Is there anyone who has not said at one time or another – “I wish I had more faith”? We admire people of great faith, and we know that faith can do great things in the real lives of real people. Jesus even told us that faith can move mountains!
So, what is the problem? If we sincerely desire it, why is faith such a hard thing to achieve? We ended the first ten chapters of Hebrews with a strong admonition – “The righteous one will live by faith, and if he shrinks back I will not be pleased with him.” (10:38)
The first ten chapters have discussed at length the superiority of Jesus Christ over all of the types and shadows that have gone before in the O.T. – the prophets, angels, great leaders, Levitical priesthood, Aaronic High priesthood, the law, the temple and the sacrifices. Jesus, the Son of God, is the best, and we are told to listen to him.
- So we know the proper object of our faith.
- And we know that faith is what pleases God.
Now we need to know – what is the Biblical definition of faith, and what does faith look like in practical everyday life. How do you get it? How do you live it? Obviously faith is a huge issue with God. We read about faith all through the entire Bible, and yet this passage in Hebrews 11 is the only place where faith is clearly defined.
We know that Jesus Christ was an example of perfect human faith, but is there anyone else who has ever “lived by faith”? Is it possible to live by faith in a fallen world? The author gives living proof of people who did so in remarkable ways.
Thus far the author has presented five dangers that hinder people from living a life of faith. These are listed as warnings.
- The danger of drifting away 2:1-3
- The danger of unbelief 4:1-2
- The danger of immaturity 5:11-13
- The danger of apostasy 6:4-6
- The danger of willful sin 10:26-31
These dangers are always present in the lives of every Christian. If living the life of faith is a problem for any of us, we need to go back and see if we are giving in to any of these dangers.
DAY ONE: AUTHOR CLARIFIES THE MEANING & RESULT OF FAITH.
READ: Hebrews 11:1-3
A. WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF FAITH?
The first descriptive word in the definition is ASSURANCE – being absolutely sure. Of what? — Things hoped for. This refers to things in the future that God has promised. Things we have not yet seen and for which we have no other evidence other than God’s word. So, faith is believing God’s words about the future.
Jesus said He goes to prepare a place for us.
Jesus says He will come again
Scripture says Jesus will reign and we will reign with him.
The second descriptive word is CONVICTION – being convinced. Of what? – Things not seen. This involves believing things that God has said that we didn’t personally see. God has revealed many things in Scripture – things that have gone before – like creation by fiat and historical events regarding God’s chosen people. God spoke and the world came into existence. God has revealed that Jesus died and was resurrected and ascended into heaven. So, faith is believing God’s words about the past.
Faith is also believing other things we can’t see in the present – UNSEEN THINGS like the spirit world – unobservable things in the spiritual realm like angels and heaven and God.
So we see that faith is belief – being absolutely sure and convinced beyond a doubt that everything that God has said is true – things in the past, things in the future, unseen things in the spiritual realm.
Faith is believing all of God’s word enough to live it out in our lives, even if we have to stand alone.
B. WHAT IS THE RESULT OF FAITH?
When we have faith we have God’s approval. He is totally pleased when we believe every word that He speaks.
- The way we show the world that we believe God’s words is by living by them and speaking of them as ultimate truth.
- The way we show God that we believe His words is by continually seeking his truths in scripture for our guide through this life.
Believers have the title deed to a home in heaven and the promises of God. We can start building our lives to reign and laying up treasures for our new home by exercising great faith in our everyday lives. Many of the people of God did this in the past. (Verse 2)
C. HOW IS FAITH DEVELOPED?
Our next great challenge is to discover how faith is developed. Our firm faith must be based on some kind of evidence that God has given.
- God has provided evidence for the initial development of faith in nature. (Romans 1:19-20) We see His power and wisdom in the design, beauty and majesty of creation all around us every day. This evidence is always there and is visible to every human on earth.
- God has provided evidence for deeper belief in the written Word. Beginning with the story of creation, God has revealed the story of God and man. In His Word, we learn about His attributes, His character and His faithfulness. We learn of His steadfast love, as well as His justice and wrath. We also learn about His eternal plan for man.
