Following the Footsteps of the Faithful; Hebrews 11:1-13
Plymouth First United Methodist Church; August 22, 2021
Reverend Mike Dixon
By faith, Noah built an Ark.
By faith, Abraham fathered a son.
By faith, John Wesley formed a movement called Methodists. By faith, Frances Asbury came to America.
By faith, what are you and I going to do for the sake of those who come behind us? That’s the question I want to pose today.
According to the writer of Hebrews, there are two or three things about faith that you and I ought to know.
Faith is the ability to see. It is a set of eyes through which we see the world. It is a set of glasses through which we perceive the reality of the world.
Faith is a way of seeing. A kid, who is called in from play for dinner, is asked by his mother to wash his hands before coming to the dinner table.
Disgusted by the whole thing, the boy laments, “Germs and Jesus, germs and Jesus, that’s all I ever hear around this house, and I’ve never seen either one of them.”
For some of us, faith is invisible and impossible. For some people faith is some far-out idea. Occasionally, you and I talk about blind faith. The faith I have in mind for you today is not blind. I am not asking you to do something that is against your good judgment or your good reason.
Faith is seeing fully. Sometimes we talk about faith as being some kind of impossible dream or wishful thinking.
The faith of which I speak today is not just a pipe dream.
I have in mind what the writer of Hebrews said about faith centuries ago. Faith is being sure of what you hope for and being certain of what you do not see.
By faith, you board an airplane. By faith, you drive a car.
By faith, you visit your doctor.
By faith, you came to church today. By faith, you start a family.
By faith, you invest in the future. Life is lived by faith.
With the scientific mind-set we say, “Show me and I will believe it.” With a spiritual mind-set God says, “Believe in me and I will show you.” If you can believe it, God can do it. While some see things as they are and ask why, the faithful dream of things that never were and ask why not? That is the story of the faithful. Faith is the ability to see. It is a set of eyes through which we see the world, but faith is also something more.
Faith is the courage to act on what we see. There is an old story about a tight rope walker who stretched a cable across Niagara Falls all the way from the American side to the Canadian side. To the applause of a growing crowd, the acrobat walked the tightrope above the rushing, cascading waters that thundered underneath. Then he went back up and rode a bicycle across and even walked it blindfolded. For his grand finale he took a wheelbarrow and playing to the crowd said, “Do you think I can push this wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls?” “Sure you can,” came the thunderous response. To which he said, “Well, which one of you will volunteer to ride in the wheelbarrow?”
By faith, Abel offered, Enoch walked, Noah built, and Abraham went out not knowing where he was going but certain he was following the Lord. You see, faith has the ability to see it but it also has the courage to act on it.
Homer and Emmy Lou were courting on the front porch swing. Homer was very much in love with Emmy Lou, but he was very shy. He started working up his courage to express his real feelings to her by saying, “You know, Emmy Lou, if I had a thousand eyes they would all be focused on you. If I had a thousand arms they would all be hugging you. If I had a thousand lips they would all be kissing you.” Emmy Lou, who was sort of put out by all this rumbling, looked at Homer and said, “Homer, why don’t you stop complaining about what you don’t have and use what you do have?” Faith is the action we take. Faith is the move we make. Faith is the ability to see it, but it is also the courage to act upon it.
Faith is the determination to endure. Verse 13: “all these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” All these people were still living by faith when they died. I think that is one of the great statements of the New Testament. I hope that is true of my life. Still living by faith when I die.
Reinhold Niebuhr said, “Nothing worth doing is completed in one lifetime, therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful makes complete sense in any context of history, therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, no matter how virtuous, can be accomplished alone, therefore, we are saved by love.”
Significance is not so much fame as faithfulness. So, I have developed a motto in recent years of my life that simply states: Whatever it takes! Whatever it takes, let me do it. If there is any good I can do, any service I can render, and help I can give, let me neither defer it nor neglect it, but let me just do it. Whatever it takes for as long as it takes in whatever way it takes. Let me do it.
We are pilgrims on the journey of a long and winding road. And those who’ve gone before us line the way.
Will those who come behind us find us faithful? Ah, that is the question. Amen.