Faith – What Is It?

Hebrews 11:1-3

Start reading with Heb. 10:36

“You have need of endurance so that …you may receive the promise.” We, like all previous believers, somewhere on continuum between when God gave promise of heavenly inheritance and when will actually receive it. Every previous generation has died without receiving promises (11:13), yet they didn’t give up on promises. How? “The just shall live by faith! …we are …of those who believe (have faith) to the saving of the soul.”

According to commonly expressed wisdom found in our culture, faith may not even be necessary. In any case, must be kept private. Seems more and more people opting for no claim to religious faith, along with that have abandoned any hope offered by religious belief system. That way of thinking comes with steep price, exacting toll on individual and those around them. Century-and-a-half ago, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Thoreau Perhaps you’ve noticed, no longer quiet. Desperate seeking for meaning, hope and failure to find it encourage many to make choices leading to disastrous, often violent end.

What sets Christian apart from all the rest? Faith that has particular object, a specific hope. True biblical faith of kind identified in our text is not blind leap into the unknown. It is not taking risk that defies godly wisdom. Is not deciding on course of action without any supporting evidence. The one who takes blind leap expecting God to make it come out all right is both foolish and presumptuous. God never expects us to take any kind of risk or action that truly contradicts wisdom he gives by Word and Spirit.

And… God does not expect us to “just trust him”, simply because he says so. We have his Word and his works – describe and demonstrate his character. Who is it we’re supposed to trust? What kind of Being is he? Why should we trust him? Can he be trusted? What does he expect us to trust him about? Bible expresses clearly, backed up by his works of creation and providence – making all things, then providing for needs and sustaining all things.

So what is faith? Is something of substance, that provides evidence, defines route to good testimony and supplies means to understanding things we can’t see.

A. the substance [assurance] of things hoped for v.1a

faith is reality, but where did it come from? listen to lots of radio / TV preacher types (and others), would think is something you must somehow come up with on your own

absolutely not what Bible has to say on subject – and doesn’t matter whether talking about saving faith or persevering faith

Eph. 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Heb. 12:1-2 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,looking unto Jesus, the author [originator] and finisher [completer] of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Mark 9:24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

faith you have is really yours, you exercise it, ordinarily grows larger and stronger with time and exercise

yet, you have it because God graciously gave it to you; you keep it because God graciously nourishes it, puts you in circumstances that grow and strengthen it

faith is reality you hold your in possession that corresponds to what you hope for – faith not what you hope for in itself, is title you have been given to your hope

if you own real property, have a title to it; don’t have to see property, experience it – drive car, live in house – to be confident it exists… and is yours

can carry title with you, show it to others, derive full assurance from simply possessing title; same is true of faith that is gift from God

do you have faith in promises of God – ones that relate to this life as well as next? faith that God gives supplies confidence that things you hope for will be yours one day

B. the evidence [demonstration] of things not seen v.1b

faith you possess supplies adequate evidence to convince judge and jury that unseen things really exist and deserve our trust

follow the reasoning here: you have faith in God, faith is gift from God, God is real but unseen, your faith demonstrates God exists

what are things we hope for? things we can detect with senses? sometimes, but not always – most important ones are spiritual realities

think about ones who fill out ranks of faith heroes in chapter 11 – who not only had faith but acted on it in things of daily life

Noah – never saw cloud in sky for 120 years, persevered in building boat in face of increasing evil around him

Abraham – surrogate motherhood not part of God’s plan, no hope of in vitro fertilization, no awareness of ram caught in bush

Moses’ parents Amram & Jochebed – no clue would be their son 80 years in future long after their deaths who would lead slaves out of Egypt

all of them had faith in even greater promises, of things not seen, that even now have only been partially fulfilled

they have moved on to next stage of their salvation, but still not complete; like us are still waiting promised final consummation, new heaven and earth, all that entails

bottom line here – if you want to have any kind of serious, valid understanding of spiritual things at all, must have genuine faith from God

without faith, cannot read Bible and understand spiritual truths; cannot read God’s handwriting in creation; carry on conversation with Christian about God, Jesus, Bible on more than surface intellectual level

C. the route to a good testimony v.2

how are you going to make your mark on the world – faith not even on the radar as far as world is concerned

what books did you write, machine did you invent, scientific discovery did you make, Nobel prize did you win

for Christian, what matters to God should come first, then maybe what is important to those close to us; so what matters to God?

from verse 3 thru end of the chapter – “by faith” eighteen times! talking about people doing things we only dream about

yes, what they did was important, how they did what they did far more significant to God – God commended them for living by faith

not only action heroes who were commended by God – read v.35-39

“all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith” – in sense, didn’t matter what they achieved, was that they achieved it by faith that mattered to God

key point: “by their great faith the elders obtained a good testimony”? “by their strong faith the elders obtained a good testimony”?

NO! simply “by their faith…”; no reason to feel like second-class citizen if you have small or weak faith; more important – is it genuine?

and… are you following example of apostle Paul: Gal. 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Paul’s desire was to end his life with a good testimony, commendation from God; no bucket list can ever compare to that

so… do you want your Heavenly Father’s approval? pursue your God-give vocation (calling) by faith, in God and his promises

live and act and speak every day all day in such a way that those who know you will say – must be your faith in God that enables you to be like that

D. the means to understanding v.3

when we take our faith out front door and into the world, must grasp significance of faith as we interact with others

apostle John greeted readers Rev. 1:4 “John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,”

Carl Sagan began show in 1980: “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” – wording not coincidental!

those two statements mutually exclusive – both can be wrong but both cannot be right; more important, what is fundamental difference between how John and Carl Sagan viewed same universe? Faith, of kind we find in our text.

both John and Carl Sagan had faith – John’s faith in God and his promises, Sagan’s faith in his own reasoning powers

it is kind of faith that is gift of God that enables us to recognize / acknowledge his fingerprints all over his creation as explained by his story

we look at universe, reach one set of conclusions; unbeliever, even a really smart one, sees same evidence, reaches radically different conclusions

it’s not because they’re stupid, uninformed, careless; is because they do not have right kind of eyesight, informed by faith in God

took group of high school students to Boston Museum of Science – got into lengthy discussion with staff; harder students pushed, harder staff pushed back defending their own beliefs

btw, Sagan’s viewpoint not new; 350 years before Christ, Aristotle knew nothing comes from nothing, so matter (the cosmos) must be eternal

problem was staff at Museum had wrong kind of faith – like Sagan and others, had faith in reason, in science, not in God

so what does biblical faith tell us? if it is either/or, either God is eternal or the cosmos is eternal, biblical faith takes God’s word for it

God’s word for it is he “created all things from nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good”

one who has kind of faith that leads to God saying “well done” is confident that God has power to create ex nihilo, used his power to do just that, communicated accurate description of what he did to Moses… who wrote it down in Genesis 1-3

if it takes right kind of faith to properly understand chapter 1, what about rest of the book? exactly! it is mostly closed to unbeliever

can be true of practical truths found in Bible as well as spiritual; don’t get frustrated with unbelieving family and friends

they cannot understand/receive biblical truth you try to tell them without faith accompanied by power and help of Holy Spirit

So how does God expect us to live each day? What is necessary for us to be included in those who obtain a good testimony (39)? Use the faith God has given you as title guaranteeing your future heavenly reality. Exercise that faith, pray diligently for more of it, do what you know is right according to God’s word, follow leading of God’s Spirit – believing God will keep his promises, trusting God knows what is best and will lead you right even when you cannot see past next curve in the road.


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