I hope I don't forget about faith!
What would you say are some of the most important things in life? I asked Google this question and here’s one list I found: Peace, Health, Family and Friends, Purpose, Time, Learning, and Love. Apparently, whoever wrote this list didn’t think oxygen and shelter made the cut, but I guess that just goes to show you can’t always trust everything you read on the internet!
Here’s another random list I found from liveboldandbloom.com: Your relationships, Your Authenticity, Your Work/Life Balance, Your Mental Health, Your Physical Health, Your Integrity, Your Curiosity, Your Time, Your Contribution, Your Love.
This next list from someone a little more down to earth: Food, Health, Water, Air, Family, Friends, Freedom, Peace, Love, Sleep, Happiness, Education, Money, Nature, Respect, Self-Confidence, Time, Gratitude, Entertainment, Your Smile.
I don’t deny that these things aren’t important. In fact, I think most are very important, or rather necessary. But as I reflected on these lists I was reading I noticed a distinct absence of something: faith. No one listed faith as one of the most important things in life. I imagine that’s because people view this one life as the only one we get, and so everything is focused on making our time here on earth as pleasurable as possible. There is simply no thought of what comes after death. In fact, faith and religion often become a hinderance to people’s enjoyment of life and so it should really be no surprise that the average person does not value faith.
It's a heartbreaking reality that our culture does not value faith. But because they don’t, we as Christians must be so careful not to fall into the same patterns of life and thought. It’s easy for a Christian to live just like everyone else, with heads and hearts so full of the cares, concerns, and worries of each day that we forget what’s of true value. And according to one list found in the bible, these things are of value: Faith, Hope, and Love. (1 Corinthians. 13:13)
God has been teaching me a lot about faith lately, and I really do believe that faith is at the same time one of the most important things for a Christian and one of easiest things for a Christian to forget or neglect. So, for the next several weeks, we’ll be taking a look as what the Bible has to say about faith and hopefully we will all be encouraged and motivated to faith like our lives and the lives of others depended on it.
Things may change, but here’s how I see our study on faith playing out: we will spend a little bit of time in the book of Hebrews, specifically 10:19-12:29, and we will spend a lot of time exploring the lives of men and women of faith, some in the Bible and some more contemporary examples. As we’ll find out, one of the best ways to be motivated to faith or in our faith is to see the faith of others.
I’m excited to walk this journey with you because I know I need it and I think God will do some incredible work in our lives and in our church.
What is faith?
I think the best way to start our series on faith is to begin by defining faith, and to do that we turn to Hebrews 11:1. In this verse we read that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Your translation might say something like “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”)
This is a description of faith in general. Anyone anywhere who has any form of faith can relate to this definition.
According to this definition, faith relates to two important things. This first of these is hope.
In general, people often hope for things. We hope it won’t rain on our picnic or we hope our back doesn’t hurt when we wake up in the morning. Hope is a feeling or a desire for an expected result or outcome.
The Hebrews definition of faith tells us that faith is married to hope. For the Christian, without hope of eternal life there is no need to have faith, and without faith there is no assurance of hope. The two, faith and hope, really do go together hand in hand.
For the past two weeks, I’ve really been struggling with keeping a good attitude. I’ve found myself irritable, impatient, angry, detached, and I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what. I kept asking God what my problem was and what I needed to do. Eventually He answered me and revealed to me that I had forgotten about my hope; I had not thought once about heaven and all that I have to look forward too. I was so distracted by my problems and responsibilities that I became blind to my hope and my faith was reduced almost to nothing, I had forgotten that the end result of everything was the new heaven and the new earth with the return of Jesus, and because I had lost sight of the finish line (Philippians 3:13), my motivation to keep running the race was dying.
If we forget about the hope assured by God to all those who have faith in Jesus, then our faith is reduced to worthless drudgery. I’m not saying that forgetting about heaven means we lose our salvation because that’s not at all the case, but we do start to live a joyless life.
Instead, the hope of heaven provides joy in the life of the believer. Paul said this in Romans 5:2 – “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Paul then said in verse 5 “Hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” So, because the Christian hope of eternal life does not disappoint because it’s been given and assured by God, we rejoice! We rejoice in hope!
So, if we lose hope or forget hope, then we will not rejoice because we’ve lost our joy.
Genuine faith in Jesus requires an assured hope, and that’s exactly what God has given to us.
There’s one more part to the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 and that is conviction or evidence of things not seen.
Those who claim to have real faith are convinced about something even if they can’t see it. The Christian is convinced first of all that God exists. As far as I know, no one has ever seen God. We haven’t seen Him and yet we are convinced that He exists. Not only are we convinced, but we are sure that we see evidence of Him all around us! Furthermore, even though we haven’t seen Jesus with our own eyes, the Christian is convinced that Jesus, God the Son, came to the earth in the likeness of a man, died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, and rose again from the dead! We know these things because we have read them in the Bible which we are convinced is God’s trustworthy and inerrant word to humanity.
To the average Joe and Jane, Christians are ridiculous people. We believe and talk to a God we can’t see or hear, we order our lives around an outdated book that’s thousands of years old, and we wait for a person we’ve never met to fall from the sky. This may seem like a sacrilegious description of what a Christian believes, but that’s what people often see. And from their perspective, it’s utterly ridiculous and they are right to think so.
See, there’s one difference between average Joe and Jane and a follower of Jesus and that difference is found in Ephesians 2:8-9: “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So, what’s the difference? God’s gracious intervention.
Because of sin, the natural human heat is sinful and turned away from God by pride and selfishness and arrogance. Matters of faith and things of God seem ridiculous because sin has completely blinded us. “But God, being rich in His mercy and because of the great love with which He loved us…made us alive with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:4-5) God the Holy Spirit reaches out to sinful people and shows us our sin and His love and gives us faith and the assurance of eternal life; He gives us conviction of unseen things and provides us the eyes to see the evidence of those unseen things.
I think it’s incredible that God both provides for us the faith we need for salvation and gives us assurance of the hope we of eternal life we have because of that salvation. What this tells me then is that nothing should be able to overcome our faith or take away our hope. It also tells me that there is not much more important in this life than faith and hope in Jesus.
Next week we will be surveying Hebrews 10:19-12:29 and answering some pretty big questions about faith, but until then, I want to leave you with a question to ponder: What is the state of your faith?
Think about this, talk about it with someone else, pray about it, and please be honest through it all. It will be a question to keep thinking about the more we study faith and look at examples of those who demonstrated faith. I pray that God will move all of us to a greater and stronger faith in Him and bring us an increase in our joy as well as we are reminded of the hope set before us.