“And these all… obtained a good report through faith.” Brother Curt Wagoner shares the relational, sacrificial, and visual aspects of this good report as lived out by Enoch, Noah, Abel, Moses, Gideon, Samson, and a host of others as portrayed in Hebrews 11. Are you willing to join this “great cloud of witnesses”? Are you really walking with God? Are you living sacrificially? Are you striving to rout the invaders in your life?
Opening prayer by Dale Heisey:
Father in heaven, we do pray your blessing upon our dear brother Curt tonight. There’s an important word from the Lord; there’s a deep teaching in Scripture that we need to understand tonight, and this foundational and opening message, would you use it, dear Father, to prepare our hearts. Put a longing in our hearts. Put hope in our hearts. Give us courage tonight, dear God, so we can be part of a testimony that will long outlive any one of us. And dear Father, especially for the dear people tonight who gathered together saying “Lord, please speak to me. I have these issues in my life, these difficulties I’m facing.” And use our dear brother tonight, and his meditations, and his time of prayer, and his walk with you, and the inspiration you give him. Do bless our hearts tonight. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Amen, thank you so much.
It’s such a blessing to be here again. The anticipation, the wooing of the Spirit, and the coming together of God’s people as we assemble and worship. Hallelujah! What a Savior! What a Savior! So I just want to say that it’s a great privilege, once again, to be in your midst. I stand humbled before God in your presence. I just pray that God will meet you where you are, meet me where I am. God will bless us in a very real, and a very mighty way throughout this weekend, and more particularly this evening as we worship together.
No matter where you come from, no matter the circumstances of your life, if you have been born again, if you have met Jesus Christ in reality, if you’re walking in fellowship with Him, and obedience to His word, if you’re walking in the power of the Spirit, you have a testimony to give. You have a testimony and I have a testimony. And as a part of my testimony, I will say that the lives of faithful men and women of God during my years of searching, during my years of turning my back on God, during the years I moved from agnosticism to a place of embracing the reality of a born again life in Jesus Christ, one of the key elements in that stretch of my life was the fact that I was able to see here and there a few scattered examples of individuals who had that which I did not have. They had authentic joy; they had authentic peace; they had authentic purpose in life. And when God brought me finally to the end of myself and I cried out and I wondered “What shall I do?” it was the examples of faithful men and women of God who was a clear beacon through the darkness of that night. I suspect that every one of us could have a similar testimony to that, that it was the example of faithful men and women who was a shining beacon that brought us to the place that God wanted us to be: salvation in Jesus Christ. And so tonight, my testimony centers on the authenticity that I saw in other individuals.
I will spend time in this message in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. We’re gonna look at some key elements, some key statements in this passage of Scripture, and the intent is that every one of us, no matter our circumstance, no matter the difficult path of life, everyone of us could find inspiration, everyone of us could find instruction, everyone of us could find the enabling power of the Holy Spirit of God as He works in the lives of others and as He has promised that He’ll also work in our lives.
As has been mentioned, the theme of this weekend is historic heroes of the faith. You might have some objections to that word “heroes.” You might prefer words like archetype or exemplar, but heroes is something that we can understand, perhaps readily, and so we’re just gonna use that phrase tonight. Every phrase, every word of human language, of course, has its inadequacies, and no doubt this one does, too.
As we look at historic heroes of the faith, and particularly in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, we’re going to find that there are sixteen individuals who are named in this passage and there are dozens and perhaps hundreds of others that are alluded to without name as we look at the account that is given here. One of the expressions that is common to every one of them, whether it’s one of the sixteen named, or the dozens or hundreds of unnamed individuals, is found in the thirty-ninth verse, and that verse says that everyone of them, everyone of them obtained a good report through faith. Obtained a good report through faith.
I want to speak tonight about the good report of faith. It’s not only in the thirty-ninth verse of this chapter that we find the good report of faith. We can find it in the very beginning of the chapter, where the Bible says here that:
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, for by it the elders obtained a good report.
