Sunday Sermon

Sunday 2 August 2020

Dear Friends,

Hebrews 12:1 says:

‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us’

When we’re on our own, keeping our distance from other people, it’s quite hard to remember that we’re surrounded by ‘a great cloud of witnesses’.  It doesn’t often feel like it.  But the witnesses talked about in that verse are the Old Testament ‘witnesses’ found in Hebrews 11.  So let’s have a look at them.

First there was Abel (v4), who brought a better offering, in the eyes of the Lord, than his brother Cain.  Abel kept animals and so, naturally his offering was meat, while Cain who grew crops and brought grains etc.  Abel did what came naturally to him.  He was not to know that his work would be more favoured by God.  As we know that didn’t end well for Abel, nevertheless Abel did, by faith what God had given him to do.  He carried on.

Then there was Enoch (v5), who lived a long faithful life and God “took him away”.  Enoch couldn’t have known that’s what would happen at the end of his days on earth, but he lived by faith and he kept going.

After that there’s Noah (v7), who did such a crazy thing as building a huge ark and kept on doing it.  Even though his friends and neighbours laughed at him, Noah kept on building and ‘by his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.’  He kept on going.

Next was Abraham (v8), who set out on a journey, even though he didn’t know where he was going, because he trusted God.  And Sarah who saw God’s promise of an unlikely child worked out in her life, even though she’d laughed at it at first.

 

Verse 13 says,

 

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 …’

 

They all did what they did and carried on their faithful lives, because they trusted God.  Even when Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed, he was doing it in faith, because he believed God could sort it out.  He carried on in faith.

 

The other examples the writer of Hebrews gives of such determined lives lived by faith are Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses (and Moses parents), the people of Israel, those who brought down the walls of Jericho and Rahab.  Then he says (v32),

 

‘I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets …’

 

There were so many heroes of the faith, who carried on living their lives faithfully even though they couldn’t see the end (vv 39-40):

 

‘These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,  since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.’

There’s a hymn about not knowing, but trusting and keeping on:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYgm0ZeOtGA

 

I know not why God’s wondrous grace

To me hath been made known;

Nor why, unworthy as I am,

He claimed me for His own.

But I know whom I have believèd;

And am persuaded that He is able

To keep that which I’ve committed

Unto Him against that day.

I know not how this saving faith

To me He did impart;

Or how believing in His word

Wrought peace within my heart.

But I know whom I have believèd...

I know not how the Spirit moves,

Convincing men of sin;

Revealing Jesus through the word,

Creating faith in Him.

But I know whom I have believèd…

I know not what of good or ill

May be reserved for me,

Of weary ways or golden days

Before His face I see.

But I know whom I have believèd...

But I know whom I have believèd..

D.W. Whittle 1883

As you may have worked out, the message today is ‘keep on keeping on’.  Like all those heroes of the faith, we have to carry on faithfully, even though we feel that we don’t know what’s coming next; what’s out there for us.  Just as we thought we knew where we were going in terms of Covid-19 restrictions, the Prime Minister’s announcements on Friday made us realise that we don’t really know how the future will look over the coming months.  So, like the heroes listed in Hebrews 11, we keep on carrying on in faith.

 

We carry on, going back to Hebrews 12:2-3

 

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy that was set before him he endured he cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’

Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, our unchanging rock and sure foundation, so that we won’t grow weary or lose heart:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mv8wo-t6C1I

I WILL SING THE WONDROUS STORY

Of the Christ who died for me;

How He left the realms glory

For the cross of Calvary.

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story

Of the Christ who died for me;

Sing it with the saints in glory,

Gathered by the crystal sea.

I was lost but Jesus found me,

Found the sheep that went astray;

Raised me up and gently led me

Back into the narrow way.

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story...

He will keep me till the river

Rolls its waters at my feet,

Then at last he’ll bring me  over,

Saved by grace and made complete.

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story...

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story

Francis Rawley (1854–1952).

Words Copyright © 1952 HarperCollins

Rev. Kathy Williamson