I recently preached a sermon at a local nursing home from Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16 titled A Lasting Home for Those Who Live by Faith. My desire was to encourage these nursing home residents that God has prepared a better home, a heavenly home, for those who trust in Jesus Christ.
Looking back, I realized that this passage can encourage Christians in many other situations. The impact of sin on our world reaches all aspects of life, and it leaves us searching for safety, satisfaction, security, strength, and stability. In short, a better home.
This passage has a real bearing on our own hopes, fears, and faith. Especially in the challenges of facing the unknown. And preaching this passage to nursing home residents is only one specific application.
Whatever platform you might have to influence others, I would encourage you to add these responses of faith from Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16 to your spiritual toolbox:
Trust God in the unknown and
walk in unflinching obedience to him.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8)
What a marvelous, gospel-saturated statement!
It isn’t Abraham’s raw obedience but his faith that takes center stage. It’s entirely possible for Abraham to have obeyed without faith, in which case the text might read:
“By a strong moral framework and sense of obligation, Abraham obeyed…”
Abraham’s faith is even more significant when you consider where “he went out” from. Genesis 12 tells us that Abraham left home!
Abraham left his land, his people, and everything familiar with only the promise of the Lord’s guidance and blessing in his heart. Had Abraham not believed in the Lord’s promises, we might imagine his objections:
- “But I’m comfortable and well established here!”
- “I’m afraid of leaving what feels secure.”
- “I need more time to prepare!”
- “Could you at least tell me where you are sending me?”
Abraham’s faith and obedience are example for our own lives today. While you may not be called to leave your country, there may be times in life when you feel that everything familiar and comfortable is leaving you.
Layoffs from work, the unexpected loss of a family member, moving a family cross-country, running a deficit in retirement savings, or any other number of situations might leave you wondering how best to proceed in the unknown.
You may raise objections like those listed above. But like Abraham, our first response should not be fear or despair, but a confident trust in the Lord which allows us to follow him in unflinching obedience.
Admit that you are a temporary resident in a foreign land.
faithhe went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. (Hebrews 11:9)
All three were heirs of the promised homeland but lived in temporary housing in Canaan “as [if] in a foreign land”. Geographically, they were
Abraham didn’t lay claim to the promised land; nor did Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, or even Moses. Only after several hundred years in Egyptian bondage and 40 more years of wilderness wandering would Joshua finally lead Abraham’s descendants to possess the land.
Thus Hebrews 11:13 tells us that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob “acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth”. The original word communicates more than acceptance of fact; it is an explicit statement of this reality.
This is confirmed in 11:14: “people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.”
I don’t know about you, but if someone told me that they were exiled on the earth, I would think that this person was out of his right mind. Or, that this person was an extraterrestrial being.
If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.
The overarching story of Scripture confirms that God made us for another world, a better home. Abraham’s faith story brings this truth and its implications into focus. As Christians today, we are dual citizens of heaven and earth.
For Christians, our allegiance is first and foremost with our heavenly country and its King: the Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, let’s remember financial, social, cultural, political, or any other kind of instability cannot shatter our truest and highest hopes.
Look forward to the heavenly country and secure city of God.
For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:10)
Abraham died still trusting God’s promise though he didn’t live to see its fulfillment (v 13). And there was much to look forward to; the city with foundations is in strong contrast to the temporary, moveable tents in the previous verse.
Spurgeon highlights this: “What a depth of meaning there is in those five words, ‘a city which hath foundation,’ — as if all other cities had none!”
He then illustrates the impermanence of earthly cities like this:
“Little mounds of sand made by the children’s wooden spades upon the seashore, which the next tide will wash away.”
Even the greatest empires can crumble. Take Rome, for example. Augustine saw that imperial city conquered before his death, an event which led him to write The City of God.
But no matter the state of our earthly countries, cities, careers, finances, families, or anything else, we may find comfort and hope in the reality that God has prepared a lasting heavenly country and home for those who trust in Jesus Christ.
And when we desire that better country, the result is astounding:
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:16)