In that second verse of Hebrews 11 there are nine words in the English Bible that I’m using. Whether you’re using the King James Version or the New King James, you’ll find nine words there in that second verse of Hebrews 11. However in the Greek, and I don’t know what your native tongue might be tonight, I don’t know what kind of languages you might speak, but if you just go to the Greek language, you’ll find that this verse only has six words. And roughly speaking, those words correlate – the first five of them do – to the first five words in our English Bible. But when the Bible comes to the last four words in the Greek “obtained a good report” in the English, that is all one Greek word. You’ll find that word five times in this chapter. You find that in verse thirty-nine. You’ll find it, of course, here in verse two. You’ll find it twice in verse four. As the Bible speaks here about Abel, this verse says:
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness…
there’s that word again.
…obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying…
that’s the word again.
… God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
You’ll find it also in verse five of this chapter, where the Bible says concerning Enoch, that:
God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, this testimony, that he pleased God.
And so we have these frequent occurrences in this chapter of the good report of faith.
The good report of faith is spoken of Abel specifically. It’s spoken of Enoch specifically. It’s spoken of the elders. It’s spoken of all of those who are named or referenced here in this chapter, in this passage of Scripture. Others in the New Testament, also, are indicated to be individuals who have a good report of faith, specifically we’ll find individuals like Cornelius in Acts 10, Ananias in Acts 22, and Demetrius in the third epistle of John. All of them, the Bible says, had a good report.
As we think about the good report of faith tonight, we want to think briefly about faith as it’s spoken of at the onset of this chapter. This first verse of Hebrews 11 says that faith is evidential and faith is substantial. Notice that verse “substance” that the Bible uses here to describe Biblical faith, true Biblical faith. Substance, it says. This word substance – I’m going back to the Greek word now – but this word substance is a word that is used in Hebrews only in reference to Jesus Christ. Substance – the Greek word translated substance here, is used exclusively, only in the book of Hebrews in reference to Jesus Christ. It’s found in the very beginning of the book. What the Bible says in Hebrews chapter 1:
God who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke unto the fathers by the prophets has in these last times spoken unto us by His Son, by whom also He made the world, Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image, the express image of His Person, when He had purged our sins, was set down at the right of God, right hand of the throne of God.
“The express image of His person” – that’s the same word that we find written as “substance” in chapter 11. Also in Hebrews, we will find in chapter three another reference to this same word in verse fourteen when it speaks of our confidence in Jesus. Hebrews 3:14 says this:
For we are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.
So when the Bible says that faith is the substance of things hoped for, dear ones tonight, it’s referring us back to Jesus Christ, the foundation of our faith – Jesus. He is our substance. He is the image that we look to. He is the confidence that we have. Faith is a term to be jealously guarded. It speaks of Jesus. And the Bible says that this faith has a good report.
So we’re going to examine lives of various historic heroes of the faith. We’re going to see the evidence of various aspects of their faith, and draw inspiration, instruction, and enabling power for us to be individuals who have the same good report of faith. I don’t know how quickly this message is going to move, and how the time is going to be, so I’m just going to hold before you three or four aspects of the good report of faith. All of them are specifically mentioned here, referenced here in this passage, the eleventh chapter of Hebrews.
I was to speak first of all about the relational aspect of the good report. The relational aspect of the good report. This good report is founded upon this relational perspective, or this relational aspect. The Bible says there are two individuals who are referenced here by name in Hebrews chapter 11, who walked with God. They walked with God. And those two individuals are Enoch and Noah. And the expression that says they walked with God is found back in the book of the Genesis, in Genesis chapter 5 in the case of Enoch, and in Genesis chapter 6 in the case of Noah. Both of these individuals in the book of Genesis, it says, walked with God. There’s no other character, no other personality in the Bible where it specifically says they walked with God. The inference is there, we believe they walked with God. I believe as I look into your faces this evening that many of you are walking with God, but these are the only two individuals that the Bible specifically says, verbatim, that they walked with God, Enoch and Noah. And so I want to hold them as the examples in Hebrews 11 of individuals who had a relational aspect of the good report, Enoch and Noah.
