Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.Hebrews 11:1-3
What is enduring faith?
You may have noticed if you have been reading through Hebrews that there are several themes. Two reoccurring ideas are in these first three verses — the idea of “confidence,” and the idea of “enduring faith.”
A favorite verse of mine about confidence is found in Isaiah 32:17 – “The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.” Confidence is to be persuaded, an inward certainty of truths that can’t be seen or touched. One fruit of our salvation is unshaken confidence which can also be translated FAITH! Faith is a gift from God!
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—Ephesians 2:8
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
The author of Hebrews starts with that idea of FAITH and describes enduring faith as steadfast, calm courage, resolute, seeing “ultimate reality,” both the spiritual and future realms. The witnesses, the ancients, believed the promises of God even though they had not experienced the fulfillment of them! Not only were they witnesses for God but God bore witness of them, affirming their lives of faith!
Some realities are unseen because they belong to the spiritual realm and some because they lie in the future, when that realm will break into the earthly sphere. In either case, the person of faith lives out a bold confidence in God’s greater realities.NIV Application Commentary, G. H. Guthrie, 1998
The creation story is a foundational truth for these witnesses. Although they did not see God create, they knew that He did speak the world into existence, that out of nothing came the explosion of light! And because God is the creator, He is also sovereign and worthy of worship! The created answers to the creator!
What is not seen is a greater reality,
even greater reality than what we experience with our human senses!
Three examples of faith: Abel, Enoch, and Noah
By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.Hebrews 11:4
Abel’s story in Genesis 4 is interesting in its lack of detail.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.Genesis 4:2-5
Why was Abel’s offering accepted and Cain’s was not? The author of Hebrews says it was because Abel offered his gift in faith! Our sacrifices and offerings are always more about our motives, our hearts, than the quantity or quality of the offering itself. The story of the widow’s mite illustrates this so well –
And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”Luke 21:1-4
I’m reminded even in this moment, that God is not interested in “some of the fruits” of our labor; He calls us to give Him our all! The hymn writer put it this way – “Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid? Your heart does the Spirit control? You can only be blest, and have peace and sweet rest, as you yield Him your body and soul.”
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.Hebrews 11:5-6
Enoch’s story is also told in just 4 verses in Genesis 5:21 – 24. In those few verses a key phrase is repeated, Enoch walked faithfully with God! The Greek Septuagint records that phrase as “Enoch was well-pleasing to God,” which the author of Hebrews picks up on as he explains Enoch pleased God.
Are there still some among you who hold that “only believing” is enough? Believing in one God? Well, remember that the demons believe this too—so strongly that they tremble in terror!James 2:19
It is not enough to “just” believe that God exists – even the demons believe that. We must earnestly seek Him. In the previous chapter, the author of Hebrews reminded us that God takes no pleasure in the ones who shrink back. Instead God finds pleasure in, is pleased with those who hold fast to their convictions, whose faith is anchored in the redemptive God! And so Enoch was commended for his faith – Enoch pleased God!
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.Hebrews 11:7
Noah’s story is more elaborate than the first two examples given to us. Noah is the first to act on a message received by God – a mysterious message that required a courageous response. Noah’s faith was an act of obedience, on public display for all to see! No doubt Noah was questioned and mocked about building an ark. Surely his neighbors thought him crazy. And yet, Noah followed God’s detailed instructions completely! Noah’s obedience was a public rebuke. Our pastor pointed us to 1 Peter 3:15-16 as application:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.1 Peter 3:15-16
Noah had to respond to his neighbors’ questions, their mockery. And we might also be called to respond to the hope to which we cling. The key element of our response is in our tone, our attitude, our humility – responding with gentleness and respect – so that our conscience is clear and others might be ashamed of their slander.
Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord – not because of moral perfection – but because Noah believed God!
The crowds followed Jesus because He fed them; the crowds wanted to know how to get in on God’s works – Jesus answered them, “Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you.” That puzzled them – so they asked, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” Jesus’ words echo throughout the Hebrews ‘hall of fame:’
“This is the only work God wants from you:John 6:29
Believe in the one he has sent.”
Again, I am reminded that our belief, our faith, is a gift from God! My prayer today, just as the disciples asked in Luke 17, Increase my faith!
Increase my faith, dear Lord, I pray, that I may have more working power;Henry Van Hoose
And when the tempter comes my way, Lord, keep me in each trying hour.
I want my faith to please thee, Lord, thy charge to keep, I must not fail.
I have a blessed hope steadfast, ’tis anchored safe within the veil.
I thank thee, Lord, for living faith, by which I’ll live till life is over;
then still by faith on wings of love, I’ll soar away to heaven’s shore.
O hear my earnest prayer, dear Lord, and make me stronger day by day;
And when the cross seems hard to bear, increase my faith, dear Lord, I pray.
PS – If you want to go back through my notes on the Hebrews series – here are the links:
- Better than Melchizedek
- A Better Covenant 1
- A Better Covenant 2
- The Imperfect System
- A Better Sacrifice
- Mediator of a New Covenant
- Once for All
- Shadow vs Reality
- Perfect Forever
- Draw Near
- A Fearful Expectation
- Remember the Early Days
If you are interested in this sermon series, check out our church website, click here, series, “Look to Jesus.”