Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him”.
Faith is something we all wish we had more of, especially when facing overwhelming problems. Yet, most of us are well practiced in faith. We sit down in chairs without checking them out; we use microwave ovens without analyzing how they work; we put keys in doors and expect them to open. We do not go around saying, “If only I had more faith in chairs, in microwaves, in keys.” Bible teacher Stuart Briscoe writes, “Faith is only as valid as its object. You could have tremendous faith in very thin ice and drown.” Evangelist D. L. Moody once said, “Trust in yourself and you are doomed to disappointment; trust in your friends, and they will die and leave you; but trust in God, and you will never be confounded in time or eternity.” Jesus didn’t say to His disciples, “Have more faith in God.” He simply said, “Have faith in God”. (Mark 11:22). One of the greatest chapters in the Bible for me is found in Hebrews 11, simply because it describes and illustrates the concept of faith. The writer traces the lives of many major Old Testament heroes who demonstrated faith in times of great persecution and challenge. The writer reminded the readers how faith brought the Old Testament figures through the difficulties and dangers of their lives and how their own faith was strengthened in the face of their first-century challenges. If the Old Testament believers could live by faith, then certainly we as believers in Christ can also live by faith today. So, what is the definition of faith? Unger’s Bible Dictionary says it is a belief; trust, especially in a higher power. The fundamental design in Scripture is steadfastness and faithfulness. Faith as defined in Webster’s Dictionary is:
(1) Belief and trust in and faithfulness to God;
(2) Belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion;
(3) A firm belief in something for which there is no proof;
(4) Something believed especially with strong conviction; without doubt or question.
(5) Complete trust.
Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as confidence in what cannot be proven by direct observation. In other words, faith is trusting God for what we cannot see. It is taking God’s Word as truth, trusting that if He said it, then it is as certain as if we could see it ourselves right now. Faith is not just a wish; it is a conviction about the things that cannot be physically seen. There are circumstances that come into our life which will test our faith. If you think about this, a lot can go wrong at any time. Accidents happen. Mistakes are found. Misunderstandings take place. There are almost as many opportunities for our faith to be broken as it is to be established or verified. However, the Scriptures have much to say regarding faith, and today’s text is taken from Hebrews 11, which is known as the “Faith Chapter”. The Bible makes no attempt to prove God’s existence. It assumes it. Yet, three paths are open to the earnest seeker who wants to know if there is a God. The first is nature. Paul wrote, “His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20). The second path is conscience, a God-given inner compass; that points us to God’s standards of right and wrong. However, the most convincing path is that of putting truth to the test. Those who desire to please God and are willing to obey Him will find that their faith is based in reality, for God rewards “those who diligently seek Him”.
Old stories are fun to hear because you can tell them as if they really happened, and no one would know the difference. Like the story about the tightrope walker who asked his audience if they thought he could walk across the rope over Niagara Falls carrying someone in a chair. The crowd applauded and cheered loudly as they indicated that they thought he could do it. However, a hush fell over the crowd when he asked, "Any volunteers?” Whether that really happened or not, it makes an excellent point. It is easy to say you have faith in something, but it's another story to demonstrate it. Everyone has faith in something, whether it is in themselves, other people, or other things. To illustrate this I submit to you the following:
(1) Calmly and self-assuredly, the scientist explains that the universe is billions and billions of years old and that it all started with a Big Bang. As he shows pictures of faraway galaxies and planets, he gives many interesting facts. However, when he assures his listeners that it all began by mere chance; he expresses a belief for which he has no scientific proof. He has faith in his ASSUMPTIONS;
(2) The crusader passionately campaigns for man to put his trust in man. He calls for an end to the restrictive forces of religion and God. He pleads his case for freedom from absolute morals and from the promise of eternal consequences for sin. He says that man and man alone brings progress into this world. He has faith in MAN;
(3) Dressed only in a robe, a young woman stands patiently beside the road. She is trying to sell roses to uninterested drivers as they stop for a red light. She smiles, and without complaint, she goes about her simple life of peddling flowers. She gives up yet another day of her life to a cultic leader who claims that God told him he is the Messiah. She has faith in her LEADER.