There have been many, many great men and women of faith. There have been many, many individuals who walked and lived and experienced the vitality and the vibrancy of fellowship with God. For 6000 years it’s happened. Experiencing this communion, this daily communion, this moment-by-moment communion with God, walking with God. Individuals who walked in sanctification. We have many examples here in Hebrews 11; it’s already be referenced. We have other examples of individuals we are going to look at this weekend. James, the brother of Jesus. Michael Sattler. Peter Waldo, and others as well. Individuals who walked with God, who experienced fellowship with Him, who had this relational aspect of a good report. You can think of Anabaptist fore-bearers that we had. You can think how many of them walked with God. They had the relational aspect of the good report. You can think about other individuals from history, from church history, individuals like George Mueller of Bristol, or William Tyndale, or a host of other individuals, but all of them had this relational aspect of the good report.
If you’re desirous of the relational aspect of the good report, there are certain things that are essential that you would understand, that you would embrace in your life if you want to have this relational aspect of the good report. It begins with personal devotion and piety of life. Personal devotion and piety of life. It means individuals who recognize that life is too short. You’re not only a vapor that appears for a little while and then passes away. Life is too short to wile it away sleeping. It’s a time for men and women to get up early, if we’re going to walk in personal piety, and if we’re going to live in devotion to Jesus Christ. Early risers, men and women of prayer, individuals who trust God, and individuals who are willing to persevere in the most difficult of circumstances. When the night is the darkest, individuals who will persevere as they trust God to lead them, lead us and direct us, and walk us through the trials and into the glorious sunshine of perfect day in His presence.
We have the assurance of God’s affection toward us. The Bible, over and over, gives us to understand that God loves His human creation. We have the assurance, over and over again, of God’s affection toward us. The Bible says in Second Corinthians chapter 6, verse 16, God has said:
…I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you unto myself. 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
What a tremendous promise! God is inviting us. He wants us to be His sons and daughters. The assurance of God’s affection towards us. It’s actually contained in two very clear statements about God in the New Testament Scriptures. First of all, God is an approachable God. James 4, verse 8 says this:
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.
God is inviting you tonight, if you’re here standing in a place that you do not want to be, God is inviting you, my dear ones tonight, to draw near. “Draw night to God.” And the promise is that He will draw nigh to you. He is an approachable God.
Not only is He an approachable God, as we think of the assurance of God’s affection toward us. Not only is He an approachable God, but He is an abiding God; an abiding God. Hebrews 13:5:
[God] hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
That’s the promise that God makes to individuals who continue to seek Him. That’s the promise that God makes to individuals who are willing to live as He teaches, who are willing to fall before Him in repentance.
I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
He is both an approachable God, and an abiding God. The relational aspect of the good report is clearly portrayed for us here in this eleventh chapter of Hebrews, and in the lives of faithful men and women to watch and to witness through the years.
There’s another aspect of the good report that I want you to consider tonight. I want you to consider the sacrificial aspect of the good report. The sacrificial aspect of the good report. This passage speaks about sacrifice, both explicitly and implicitly. It speaks about examples of individuals like Abel who offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. It speaks about individuals like Moses, and I want you to notice the sacrifice of Moses as you look at verses 24-26. And the Bible says here:
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.
You see the sacrifice that Moses made. The exchange that Moses made. He gave up some things, to gain other things. One of the things that the Bible says here in this passage is that Moses exchanged pleasures for treasures that excelled all the riches in Egypt. He gave up the exchange. He sacrificed the pleasures for the treasures. You know, exchanging things when God is in it always results in a tremendous, tremendous blessing, and it was that way in the life of Moses.
He did not want. He was willing to surrender the pleasures, the pleasures that are referenced in Hebrews 11. You know think about the day and time in which we live. Think about the focus and the emphasis on things like pleasure. There’s so much is spent, so much time is given just to seeking pleasures, things like entertainment and amusement. Think about these things. Think about the encroaching, the deadly influence that it has in our lives.
