Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. By faith. . . (Hebrews 11:1-4)
We often think of faith as what we believe, an intellectual agreement with the teachings of the Bible, a conviction of the truth of the Gospel. And it IS that — look back at the scripture above. Faith is an assurance, a conviction, and an understanding.
But it’s so much more than that!
Let’s look at the rest of this chapter and see what else it tells us about faith. Here is a summary:
By faith. . .
- Abel offered a sacrifice
- Enoch drew near to God and pleased him
- Noah built the ark, saved his family and became an heir to righteousness
- Abraham obeyed, left his home, settled where God sent him, held on to God’s promises, received an heir, and offered him up
- Isaac and Jacob blessed their sons and grandsons and worshiped God
- Joseph believed God’s promises, anticipating the exodus and arranging for his remains to be taken to the promised land
- Moses’ parents saved their son’s life by hiding him
- Moses refused the safety, treasure, and status of Egypt to join his people, left Egypt, and sprinkled the blood to save his people.
- The Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry land and marched around Jericho seven times
- Rahab welcomed and sheltered the spies
- Ancient heroes of Israel conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut lions’ mouths, quenched fires, escaped swords, won strength, became mighty, and defended their nation
- Unnamed people refused to compromise and endured torture, mocking, flogging, imprisonment, poverty, homelessness, and death.
And why did they live like this?
You can see it scattered throughout the chapter. These people knew that God rewards those who seek him and approves of those who obey. They knew he had an inheritance prepared for them and that his inheritance was worth immeasurably more than temporal comforts. They knew there would be a resurrection. They looked forward to the Christ and the kingdom to come. They had their eyes on God and his promises.
The people of Hebrews 11 knew their future was with God and in God.
And so they lived — so they acted.
Hebrews 11 does not hold up as examples of faith people who merely agreed that God was real and loving and forgiving and then go about their lives as normal merely counting on him to step in at the end and save them from hell upon their death. This “belief” does not constitute faith to the writer of Hebrews — and it does not constitute faith to God.
Faith is action, action based on belief. Faith (or the lack thereof) affects what we do. Faith is lived out choice by choice, action by action. Faith is doing one thing rather than another — refusing comfort when action is called for, moving in obedience when the way is not yet clear, stepping into hardship when sitting still would be easier. Faith is risk. Faith is living differently than the culture around us. Faith is drawing near to God, trusting him to act, relying on his care, living for his approval. Faith is believing that he notices and that he rewards those who seek to please him and then stepping out to do just that.
Sisters and Brothers, let us covenant to step into lives of faith.
Oh, God, you tell us that faith acts. Let us have faith that moves us to action. Grow in us faith that looks at you, that looks at your kingdom, that focuses on our lives in and with you for all time, and that shows up in how we live. Stir us up, call us forth, move us. And let us live — move, act, respond, speak, lead, abandon, go, stay, follow, obey — for you. Let us not shrink back into mere “belief”, Father — let us live in faith!