Summary: This is a reality check. When you're surprised by the challenges of the Christian life and even tempted to quit, consider how the people who are part of Faith's Hall of Fame lived.
This past week we all heard about another horrific tragedy on the border.
Three people died and 25 were injured as smugglers attempted to bring dozens of illegal immigrants into the U.S. via boat along the California Coast. The 40-foot boat broke up on a reef just west of Point Loma off the San Diego Coast. The boat broke into pieces and dozens of people ended up in the surf, some being pulled out into the sea by rip currents.
It was just another day in the border crisis along the U.S. Mexico border. It seems that nearly every week we hear of another disaster at or near the border. In March 13 people died as a Ford SUV carrying 25 immigrants turned in front of a semi near the border in Southern California. We often hear of refrigerator trucks packed with immigrants gets abandoned in hot weather and many of the people perish in the heat and dehydration that results.
People from Central America are spending everything they have, risking robbery, rape and every kind of danger travelling by foot in an attempt to cross the U.S. border. Some are sending their unaccompanied children alone in hopes of finding a new and better life.
Why are people risking everything they have, enduring great dangers, the welfare of their children and even their own lives to get into the U.S. It’s because they believe in the promise of a new and better life, and some are so desperate they are willing to suffer all kinds of difficulties if only they can reach “the Promised Land.”
Yes, we call it now the Border Crisis in the U.S. But it is not entirely unlike the Christian life. It is the story of faith, as we now come to what has often been called the Faith Hall of Fame. And what we discover is that suffering and patient endurance is the normal pattern of a life lived by faith. That Faith’s Hall of Fame features repeatedly people who have been willing to endure great suffering in this life to obtain the promise of a better life in time to come.
We have just completed Hebrews 10. We have found the exhortation there not to throw away your confidence or your faith, because it has a great reward in verse 35. And then there’s the quotation from Habakkuk 2:4: For My righteous one shall live by faith. It is the final reason why we should persevere in the faith. Because our faith has a great reward.
Having explained that it’s necessary for us to live by faith in order to endure, the writer now explains what it looks like to live by faith. And he does so first by describing what faith does, and then providing us with inspiring examples of those who lived by faith throughout biblical history.
He tells us to Keep the faith—in other words, to endure today’s sufferings because you believe God’s promises for a better future.
And in verse one, of chapter 11, He tells us not so much what faith is, as what faith does. Faith assures us of the unseen and hoped-for future. He’s telling us to keep the faith because faith, biblical faith, assures us of the unseen-and-hoped-for future.
Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
So what does faith do for the Christian? It assures us of things hoped for. It convinces of the things not seen.
Now it’s important to remember who the writer to the Hebrews is addressing, and what their situation is at this point. They are Jewish believers who have experienced decades of persecution and are contemplating abandoning their faith in Jesus and returning to Judaism, and it’s sacrifices of bulls and goats to atone for or cover sin. What they’re thinking about doing is abandoning the future reward promised by God in exchange for an easier-go of it in this life.
The author is determined to show them that this is exactly the opposite of what their faith in Christ would motivate them to do.
So, let’s define faith then. Faith is the confidence, trust, assurance or reliance on God’s promises of forgiveness of sins, eternal life and the Kingdom of God. It is the single most essential quality necessary to salvation and a right relationship with God. In fact, faith, or trust, is essential for any human relationship, but is especially so with regard to our relationship to God. If there is no trust between people, there’s no chance of a positive relationship. In the same way, if we don’t trust God, if we don’t trust He wants what is best for us, if we don’t trust the promises He’s made to us, we will not have a relationship with God. And at the heart of that faith is trust in God’s promises for eternal life in the Kingdom to come.