Tuesday, April 05, 2011

What is Faith?

Our adult Sunday School class last Sunday was studying the topic of “Faith” from Hebrews 11. What is faith? Many times we hear someone on television after some crisis speaking about the fact that their faith helped them through the situation. But often we don’t hear about who or what the faith was in. Doesn’t faith require some object? Isn’t faith in God or what God says different from faith in faith?

According to Hebrews 11:6, without faith it is impossible to please God. Why? Because it’s necessary to believe that God exists and that he rewards those who diligently seek him. There is an object to faith, namely God and his word.

So how does the Bible define faith? In Hebrews 11:1 we learn that faith is the assurance or confidence of things hoped for and the proof or conviction of things not seen. Notice the focus on “not seen”. As Romans 8:24 says, “hope that is seen is not hope.” Similarly faith isn’t faith if the object or fulfillment of the promise is seen.

It’s interesting to note the continuing nature of “not seeing.” Verse 13 (and also verse 39) tell us that the individuals who are being highlighted in this passage died in faith, “not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar.” In other words faith accomplishes many things, but does not necessarily bring the fulfillment of the promise the faith was based on.

What it does bring however is what is mentioned in verse 2. Those who lived and died in faith received a good testimony. That means they received the commendation for their faithful lives. We can see this in 4 for example where Abel is praised for his faith through which he “was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.” In the next verse Enoch was commended as having pleased God

Would you like to be commended by God for your faith? In order to please God in this way you must be a person who believes God and believes he rewards those who diligently seek him. A person of faith is a person who knows and believes the promises of God and lives accordingly even when he can’t see the reality of it all with his eyes. This is what the people listed in Hebrews 11 had accomplished and their testimony should encourage us to follow their example.

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