Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.
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. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
Hebrews 11:1-2, 13-16, 39-40
Everyone has a faith. Depending on our context, we hear about Christians and non-Christians, believers and unbelievers, the religious and the “nones”. But in reality, we all have a faith. We all put our trust in something or someone. The Old Testament version of this statement is Psalm 20:7 – “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” In the ancient world, a king (and his subjects) could easily put their trust in the power of their army. These days, chariots and horses don’t inspire the same confidence, but some trust in money and some in pleasure; some trust in career and some in family; some trust in politics and some in science; some trust in other people and some in themselves. A number of questions can help identify the real object of our faith. What defines us? In what are we trusting? Where are we looking for salvation? In what are we placing our hope?
We all have a faith, and that faith inevitably shapes the way we live. When we put our trust in money, our life becomes about acquiring, enjoying, and protecting the things we love. When we put our trust in other people, our life becomes about pleasing the people we value. The problem is, other objects of faith ultimately fail us because they can’t deliver what they promise. They’re like a chair that looks like it can hold us, but it cracks when we sit on it. We’re tempted to put our trust in things we can see and touch, but the Lord reminds us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). We try to find our life and make our home in this world, but the Lord reminds us that we are “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
Faith in Christ is altogether different. Though we can’t see Him with our physical eyes, Jesus is the only one who can bear the weight of our trust. He alone can save, and He alone can satisfy hearts longing for life and purpose. In the world, things get done by human wisdom, effort, and resources. But in the kingdom of God, things get done by faith. Hebrews 11 reminds us that God commended the men and women of the Old Testament, not for their works, but for their faith. As they looked away from themselves and put their trust in the Lord, He worked out His redemption in their lives and times. But that was then, this is now, we might think. They lived before and we live after Christ’s incarnation, so what can we learn from them? This chapter responds, “A lot.” Their life of faith thousands of years ago is an example of authentic faith that still speaks today. Though they died, through their faith, they still speak (Hebrews 11:4). Are we listening?
Do we believe that without faith it is impossible to please God? Do we trust that He rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6)? Are we content with the world as we know it, or do we long for a better country? Do we trust that God is not ashamed to be called our God, for He has prepared a city for us (Hebrews 11:16)? Do we consider “the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures” of this world (Hebrews 11:26)? Friends, we all have a faith, and we all live by that faith. But only faith in Christ has “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” This great cloud of witnesses poses the question: Will we walk by faith or by sight?