It is not the strength of your faith, but the object of your faith that saves. – Timothy Keller
Faith is a response to the evidence, not a rejoicing in the absence of evidence. – John Lennox
I once interviewed potential youth ministry volunteers by asking them the following question: Do you believe in monsters, aliens or ghosts, and why/why not? I honestly didn’t care whether they said yes or no (I mean, I hoped for a no), but what I cared about was how they sought to give a reason for what they believed. And in relation to ministry to young people, who were far more open to notions of ‘other’ beings, the question got to the core of what we believe and how we believe as Christians. It was a question of faith.
Today the writer to the Hebrews focuses our attention on the saving faith of believers. He looks at Biblical figures from the Old Testament to show how they lived by faith and even had saving faith because they trusted in the saving promises of God. We are to emulate those who came before us. In verse 1 he writes that ‘faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.’ What is faith? It is the certain belief in the one true God, revealed through Jesus, without ever seeing Him. Now faith can’t be bought or earned, and without it, we are told that it is impossible to please God. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that faith is a gift from God.
This is a long passage today, but I pray that as you read through it (and read through it again!) you will find many things to encourage you about your own faith.
The first thing I want us to see is that true Biblical faith is not blind optimism or a manufactured “hope-so” feeling. Neither is it an intellectual assent to a doctrine. It is certainly not believing in spite of evidence! That would be superstition.
Rather, true Biblical faith is confident obedience in God’s revealed Word in spite of circumstances and consequences. Read that last sentence again and let it soak into your mind and heart.
This faith operates quite simply. God speaks and we hear His Word. We trust His Word and act on it no matter what the circumstances are or what the consequences may be. The circumstances may be impossible, and the consequences frightening and unknown; but we obey God’s Word just the same and believe Him to do what is right and what is best. It is evidential and experiential. It is awakened as we open up the scriptures and allow Gods’ Word to penetrate our hearts and minds.
Secondly, a great exercise for you to do is to comb through this passage and see just how many acts of faith are described here. If you need help, they all start with the phrase ‘by faith…’. You will notice that these acts of faith are not at all easy acts by super Christians. They were difficult callings that required total trust in God. You will notice also (and I find this encouraging) that these definitely weren’t super Christians! They were sinners who also struggled to trust God in all things! Their success wasn’t their doing, but because God was faithful to them!
- Comb through the passage and see how many acts of faith begin with ‘by faith’. What do these acts of faith teach you about having faith today?
- Look up James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 1:8-9. How can suffering in the Christian life help develop and strengthen your faith?
Father God, thank you that faith is a gift that you freely give. Would grow my faith as I learn more about Jesus from your Word. Amen.