Aug 28, 2006

Examples of Faith, Part I

Hebrews 11:8–23

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb. 11:13).

The nineteenth-century Christian existentialist Søren Kierkegaard once said about his times: “My complaint is not that the age is wicked but that it is paltry.” Greatly discouraged by the lack of passion among many in the Danish Lutheran church, Kierkegaard often read the Old Testament narratives for encouragement. There, he said, are examples of real people who, though at one time adulterers, thieves, and murderers, nevertheless persevered in vibrant faith.

The Old Testament crushes the notion that passionate faith is out of touch with reality. In fact, the faith evident in the saints of old was often born out of turmoil. Authentic faith in our day, like it did in ages past, manifests itself when we trust God in the midst of difficulties.

Today we read of several old covenant examples of the life of faith. Beginning with Abraham, we are reminded again that the patriarch went out of Ur and into Canaan “by faith” (Heb. 11:8). Lest we think Abraham’s journey lacked real sacrifice, we must remember that he was an old man with established ties when God called him (Gen. 12:4). He abandoned all he had and left his comfortable home for a land he had not yet seen. Talk about faith! How could he have been able to make the journey if he did not believe the Lord?

Ultimately, the real question of faith is not whether we will believe in God but whether we will believe God. Anyone can be a theoretical theist, for even the demons believe in God (James 2:19). However, only those with authentic, justifying faith will believe God and manifest this trust through obedience to His call (vv. 14–26).

Abraham displayed faith in his willingness to consider himself a stranger on the earth (Heb. 11:13). The only piece of Canaan he ever owned was his grave site (Gen. 23), and yet his purchase of it revealed confidence that the Lord would indeed give him the land one day. He would own it, as it were, by depositing his bones there, staking a claim to be realized in full when Jesus returns and when he is raised to new life (Heb. 11:14–16; see also vv. 17–19, 22). Similarly, today we must do what seems foolish to the world and trust in the promise of resurrected life that will not be fully ours until the future.

Coram Deo

Faith entails believing God will fulfill His promises despite the world’s opinion. The world tells us to store up treasures for ourselves, but Jesus says we must hold our blessings loosely so we can share them with others (Matt. 6:19–21). Some non-Christians think it foolish to invest time and money in the work of the kingdom, but we know that such brings an eternal reward. Be encouraged in your faith if you share what you have and strive to do so even more.

For Further Study