Posted by: Billy Marsh | July 3, 2007

“. . . Of Whom The World Was Not Worthy . . .”

While Kim and I were visiting her family in Wagener, SC, I was graciously given the opportunity to speak two times at her home church, Mt. Hermon Baptist Church. This was a very special privilege for me due to the fact that I had not yet spoken there before since Kim and I had been in a relationship and also being that the last time she and I were in the church was just over two years ago on our wedding day.

This is the first message that I was able to share with their church which was mainly directed towards the youth. Although I had the young people in mind, the adult group sat in with us as well that Wednesday night.

Hebrews 11:38 – “of whom the world was not worthy – wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

This is a lesson that I developed some years ago during my intensive studies on Hebrews that is probably in the same vein of Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life. However, though this brief devotion may share the same worldview as Piper’s book, my study is primarily drawn from Hebrews 11 and its surrounding context. Still, I praise God that someone finally wrote a book for young people that challenges them to make their lives count for Christ in a great and mighty way. Youth have been sold a raw deal on life by our society and churches. Mediocrity is the word that best characterizes the approach to the Christian life that young people have been challenged in the past to pursue. As a youth pastor, long before Piper had his book published, I leaned heavily upon Hebrews 11:38 as the foundation and fuel for my philosophy of church youth ministry. So, here in a nutshell is the skeleton of what I normally would present to a group of young people. (excuse the alliteration; I did it totatlly out of mind)

4 Basic features of the Faith that causes a person to be in the category of one
of whom the world is not worthy:

Many times the unworthiness of the world in light of the greatness of these people is interpreted on the basis of their extreme persecutions. In other words, their martydom is what qualifies them as people of whom the world was not worthy. However, with v. 39 and others from chapter eleven in view, I see only one thing that gives these men and women of God a life of commendation, that is, faith.

1. A Faith that pleases God (Heb 11:1-2, 6). – So, not only is  faith the only attribute mentioned in Heb 11 that God and others commend these martyrs for, but also it is the one thing that is capable of pleasing God. Thus, one cannot be commended by God unless he is first doing what is pleasing to him. Therefore, a biblically defined faith, a saving faith, must be the first step in one’s journey in following the footsteps of the Heroes of Faith. Dying for Jesus is only commendable if one does so in faith which alone pleases him. Thus, the person before martydom ought to exhibit a faith that is approved of by God. (cf. Rom 14:23; Jam 4:17; Prov 27:2)

2. A Faith that is based on the promises of God (Heb 11:1, 13) – All this point is saying is that one’s faith in God must be rooted in his promises instead of the works of God. A works-based relationship with God will produce people whose faith will be shaken when obedience in his will leads them to the lion’s den or the edge of a saw. One must embody the nature of faith that the author of Hebrews clearly defines in v. 1, that is the manifestation of the existence of God as well as the certanity of the truth and reality of his promise. As the old hymn “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus” sings, “just to know ‘Thus saith the Lord'” is sufficient and must be the foundation of obedience. (cf. Rom 4:20-22; Gen 15:6; Heb 13:5-6; Matt 10:28)

3. A Faith that perseveres to the end (Heb 11:13, 17, 26, 39). – As vv. 13 & 39 plainly teach, these people all went to their deaths not having received the things promised to them. They all died in faith and were commended for their faith. Hence, the type of faith that enables someone to become a person of whom the world was not worthy empowers and emboldens them to endure until the end, even to the point of death in the likeness of our Savior (Heb 13:12-13). Jesus testifies that persecution will come, but promises to all believers that he who endures to the end will be saved (Mt 10:22). Though the comforts of this world may be forfeited for the sake of following Christ, our salvation rests securely no matter how we meet our end if we continue in faith. (cf. Col 1:23; Matt 24:13, Rev 2:10)

4. A Faith that is passionate about Christ (Heb 11:16, 26). – Here is the climax of the message as well as what I believe the presentation of the author of Hebrews. I’ve never really been quite sure why chapter twelve begins with vv. 1 and 2 because they seem to be the mountain top of the preceding discussion. To dissect 12:1-2 from Heb 11 is to completely miss the point of the author’s intention. He has been displaying the great faith of all these mighty men and women of the Bible, but then he establishes Jesus in a whole ‘nother category. Jesus is not a man of faith, he is the founder and perfecter of faith. And because of that, he is to be the object of all of those that exhibit faith. For he himself has exhibited perfectly how to go to your death in obedience to the will of God. Therefore, one must have a faith that is passionate about Christ to the point that we go to our death with a transcendent worldview much like Stephen who, as he was being stoned, saw Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father. This causes us to imitate Christ in his crucifixion who gave himself up joyfully (. . . who for the joy set before him . . . ).  We see this truth evident in the life of Moses in v. 26 when the author of Hebrews tells us that the motivation for his forsaking the riches of Egypt was that “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” Thus, the faith that is required of someone who desires to make their lives count for Christ must be completely set on Christ. He is to be the supreme object of our affections. Therefore, our personal relationship with the Savior must be indicative of Paul’s famous declaration in Phil 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (cf. Gal 2:20; John 8:56; Heb 13:12-14)

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