Entertainment and amusement. You know that word amusement is worth some consideration. There can be no doubt about who’s behind. The root word of course, is amuse. And the root of that is “muse,” that means to think, the prefix is “a”, that means to not. So a-muse means to not think. Amusement, entertainment is directed towards individuals so they will stop thinking. Do any of you tonight want to be in a place where you no longer think? That’s not where we want to be. We want to be individuals who, as we allow the Spirit of God to work with us, we’re thinking, we’re considering, we’re giving care to the kind of life that we’re living. To the kind of walk that Jesus Christ is calling us to be engaged in. Entertainments and amusements.
The life of selfishness is to be exchanged for the life of cross-bearing. Bearing the cross that Jesus talked about. Men and women of faith. Those who have the good report of faith exchange the life of selfishness with the life of cross-bearing. Jesus said it this way in Matthew chapter 16:
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his own soul?
The answer is obvious. Nothing will profit us if we lose our soul. Nothing should be exchanged. As we think about this exchange that should take place, nothing should be exchanged as we think about the blessing of living as other individuals have lived as they’re portrayed for us here in Hebrews chapter 11.
You know, even individuals who have embraced this godly exchange. Giving up the life of selfishness. Embracing the life of cross-bearing. Even individuals as stalwart as the apostle Peter have questions sometimes if it was really worth it. I know we should make some distinction between Peter pre-conversion and post-conversion, but I think about Peter’s life and I draw instruction from his life, and I’m sure you do as well. But Peter said to Jesus one time, after Jesus had taught the people, had taught His disciples on the frivolity of seeking riches, and the blessings of surrendering everything, Peter said to Jesus, he said:
…Lord, lo, we have left all, and followed thee.
In other words Peter was rebuking Jesus, I think, by saying “You don’t need to tell us to give everything up. You don’t need to tell us that, we know that. We have left everything to follow you.” But in that statement the way Peter expresses it, the thought comes through that there was some lament that Peter had about the difficult life of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. And you know what Jesus told Peter and those disciples? Jesus told Peter that there were blessings, as a cross-bearing disciple, that were both present and future. For Peter, for the other disciples 2000 years ago, disciples of Jesus through all the intervening years, for disciples of Jesus Christ even today. Jesus said:
…no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time… and in the world to come eternal life.
Jesus focused both on the present and the future as he reminded Peter that the exchange was really inequitable. What Peter gave up and what we give up, the sacrifices we make, the sacrifices individuals like Abel made, or like Moses made, or faithful unnamed hundreds perhaps of individuals have made through the years is nothing in comparison to the great blessing that we get. Not only in eternal glory, not only in heaven above, but also in this life, experiencing eternal glory in this life as we walk in fellowship with Jesus Christ. We have this sacrificial aspect of the good report clearly portrayed to us here in this eleventh chapter of Hebrews.
I think I have time for one more aspect for us to consider tonight in this message as we speak about the good report of faith. I’m going to refer to this as the visual aspect of the good report. The visual aspect of the good report. As we walk through this eleventh chapter of Hebrews, we’re going to see words like this that emphasize that the people around these individuals, the people around them were seeing things. It was visual. The good report of faith was visual in their lives, and in their time. We’re going to see things like Abel’s offering that could be seen, or Enoch’s walk that could be seen. We’re gonna see that Abraham sojourned, that could be seen. We’re gonna see that Sarah conceived, that could be seen. You could walk right on through the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, and you’re going to find that the testimony, the good report of faith, had a visual aspect to it.
There are many public testimonies of faithfulness. Not only in this passage, but in lives of historic heroes of the faith as we refer to them this weekend. I want you to look at verses 33-38, I want to read these verses to you tonight. Hebrews 11, verses 33-38:
Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
And the list could go on and on, of the visual aspect of the good report of faith as portrayed in the lives of faithful men and women of God all through the centuries. The visual aspect of faith.
There are other examples also portrayed here in this passage of Scripture. I’m going to just lift out one expression that I have been blessed with as I focused on it the last several weeks. That is the example, the visual aspect of the good report. The example of those who turned to flight the armies of the aliens. They turned to flight the armies of the aliens. I don’t know who is spoke of in that passage of Scripture, exactly. I think examples like Gideon would certainly fit here, or examples like Samson, or David himself, among others, that they turned to flight the armies of the aliens. In other words, in using language that we’re more common to today, we’d say they routed the invaders. The routed them. They turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
You know, 6000 years ago an alien spirit invaded this world in which we live. Not only one of them, but a third of the angels of heaven as well. They invaded the place that we live.
