All About Faith ---Hebrews 11
Having faith in God makes all the difference in our lives between life and death. Scripture tells us: “Without faith it is impossible to please God,…” (Hebrews 11:6a) And “we are made righteous by God because of our faith.” Not because of our works! (Hab.2:4, Rom.1:17,Gal.3:11) Since it is all important to God that we have faith in Him, let’s learn all that we can about what this faith is and how we can obtain it. Hebrews chapter 11 gives a definition of faith and then gives examples of many believers down through the ages who lived lives of faith. This eleventh chapter of Hebrews has sometimes been referred to as the “faith chapter”.
The “faith chapter” starts right off with a definition of faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith as described here is to believe what we hope for (what has been promised in Scripture) and to have an expectation of future rewards. Faith relies on Gods’ promises and “anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He will reward those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6b)
Scholars write that the Greek word “substance” means “a standing under”. The word was used to mean a “title deed”. We are to have assurance in Gods’ promises, (stand under them). And our faith is the “title deed” of things hoped for. Faith is counting on God to take care of us. We need to have faith in God, not faith in faith. Jesus said that all we need is the faith of a grain of mustard seed, (Luke 17:6) and a mustard seed is the smallest of seeds. So we don’t put our faith in how large our faith is but in how large our God is.
One of the “champions of faith” mentioned in Hebrews 11 is Noah. Noah’s obedience in building the ark far inland was physical evidence of his trust in God’s Word. Other believers mentioned for their faith were Abel, Enoch, Abraham and Sarah. We read in verses 13-16 that although these champions of faith received only a partial fulfillment of what God had promised, they maintained their faith that God would do what He said. Also these faithful could not feel at home in earthly surroundings. They looked for something better, and because of their longings, God gladly acknowledged them as His own people.
Hebrews 11:13a states: “”These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them…” It would seem that the key to their faith was that they were persuaded that Gods’ promises were true. They “embraced” them and greeted them, even though they could see them only by faith and not by sight. Only a real faith can see the invisible. Faith’s walk does not depend on answered or unanswered prayers on this earth. A believer looks beyond earthly surroundings to heaven when all of their prayers will be answered.
Hebrews 11 goes on to tell about many believers who have overcome tremendous obstacles by their faith. “By faith they (Israelites) passed through the Red Sea…” “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down…” “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish…” (Verses 29, 30, 31) Many more champions of faith are mentioned who “through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” (Verses 33-34)
After reading the first half of Hebrews 11 we might begin to believe that miracles occur for everyone who has faith and problems disappear for all that trust God. Certainly many are mentioned here who overcame tremendous obstacles by their faith. But then we continue reading and come to a description of other champions of faith who had a different experience. “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourging, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented.” (Verses 35b-37 This “faith chapter” ends with “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” Hebrews 11:39-40)
It would appear that faith does not provide an automatic exemption from hardships and tragedy. And people who suffer trials and illnesses do not have less faith than those who don’t. Faith is believing God and whether mountains are moved by our faith or whether with that same faith we must bear personal tragedy, we will still receive Gods’ promises even if we have to wait for them. So some of our champions of faith received marvelous miracles because of their faith, and others did not receive what God had for them during their lifetime. It was all with the same faith, and one group was not better than the other. Our part is to have faith in God and His part is to lead us to Glory by whatever way He sees best.
How do we get this miraculous believing faith? Romans 12:3 tells us that God gives each of us a measure of faith. And Romans 10:17 reads: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” The Bible, Gods’ Word isn’t just another book. The Bible is inspired by God and it has life giving power. That is why we are told to go out and spread Gods’ Word to others. The good news of Jesus our Savior brings new life when it is received with faith.
The parable in Scripture of the sower of seeds tells us that Gods’ Word is like seed and our hearts are like soil. When Gods’ Word is planted into our hearts, the seed germinates and produces a harvest, but only if the soil is good. If the seeds fall on hard or thorny or rocky ground, often they can not take hold and grow into fruitful plants. (Matthew 13:3-9)
In order to receive this saving faith, we need to keep our hearts open to the seed of Gods’ Word. Our hearts, the soil, can become hardened by disobedience. Thorns can grow up and crowd out the seed of the Word when we put other things before God. We need to always watch and pray that we don’t fall into temptation.. The Holy Spirit whispers God’s Word into our ears. We will need to take time to listen if a harvest is to be produced in us. Since Scripture says that faith comes by hearing Gods’ Word, we need to read it every day and receive it into our lives. We need to allow the seed of the Word to take root in our hearts and build up our faith. Our faith in God is alive and powerful. If we could see it with our eyes we would be amazed! Let’s do everything we can to take care of it.