(4) Suppose a friend ask you to take a ride in his single-engine plane. You politely decline because you have heard that his type of plane has a history of mechanical problems and you don’t have confidence in its safety. The pilot assures you that he entrusts his life to it whenever he flies. You still decline and a few weeks later the plane crashes, and he is killed. An investigation shows that the engine was faulty. The pilot had a strong faith, but it was faith in a FAULTY OBJECT.
(5) The most important faith a person can have is in GOD, the Creator and Sustainer of life. Our faith as believers in Christ should be constantly encouraged and strengthened by stories of individuals whose lives have been touched and changed by their faith in a living God. One such person is Corrie Ten Boom, who told traumatic stories of those, like herself and her family, who were dispatched to concentration camps during the World War II. The simple tales of demonstrated faith and the outcome of salvation gained in these cruel conditions should reinforce our belief regarding the behavior expected of those who claimed the name of Jesus Christ. If you take a closer look at History, it has provided us with thousands of stories of God’s people, who have faced countless circumstances with an unshakeable faith and a triumphant spirit, while there are also as many stories of individuals whose faith in God was unsure and wavering. Faith is learning to depend absolutely on God and His Word, regardless of our circumstances. Instead of allowing our fear to take over when life feels "out of control,” we are asked to take a step of faith and "cast our burdens on the Lord because He loves and cares for us, and has a personal interest in our life.” (1 Peter 5:7).
Many times, we believe our problem is too big for God to solve, thereby limiting God, while others are sure God is all-powerful, but are not confident He will do what is best for them. There are still others who affirm, "I know what God can do, and I will trust Him to do what He has promised." These various thoughts range from a weak and tentative faith to a firm and confident faith taking God at His word. In studying the ministry of Jesus, you would see varying degrees of faith in those who came to Him. In Mark 1:40-45, He healed a leper who knew He could but was not sure He would. In Mark 9:1 7-24, He cast out a mute spirit from a son whose father wavered between faith and doubt. In Luke 7:1-10, He healed the servant of a centurion who was so sure of the outcome that he asked Jesus merely to speak the word from afar. These examples do not teach God always answers according to the strength of our faith. Rather, in His infinite wisdom, He responds to any degree of faith. His ultimate goal is to lead us to trust Him completely, so that we may know the fullness of His fellowship. Jesus can turn the weakest faith of an individual into a strong faith. A living faith is exemplified in the many characters mentioned throughout God’s Word and especially that of Abraham, Noah and Enoch:
(1) Abraham evidenced faith by living in the light of what God said, not based on what he could see (Hebrews 11:8-12). When God called Abraham to leave his homeland, he obeyed even though he did not know where God was taking him. By faith, Abraham lived as a sojourner (or visitor), not as a citizen, in the promised land of Canaan. He and his descendants Isaac and Jacob had to live in tents, because even in the land of promise they had no established city. Abraham looked beyond his present tents to the future city that God had designed and constructed. (Hebrews 11:10), because he knew that what God made would be better than what he could see. One of God’s promises that especially tested Abraham’s faith was the promise of descendants. Abraham and Sarah, his wife, kept waiting for a son, even after Sarah’s childbearing years were over. God, however, worked miraculously and gave them Isaac (Hebrews 11:11-12). God rewarded their faith in the face of what seemed an impossible situation. Thus, with God nothing is impossible!
(2) Noah also was an outstanding example of faith in the face of hostility (Hebrews 11:7). In a society that was unrelentingly wicked, only Noah was just and righteous before God (Genesis 6:5-9). The Lord gave Noah a command that must have seemed ridiculous. He instructed Noah to build an enormous ark, even thought up to that time it had never rained. His neighbors must have thought that it was a huge joke, but Noah respected God and prepared the ark. He acted on God’s word about things that he could not see. His obedience both saved his family from the flood and was a clear condemnation of the unbelief of his society. Noah demonstrated that faith in God is measured by faithfulness in obeying what God said.
(3) Another example would be Enoch. Even though Enoch lived in an ungodly society, he pleased God because he chose to walk with Him. The only way one can please God is to have faith that God exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. Enoch had that kind of commitment. God chose to respond to Enoch’s faith in a different way from how He dealt with Abel. Abel died for his faith, but God took Enoch straight to Heaven without having to suffer death. God is not bound to work in predictable ways, other than those He has promised. Faith keeps seeking God, but it does not insist that God handle every one of His people in just the same way. Faith trusts that God alone knows what is best and that He does what is best with each person who trusts in Him.
