Summary: What is your definition of faith? You may be surprised to learn that it could be different from how the Bible defines it. Learn the keys true faith.
Richard Dawkins - a torchbearer for Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution describes faith this way: "faith is blind trust in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence." Discover Magazine, August 2005 I would submit that Richard certainly didn’t consult the Bible for his definition of faith - but oddly, even for many Christians, faith is seen as blind - almost like: if you don’t know then just "take it on faith." Or someone gives an objection and we just reject it without taking the time to consider how to respond.
For those who believe faith is "blind" - it is like stepping out on a precipice and hoping you’ll not crash. This kind of faith reminds me of an old Indiana Jones movie - where in order to get to the treasure they have to cross over thin air - and as it turns out there is a picture of the ground superimposed on a small ledge - but they had to actually step out to see it. Or it might be like stepping on the accelerator and hoping you’ll make it into the lane before that oncoming semi smashes into you. You don’t have any reason to trust, you just do. That is not faith.
For some, faith is demanding that something be true. You believe in something so hard that it will happen - and if it doesn’t, then you just didn’t believe hard enough. It’s kind of like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz tapping her ruby slippers and wishing herself back to Kansas. This is the kind of faith where you put a picture of something up on the refrigerator and visualize it into reality. The proponents of this kind of faith are also those that tell you if you are sick or poor - believe God for it and it will happen and if not, then you didn’t have enough. This too is not faith.
For others faith is simply a system. My faith is Christian - like a last name or something. There’s nothing really beyond that - nothing internal anyway - it’s just a nametag you wear that identifies you. But it’s not faith.
In essence - faith is very simple: it is believing that God is who He says He is, and believe that He’ll do what he says He’ll do. More on that as we make our way through chapter 11.
This chapter is actually a parenthesis - albeit a very famous one. The point of Hebrews as we’ve seen is that Jesus is better - better than the old Jewish system that the Hebrews were accustomed to. The author is encouraging them to hang on despite persecution - go all the way into in Jesus and don’t turn back.
"How do you do that?" they ask. "How can you survive a difficult life? How can you remain faithful when everything and everyone around you tells you not to?" Faith. It’s really the key to everything - and so the author spends 40 verses talking about faith. He does it by showing examples of those who had faith - people that suffered a lot more than they were - and people they looked up to.
It also serves another purpose in my mind - to show that the heroes they admire related to God by faith - not by works of righteousness. It’s important in the discussion of the differences between the Old Covenant and the New. The Old relies on meeting an external set of requirements by your own efforts. The New relies on trusting in someone else’s meeting that set of requirements, then passing on their obedience to you internally.
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Assurance has three possible meanings: 1-substance (an underlying reality) 2-Assurance or conviction and 3-guarantee (the word was often used in legal documents)
There is truth in all of these - there is an underlying reality to God and to salvation that we hope for but have not seen or experienced. Because of the witness of those who saw and who heard from God we are assured of that reality - and the guarantee that God gave us in the Holy Spirit who works in our lives and is a "down payment" for what God will do for us (2 Timothy 2:14).
Conviction means "to be certain" - it’s not objective proof, but "evidence for convincing people of the truth"
In a trial, a jury has to decide what is truth - different accusations require a different level of truth. For some it is the preponderance of the evidence - the scale weighs down on one side or another. In another setting it might be "beyond a reasonable doubt" - so that if there is any doubt about it then there is no conviction.