Today, we join together just a day before we celebrate Memorial Day. To many, it’s a day for families to join together and picnic on a relaxing day off. The establishment of this holiday, however, is so much more. It is intended to be a national day of remembrance; a day to remember those who gave their everything for our nation.
At this time, we’re going to hold a moment of silence to remember and to honor those who gave their lives to obtain and maintain our national freedom and security. Please rise and join me. * Silence, then pray for the families left behind * You may be seated.
Now it is critically important for us to know our history and to hold these times of remembrances. In fact, God often commanded His people to remember Him and His awesome deeds and to pass them down from generation to generation. However, if our remembrance is simply that and has no impact on how we choose to live today, it is in vain. Many are unaware of this, but on Memorial Day, there is to be a special handling of the United States flag:
Every Memorial Day, the U.S. flag is quickly raised to the tops of flagpoles, slowly lowered to half-mast, and then raised again to full height at noon. The time at half-mast is meant to honor the million-plus fallen U.S. soldiers who have died for their country over the years. Re-raising the flag is meant to symbolize the resolve of the living to carry on the fight for freedom so that the nation’s heroes will not have died in vain.
For many of us, we realize and embrace the lowering of the flag to half-mast in honor and memory of those who lost their lives. However, too many of us do not realize or embrace the raising of the flag to carry on the fight for freedom as to not allow those deaths to have been done in vain.
It is a highly honorable choice to fight for and to defend our national freedoms. We should always remember our military members and their families who do exactly that in prayer. We should keep a close eye on what is happening within our government and speak with our leaders so that they represent us well. After all, we do not want any of our nation’s military to have died in vain.
There is a freedom, however, that we can possess even when all of our civil freedoms are stripped away. A freedom that cannot be stolen away from us. Many also gave their lives to share about this freedom with others; chiefly Jesus, Himself, but many others as well. This freedom is obtained and maintained through our faith alone and is a free gift of God. It also is passed along from generation to generation with the solemn responsibility to steward it well. On this Memorial Day, we take time to also remember those who gave their all in the fight of faith.
1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised landlike a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born,because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.
31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Now it is critically important to remember those who have gone before us. However, if we come together simply to remember the days of old, the legends of faith, the awesome works of God, and to leave it at that, we have failed. Even as we must realize the symbolism not only of lowering our nation’s flag to half staff, but also the symbolic meaning of raising it again to full staff at noon. We do not want these lives to be given up in vain.
The first 39 chapters of this chapter are meaningless without verse 40. Verse 39 is a cliffhanger where all of the hard work and sacrifices were made and nothing existed to show for it. As it is written, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.”
Verse 40 is where all of those sacrifices are paid off. Verse 40 is today. Verse 40 is literally you and I. Verse 40 is where, as it is written, “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” Today is when we remember those who have gone before us and then raise that flag, raise that battle cry, back to full mast so that their deaths will not be in vain. It is God’s plainly revealed plan and will that only together with us would they be made perfect.
We have received that which had been promised to them. That which they willingly sacrificed and gave so much for, we have been freely given.
1 Peter 1:8-12
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care,11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
All of this has been done for us. Even as our nation’s lost heroes in battle gave their lives to serve us, so did these heroes of faith lay down their lives for our benefit. So, how do we respond? Do we take full advantage of all that has been freely given to us? Do we live our lives by faith, willing to sacrifice it all even as our ancestors of faith did for us? Did these great men and women of faith die in vain? By God’s own plan, that all depends on us.
To possess so great a faith and have it not impact our lives, to selfishly horde it and not freely give it away, is one of the greatest travesties of our time! If our faith changes nothing in our everyday lives, then it is no faith at all. The first amendment of our nation’s great constitution reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
To our shame and fault, many Christians spend more time fighting for and protecting this amendment than they do putting it into practice. We currently have the freedom in this great nation to freely exercise our faith, to boldly preach the good news about Jesus and His salvation, to publish the word of God and discipleship materials, to gather together as a church, and to petition our governmental leaders when legislation grieves us as much of it currently being woven together today very well should!
How many Christians take full advantage of these freedoms forged by the blood of loved ones lost both by our nation’s military and the great people of faith? I firmly believe that God’s word itself confirms that to claim to be a disciple of Jesus and to apathetically choose not to practice these freedoms to their fullest is a deceitful lie! Such faith is no faith at all!
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
This morning, we’re being challenged. We are called by Jesus to be the salt and light of this world and the vision that God has given us this year is to be and to do exactly that. It is time for us to raise the flag once again to full mast, to raise the battle cry, to fight against the work of our enemy, and to establish God’s Kingdom here on the earth! These tasks are not accomplished by words alone, but by the very words of God being put into action. It is not accomplished by simply remembering the great heroes of the faith who have gone before us, but by us remembering their sacrifices and being so bold and courageous as to also lay down our lives all for the sake of Christ.
No longer will our faith be by words alone, no longer will our faith be useless, no longer will our faith be dead. This morning, our faith is coming alive! This morning, our faith will be clearly evident by all through our works! There is an awakening, a shaking coming that will reveal those who firmly hold to and live out the eternal words of truth and those who just know of them and can quote them! Even as Paul wrote:
1 Corinthians 2:4-5; 4:20
4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.