Summary: Jesus invites us to live lives of faith and as we look to those who have gone before us, we are see examples of lives of faith entail.
One of the most profound line spoken in a movie occurred in "The Santa Claus." Scott Calvin (played by Tim Allen) is at the North Pole for the first time. He has just been told that he is the new Santa. Scott objects and says, "But what if I don't believe." A wise elf by the name of Judy answers him with this sage observation. "Silly, seeing isn't believing, believing is seeing." I think this is a pretty good understanding of faith.
Many Christians have understood faith as something that a person needs when logic and reason end. In the Old Testament book of Jonah it is written that Jonah was swallowed by a large fish, lived inside the fish's stomach for three days and was the vomited out on dry land. Logic would tell us that there is something "fishy" about this story. Some Christians believe that in order to be strong of faith they must read the book of Jonah as a historical text instead of a story filled with many lessons. This isn't the type of faith the writer of Hebrews wrote about. He understood faith to be more like Judy's definition, "believing is seeing."
Our text today includes a powerful description of faith. It says in verse one that "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." I would paraphrase this verse to say, "We believe, we see and we live faithfully in that reality.
WE SEE THE WORLD DIFFERENTLY
We think everyone sees the world the way that we see the world. This pictures demonstrates that is not the case. Rather we see the world from different perspectives. We see this also in our political discussion, and our discussions on social issues. We can't understand how people cannot see what we see and agree with us.
Christians see the world differently.
• Though we cannot prove God's forgiveness--it is unseen--we believe that because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are forgiven. We no longer need to live with guilt and shame. We can live in the freedom the forgiveness offers us, and we can forgive others.
• Though we cannot prove God is a God of love, we believe that God is love. We live as people who are loved and whose God has assured us that we will never be separated from that love.
• Though we cannot prove that God is present and active in our world today, we believe that we can see evidence of God's presence. Unlike others we live our lives of faith believing and seeing God's power and glory in the world today.
OLD TESTAMENT ROLE MODELS
After establishing the truth that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen, the writer of Hebrews begins to make a list of people who are examples of faith.
Abel offered a sacrifice that was more acceptable that his brother Cain. We are never told the reason for this discrepancy, but we can assume that it was because Abel saw God's presence in the world and offered his sacrifice to God as a sacrifice of love. On the other hand Cain probably just went through the motions. He offered a sacrifice because it was expected of him or because he wanted to appear holy and spiritual.
Abraham is another example of faith. Though Abraham couldn't prove it he believed that God had appeared to him and told Abraham to follow him to a Promised Land. Abraham acted on what he believed and saw.
God is about making things that can be seen out of things that are unseen. God did that at creation and God continues to do it to this day. There will come a day when the unseen--that which we believe to be true but can't prove--will be seen and become obvious. Until that time we live our lives in the good news of God and help people to see what we see.
Some of us have been to Sedona and have seen the mountains. All of the mountains have names. It is common when told the name of the mountain for people to question how others came up with that name. They don't see Snoopy, a Cathedral, a Courthouse, or even a Tea Pot. They can't see until others point out the significant features of the rock.
The only way people will see that God is a God of love is for us to share that love with them. The only way people will understand that because of Jesus' life, death and resurrection their sins are forgiven is for us to be forgiving. The only way for others to see God's presence is for us to be present.