Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. 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.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Hebrews 11:1-3, 39-40 (NIV)
Read: Hebrews 11:1-40
Consider: Hebrews 11 and 12 are full of encouragement to have faith. For some people they want to be certain before they move forward with God. This desire for certainty can lead to inertia and inactivity.
Hebrews 11 contains details of people who were commended for their faith, despite the fact that they did not see the fulfilment of God’s promise in their own lifetime.
We have to remember that faith is not something that we can conjure up and exercise whenever we like. It is not like an electric switch that can be turned off and on at will. Some Christians talk about having faith in human terms, seeing it in such a way that if you have faith all will be well with you. This would base faith on how we feel at any particular moment in time. Instead, faith must be based on having confidence in the one on whom our faith is based. So how might we gain this ‘confidence’ and ‘assurance’? If we can’t create faith within ourselves, how does it come about?
The over-arching truth is that we don’t have faith because of who we are, but because of who God is and what he has achieved through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.
In Hebrews 11 Paul uses many examples to illustrate what faith in action looks like. Paul’s listing is not exhaustive, as he himself acknowledges in Hebrews 11:32-38 –
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, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 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. 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. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawn in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
The examples of faith Paul gives in Hebrews 11 are merely the ‘tip of the iceberg’. For us living almost 2000 years later there are many examples of those whose faith in action has resulted in others being saved and restored to God’s kingdom.
Pray: Father, may our faith be an outward expression of the confidence and assurance we have in you. Thank you that we cannot create faith in ourselves, but it is a natural response to knowing and trusting you. Amen