"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)
I've known that little verse since I was kid. I'm sure at some point my Sunday School Teacher gave me a smiley face sticker for memorizing it. I can still quote it, but in spite of having it etched on my memory it took years to understand it.
I believed faith was "confidence that God would grant my requests and answer my prayers if I believed hard enough and refused to doubt." But once you receive what you have requested, faith is no longer required. Now you have proof, evidence, hard data.
Faith is not believing you will receive your requests, but rather believing that God is who he says he is, that he will keep his promises, that he will keep his promises in spite of the lack of proof, evidence, and hard data. Real faith is not receiving what you ask for but rather when your whole world is caving in, when evil has mounted your head as a trophy on its Wall of Victory, when every voice in every part of your life is screaming, "GOD is DEAD! He is a liar. He is a human creation to make Hopefuls out of the Hopeless"... you are able, in spite of the evidence against him, in spite of reason, in spite of the overwhelming circumstances...to rise, and to declare, "God is faithful. He keeps his promises. He is trustworthy." Faith is, "being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see"...and may never see this side of life.
Hebrews 11 gives examples to support this understanding of faith:
- Noah believed God when he said there would be a flood to the point of building the precursor to the Titanic (Coming soon the release of The Flood in 3D)
- God promised Abraham he would have children like stars in the sky but when Abraham died it was more like "Children like the Brady Bunch." Although Abraham died not seeing the fulfillment of God's promise, God was still faithful after his death, and Abraham believed him.
- Joseph believed God would lead the people out of Egypt but he died before it ever happened, and yet God kept his promise many years later.
- Moses and Israel painted lamb's blood on their door frames because they believed God would destroy the firstborn of the unpainted homes. And he did!
- Joshuah and the Israelites marched around Jericho because they believed God would do as he promised and bring the walls down on the 7th day!
- They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Heb. 11:37-40)
And so Hebrews moves from this chapter on faith to, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses..." Witness of what? Witness of God's faithfulness! Witness like Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua... witnesses who testify from the other side of life that God is faithful - ALWAYS!
When your loved one dies, when you lose your job, when your spouse leaves, when your friends betray you, when you are ostracized at work, when you are depressed...and as a result you doubt God's love...when he seems like he won't come through, when it feels he has deceived you, when it appears he has deserted you - listen to all the witnesses! Listen to...
- Noah, "The rains DID come. The water DID rise."
- Abraham, "Although I never saw it with my own eyes God DID make me into a nation!"
- Joseph, "Even though I was long gone, Israel did walk to freedom out of the most powerful nation without having to raise a sword. There was an Exodus."
- Moses, "God's messenger did kill the firstborn of the unpainted houses!"
- Joshua, "The walls did fall!"
- Mary and Peter, "Jesus did rise from the dead!"