By Joe Chesser
As Christians, we are expected to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5.7). If left to humans, walking by faith could mean just about anything. So, we need to ask, “What is God’s definition of faith? What words are used by the Holy Spirit to describe what faith is? Upon what is faith based? What does faith look like? What is the ultimate blessing of faith?” The answers to these and many other questions are found in Hebrews 11.
Hebrews 11.1 begins with God’s definition of faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (ESV/NASB). Other translations use words like “being sure/certain” (NIV); “substance/evidence” (KJV/NKJV); “confidence /assurance” (NLT). These words tell us that faith is defined as how we understand, how we feel about, and how we respond to the evidence we are given. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (11.3). Faith gives us assurance and confidence that this is true, and that feels good. Uncertainty, or having no faith, doesn’t feel good.
But Hebrews 11 does not limit faith to only a feeling or understanding, as good as those are. The chapter doesn’t end with verse 3. The Holy Spirit guided the writer of Hebrews to demonstrate time and again that God expects a response from our faith. What did people do who believed what God said? By faith Abel offered (11.4), Noah constructed (11.7), Abraham obeyed, went, lived, looked, and offered (11.8-10, 17), Isaac invoked (11.20), Jacob blessed (11.21), Moses chose, left, and kept (11.25-28), Israel crossed (11.29), Rahab welcomed (11.31), and a host of others conquered, enforced, obtained, stopped, quenched, escaped, were made strong, became mighty, defeated armies, suffered, and were tortured, destitute, afflicted, mistreated and killed (11.32-34). Faith gave these men and women the confidence and assurance to do these things and/or to endure these things. From Hebrews 11 faith is never motionless, apathetic or academic. The faith described in this chapter is living and active – or it’s dead (James 2.21-26). Because of our confidence in the evidence God provides, we do what He says, if it is our goal to please God. “For without faith it is impossible to please him” (11.6a).
However, Hebrews 11 makes it clear that there is a reward for such faith. God is not a tyrant who expects us to sacrifice for Him without receiving something in return. No, our faith not only allows us to please Him (if that were not enough), but also to draw near to Him and be rewarded by Him (11.6). The thought of a greater reward inspired the ancients (11.13-16, 24-26, 39-40). It should inspire us too!!
If thoughts of an eternal reward in the presence of God (John 14.1-3) fills you with hope like it did the ancients, then you need to take to heart the message of Hebrews 11. Having the kind of faith described there will give you confidence and assurance!