Do you know what faith is? Do you know if your faith is pleasing to God?
Yesterday I mentioned a definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1. After teaching that description of faith, the writer of Hebrews begins to describe some of the heroes of the Bible and how they demonstrated faith in God. First he mentions Abel and Enoch.
Then in verse 6 he says this: “Without faith it is impossible to please God…”
That’s pretty serious. If we want to please God, we have to have faith. What kind of faith? How much faith? What will it look like or feel like? Will we know if we have true faith that pleases God?
The writer goes on, still in verse 6: “…because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
It seems to me that the writer is mostly talking about the intellectual side of faith. The New Testament often refers to it as “belief”. It is saying, “I believe God exists.” That alone is quite an astounding thing to say and believe in this day and age. Statistics point to a rise in those who do not believe in God. Belief in God can be construed as crazy. “You believe in God? How quaint.” In our scientific world, belief in God can be ridiculed, or said to be a crutch for the weak minded. So when we believe in the existence of God, we are stepping out in faith.
Faith, then, is a matter of my mind, what I believe. But that’s not all the writer of Hebrews says about faith. Look at the last part of the verse. He talks about “those who earnestly seek” God.
He describes an active faith, how we live our live. God rewards those who earnestly seek him.
As we continue along in Hebrews 11, this concept of an earnestly lived out faith is what the writer of Hebrews wants to illustrate for us through more heroes from Bible stories. He has already mentioned Abel and Enoch. Now he mentions Noah.
I want us to think about Noah’s faith. Was it just a belief in his mind?
Not at all. Noah did something totally bizarre. He built a giant boat in preparation for a great flood. And the only reason was because God told him a flood was coming, and he better build a boat. For those of you that are woodworkers, carpenters and builders, what would you do if God came to you and said, “I want you to build the Titanic out of wood, because I’m sending a giant flood?”
If I heard God say that, my first thought would be, “Uh…what did you say? I don’t think I heard you right.”
But Noah? He started building a giant boat. It takes much more than just intellectual belief to choose to do what Noah did.
Next comes Abraham. Abraham, an old man, gets a wild promise from God: “You and your old wife Sarah are going to be the parents of a great nation.” In other words, “You are going to have a baby.” Those of you who are in your 50s, 60s, 70s, what would you do if you had a dream, a vivid dream, and in it God says to you, “You are going to have a baby?” Many of us would laugh, just like Sarah did.
But in the end, Abraham and Sarah believed and followed through, and God gave the a son. It takes much more than just intellectual belief to choose to do what Abraham did.
Interestingly the Old Testament Hebrew does not have a strictly intellectual concept faith or belief. Instead the Hebrew is the word “faithfulness”, which is active. Noah’s faith was pretty active wasn’t it? And Abraham’s faith was too.
Our picture of faith is starting to fill out. Faith is intellectual beliefs, and it is physical action. How does your belief and life match up to this picture of faith?