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?
I. IT IS A POSITIVE FAITH
(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
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.
II. IT IS A DARING FAITH
(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
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?
III. IT IS A GENEROUS FAITH
(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
IV. IT IS AN ACTIVE FAITH
(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,
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.
———, Prophets and Kings, 260.
Rex D. Edwards is a former vice president for
religious studies at Griggs University.