What is faith? Faith is the basis of Christianity. We are saved by grace through faith. We are entirely sanctified by grace through faith. We live by faith. We hope for Heaven by faith. Hebrews 11:6 says it is impossible to please God without faith. We call Hebrews 11 the faith chapter and hold it up as the example or the definition of faith, but really it speaks of faith in action. Sometimes we pit faith against works, as if the two are unrelated or possibly even opposites. There is no such problem in Scripture. Hebrews 11 is not the typical place people go to talk of faith and works, but the writer of Hebrews uses “acts” to describe great faith.
We Worship by Faith (v. 3-4)
Proper worship begins with a proper understanding of God. If we recognize and are convinced of the greatness of God, we will worship. Note that “the universe was formed by God’s command.” “Seen things were made out of unseen things.” Romans 10:17 speaks of the source of faith ultimately coming from the word of God. There is power in the Word to speak the universe into existence from nothing.
Like Abel and Cain, our “sacrifice of praise,” or worship, means nothing, if not combined with faith in the object of worship. The Hebrews’ writer tells us the reason why God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice and not with Cain’s was because of Abel’s faith. You can praise God with testimony or even give your life in service to the Kingdom, but it means nothing, if not connected to a believing heart. God has always called for a heart belief, not a works’ religion. Abel offered his sacrifice looking forward to a redeeming Savior. We offer our worship looking back to the redeeming Savior and forward to a returning King.
We Walk by Faith (v. 5)
Enoch pleased God through living by faith when few else believed (Genesis 5:22-24). In II Corinthians 5:7, Paul addresses questions about the afterlife by saying we walk by faith and not by sight while here on earth. Pleasing God must be our ultimate goal. We ask the wrong question when we say, “Can I do this and still be a Christian?” The right questions are, “Does this please God in my life?” or “What pleases God?” The starting point of pleasing God is faith and walking by faith. What does it mean to walk by faith? Look at the first verse in Hebrews. It is confidence in the One we hope for, and divine conviction in the things we cannot see. When you’re in the midst of a time when you cannot see God, ask yourself if you believe there is a God. Ask if you believe He’s a personal God. Ask if you believe the promise that He “will never leave or forsake.” Walk by faith not sight. Do what you know is right and keep going!
We Work by Faith (v. 7)
Faith leads to works. Noah served God in spite of no evident results. There was no evidence of rain for 120 years, yet Noah kept building the ark in obedience to God. He had no converts in the same amount of time. We work for God and His Kingdom, even if there is no visible evidence of results. All Christians are to be ministers of the Gospel. Have you ever felt like what you are doing is not making a difference? Have you ever felt that nothing seems to be happening? Faith is continuing to do what God asked, even when there is no physical evidence that you are making a difference. God does not ask you to make a splash; He asks you to be faithful.
We Go by Faith (v. 8)
Abraham went where God told him, even though he didn’t understand. Abraham believed God’s promise. We go and do what God tells us, even when we do not understand or do not even know where we are going. In 2009 God asked me to do something that was beyond my comfort zone, and at the time I could not see the results of that commitment. I continued doing what God asked for five years, without seeing God’s plan. It required much sacrifice in time and finances over those five years before a door opened up that I could see the purpose for which God had called me. Abraham went where God asked, and we could say that it was close to 500 years before the results of that decision were seen. Israel conquered the land of Canaan many years after Abraham had died. We follow God’s leading by faith!
We Hope by Faith (v. 10, 13-16)
The desperate need in our world is hope. Why do we have suicides, why murders, why so much more? It is because there is no hope. Christianity is the only major religion that offers hope! Why is it that most people want a happy-ending story? Is it because God has instilled in us a longing for hope? We as believers look for a city. We can hope when all hope is gone because we belong to another country; we look forward to something that supersedes all things and trials on earth.
One summer I was remodeling a house into which my family was moving. Part of the house was cordoned off by plastic, and we were sleeping in temporary sleeping areas. Dust was around at various times, and understandably, my wife and children would get frustrated at times. I was spending much of my evenings at home, working on various projects and spending little time with my family. What got us through that summer was that we had planned a week-long camping trip, and that trip was everything we had hoped for. We had a great week of family time and enjoyed that vacation more than any other previous vacation. We remember some of the stresses of that summer, but the enjoyment of that week made us forget most of the bad times. My children still talk about that camping trip and the memories we made.
Believers look forward to something much greater than a summer camping trip. Paul says, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). We survive the sufferings of this world because we hope for things that we cannot see.