This past week I listened to someone preach through Hebrews 11, the “faith” chapter of the Bible. I began to think about what faith really is and looks like. I thought that I could write a post about faith, Hebrews 11, the faith “hall of fame”, and so on. But as I recently laid down and had a few moments to meditate, the thought came that I should write about what faith means to me.
First of all, how do I define faith? Well, let me use the Biblical definition:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1)
If I could put this into my own words, I would say that faith is my conviction to trust God’s promises, that I have a future hope better than this world, which hope I cannot see at this present time. I can understand that there are things invisible through observing the things that are visible. I understand that there is a Creator by observing the things that are created.
My faith comes from believing that God’s Word is true and that He demonstrated His love for me by sending Jesus Christ to take the penalty for my sins in his flesh. Through believing in His Son, I receive the Holy Spirit of God, who helps me and strengthens my faith. Through believing that, on God’s accounts, I am now crucified and raised with Christ, I now have guaranteed eternal life and victory over sin.
As I read through Hebrews 11, I see many great Biblical “heroes” who demonstrated great acts of faith. I read about Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, Rahab, and so forth. I read that people subdued kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions, escaped peril, received ones back from the dead, and more. But then I read that others were tortured, mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, cut in half, tempted, killed, or were nomads. The Scripture says that the world was not worthy of this later group and that they did not receive the promise of their faith during their lifetime on earth. However, they, along with us, will receive something better from God.
Faith is not just mountaintop experiences, although such experiences are wonderful. Faith is also walking, well faithfully, though the valleys of life and still trusting God’s promises even when we cannot see. In Scripture, I don’t see the faith that some of these preachers on television and the radio speak about. I don’t see God instructing us to speak the word and believe without wavering to get a new car, house, job, or money, money, money. I once heard someone say that the world will be drawn to God when they see how he causes us to prosper. I could understand the point trying to be made, but wouldn’t unbelievers also consider God when they see someone trusting Him when their world is falling apart around them and they have a worldly reason not to trust Him? I’m not saying that the only way to point people to God is through suffering, and believe me I am not going about looking for more, but I want us to consider what would really make a lasting testimony of God’s grace and faithfulness in someone’s life.
My faith in God has caused me trust Him even while in the darkest valley of my life. Faith has helped me to realize that God knows what is best for me at all times, even when evil happens to me. He can turn that evil around to work good in me, if I don’t fight against Him. Faith has led me to trust God at a deeper level and to set my eyes more on the unseen than the seen. OK, that part is not always true because there are days when what I see pulls at me to indulge in…well whatever. But through faith in believing God’s Word that says I am crucified with Christ and dead to sin, I can overcome the temptation and press on towards Christ and my promises awaiting in Heaven. If I do stumble, I also read that even the great “heroes” of the faith stumbled at times, but God was merciful to them and he is also merciful to me.
So, what is faith? Is it believing that God will give us our wants, or that He provides us with all of our needs? What is our greatest need? Is it not to have His forgiveness and mercy? I believe that is my greatest need. Through faith, I believe that all of my sins are forgiven and I am completely righteous in God’s eyes, not because I feel like it (because I don’t) but because God says so.
I don’t believe that faith can be stagnant. I heard someone say that faith is not like a pond but is like a river. We can’t rely on a one-time faith experience, but should exercise it daily to keep it vibrant and growing.