Hebrews 11 is often acclaimed to be the Hall of Faith in the Bible, and very rightly so – what else can it be called when it hosts such a staggering list o f faithful characters and credit them for their acts of faith? Yet we’re not going to discuss the Hall of Faith today. Perhaps we will one day look at each of these heroes one by one. But today, we’re looking at what is faith. And Hebrews 11:1 defines faith beautifully for us.
Analysis: being sure in hope
Hope and faith are two of the three greatest values in the Bible (1 Cor 13:13). Without faith we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6); without hope we will be unable to endure the tribulations of life. In an earlier post I defined hope as a feeling that what is wanted can be had, or that events will turn out for the best. In John Piper’s ‘What is hope’ sermon, he highlights that the most common usage of hope found in the Bible is almost opposite to how the term is usually used today. “Ordinarily, when we express hope, we are expressing uncertainty… biblical hope is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future. Biblical hope not only desires something good for the future; it expects it to happen. And it not only expects it to happen; it is confident that it will happen. There is a moral certainty that the good we expect and desire will be done.” [I urge you to read this John Piper Sermon on What is Hope, for he says it far better than I do – he is surely far more qualified than I am, in spirituality or in life itself!]
Hope always relate to the future. You don’t hope for something in the past. Nor the present, for by the time you hoped for it, the present is already the past. How can you be confident in the future when you don’t know what is to come? This is where faith comes into the picture. It is by faith that we are assured that the good that we expect will happen. And in our pursuit of hope, we imitate the men of faith (Hebrews 6:12). Faith is being sure in hope, but faith is not just about hope, it is also being certain of what we cannot see.
Analysis: certain of what we cannot see
What is blind faith? 2 Cor 5:7, a famous verse says we live by faith, not by sight. Who (can see but) doesn’t live by depending on sight? I surely do. I don’t want to dive too deeply into 2 Cor 5:7, for we will one day go into that, but when it says we do not live by sight, it refers not to the physical realm but the spiritual realm. We don’t need to see God to believe that He exists. We just need faith to believe that he exists. We don’t need to see God creating the universe to believe that He created the universe. Today science and numbers may tell us different things, and when we look at the statistics and we look at relics, we may not be able to strike a balance between science and the Bible. Yet we live not by sight. I may be going off topic a little, but it is my personal belief that the Bible is not in conflict with Science. The Bible is merely more advanced than Science, that’s all. One day, Science will catch up, and the two will no longer be at conflict. But will that day ever come? Even if it does, surely the end would be near.
I’m sure we’ll talk about Science at some point. But going back to blind faith, I am reminded about Noah. In Noah’s time he had never seen rain before. There never had been a rainbow. I cannot imagine not having seen rain before – it rains every other day here with our malfunctioning climate. I have never seen hail before, though, since I live in a tropical island, and I remembered the first time I heard about raining ice I thought it was ridiculous. I remembered the first time I saw it on the news, I was horrified beyond measure. Hebrews 11: 6 – By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. Noah had always been the epitome of submission to me. But it wasn’t just about submission. It a faithful submission. His faith that God will make good His word led to his submission to God’s will.
Do you have faith? Are you a man of faith? Be careful, even as you attempt to become a man of faith. Do not take haughtiness as confidence in God. Faith, ultimately is rooted deeply in God’s will and promises. It is hard to have faith that it will not rain tomorrow, for the sake of your outdoor event, for example. This is a prayer I often hear in churches. There is no way in the Bible that says God won’t cast rain for your outdoor fellowships. And God is unlikely to tell you personally that it won’t rain tomorrow (gone were the days where God spoke directly to Men, but hey, I’m not preacher, don’t quote me on this). But we can have faith that even if it rains for our event tomorrow, God will have a plan B (b for better) for us.