Hebrews 10:38-39 & 11:1-3
38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
These verses in Hebrews are critical for understanding what faith is and why it is important. Verse 38 states that the just live by faith, indicating that faith is key to our very existence. Verse 38 also points out that there is potential to draw back from faith, which we’ll explore in more depth in another post. Verse one of chapter 11 defines faith. In verse two we read that the Hebrew elders received a good report, from God, because of their faith. Lastly, verse three states that it is faith that enables us to trust that God created everything in the worlds that we can see, by his spoken word.
In this post, let’s delve into what faith is. For the most part, we’ll let the Word of God define its meaning. Starting with Hebrews 11:1, now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. The Complete Jewish Bible says it this way, Trusting is being confident of what we hope for, convinced about things we do not see.
At its most basic level, faith is trust. The dictionary defines faith as complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Trust is defined as a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
Trust, or faith, comes from experience. The more experience you have with someone that confirms their truthfulness, reliability, ability or strength, the more trust in their truthfulness, reliability, ability or strength you’ll have. You can’t really trust or rely on someone if you don’t know them or have never had any experiences that validated their strengths or abilities. You start out willing to give them a chance, then as they prove themselves, trust develops.
As we’ve seen, the development of faith is a personal matter. When faith in God is ignited in you through the words preached, it shouldn’t stop there. You must develop a personal, direct relationship with God, through the mediation of Jesus and his anointing, see Ephesians 2: 18,19. The messages that you hear preached should fuel and enhance your own personal study; they shouldn’t replace your personal study. Corporate praise and worship are wonderful and so powerful, but they shouldn’t replace your own time of praise and worship. Don’t rely on other people’s prayers or study. You have to know God for yourself, so you have to go to God, yourself. Become familiar with how God leads, guides, and directs you, personally. Jesus died and was resurrected so that we all could have personal relationships with God. He is the only mediator that we need.
In Romans 10:1-16, Paul explains that salvation comes from words of faith being preached by those who have been sent to deliver them. He ends by writing in verse 17 that faith is by hearing and hearing is by the Word of God. Now, what’s that got to do with trusting? Faith in God, in who he is and how he operates, is sparked or ignited when it is heard and believed. When you hear faith being taught, it ignites faith in you to believe it. You believe that there is a God, and you believe in His Son, Jesus. You then seek Him out for yourself. Faith develops, grows, and deepens in you as you experience, for yourself, that the words about Him are true. The more you experience God personally, the more you believe that He exists, and the more familiar you become with how He operates.
Experience without trust doesn’t work either. In Hebrews 3, the author is writing to Jewish believers, encouraging them to keep trusting in Jesus as the Messiah. He compared Jesus’ ministry to Moses’ experience leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt. In verses 7-10, he reminds them of what’s written in Psalms 95:
7 That is why the Holy Spirit says,“Today when you hear his voice,8 don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness. 9 There your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw my miracles for forty years. 10 So I was angry with them, and I said, ‘Their hearts always turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’ 11 So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”
The Children of Israel experienced God’s miracles. They saw them with their eyes and experienced them in various ways. However, who among them had a personal, direct relationship with God? Only Moses. Aaron, Caleb and Joshua trusted in God, but only Moses had a direct, personal relationship with God. The Children of Israel experienced the evidence of God for 40 years but didn’t trust him for themselves, so they constantly rebelled.
Being in an atmosphere where God is moving will not sustain you, you have to experience Him for yourself in order to trust him enough to continue building a relationship with him. In the post, Getting to Know the God Who Knows You, we explored how much God loves us and desires to have a relationship with us. In that post we read Ephesians 1:5 which says, He [Adonai] determined in advance that through Yeshua the Messiah we would be his sons- in keeping with his pleasure and purpose (CJB). Here we see that it is God’s purpose and pleasure to bring us into his family as sons and daughters. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says that God himself has called us into fellowship with his Son Jesus.
Faith without corresponding action does us no good, either. James 2:17 says, Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. To me, faith is trust-anchored obedience. We trust that God is and that he made heaven and earth by the words of his mouth. We trust that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died and was raised to life again. We trust that through Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection, we ourselves will be raised from the dead. We believed these things through the Word of God that we heard or read. They became significant enough to us personally that we acted on them, and accepted Jesus as Lord of our lives. That was our faith put into action. We said the words we were instructed to say based on the trust we had in our hearts. That process does not change after salvation. Faith is trusting God enough to believe what He reveals about Himself and to do what He directs us to do.