January 4, 2021
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
Congratulations on making it through all 12 verses! I tried to shorten it, but there’s a critical thread in all of these ancient examples of faith that bears study. Each of these examples, with the exception of Noah, does something extraordinarily simple. And it’s counted as a shining example of faith. Bear with me as we interpret each in a modern context.
By faith, Abel tithed appropriately.
By faith, Enoch lived righteously.
By faith, Abraham moved to a new city.
By faith, Isaac and Jacob lived below their means.
By faith, Sarah had a baby.
On its surface, each of these actions seems pretty normal. I’ve done almost everything on that list. Not always well, but I’ve done it. Does this put me head and shoulders above the ancient ones? You’ve probably done many of these things. In fact, I know people with no faith foundation at all that have done all of these things and more. Do they stand above Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? So why are these examples held before us? Our primary clue is found in the very beginning of the passage, where the author says, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” The framework for all of these examples begins with the understanding that there is much more to the story than what we can see. In the same way God is beyond and before the physical world around us, the spiritual element of each example is what brings the deeper and transformative example to life. When the spiritual foundation is added, notice the difference.
By faith, Abel tithed appropriately, believing God to be his true provider.
By faith, Enoch lived righteously, by earnestly seeking God and striving to please him.
By faith, Abraham moved to a new city, out of humble obedience to God’s calling.
By faith, Isaac and Jacob lived below their means, focusing instead on their heavenly home.
By faith, Sarah had a baby, knowing she was a part of God’s larger plan.
What about you? We are all walking out simple steps every single day. We work hard at our jobs. We try to preserve our marriages. We study diligently. We take new jobs, move to new houses, start families, and feed the dog. Hebrews 11 tells us that each of these simple things can have eternal spiritual significance. Not because of the act itself, but from the foundation of faith upon which each act is built.
Today, take time before doing the most mundane of tasks, and see if you can sense a thread of faith to cling to. Don’t merely make dinner, but believe in the sacred opportunity to gather. Don’t blindly take a promotion, but instead ask God to fill you with faith for what the position or salary increase might do for His kingdom. I’m not asking you to stop and pray every time you need to tie your shoe, but try to catch a hint of the profound in the everyday. Take a simple first step in living by faith.