Tonight at Bible study, we were working our way through Hebrews and the end of chapter 10 into the beginning of chapter 11 (and we had a great time too). Most believers remember Hebrews 11 as the “Faith Hall of Fame” or some similar moniker. But we sometimes forget the faith embodied by those mentioned there. It wasn’t perfect or flawless. The men and women cited there were deeply flawed in most cases, just like all of us are as well. So what does it mean to live by faith?
It might be easier to point out a couple of things that it doesn’t mean. The life of faith for a follower of Jesus isn’t a blind faith. It should be an examined faith. The writer of Hebrews says that faith is being certain and sure. These words point to a faith that is based on something solid. Many scoff and say that there is no proof for God or for Christianity, but in so doing they reveal themselves to be less than curious and unwilling to examine the evidence (or they try to hide behind the veil of scientific evidence, which is considered less valid than eyewitness testimony). There is evidence (some even claim there is scientific evidence, but that is another argument) and Scripture has proved its reliability over several thousand years now. Hebrews 11 presents a case for the faithfulness of God in the lives of many who have found him faithful, but I can certainly make a list of the times He has proved faithful in my life and I am sure many of you can as well.
The writer of Hebrews presents a second statement regarding faith that we must look to as the bedrock of this idea of living by faith. He says, “and without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
The first step of living by faith is to believe that God exists. This is in fact the first commandment of the 10 commandments from the Jewish perspective:
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. – Exodus 20:2
I know most Christians don’t count this as a commandment, but they should if Hebrews 11:6 is anything to go by. Without accepting this very basic premise, faith is pointless. We have to believe that God exists. Paul makes his case in Romans 1 by telling us that God has left Himself a witness:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. – Romans 1:19-20
There is another part to the original statement from Hebrews 11:6 though. God rewards of those who seek Him. I was listening to some teaching about this passage of Romans and heard an interesting comparison. There are plenty of people who do “good things” for various reasons. In fact, there are many atheists who do things that could be considered obedience to God’s commandments. Things like not lying or stealing and other parts of the “moral laws” as some would label them. We have a conscience (Paul also mentions this in Romans 1) that tells us some things are simply right or wrong. Atheists do not expect God to reward them for these things, even though He often does so because He does not discriminate in the application of His principles(Matthew 5:44-45). The point being, that it doesn’t take a person of faith to do some of God’s commandments; they are self-evident if you will. But there are some commandments that don’t seem to make sense to us. If we are honest, believers tend to point to these as the ones that are “done away with” or “outdated” or something along those lines. Sometimes, it is because they are inconvenient or unpalatable. But let me challenge you a little bit. Those commandments that are doable but in some way inconvenient or less understood by us (and there are many of them), may be a perfect opportunity for you to experience God in a new way as you take them on, by faith. They provide a framework to live out a life of faith in the one who gave them as instructions for His people. They don’t save us, although God does promise rewards/blessings for those who keep them, and who am I to argue with Him about that.
So what do you think? Is it worth living by faith that gives birth to experiencing the One who is faithful in all things He has promised? It has been for me, and I invite you to take Jesus at His word and see for yourself.