The writer of Hebrews gave other examples to demonstrate how faith works such as Gideon, Samson, Rahab, David, Samuel, and the prophets (Hebrews 11:32), who overcame numerous obstacles as they lived by faith. Though they endured conflict and suffered great affliction, their faith in God gave them the strength and courage that they needed. Note from the list of experiences in verses 35 to 38 that God had different plans for different people. Some of them met the cruelest sorts of death, while others were divinely rescued. Furthermore, the common factor was their faith, and unwavering commitment to God and His will despite extreme personal cost. Faith led to great triumphs for some, but to grievous trials for others. Although their own world scorned them, these heroes of faith received God’s approval (Hebrews 11:39). What is especially remarkable about them is that they all trusted God even though they did not see the fulfillment of His promise. They lived in Old Testament times, so they did not get to see God’s great work in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, they were obedient and trusted God’s word. Christians living in the New Testament age have even more reason to have faith in God (Hebrews 11:40). They can look back to Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the cross and be confident that Christ has purchased eternal salvation for those who believe in Him through faith. When the finished work of Christ is added to the faithful examples of the Old Testament heroes, God’s people today have every reason to live by faith. God has shown us in Christ that He will certainly do what He has promised. With that truth in mind, we should keep living by faith daily, so we can finish the race God has set before us.
I will conclude this post with the following illustration exhibiting a living and vibrant faith in God, and entitled … “Moving Mountains”
A small congregation in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains built a new church on a piece of land willed to them by one of its church member. Ten days before the new church was to open, the local building inspector informed the pastor the parking lot was inadequate for the size of the building. Until the church doubled the size of the parking lot, they would not be able to use the new church. Unfortunately, the church with its undersized lot had used every inch of their land except for the mountain against which it had been built. In order to build more parking spaces, they would have to move the mountain out of the back yard. Undaunted, the pastor announced the next Sunday morning that he would meet that evening with all members who had "mountain moving faith.” They would hold a prayer session asking God to remove the mountain from the back yard and to somehow provide enough money to have it paved and painted before the scheduled opening dedication service the following week. At the appointed time, 24 of the congregation's 300 members assembled for prayer. They prayed for nearly three hours. At ten o’clock, the pastor said the final "Amen.” "We'll open next Sunday as scheduled," he assured everyone. "God has never let us down before, and I believe He will be faithful this time too.” The next morning as he was working in his study there came a loud knock at his door. When he called "come in,” a rough looking construction supervisor appeared, removing his hard hat as he entered. "Excuse me, Reverend. I am from Acme Construction Company over in the next county. We are building a huge shopping mall and we need some fill dirt immediately. Would you be willing to sell us a chunk of that mountain behind the church? We will pay you for the dirt we remove and pave all the exposed area free of charge if we can have it right away. We can't do anything else until we get the dirt in and allow it to settle properly.” The little church was dedicated the next Sunday as originally planned and there were far more members with "mountain moving faith" on opening Sunday than there had been the previous week!
(1) Biblical faith is trusting God’s Word when we cannot see things ourselves. Faith is recognizing that God is truthful and trustworthy. Because we are confident in His character, we are willing to do what He says, even though we cannot confirm what He says by any other source. Faith like this is demonstrated by action. It is belief in God that shapes our behavior.
(2) Most people want to be independent, able to make their own decisions and do what they think best. Living by faith means surrendering to God our insistence in independence. To have faith in God requires that we do what He commands, go where He directs, and accept what He brings into our lives. It is taking our hand off the steering wheel and letting God be in control.
(1) So, what is your faith in today?
(2) Where are you looking?
(3) Are you focusing on the world and its dangers?
(4) Are you gazing at yourself, or another person hoping to find the answers?
(5) Maybe your faith is in an object? Or …
(6) Are you looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith? (Hebrews 12:1-2). In an uncertain world, we must keep looking to Him who knows our inner needs and desires even before we ask.