- God has provided ultimate evidence for belief in the words of Jesus. (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 1:1-2)
- God has provided additional evidence by using prophets to speak God’s mind about the present and to reveal the future. When the words of the prophets come to pass, we know divine knowledge was imparted to them.
God has always provided clear and abundant evidence that He exists and that what he has said is true. We never have to say that we have “blind faith.” Our faith is based on solid revelation that matches the reality we observe around us.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- How do you explain the position of faith in our lives from Proverbs 3:5
- How does true faith differ from a “vague hope for the best”?
- What must be the foundation for any hope a believer has? (Psalm 130:5; Proverbs 30:5; II Peter 1:3-4)
- What are some things other than God’s word that we can erroneously put our faith in?
- What is your favorite promise to claim when you are discouraged?
(I personally love the promise that God’s grace is sufficient for whatever may come into my life. II Corinthians 12:9)
- Examine your belief system. Is there anything in God’s word that you don’t really believe?
DAY TWO: AUTHOR CONSIDERS THE CONTENT OF FAITH.
READ: Hebrews 11:4-7
HEROES OF THE FAITH BELIEVED GOD’S WORDS.
If we are still confused about what faith looks like, the author of Hebrews gives us some concrete examples of true faith. What did they believe that we need to believe?
1. ABEL (Genesis 4:1-5) — He believed God’s words about sin and death. He believed what God said about acceptable sacrifices for sin. God promised to forgive sin and declare men righteous through the way that He designed — by the temporary substitutionary death of animals until the coming of the permanent human sacrifice – Jesus Christ. Abel’s faith is still speaking loudly to us today. God looks at the heart of the person approaching him. We have to come to God in the way that God has declared acceptable and come with a sincere heart.
2. ENOCH (Genesis 5:21-24) – He believed that God exists and thus man should seek to live by God’s instructions. He walked with God each day. Enoch’s translation demonstrated the reality of life after death. We must believe that God exists and He rewards those who earnestly seek him now and in the life to come.
3. NOAH (Genesis 6:9,22) – He believed that there is divine judgment for those who ignore God’s warnings and refuse to repent as well as divine deliverance for those who listen and obey. We must believe that there will be a time of great judgment for unbelievers as well as a time of deliverance for believers.
These three great examples of faith show us that even if we have to stand alone, it is worth it to listen to God and believe every word, every promise and every prophecy. God is a God of grace but He is also a God of judgment and wrath.
UNBELIEF IS ALWAYS WIDESPREAD.
Our day is much like Noah’s day. People are eating, drinking and doing their thing – totally oblivious to the fact that God has prophesied a coming judgment called the “Day of The Lord.” That judgment will surely come. We cannot be swayed by the majority who try to convince us that God’s Word is untrue or outdated. We must trust His Word even is we have to stand alone, be ridiculed, be mocked and even be persecuted.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What is the way that God has declared that we must come to him today?
- What does it mean to “walk with God?”
- What does it mean to “earnestly seek God?”
- How do you think the people of Noah’s day felt about his building project?
- When have you had to “stand alone” in opposition to the crowd?
- How seriously have you considered your moment of standing before Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ?
DAY THREE: AUTHOR COMMENDS THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM’S FAMILY.
READ: Hebrews 11:8-22
ABRAHAM LIVED A LIFE OF FAITH AMONG PAGANS.
Abraham was an outstanding example of faith. He is even called the “father of the faithful.” (Romans 4:16) What are some of the evidences that his faith was real?
- He answered God’s call to leave his homeland and his family idolatry to begin a new adventure with God in a foreign country. He didn’t even know where he was going.
- Abraham and Isaac and Jacob were content to live in tents without inheriting the Promised Land in their lifetimes.
- They believed in God’s covenant promises – a land, a great nation, blessing, and finally salvation, and ultimately resurrection to a better country.
- Abraham and Sarah believed they would have a descendant – despite infertility and old age.
- Abraham believed that God was able to raise Isaac up, even from the dead when Abraham was tested. This ultimate test came only after Abraham had proved God in many other ways throughout his life. This, of course was a picture of what God will do with His son when the time is right.
- Isaac, Jacob and Joseph all ordered their lives in such a way that they revealed a deep faith in the promises and covenants with God – the fulfillment of which would only occur after they were dead.
