There is a certain kind of tired that comes after a big emotional outlay—the letdown after a celebration, that sense of tiredness while looking at the dishevelment, remains of a luscious meal, detritus scattered about as reminders of the joyful (or sorrowful) occasion, the guests, the laughter and music, the symphonic tinkling of forks on plates and ice cubes in glasses. Now, all is quiet, the guests have gone home, the dust has settled.
There is another tiredness that comes from coping with illness, or drawn-out dilemmas—headaches with work issues, relationship issues, domestic issues. Sometimes, you and I find we have been left holding the bag, so to speak, an unwanted mess or responsibility, or even trauma that has been dumped upon us.
Other times we find ourselves profoundly tired because of grief or heartache, a sort of bone-weariness that makes even opening our eyes in the morning an heroic act, requiring steel-clad will.
Somewhere from deep, deep inside, a small curl of melancholy develops, or maybe a tendril of fear, or a root of bitterness, or a little flame of anger.
What does it mean to persevere, to be patient in affliction, to have joy and contentment in every circumstance?
What is faith and how do we live by it?
Explanation and Definition of Faith
The Jewish believers who received this letter were getting weary and discouraged. They not only wanted to give up, some of them were giving up.
But the writer encouraged them to keep moving forward in their life of faith.
The Bible talks about faith all throughout the Hebrew and Christian testaments, but offers only one definition, and it is found right here:
Now faith is
—the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things we hope for,
—being the proof of things we do not see
—and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].Hebrews 11:1 (Amplified Bible)
Faith is to a believer what a foundation is to a house: it provides stability, strength, and confidence. There is certainty of the spiritual reality that cannot necessarily be physically sensed or measured, but which is nonetheless powerful and true.
Faith is a believer’s response to the record of what God has said.
Faith is a way of life, believing God’s promises about the future, “being sure of what we hope for.”
Faith is believing God, believing God’s account as written down in Scripture by eyewitnesses, and acting on it.
You and I believe that the earth is round. (Yes, I do know there is a strong, vocal minority of people who, in fact, do not believe the earth is round, despite the overwhelming body of evidence to the contrary. Let us shelve that for this conversation.)
We have never been in space and seen it with our own eyes, but we are willing to take a world cruise because we have faith we will not fall off the edge of the world. That is the product of a faith based upon knowledge. It is not what people call “blind faith,” which is believing in something without any evidence or reason.
Our faith in believing the world is round, and acting upon that faith, is based upon the solid evidence of those who actually have been able to prove the truth of it through math, experimentation, and even going into orbit around the earth to document on film the reality of its roundness.
Faith in God is the same kind of “seeing faith,” where our eyes have actually been opened from their previously blind state. We have reviewed the preponderance of evidence provided for us in the scriptures, and in the lives of believers over the centuries, and we have come away convinced.
Saving faith is seeing faith put into action.
It is not simply an intellectual exercise, an acknowledgment that what the scriptures say about sin, about Jesus, and about redemption is all true. Saving faith goes beyond just believing in God to the action of
- Putting our trust in God.
- Receiving God’s forgiveness and cleansing of sin.
- Being filled with God’s living presence.
- Beginning to live for God, not against God.
Faith does not take present circumstances at face value.
Faith discerns the activity of invisible God. And even without seeing the results of God’s activity in the present, faith knows God is at work, making us able to patiently, joyfully, endure in whatever present situation you and I find ourselves in.
Content of Saving Faith
This is the faith the ancients were commended for.
Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.Hebrews 11:2 (NRSV)
Faith in anything begins with something: a set of facts, data or tenets. Belief is always in something. In the case of saving faith, the data presented concerns the message of what we now call the gospel, and which the author presented in the first seven verses of Hebrews, Chapter Eleven.
Through the examples of faith handed down from generation to generation, the writer introduced five foundational facts that every Christian knows:
Five Foundational Facts
(1) God is Creator
The writer drew upon remarkable scientific wisdom, as we now know that before there was matter, there was energy.
By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.Hebrews 11:3 (NRSV)
(2) God is Holy
In Genesis, Cain’s offering to God was described as ordinary, not special. But Abel’s offering was described as a choice, generous offering. Motivation and heart attitude are all-important with God: Faith is certain God is holy and deserving of worship.
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks.Hebrews 11:4 (NRSV)
3) Life after death
True faith takes God at God’s word regarding life after death. We continue to exist for all eternity, though passage through death alters us, and the time of judgment decides what our experience of eternity will be.
By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.”Hebrews 11:5 (NRSV)
4) The Lord is a personal God
Though Enoch’s family line was godly, Enoch “walked with God” in a way that was marked by God’s pleasure, they had a personal relationship. That is at the heart of the Gospel, that God offers a personal, intimate relationship through God the Son, Jesus Christ
For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.Hebrews 11:5-6 (NRSV)
5) God is Judge
Noah lived a long way off from water, but God told him to build a boat, and in holy fear he obeyed in order to save his family from God’s judgement of the world. Noah lived in a land-locked dry region which perhaps had rarely seen rain. Certainly, this area would never produce enough water to launch the ark! But Noah took God at God’s word.
He was laughed at for a hundred years. But God’s word was true, Noah’s faith was vindicated, and the world’s unbelief was judged.
By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.Hebrews 11:7 (NRSV)
Fervent, sincere faith is not saving faith unless it is founded upon the truth and it is acted upon.