IT TAKES FAITH (part one)
INTRODUCTION: Hebrews 11 is commonly known as the faith chapter. Each section starts out with the phrase, "by faith" and then lists a person's name and what they had done as a result of having faith. All the persons listed are from the Old Testament although, interestingly there are not many uses of the word, faith in the OT. The word faith is used 246 times in the NIV with only 16 of those times occurring in the OT. Nevertheless, Hebrews 11 makes it clear that there were plenty of people in the OT who exhibited tremendous faith. And in looking at their examples we will see what it takes faith to do.
1) It takes faith to believe in what we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1-3
What is faith? The answer is found in the first verse of Hebrews 11. Being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Faith involves believing certain things without the concrete evidence to support it. I have faith in a God that I can't point to and say he's over there. It doesn't take faith to believe in Derrick. It may take faith to believe Derrick but not to believe in Derrick. I'm right here; no faith involved in believing what you can see.
But I can't do that with God. I can't take you to him and show him to you. I can't put the coordinates for Heaven in my GPS and take you there. Do I believe in the existence of both? Yes. How? By faith.
And it's not just religious people that have faith. Even non-religious people have faith in something or someone. Some people's faith lies in scientific theories; some people's faith lies in certain people. Even atheists have faith. They have faith that God doesn't exist. They can't prove that he doesn't; they just believe that he doesn't.
What is faith built upon? For the atheist it might be based in the existence of evil in the world or something more personal. For those who believe in scientific theories it's the trust in the scientists who came up with them and the believability of these theories.
This is where Heb. 11:3 comes into play. By faith we believe that God created everything out of nothing. But Big Bang theorists believe that something came from nothing. They don't have an answer as to what caused the explosion that set the course of the universe into motion, but they're adamant that it wasn't God. We know it was God and that he is the reason everything else exists.
Evolutionists want to believe that all life started from an amoeba. I don't know what they say caused the amoeba to exist but to believe that a single-celled organism somehow eventually morphed into something else which somehow developed into another species altogether involves more faith than believing that God created all the different species.
Scientists have this thing called the missing link. The missing piece of the puzzle that would connect all the different evolutionary stages of man forming one, continual timeline. They're still holding out for the discovery of this non-existent link. They're still holding out for the source of the big bang.
For the Christian our faith is not entirely built on things we cannot see. It's built on certain discoveries that provide tangible support that what we read in the bible actually happened. Such as finding fossilized fish in mountainous regions which supports the flood. It's built on archeological excavations that show proof of biblical stories like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and when the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. It's supported in the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls.
It's built on the realities of what has happened in people's lives that have proven the existence of God to them. The things that others may subscribe to chance or luck or coincidence. I guess what it takes to have faith in God is humility and a willingness to see beyond what is visible.
2) We not only need to have eyes to see but ears to hear.
Rom. 10:14-17, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ."
So, we cannot have faith in Christ if we haven't heard the gospel. The ability to have faith comes as a result of accepting what we hear. Obviously everyone who hears does not have faith for not all have accepted the message. Like Paul said, 'But not all the Israelites have accepted the good news'. They heard but didn't receive it by faith.
God gives everyone the ability to believe but not all will. The Holy Spirit tries to work on every person to accept the gospel, as 2nd Peter 3:9 attests to where it states that God wishes that none would perish but that all would come to repentance.
So, you can't have faith without hearing and you can't accept the message without faith. Faith allows me to believe that what I'm hearing is true. And it doesn't usually happen overnight. You typically have a gradual period where I'm thinking and pondering and I come to accept more and more until I get to the point to completely believe in what I'm hearing.
And faith doesn't involve understanding everything. I can have faith without having to understand. I have faith in the trinity but that doesn't mean I fully comprehend it. I might not know how three distinct and separate persons (Father, Son and Spirit) can all be one God but by faith I believe it to be true because the bible supports it.
There are those who say they won't accept it unless they can figure it all out. I got news for you-you'll never accept it because you'll never have it all figured out. Christians come to Christ and they spend the rest of their lives trying to figure it all out. And many things do become clearer but we are not going to be able to wrap our brains around everything.
Trying to fully understand how God could have no beginning is not going to happen. But by faith we believe it to be true because the bible says so. And it actually makes sense to believe in that because if God's beginning could be determined then you have to answer the question of who made God? And when did their existence begin? You have a never-ending series of who made who questions. But by believing that God has always existed ends the discussion.
3) There are two kinds of faith.
We also need to understand that simply having faith is not enough; it has to be the right kind of faith. The kind of faith that goes beyond mere belief. James showed us that when he talked about dead faith verses saving faith.
James 2:14-19, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder."
There are two kinds of faith. Dead faith is built simply on intellectual belief but nothing deeper. Saving faith, however, involves putting what I believe into practice. When I act on what I say I believe I will be exhibiting genuine faith. That's what we will see happening in Hebrews 11. The main point is that genuine faith demands action. "By faith, so and so did this."
And that is what you will see if you are truly sure of what you hope for and are certain of what you cannot see. If we are sure of God and sure of his promise of heaven for those who trust in him then we will believe everything he has taught and live in accordance with his commands.
"The faith of the head is the faith that is dead; the faith of the heart is better in part. But the faith of the hand is the faith that will stand; for the faith that will do must include the first two."
4) We live by faith; not by sight.
2nd Cor. 5:7, "We live by faith, not by sight."
By faith we step out of our comfort zone and take risks. By faith we trust God when he tells us to move but we have no idea how it will turn out. Phillip Yancy said, "Faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse."
Sometimes we become afraid and come up with our what if statements. What if this doesn't work out? What if I fail? That's when we need to trust in the God who sees what we can't. That's when we have faith that God will equip us to do what he's telling us to do. Let's not stay in the enclosure of fear when we have the ability to be free.
The African impala can jump to a height of over 10 feet and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet. Yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a 3-foot solid wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall.
The Impala could be free but because of their inability to see beyond the fence they won't jump. We have the ability to clear the fence but since we're not sure what's on the other side of it we stay trapped.
But if we are willing to live by faith and not by sight we will come to realize that when we step out in faith and trust him we will see positive results from doing what he has commanded us to do. We will see that a gentle answer really does turn away wrath. We find out that when we resist the devil he goes away.
When we go through it we understand how the testing of our faith develops perseverance. Seeing these things play out in our lives gives us the confidence to trust in the rest of the word that challenges us to believe that God will never leave or forsake us. To trust in the fact that he's coming back someday to take us home.
Faith proves itself through action and God shows himself to us when we exercise our faith. Martin Luther said: Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible and receives the impossible."
But if we give ourselves over to things like skepticism and pessimism we will miss out on experiencing God at his best. If we are people who live in doubt, worry or fear we will never get to that higher ground. The incredible and the impossible will pass us by.
But if we are sure of what we hope for then hope will come alive. If we are certain of what we do not see then we will certainly see it. If we live by faith we'll live a life of joy and freedom.
CONCLUSION: Poem by Ruth Morgan. "Sometimes I'm sad, I know not why, my heart is sore distressed; it seems the burdens of this world have settled on my chest. And yet I know...I know that God who does all things right; will lead me thus to understand to walk by faith...not sight.
And though I may not see the way He's planned for me to go; the way seems dark to me but oh, I'm sure he knows. Today he guides my feeble step tomorrow's in his right; He has asked me to never fear but walk by faith...not sight.
Some day the mist will roll away the sun will shine again; I'll see the beauty in the flowers I'll hear the bird's refrain. And then I'll know my Father's hand has led the way to light; because I placed my hand in his and walked by faith...not sight."
It takes faith to believe in what we cannot see.