Community Group Discussion Guide
Sermon Overview: The emphasis of this sermon will be on demonstrating biblical faith. How do we as ordinary unnamed followers of Jesus trust and obey him wherever and however He may lead us?
Context: The NFL has Canton Ohio, the MLB has Cooperstown, and the Bible has Hebrews 11. “What are these places?” You might ask, they are halls of fame, except the latter one is not as much a hall of fame as it is a hall of faith. Coming off Hebrews 10—where the author disclosed that the key to perseverance is faith—the author wants to give his audience a thorough definition of faith, along with some exemplary testimonies of believers from the Old Testament. The objective of Hebrews 11 is then to clear up any misconceptions of what faith is and how it is practiced. Beginning with the definition of faith, the author of Hebrews says, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (11:1) The author wants to impress upon his readers that faith is more than intellectual ascent, rather it is a resolve to believe God’s promises and trust his word. This understanding and trust in the Lord was the standard by which the Lord approved of Old Testament believers (11:2); it is also the lens that the author uses to showcase the saints of the Old Testament.
Faith starts with trusting God’s account of creation, for it is “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God” (11:3). The people of Genesis knew this well, for it was “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice…By faith Enoch was taken up…By faith Noah…constructed an ark”. (11:4,5,7) These men entrusted their occupations, lives, and families to the Lord, and for this they received their commendation. Abraham and Sarah did the same; Abraham left his pagan heritage (Josh. 24:2) to faithfully follow the Lord (11:8-9), while the aging Sarah trusted the Lord to make her fruitful with children (11:11). Neither Abraham or Sarah were admirable figures, but because they were “looking forward to the city…whose builder is God” (11:10) and desiring “a better country that is, a heavenly one…God is not ashamed to be called their God.” (11:16) Faith was the catalyst for Abraham’s relationship with God, not his heritage, ability or wealth. His faith caused him to offer up his son Isaac, for he believed “that God was able even to raise him from the dead” (11:19). This set a pattern of faithfulness for his posterity to follow, for even Moses—who came generations after Abraham—followed in his legacy of faith. Moses survived by faith before he even knew it (11:23). He did not bend his knee to pharaoh or become ensnared to all the treasures of Egypt, but instead, he looked to the promises of the Lord and the author miraculously says, “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (11:26). His faith carried him to lead Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea (11:27-29).
Stringing together more faithful Israelites, adding Rahab (11:31), some faithful judges and the prophets (11:32), the author determines that time would elapse if he would continue his list. Instead, he resorts to sharing their accomplishments. There is less emphasis on their names and more emphasis on their actions of trust, telling of how they “stopped the mouths of lions” (11:33), “put foreign armies to flight” (11:34), “They were stoned, they were sawn in two” (11:37), and most significant of all, they were “of whom the world was not worthy” (11:38). What compelled these people to achieve such great feats and what set them apart from the rest of the world? Faith.
Definition of faith (11:1-2)
The faithful (11:3-32)
The acts of the faithful (11:33-38)
Waiting for perfection (11:39-40)
Faith is described as an “assurance” and a “conviction.” How do these words inform the way you think about faith? How does this understanding of faith cause you to behave?
Often, our evangelical circle associates faith with a leap in the dark or an intellectual ascent. Are these accurate understandings of faith? If not, how would you correct this idea of faith?
What are some disciplines that have helped you strengthen your faith?
In the Journey of Discipleship there are four facets to exercise your faith—worship, community, discipleship, multiplication —in what area do you find yourself excelling the most? What area are you struggling? What are some practical goals you can set to grow your faith in these areas?
It’s interesting that almost everyone in Hebrews 11 is commended for their faith along with their actions. What does this tell us about the nature of faith? Is it possible for someone to have faith with no action?
Abel was “commended as righteous” because of his faith. What does this tell us about God’s attitude towards us once we believe? How does this affect the way you live and feel?
How is God currently calling you to demonstrate faith? How are you working that out?
“And without faith it is impossible to please him” (11:6). What does this verse teach us about our actions? How should we think about our thoughts, words, and deeds when considering this verse?
Noah chose to fear the Lord rather than fear the men of his day. When you reflect on your last week, do you see yourself being motivated out of a fear of man or a fear of God? What are some indicators and reasons for this?
Abraham gave up comfort, rest, and family to demonstrate faith in the Lord. Considering this, how do we learn to trust that God’s way is better than those things? What is the next step you can take in pursuing the Lord?
The author describes the faithful Israelites’ hope as a “city”, “a homeland” and “a better country”. Reflecting on all these descriptions, what thoughts come to mind about the afterlife? How does this shape your willingness to exercise faith?
How can you/are you demonstrating faith in the area of evangelism and disciple making?
Among all the characters in this passage, who is the one person who you resonate with the most? How does their testimony encourage you to live?
These verses list many miraculous deeds by the people of faith. Do we still believe that people of faith can accomplish these great works? If so, how can we begin to walk in faith as these men and women walked?
The people mentioned in this portion of scripture aren’t listed by name but rather their actions of faith. Most of us will not have our names written in the “hall of faith,” but will live ordinary lives of trusting and obeying God. What are ordinary ways you can obey God this week?
The author concludes that God has offered something better for us (new covenant members) and them (old covenant members). What is this that God has offered to us, and how does it make you appreciate living on this side of the cross?
Pray for our church, that our faith family would demonstrate faith in God’s word and His promises to be used by him in His mission. Pray for those who are currently being asked by God to demonstrate faith in certain areas and are hindered by fear.
Pray for our city, that those who do not have faith in Jesus and therefore will not be pleasing to God to be granted faith and repentance to believe he exists and rewards those who seek him.
Pray for our world, that those who have taken the gospel into unreached areas would continue keeping their eyes on the heavenly city and promise while they endure much suffering for proclaiming the gospel.