March 6, 202
We live in an unjust world.
This is the hospitality center for Slavic Gospel Association in Irpin, Ukraine, where I stayed two years ago.
And this is now one of the roads that leads to that house.
The war against Ukraine has grieved many of you; it provokes me to sorrow for many of the same reasons as it does you — and one more. My cultural and religious heritage is Mennonite. My paternal grandfather was a jeweler; my maternal grandparents were farmers; all my grandparents fled for their lives from the Bolsheviks in the late 19-teens and early 1920s — from a Mennonite community in Ukraine. Now 100 years later, a similar army is invading the same country for a similar purpose; if my family had not escaped, I might be in the middle of that conflict. That’s not lost on me.
We live in an unjust world. I have just come back from Dubai teaching on family counseling to people from the Philippines, Pakistan, India, and other middle eastern countries — and I have heard such stories of family injustice that it has made me thankful for the civil laws we have in this country to protect our families (and I know how strange that sounds to your ears).
We live in an unjust world. I have been in a counseling room as a pastor or counselor hearing tragic stories, and internally begged the Lord to give me wisdom and a biblical word because there was no easy answer for the situation. I have wept with people. And then I have gone home and wept more for their suffering.
I have sinned against others and seen the devastation of my sin against them. And I have been sinned against and been overwhelmed with grief and sorrow from the offense. You know both those experiences.
We see the injustice of this world and we are tempted to say, “faith in Jesus doesn’t work. He promised a better life, but it just doesn’t seem to be better and it certainly doesn’t look like it’s getting better. Everything is so horribly broken. Should I just give up on Jesus?”
My guess is that we are orthodox enough in our beliefs that most of us would shun from asking that exact question; but my guess also is that most of us have felt that way at times — maybe even recently. The corruptness of the world system and the injustice created by personal sin tempts us to hopelessness. And in our despair we are tempted to give up on Christ, the cross, the church, and Christian relationships.
We are not the first to have felt that way.
The book of Hebrews is about such a group of people that were tempted by the injustice of their suffering to give up on Jesus (“we are suffering, so we must have believed the wrong thing”) and go back to Judaism. The writer to the Hebrews is writing to warn them about the dangers of rejecting Christ, and to encourage them to continue in their faith in Christ.
Over the next few months, I want to look with you at one chapter in Hebrews — most likely the most well-known chapter in this book, Hebrews 11 — and remind us why believing in and following Jesus is worth it, even when we are suffering and experiencing injustice. This morning we are going to look at the writer’s introduction to his answer for the question, “What does it mean to have faith in Jesus when we are suffering?” His thesis this morning will be a repeated theme throughout the chapter —
Faith is the way to have life, and faith is the way to live life.
In this opening section, the writer offers three implications about an ongoing life of faith — even (especially!) when we live in an unjust world.
The context of faith (10:32-39)
- An Explanation of Faith (v. 1)
- The various kinds of faith in the New Testament
- Living faith is confident in God’s future provision
- Living faith is confident in God when the future is unseen (we don’t live with observed certainties; but we do live with certainties — and a life of faith acts accordingly)
- The Grace of Faith (v. 2)
- An Example of Faith (v. 3)
Download the rest of this sermon on Hebrews 11:1-3.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website by tomorrow.