In this episode we start to move from The Bible’s general descriptions of faith into some of its most renowned examples. People like Abel and Enoch, who lived their lives with a focus on trusting God. There are some significant challenges to believing God really who He says He is. The reality of God is different, and better, than what we want Him to be. So, what does God say about Himself? The answer will help us to better understand where we are placing our faith.
Verse 5. “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’, for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” Had this testimony. Martyreo. Witness. He pleased God.
His witness was so amazing that God actually took him without dying.
Abel pleased God, and it cost him his life. His brother killed him as a result.
The Price of Being A Good Witness
This kind of reminds us of Hebrews 13:6. So if you’re going to live this life, here are some things you can look at and what it would look like. It’s a kind of sandwich of chapter 11 gives us specific people’s lives to look at. Chapter 13 gives us actually a list of things to look at.
Hebrews 13:5. “Let your conduct be without covetousness—” This is a major principle of living this priestly, kingly life where we are going towards greatness, God’s definition. “—For he himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” All he can do is kill me.
If you’ve ever looked at The Iliad, this is sort of the central theme in the book, by my understanding. Achilles is the main character in this book.
The Iliad has shaped western civilization. It was the major image that Greeks had in their minds about what life was about. And it continues on today. If you watch ESPN, you see The Iliad in spades.
This main character, Achilles, is offered a fundamental proposition by the deities. The fundamental proposition is: Do you want to live a long and comfortable life or a short and violent one? The long and comfortable life, no one will ever know your name. If you live a short and violent life, your name will go down as a lasting legacy.
And Achilles says, “Duh! What kind of choice is that? Of course I’ll take the short and violent life! Who wants to live a long and boring life, and no one ever knows you? I want to be famous.”
Well, every Sunday, you can turn on and see guys submitting their body to major destruction in the NFL, shortening their lives by 20 years on average versus an average person. And they’ve made the same basic calculation. It’s ingrained in our culture.
Well, it’s sort of the same thing here. I mean, your life is a vapor anyway. Why not live it in a way where we say, “I want to be a witness that lasts forever. What can man do to me? All they can do is kill me. Then it just ends shorter. What they can’t do is take away what God has promised to me.” They can’t take it away.
So we go back to chapter 11. Enoch got this fantastic reward without death. Abel got the fantastic reward, but died early. It doesn’t matter. I think Dr. Dichon told me that in Eastern orthodoxy, they have a concept called “white martyrs,” and that’s someone who has a witness, but never dies.
I’ve read things in the past that said you can’t get this ultimate reward unless you’re a martyr, but martyrs don’t all have to die. I think that’s right. That’s what he’s telling us here. We want to live a life that’s a witness, where if death is part of the calculation, we’ll take it. If it’s not, it’s not.
The point is we’re not living life predominantly for man now. We’re living life for God, and he will make sure that everybody knows in due time.
Enoch, in my opinion, is going to come back and die along with Elijah. Speculation on my part. I think the “two witnesses” in Revelation are Enoch and Elijah because it’s appointed unto man once to die, and these are two guys who’ve never died.
And you’ve got these witnesses that come down, and they spend three and a half years pronouncing judgment on the earth. At the end of it, they die. And they have a big celebration because these two guys who persecuted the earth are finally dead. And then suddenly, they get up and ascend into heaven again. I think it will be their second trip.
You can read that on your own if you like. That’s just speculation on my part.
But Enoch’s testimony was that he pleased God.
Just a brief aside, if you go looking for that, you won’t find it in Genesis. This comes from the book of Enoch which tells us there are true things in places other than the Bible. And here you have an apocryphal book referenced in the scripture, and this is not the only place that’s the case. That doesn’t mean that Enoch belongs in the Bible; it does mean that there are things true other than in the Bible.
This is his testimony.
Two Things Necessary to Please God
Hebrews 11:6. “But without faith it is impossible to please him—” God. “—for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.”
If we want to be like these elders who had this great testimony, and we want to please God, what do we do? Well, the first thing we have to do is understand what faith is, and we’ve talked about that. And the second thing we have to do is understand this formula. You have to do two things. You have to believe two things if you want to please God.
What’s the first? That he is. Now this word is here is the Greek word esti and it means is. Every time you see this in the Bible, it’s translated is. The second is a different word. It’s ginomai, and it’s variously translated is, be, done, command, fulfill. Now this word has the idea of making something happen.
The first word esti is existence, and the second one is make something happen. So the way you could understand this verse is: Without faith it’s impossible to please him for him who comes to God must believe that he is, he exists. He’s really who he says he is. Really. And he makes happen rewards for those who diligently seek him. And you can guarantee that he’s going to make that happen.
So we’ve got to believe those two things if we want to please God: He is, and he’s a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. He will make that happen. There’s no question about it.
What does it mean to believe that he is? Does it just mean to believe that there is a God somewhere, someplace? I don’t think so.
And I think this is one of our biggest challenges: to believe that God really is who he says he is.
Who God Isn’t
Who do we really prefer God to be? What do we prefer God to be like? Who we say he is. A vending machine. Just take out the money. What do you want? You want some offering this week? Okay, I’ll give the offering. This is what I want in return.
This is actually how paganism works. With paganism, you go to the priest and you give him the thing, whatever it is, an animal, some money; and they give you what you want because that’s the way it works. The whole book of Job is wrapped around God as a vending machine. It really ticks him off when you say he’s a vending machine.
What else? What’s another way we like to think of God? As an indulgent parent. Somebody that—you can just run wild and do anything you want to, and then when you fall and hurt your knee, they’re there to fix the boo boo. That’s a way we like God.
How about Santa Claus? It’s kind of another form of vending machine, except personalized. We sit on his knee and tell him we’ve been good, and he gives us what we want.
