Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11 has been called the Westminster Abbey of the Bible. The phrase “by faith” appears 18 times, and the author, eager to continue but knowing he cannot, exclaims, “And what shall we say more? For the time will fail me if I tell” (verse 32). You cannot read this chapter and say faith is credulity and people of faith are fools. Though some people are named and many are unnamed, they all have one thing in common: “through faith” they faced life on its hard side and overcame triumphantly.

These men and women of faith did the impossible because they believed in a God who knew no limitations. People of faith stop at no cost and evade no dangers. But while it is proper to honor these heroes of faith, it is essential to be reminded that what God, through people of faith, has done once, He can do again. New names must be added so that we can perpetuate the triumph of God in our lives.

What, then, are the qualities of faith that will make us triumphant?


(VERSES 3-5, 8-19)

This quality of faith is rooted in God. He is a God in whom absolute faith can be placed. These heroes knew that “faith is the spiritual hand that touches infinity.”1 For example, look at Abraham. Though childless, he was promised a family “as many as the stars of the sky” (verse 12). Later, Paul testified that “he [Abraham] did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith” (Rom. 4:20). Remarkably, all the obstacles piled in his path disappeared before the demands of his positive faith.

God was always present with these heroes. He revealed Himself to them, but He also expected them to respond to Him. It was a “God-in-relation-to-man” experience which these men of faith knew. It was a God who said “come” but who also said “go.” The striking fact about Abraham’s faith is that even as the voice of God was ringing in the ears of that 73-year-old Mesopotamian man, even as God spoke, Abraham was going. In verse 8, we read that “by faith, Abraham, when called to go, obeyed and went.” Philo, who wrote a biography of Abraham about the time of Jesus, said that Abraham left home so quickly to go to a foreign place that you would think God had asked him to leave a foreign place in order to go home. This “I-Thou” relationship is the primary factor in a positive faith experience.

By contrast, neutrality in faith means defeat in conflict. Those whose names appear in Hebrews 11 did not live in easy times or under favorable conditions. (Read verses 33-38.) “Faith,” writes Ellen White, “grows strong in earnest conflict with doubt and fear.”2 The positive, unflinching faith of these heroes was grounded on the assurance that God would ultimately provide something better for them (verse 40). This leads to the second quality of a faith that is triumphant.


(VERSES 7, 23-29)

The heroes in chapter 11, with their successful accomplishments of faith, reveal a rare and thrilling courage. How daring was Noah’s faith when, in the face of stinging ridicule, he built a boat to save a world from a flood at a time when rain was unknown? How daring was Daniel’s faith when he peacefully slept on the mane of a lion that had him on its menu? And what about Rahab, who risked a traitor’s death to spy for Israel? And who can forget Samson’s final daring stand in the temple of Dagon? All of these and more possessed an audacious faith in a God who knows no defeat.

In early Christian literature, Christianity was known as “The Way.” It was a “way” which seemed irrational to many. Though scorned and ridiculed, believers would follow Jesus, even if it meant they would die in an arena or a coliseum. Their daring faith was a mightier conqueror than death. They could have sung with meaning “Anywhere with Jesus I Can Safely Go.” Could you confidently sing that hymn today?


(ACTS 4:32-35; 2 COR. 8:1-4)

This chapter gives a record of men who left home, country, and fortunes, and went out with God. Abraham gave up a luxurious lifestyle and wealthy estates in the metropolitan city of Ur of the Chaldees to wander like a nomad without a known destination. Moses gave up the titles, riches, and honors of Egyptian leadership to lead a whole nation of ingrates to a Promised Land into which he would never set foot. Daniel gave up the opportunity of returning to his ancestral land so that he might continue to serve the Persian kings. Yet, no notes of regret are ever found in this catalog of men of faith. No miser or self-centered man ever got into faith’s hall of fame. It has always been “he that loses his life” who, in reality, finds it.

Christian generosity is sacrificial generosity. Our faith in Jesus Christ finds its expression first in giving ourselves to Him, and then, by extension, in service to others. Faith must be generous if it is to be helpful because faith and works “are two oars which we must use equally.”3


(VERSES 1, 2, 13-16, 39, 40)

Finally, the remarkable thing about these people of faith is that they did not wait to see the end before they acted. The writer said, “And these all, having had witness borne to them through their faith, received not the promise” (verse 39). True faith will act even though the outcome of faith cannot be seen, when not seeing is believing. It is living without knowing when. If I were Abraham, every prayer I prayed would have begun with the words “When, Lord? When are you going to give me this promised land? Lord, I’m 100. I’ve walked for 25 years. When, Lord? Sarah died the other day at 127, and the only promised land I own is the grave where I buried her.” But you know what? Faith enabled Abraham to walk with God 100 years without having to have an answer to the question “When?”

Some of you are asking that question today: “When?” When are things going to get better with my family? When are things going to clear up in the church where I serve? When am I going to know what you want me to do with my life? Lord, when am I going to get well? Faith is what enables you to walk with God even when you do not have an answer to the questions “when” and “how.” Always remember, “When in faith we take hold of His strength, He will change . . . the most hopeless, discouraging outlook.”4


Our study of Hebrews 11 has presented men and women with audacious faith. God, the church, and our communities are looking for new heroes of faith, a faith that is positive, daring, generous, and active. Will you be one of them?

1 Ellen G. White, Testimonies to the Church, 6:467.

2 ———, Testimonies to the Church, 4:117.

3 ———, Welfare Ministry, 316.

4 ———, Prophets and Kings, 260.

Rex D. Edwards is a former vice president for religious studies at Griggs University.