As we think about the examples in Hebrews 11, dear brother, dear sister, kind friend tonight, the example is: they routed the invaders. They turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Where are we tonight in this warfare? Where are we tonight as we think about God’s calling upon our hearts, God’s calling in our lives? Are we willing to be a part of this host that is engaged in the battle, routing the invaders. To borrow the verbiage of one of the prophets of old, it’s time to furbish the spears, and put on the brigandines.
Let’s get involved in this, routing the invaders, putting to flight the armies of the aliens. The alien forces have gained too much ground. As individuals, as men and women who are willing to follow Jesus Christ, who are willing to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the privilege to be on the victorious side. We have the privilege to be engaged in this warfare of routing the invaders, putting to flight the armies of the aliens. That is our privilege tonight. Are we willing to do that? How are we doing in this?
Ephesians chapter 6 speaks of some of the things that ought to be portrayed in our lives as we think about this warfare. We’re wrestling, we’re standing against all resistance. We’re quenching the fiery darts of the wicked ones. We’re praying always as we engage in this battle. We recognize tonight that our weaponry is not sword and spear, the kind of weapons that Goliath exercised with, or at least threatened to use, but it’s a mighty faith in God like that stripling lad of old, David by name. It’s the mighty faith in God that enables us to be victorious in this battle. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 4:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God…
Our weaponry is far, vastly superior to the weaponry of the invading forces, the aliens that we encounter. Our weaponry is trustworthy. Our weaponry, a mighty faith in God. Our weaponry can be trusted. We ought to be visual individuals. We are to have a visual aspect of faith. The world around us ought to see that we are walking, we are living this good report of faith.
I don’t know if you’ve ever though a lot about the first verse of chapter 12. Verse 41 of Hebrews 11, chapter 12 verse 1, but notice what this passage says. Now it’s just listed sixteen by name. And dozens of others in this passage and the good report of faith that came from them, everyone of them according to verse 39 had a good report of faith. It’s just listed, it’s just described to us how in their day, in the days of Abel, in the days of Noah, in the days of Abraham, in the days of Moses, in the days of Enoch, Sarah, and the list goes on, they had witnesses, they had the testimony, they had the good report of faith. And then the Bible says that these words are spoken to us tonight as we think about our calling:
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses…
In the year 2019, we are compassed, we are surrounded with this great cloud of witnesses.
…seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith
And so, just as these individuals in Hebrews 11 had the good report of faith, just as individuals like James the brother of Jesus had a good report of faith, or Peter Waldo had a good report of faith, or a host of other individuals, Jonathan Edwards could be referenced had a good report of faith, and many other individuals throughout 6000 years of human history, so you tonight and I tonight can have this good report of faith. The good report of faith.
In conclusion, I want to leave you with some questions, three of them, based on the message tonight.
- Are you really walking with God? As you break out into your small groups, as you think about how the Spirit is calling you this weekend, ask yourself the question: Are you really walking with God in personal devotion, in sanctification, and in piety? Is that a reality?
- Question number two: Are you living sacrificially, abandoning the amusements and entertainments of this world and engaged in willing cross-bearing as you follow Jesus? Are you living sacrificially, abandoning amusements and engaged in cross-bearing?
- Question number three: Are you striving to rout the invasive forces in every area of your life? Are you striving to rout the invaders in a visible way before the watching world?
If we can answer yes to those questions, and perhaps others that will come to our attention as the Spirit of God moves in our midst, as He calls us, and speaks to us, and woos us into a place where we are walking in fellowship, in daily, in moment-by-moment communion with Jesus Christ, if we can answer those questions with a resounding yes, then our testimony is that we are living the good report of faith. That’s the intent, that’s the desire for this series of meetings this weekend.
May God bless you as you strive to live the good report of faith.