Live by Faith, Not by Sight
The eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews in the Bible is all about faith - faith in God. The very first verse in Chapter 11 gives us a definition of what “faith in God” is. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (King James Version) Or in a more modern version of the Bible, it reads: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for in Christ and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) (New International Version)
You may be wondering how we can “be sure of something we hope for in Christ or certain of something we do not see” as this first verse in Hebrews is saying? Or how is faith in God’s promises the “substance” of things hoped for or the “evidence of things not seen”? The Greek word translated “substance” literally means “a standing under,” and it was like a “title deed.” The root idea is that of standing under the claim to a property to support its validity. This faith in Christ is like the “title deed” of things hoped for. And the assurance of our faith rests on God’s promises. We “stand” under or hold on to these promises. Just as you would know that you owned a house because you hold on to the title deed. Faith in God is our title deed to eternal life according to the Holy Scriptures. This faith is very precious.
Jesus speaks of how blessed those who believe in Him are when they have not yet actually seen Him but still believe. Thomas, Jesus’ disciple, said that he would not believe that Jesus rose from the dead unless he could feel the nail holes in His hands and put his hand in the sword wound on Jesus’ side. Jesus came to Thomas and let him touch his wounds and then He said to Thomas: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed: but blessed are those who have not seen Me and still have believed.” (John 20:29) We who believe are blessed.
Our faith is all important to God, so, it should be all important to us. The Bible says: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) Since our faith in God is so very precious, we should try to protect it from those who would work to undermine it. And we can also try to strengthen our faith. Scripture says that “Faith comes by hearing, hearing the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17) We can build up our precious faith by studying the Bible and by fellowshipping with other Christians. We can live humble lives and ask God to lead us and give us more faith in Him. When we believe in Christ as our Savior and Lord, Scripture says that we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives. And that Holy Spirit is proof (or a deposit) of our eternal life in Christ. This Holy Spirit guides us through life and teaches and comforts us.
And when we look back we can see that the Holy Spirit has been with us. It becomes easier to believe God’s promises of salvation and answered prayers when we walk through life listening for His guidance and experiencing His help. Our wonderful faith in Christ is offered to us when we hear the gospel. It is our gift, but we must have the faith to accept it. Scripture says: “Anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6b)
Scripture says: “You also were included in Christ when you heard the Word of Truth, the gospel or the good news of your salvation. Having believed in Christ, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14) Do you notice that believers have been marked by God with a “seal” which is the Holy Spirit?
This “faith” chapter in Hebrews goes on to give examples of what people of “faith” did in their lives and how their faith changed them. Hebrews chapter 11 gives us a whole list or “Gallery of Heroes and Heroines of the Faith!” Most of these people of “faith” believed they had heard God’s call on their lives. And with faith they answered God’s call!
One of the “heroes” of faith mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11 is Abraham. Scripture says: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a promised land, obeyed and went even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8) Do we, like Abraham, follow God even when we don’t know where we were going? God promised Abraham that the land where he was going would be his inheritance. And that his children would become a nation that God would specially bless. Abraham believed God even though he never saw all of God’s promises fulfilled during his lifetime.
Scripture says that when Abraham and Sarah got to the promised land: “he lived, by faith in the land as in a foreign country, living in tents…for he (Abraham) waited for the city (heaven) which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:9,10) Abraham’s call is our call too – to be strangers and pilgrims on this earth. (1 Peter 2:11) Our citizenship is in heaven, as was Abraham’s.
God promised children to Abraham and his wife, Sarah, but they had to wait many long years for that promise to be fulfilled. Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah 90 before their son Isaac was born.
In our faith chapter, Hebrews 11, Sarah is also given honorable mention. “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age for bearing children, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.” (Hebrews 11:11)
As Sarah grew into old age she began questioning God’s promise of a child and had laughed at the angel who had said that she would give birth. Her unbelief is pardoned and forgotten, because her faith in God’s promise won out and is recorded!
This is encouraging to us who sometimes have difficulties with our own faith! Encouraging when we doubt if we can receive answers to prayers which seem physically impossible to answer, even when we know our requests are in God’s will. Our God can make possible the impossible. If Sarah’s unbelief can be pardoned, ours can too. Also, God can make our barrenness fruitful just as He did Sarah’s. Jesus promises us: “Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22) His promises are for us if we only believe.
We have only mentioned the faith of Abraham and Sarah today, but next time we will cover some of the other champions of faith written about in Hebrews 11. Our “faith” chapter continues with: “these persons of faith all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off they were assured of them, embraced them and confessing that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13) It seem that the persons of faith in Scripture embraced God’s promises or counted on them. Confessed them and continued praying for them. And their faith looked out far beyond their present earthly scene to the Day when they would be in their eternal home and all their prayers would be answered.