I have been spending some significant time in Hebrews 11 recently. It is a remarkable chapter of the Bible that sets out the concept of faith and then uses a massive list of people from the Old Testament to illustrate it.
“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.” (Hebrews 11:1-2)
This is the BIG IDEA.
When God speaks, we need to live by what He says.
This might seem obvious, but it is profound and important and it is key that those of us who are disciples of Jesus don’t just hear what this says, but live too. So I need to say it again.
When God speaks, we who live by faith need to live by what He says. Even if the world that we observe around us does not seem to conform to what God says, we must.
The writer of the Hebrews illustrates his point, time and again and here are just a few of the examples he uses…
- Abel – offered sacrifice to God, giving the best that he had, even though he could not see the God that he was sacrificing to with his own eyes. He had faith that God existed and was worth the sacrifice.
- Noah – built an ark in the middle of a desert to protect his family from flood waters that God had promised, even though it was not raining and did not even look as if it would rain at all. He was ridiculed and pilloried, but he had faith that God was right.
- Abraham – left his home to travel to another country that God had promised, even though there was no certainty that it would all work out. In fact, God promised that the land of Canaan would belong to his family and he never saw the of this promise in his own in his lifetime. He had faith that God would honour the word that He had given and so lived in the reality of God’s promise.
- Abraham – again, showed that he trusted God more than his own eyes. As an old man he was promised a son and a multitude of descendants, even though it looked impossible in reality. He had faith that God would honour His promise and Sarah gave birth to Isaac in their old age.
- Abraham – yet again. Took Isaac, his beloved son, to a mountain top and was willing to sacrifice him according to God’s instruction, even though it clearly appeared to be categorically opposed to the word of God for a multitude of descendants. He heard the voice of God and obeyed. He trusted God over and above his own eyes and the good opinion of others.
“All of 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. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13)
These people lived by the words and promises that God gave to them, even when they seemed ridiculous in the eyes of the rest of the world. In many cases, they never even saw God’s promise fulfilled in their own lifetimes, but they trusted, by faith, that God was in charge and would see things come to fruition according to His word and time. They accepted that their faith was alien to the world that they lived in, but they accepted what God said as truth and lived according to it. They were willing to be derided and laughed at by everyone else, simply because God was greater than they or their situation.
SO what about us? Are we willing to live as aliens in our own world and have faith in the promises and word of God over and above our own good, preference or common sense?
Our job, as disciples of Jesus, is not to witness the fulfillment of the word of God. It might not happen in our lifetime and the story of the world is not about us to begin with. Neither is it our job to judge the word that God gives us according to our own preferences and logic. Our job is to live by faith… even when, to all appearances, the thing that we believe to be from God seems impossible or ridiculous.
We are not called to witness God’s act, we are called to be witnesses to God’s word!
By grace, it might be that God allows us to witness the fulfillment of His word in our lives but, if He does not, who are we to argue? If God is God then God’s word is true. Faith is believing this fact, accepting it and then living by it.
I would rather live by the truth of God’s word than by the understanding of the world… In all things. Because I have faith in God most High.
Of course, this stand on faith becomes problematic when what we believe is not believed, or even ridiculed, by the people around us. When the people around us do not believe what we believe or even oppose our faith choice. Just off the top of my head, the world I live in has different beliefs in areas that I believe God teaches particular truth on issues of sexuality, fidelity, marriage, honesty, creation, truth, divinity, faith, power, and so much more. The faith that get from my discipleship in Jesus is derided by our society, the people who rule the media and many of the people that I live among.
The question that I must ask is, “what does God say?” Even if God’s words is opposed to the voice of the many, I know that it is God’s voice I must listen for and, by faith, His path I must follow. Wherever that might lead.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)