Monday, January 30, 2006

Hebrews 11:1-12

Faith, it seems to me, is one of those words much used but perhaps little understood. We hear it often in general culture in statements such as “keep the faith,” “have a little faith,” “she broke faith with her friend,” “he lost faith in himself,” and more. We find it regularly in religious language. We hear of “people of faith,” “the Christian faith,” “faith in God,” “leap of faith,” “faith and reason,” and the like.

In Hebrews 11 we encounter one of the great passages on faith in the Bible. Here the invocation of faith is specific, concrete, and intensely personal. It is not vague, sentimental, or mushy in meaning. Let’s look at the author’s use of faith to see what it means.

At the end of chapter 10 of Hebrews, the author reminded his readers of the suffering they had endured for Jesus. The author exhorted them, despite adversity, to persevere in following Jesus. In the passage we read today, and the rest of chapter 11, he encouraged them with example after example of people in Israel’s history who had steadfastly lived by faith in God, people whom God had honored for their faith.

What do we learn from these heartening words?

Faith is not primarily about what we do not know. Faith is about what we do know. It focuses on what God has made and continues to make known about himself.

Faith, therefore, is assurance. The assurance of faith does not depend on our strength of will or character. The assurance of faith depends on God’s good and loving will, holy character, and insuperable power.

Faith, then, is trust – trust in God, known and proven in history. For God, in the history of Israel, and uniquely and supremely in Jesus, makes himself known as the lover of the world, of you and me, par excellence.

Following Jesus can be difficult. It can make us look foolish in the view of those who do not know him. It can endanger our success in this culture. It can endanger our physical well-being, even our very life. Yet God is faithful to us as he has been faithful to his people throughout history. We can trust him as we can trust no other person in this entire world. Because he is first and last faithful to us, we can and ought to be faithful to him, first and last.

Gregory Strong

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