I’ve been thinking about faith a lot lately. What is faith you might ask? Well, faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). In other words, it’s believing in something we cannot see or prove, but which we trust to be true.
In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews, either Barnabas or Apollos according to my NIV Bible, devotes an entire chapter to faith. He starts off by giving us the definition, and then goes through many biblical examples of what faith looks like and how it was lived out. To give just a few, by faith:
- Noah built the ark to save his family
- Abraham and Sarah became parents in their old age with descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore
- Moses led the Israelites through the Red Sea on dry land, but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned
We are told that without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
So let’s think about this for a moment and break it down. It takes faith to believe in God. When we believe in God, we please him. And when we earnestly seek him, he rewards us.
By reading Hebrews carefully, we can see that some people were rewarded for their faith during their lives on earth, but for some, their rewards came later. And some got both.
For example, Noah was rewarded for his faith on earth because he and his family did not perish, but survived the flood waters. We are also told that he became an “heir of the righteousness that comes by faith”. Righteousness means to be “right with God”, so we know that Noah will live forever with God.
We also learn that by faith, many did awesome, miraculous, and wonderful things. They conquered kingdoms, administered justice, shut the mouths of lions, received strength, and became powerful in battle.
And then we see that many of them sacrificed everything for their faith. They were tortured, flogged, chained, imprisoned, and put to death by stoning. Hebrews 11:38 tells us that “the world was not worthy of them”. Wow, that’s a pretty profound statement. Think about it for a minute. These were ordinary men and women who gave it all for what they believed.
The last couple of verses in Chapter 11 sum it all up. It says “These were commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect”.
What does that mean? Well, here’s what I think. All of the examples of the faithful were of people who lived before Christ came. Their stories are all from the Old Testament. If you read just a little further in Hebrews, into Chapter 12 verse 2, it says “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”.
So, what I think the writer is telling us is that their faith wasn’t complete yet. Jesus is the “author and perfecter of our faith” and only by believing in him, is our faith made perfect.
If you’re like me, there may be some things you’ve been praying about for a very long time, believing with all of your heart that God will answer your prayer and it will come to pass. Yet, years have gone by and the prayer remains unanswered. You question your faith and wonder why God hasn’t acted in a mighty way on your behalf. I won’t pretend that I have all the answers, because I don’t.
All I know is this: God is able. But whether he answers my prayer or not, I am assured of what is most important. I am assured that after I pass from this earth, I will not die, but will live forever with him. And I know that he loves me much more than I will ever understand.
And thank God, none of this depends on what I do or did or anything else. All that matters is that I have faith. I believe. And I accept what Jesus did on the cross for me.
Could there be any better gift?