In Hebrews 11, we are shown the necessity of faith in a Christian’s life. In this glorious chapter, we are told of men and women in the Old Testament, living under the Old Covenant, who “gained approval” (11:2) from God through their faith. As we learned a few weeks go, Christians cannot live without faith because “without faith it is impossible to please [God], for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (11:6). In Hebrews 11:1, we are told: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is assurance and conviction that God is trustworthy and true. Faith operates even when you cannot see the end result of His promise. Faith enables you to believe it will come to pass. Paul David Tripp has a helpful reminder, “Faith surely does engage your brain, but it is fundamentally more than that. Faith is something that you do with your life.”
The Faithful Hear the Call of God and Obey
Paul wrote in Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Everyone mentioned in Hebrews 11 responded in faith by first hearing God’s call. They knew the voice of God and obeyed His instructions. By faith Abel had a better sacrifice than Cain. By faith Enoch was taken up because he was pleasing to God. By faith Noah built an ark. By faith Sarah gave birth when she was past childbearing years. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph. By faith Joseph knew about the Exodus. Everyone mentioned in Hebrews 11 who acted on faith did so because they heard God’s call and were obedient. The faithful have been described earlier in Hebrews 5:14 as those “who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb 5:14). Christians need discernment so that they may endure. This comes from knowing God, hearing His word, and obeying His commands. Hebrews 10:36 tells us, “you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised.”
The Faithful Don’t Need a Detailed Map; But They Do Need a Compass
Living by faith is not like putting a Lego set together. Have you built a Lego set lately? If not, you should. When you open the box, you are given specific, step-by-step instructions as to which Lego piece goes where and in what order. You also get to look ahead at future steps to see how it all fits together. Living by faith is not like putting a Lego set together; it is more like putting a puzzle together. It’s actually more like putting a puzzle together by having someone else hand you the pieces and telling you that you need to put it in a particular spot. You have to trust the person handing you each piece. You have to believe that this piece goes in this spot even though you don’t see how it ends up fitting. God guides us along each day of our life, telling us to trust Him and follow Him. Living by faith means that God calls you to a task and equips you to do it and then guides you through it. All along the way God grows our faith and our confidence in Him. You may get instructions like Noah did or you may just be told to go to a new place like Abraham.
What distinguishes many of the people mentioned in Hebrews 11 is that they did not have to have a detailed plan for what was going to happen. They needed guidance and wisdom and instruction but they didn’t need God to reveal every detail before they acted in faith. By faith Moses’ parents hid him from the Egyptians not knowing what would happen to him. By faith Moses chose to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, left Egypt, kept the Passover, passed through the Red Sea. By faith the walls of Jericho fell in an unconventional manner. By faith Rahab hid the spies. We also see faith in action in the lives of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and The Prophets.
The Faithful Know the Destination is Glorious and Leave the Results to God
When you live by faith, you leave the results to God. Did you notice that there is a shift in tone starting in verse 36? From Hebrews 11:4-35 we read of those who live by faith and their great deeds and actions. In verses 33-35, we read about those “who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions…” In verse 36, we read that “others experienced mockings and scourghings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.” Living by faith does not always mean that you are victorious here on earth, but that the ultimate victory is secure with God. Sometimes the faithful escape the edge of the sword; sometimes the edge of the sword severs their head from their body. Living by faith does not mean that you will always escape trouble and trials. Ecclesiastes 3 makes this very clear to us. After discussing that all of us will experience times of happiness and success and in times of sadness and difficulty (Ecc 1:1-8), we are told that God “…has made everything appropriate in its time” (Ecc 3:11).
I love how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego live this out in their lives. In Daniel 3, we are told that King Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image and “whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire” (Dan 3:6). The three Hebrews refused to worship the image and told the king: “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Dan 3:17-18).
Are you living by faith? Are you trusting in Jesus as your Savior and Lord? Is the Spirit of God dwelling within you and can you hear His call in your life? Remember, faith is something you do with your life. Are you living in faith or in fear? What guides your decisions? Trust Jesus.