Or a genie in the bottle. I think that’s my favorite view of God because then he’s not bothering me until I really need some help.
Who God Is
But that’s not who God is.
Let’s just go through some things of who God is.
God is our father. He’s not a doting, indulgent parent; he’s a real father. He’s our Shepherd.
Now if God is my father, that implies something about me. I’m a child. In my own estimation, I’ve made it to be about seven in this life. The way I come up with that is a seven-year-old is aware that there’s an explanation for things but doesn’t really understand what it is. And even though a seven-year-old is self absorbed, they can come out of themselves and actually have a conversation with you from time to time, and sometimes they think you actually know what’s best for them, even though it’s rare.
I think most Christians are still in their twos, so I’m actually complimenting myself for being a seven-year-old. I think most Christians are still soiling their pants and claiming it’s best. They’re afraid of that giant ceramic throne that they have to sit on instead of soiling their pants. It’s this scary high thing. And they still think that they know everything even though they really kind of know nothing.
He’s our father.
He’s my shepherd. Now what does it imply about me for God to be my shepherd? I’m a sheep.
When we went to Israel, we spent about 30 minutes watching these sheep out on the hills. It was a very humbling experience. Even though I only watched them for 30 minutes, it was readily apparent what stupid creatures they are. They actually follow each other with their heads down by the feet of the one in front of them. They won’t even look up.
And our guide told us—there’s all these paths across the Judean hills that just criss cross everywhere, and he told us that if they get off these paths they’ll just fall down into the gulch because they have no balance. These paths are called “paths of righteousness,” by the way. That’s where that term comes from. If you stay on the path, you can keep from falling down into the gulch.
That’s not a picture I like of myself, that I’m a stupid creature without any balance that requires staying on this small path and somebody’s got to tell me everywhere I have to go or else I’m going to hurt myself. But that’s the picture!
Do I believe that I’m that way, and God’s that way? Well, if you want to please God, this is part of what we have to start ingesting, that this is him and this is us. God is gracious and full of compassion.
You know it’s not unusual for people to get mad at God because things didn’t work out. The vending machine is broken. Santa Claus didn’t come. The genie didn’t come out of the bottle. Indulgent parents make me eat my vegetables, and that’s not right. And we think God is mad at us or doesn’t like us because he’s not doing what we want him to.
So we slam the door and say, “I hate you!” Your kids ever do that to you? It’s a ritual, I think. They all have to do that.
Do you think God—when we say that—do you think God loses his self esteem? No, but he’s gracious and full of compassion. He wants the best for us.
But he’s also the avenger, the God of justice. How much of the trouble that we have in our lives is caused because we try to be the avenger instead of letting God just do his job? We’re supposed to hide behind his pants leg, just like our dog Coach. He has a big voice and barks at anything scary until the gate opens. And then he runs behind our legs, 90 pound chicken.
He’s our husband. That’s an interesting description God has of himself. He’s our husband. Is that somebody I respect and defer to; or is that somebody I nag at?
He’s my helper, the wifely function. Do I include my helper in my life, or do I just talk to my helper when I want something? A meal.
My brother, my friend. This is what Jesus said. “Now I call you my friend.” Is this somebody I include in my life?
He’s high above the nations. He’s the king, greatly to be feared. He’s not really Santa Claus. This is my dad. My dad really cares about me. My dad wants what’s best for me. But he’s kind of scary because he’s the king.
God is love. God is knowledge. He wants our best for us.
Do you really believe that whatever circumstances come into your life are orchestrated for your best interest? Excluding the ones that you create for yourselves that are bad. We can get off that path of righteousness and tumble down into the gulch. But even when we do it to ourselves, God is there, and he can turn it into good. Do you really believe that?
Well, if we want to please God, we have to believe that he is. He’s who he says he is. Really!
He has our best interests at heart. He’s rooting for us. He wants us to grow up and become everything he intended for us. And he’ll help us get there. And he’ll give us the knowledge to do it. But we have to grow up. If we want to do that, we have to believe that he is.
God as a Rewarder
Now, the other thing we have to believe is that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. He will make that happen.
Let’s look at Noah for a second. 11:7 “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household—”
What’s going on here? What was he divinely warned of that he couldn’t see? The flood. It didn’t even rain on the earth at this point in time. God says the whole earth is going to be filled up with water. There was no logical explanation for that could even happen. Never seen anything like this. He believed it. He believed it so much that he built an ark like God told him to for the salvation of his household from this disaster.
He got his reward of being delivered from this catastrophe.
We are all seeking rewards all the time. To claim otherwise is just to deny reality. We like approval from other people. We like monetary reward. We like applause, praise, getting M&Ms for going potty. We like rewards. We seek them all the time.
The question is are we going to seek the reward now, like the payday loan where we can cash in our check we’re going to get on Friday at a 20 percent discount so we can have it on Wednesday? Or are we going to invest? Are we going to seek something that is so much greater that comes later.
As we go through these amazing characters, one of the things we’re going to see over and over again is that people looked way out in the future.
Let’s just close with this one. We’ll just peek ahead and we’ll look at Moses.
11:24. “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.”
So instead of focusing on right now, he’s looking out into the future.
11:26 “Esteeming the reproach of Christ—” that’s this going outside the gate to esteem the reproach of Christ. “—greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.”
Here’s Moses making a calculation: I can be rich. I can be in the administration of the richest country on earth now; or I can invest my life, be reproached by this world, suffer loss in this world, and gain that which God has promised to me. And Moses said, “That’s an easy decision. I’m going for the big thing, not the thing that’s passing away.”
If we want to really get this maximum benefit of this life that Hebrews puts out here, we have to believe that God is and that this reward is real. All the things that we want, they’re there in massive quantities if we’ll make this investment and live this life. And it’s not just in the future, it’s also now as well.