Summary: This passage in Hebrews gives us the ingredients, implications and illustrations of faith. By defining what faith isn’t, we can learn what true faith is.
The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is one of the best known of the great chapters of the Bible. It has been called the “Westminster Abby of Scripture” because the heroes of faith are enshrined here. Perhaps that is a misnomer, for some people who have been to Westminster Abby and have said it seemed more like a tomb. There are a lot of dead people there, but there are no dead people in this chapter. These are all living saints, triumphant men and women who have lived life and gone on into a new relationship. I prefer, then, to call this “The Hall of Faith,” much like the Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, Ohio.
In Hebrews there is an element which is regarded as absolutely essential to the development of the Christian life, and that is the quality of faith. It is what makes the Christian different from the non-Christian. Henry David Thoreau, once said, “If I seem to walk out of step with others, it is because I am listening to another drum beat.” That is an exact description of faith: Christians walk as though listening to another drum beat.
This chapter centers on and focuses upon what faith is. There is need for clarity on this. I find this word, faith, is greatly misunderstood and there are many peculiar ideas of what it is. It might help to show, first of all, what faith is not. For instance, faith is not positive thinking; that is something quite different. Faith is not a hunch that is followed. Faith is not hoping for the best, hoping that everything will turn out all right. Faith is not a feeling of optimism. Faith is none of these things though all of them have been identified with faith.
Well, then, what is faith? The first seven verses of this wonderful chapter answer that question, and the rest of the chapter tells us how it works. We will limit our thought to these first seven verses tonight. The author is not discussing faith, in general, but faith in God. If this is important, then it is essential that we know what it is.
In these seven verses there is a definition in which we see the ingredients of faith. By the way, this is the only definition of faith in the Bible. The definition is followed by a deduction, in which we have revealed the significance, the implications, of faith. Then there is a demonstration, in which we see illustrations of faith. The first and second verses and the sixth verse, taken together, help define faith for us. Here we see the ingredients of faith.
The Ingredients of Faith
READ Hebrews 11:1-2; 6.
Note how those verses indicate that faith begins with hope. Faith commences with things hoped for, that is, it starts with a sense of discontent. You can never have much faith unless you are dissatisfied with the way you are now and are longing for something better. That is its first note. If you do not feel dissatisfied with the way you are it will be impossible for you to exercise any faith. That is why, all through the Bible, the great enemy of faith is a complacent spirit, an attitude of self-satisfaction with the status quo. But if you are dissatisfied, if you are looking for something better, if you are not content to be merely a cultured animal living out a life of eating, sleeping and amusing yourself and eventually dying, then you are in a position to exercise faith. Someone has described that kind of life this way:
“Into this world to eat and sleep
And to know no reason why he was born
Save to consume the corn
Devour the cattle, flock and fish
And leave behind an empty dish.”
Perhaps there are many who would like to have faith but are never ready for it because they are not dissatisfied. They must demand of life more than the mere mechanics of living.
• You want more, don’t you?
• You are looking for something better?
Then that is the first note of faith. Verse 6 puts it, “… he who comes to God … he who draws near to God.” That is, whoever is looking for more of life than is visible on the surface, all length and breadth, but no depth. That person wants to find something to deepen life, and that is the first note of faith.
Then comes, “the conviction of things not seen.” Not only a desire for something better, but an awareness of something else. That is faith. It means we become aware that we are surrounded by an invisible spiritual kingdom, that which is seen is not the whole explanation of life, that there are realities which cannot be seen, weighed, measured, analyzed, or touched, and yet which are as real and as vital as anything we can see. In fact they are more real because they are the explanation of things which can be seen. We must understand that there is a spiritual kingdom that exists.