a challenge to us and along with it given us the perfect encouragement.

A. Something better11:39-40

God in the flesh

not just a vague promise, a specific individual

God who became one of us

God’s ultimate revelation of himself to us –Heb. 1:1-3; also Col. 1:15,2:9

Promise fulfilled

the reality exactly matching the promises

encouragement to faith: God keeps his promises

Redemption accomplished

animal sacrifices, Levitical priesthood no longer necessary

OT ceremonies fulfilled in Christ, the only one whose sacrifice could deal with sin once for all

Access provided (Heb. 4:16;10:19-22)

Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished what previous sacrifices could not

gave him legitimate and permanent entrance into Most Holy Place

the believer’s union with Christ

gives entrance to the holy of holies

B. Our challenge12:1

Since we are:

“Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives.”

We must, then, if we are to leave behind a heritage of faithfulness, live lives characterized by personal holiness. We cannot be content simply to rely on a profession of faith made long ago to enable us to coast into heaven. It’s a race, a marathon that requires endurance and perseverance, for which God gives us the encouragement of this cloud of witnesses who challenge us to run the race in a particular way:

run from

anything that slows down growth in holiness

whatever consumes time or resources that should be devoted to becoming more Christ-like

only 24 hours in the day – how will be be good athletes, using all the time to run toward the goal

shortest distance between two points – a straight line

anything that contributes to or represents sinful choices

whatever encourages us to become more like the world

decreases our resistance to temptation

run with


constant progress in a given direction

patiently maintaining focus

resisting opposition and distraction

run to

the goal – the end of the race; see Phil. 3:14 “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

so we can say with Paul: 2 Tim. 4:6-8 “the time for my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness…”

C. Perfect encouragement12:2-3

who he is


the front-runner, Christ Heb. 6:19-20

the only true source of assistance, strength, guidance

the source of faith

once begun, he will bring it to completion Phil. 1:6

what he’s done

endured the cross

endured verbal opposition, contradiction

false accusations resulting in his conviction as a common criminal

rejection as the Son of God

where he is

seated at the right hand of the Father

the place of honor, influence, and authority

the source of protection and provision

what he expects

consider him – ponder, meditate, consider well

be encouraged – considering Christ is the antidote to weariness and discouragement

If the saints of old, possessing only shadows of the full truth, persevered in their faith, we should far outstrip them given the amount of “light” we have.

If they on whom the light of grace had not as yet so brightly shone displayed so great a constancy in enduring evils, what ought the full brightness of the Gospel to produce in us? A small spark of light led them to heaven; when the sun of righteousness shines over us, with what pretense can we excuse ourselves if we still cleave to the earth? Calvin

Our prayer should be like that of the hymn-writer who, although content with his lot in this life, still couldn’t wait for the day when faith would be sight, when he would see his Savior face-to-face.


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