ABRAHAM BELIEVED WITHOUT SEEING PROMISES FULFILLED.
These people didn’t live to see all of the promises fulfilled – the coming of Messiah and the New Covenant. (The fulfillment has now come in the lifetimes of these Hebrew believers.) Abraham and his immediate descendants only viewed the fulfillment from afar. From these men of old we learn some great truths:
- Faith often involves waiting. The outworking of God’s plan often takes many years.
- Faith often involves testing to help it grow stronger.
- Faith in God’s promises and covenants will always become reality, but I must make sure the promise is really to me, that I have interpreted it correctly and that I have fulfilled all of the conditions. I can’t run ahead of God and help fulfill it my way – like Sarah did.
- Just because we don’t see the reality in our lifetime, it doesn’t mean it will never come true. Many of God’s promises aren’t fulfilled completely until the next life.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- How does Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18) reflect Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:37?[i]
- Which example of faith in Abraham’s family would be the hardest for you to follow?
- When have you stepped out in faith to obey a call from God when you didn’t know how it would turn out?
- How patient are you to wait for God to answer prayer or fulfill promises?
DAYS FOUR & FIVE: AUTHOR COMMENDS FAITH OF MOSES & OTHERS.
READ: Hebrews 11:23-40
THERE ARE MANY STORIES OF FAITHFUL PEOPLE IN SCRIPTURE.
Now we are led on a journey through more of Scripture, picking up some very familiar stories. These are stories that we love to teach our children in Sunday School.
- By faith Moses’ parents defied the king’s edict of infanticide. (Exodus 2:1-10)
- By faith Moses chose the promises of God’s people over the palace. (Exodus 2:11)
- By faith Moses challenged the Pharaoh and led his people out of slavery. (Exodus 5:1-3; 12:31-36)
- By faith Joshua led the people into battle with God’s unusual methods. (Joshua 1:1-5)
- By faith Rahab chose to believe in the power of the true God. (Joshua 2)
- On and on – judges, prophets and martyrs (at times, death may be the best witness of true faith).
HEROES OF THE FAITH ARE RECORDED FOR INSPIRATION.
The story of God’s faithful followers in verses 32-37 is one of the most inspirational passages in scripture. The battle to faithfully do God’s will in a hostile and sometimes incredibly cruel world makes us want to both cry and shout for joy. We love victory stories, but we cringe at the suffering, death and deprivation that were sometimes necessary for God’s people. The statement that the world was not worthy of them encourages us to think of their great reward in the world to come.
The outstanding fact that is emphasized is that none of the O.T. saints received what had been promised. For hundreds of years they believed in the promise of a Messiah, but they died before the time had fully arrived for His appearance on earth. Yet their faith remained strong because it was based on the promises, covenants and character of God.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- Which of the familiar characters listed in verses 23-31 were the most inspirational to you?
- What story would take the most courage for you to live out?
- Why do you think that living for God offers so many hard challenges?
- What can the people look forward to by remaining faithful in persecution?
- What is the hardest sacrifice you have faced in living for God?
- Who looks to you as an example of great faith?
Simply put, faith is merely believing in the person of God and believing in God’s words about the past, present and future. Faith is proved by obeying without faltering. Faith begins with believing that God created the universe and continues by believing everything God reveals about himself, the world He is governing and about the future world.
The fact that it is possible to live by faith is both good news and bad news. The good news is that it is indeed possible in every generation. The bad news is that it often has a heavy price. But the other good news is that God rewards those who do not falter. Suffering for God is never wasted.
In the end, the stories of the faithful are easily summarized: God spoke clearly. The faithful believed and obeyed. God enabled them to live lives to His glory. God gave divine approval.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK:
Two great ways to grow in faith are to study the word and study faithful people.
Pick one or two faithful characters mentioned in Chapter 11 and read their full stories in the Old Testament. Write in your journal qualities you want to develop in your life.
[i] God’s command for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac seems to be in conflict with His instruction on child sacrifice. Read what God says about child sacrifice in the following passages.
- Deuteronomy 12:31
- II Kings 17:17
- Psalm 106:38
- Jeremiah 7:31
- Jeremiah 32:35
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