Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hebrews 11:1 Faith Defined April 30 oops! June 13, oops! August 18, 2015

I am back. This has been one long year! When God called me to go into leadership in the teachers’ association, I was as eager to do it as Jonah was to go to Ninevah! It didn’t take a whale to get me here, but conditions were such that He made it desirable! So this has been the most unusual, trying year, even though I am so grateful for the people I work with and the fabulous teachers I represent. When the burden presses down on me, I remember whose it is to carry, and I’m so thankful that He is the sovereign LORD, the Almighty God of angel armies, who is in charge and who loves the children and staff of this district much more than I can imagine.

As you can see, I started this entry more than four months ago - but I’ve been in the midst of a strong spiritual battle at work, and every day I remind myself of this verse.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

The battle raging around us is one we cannot see! And that is why I’m finding comfort today in finally getting to Hebrews 11!!! So, here it is! The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a favorite of many. It is often referred to as the roll call of faith.

One of the reasons many believe that Paul was, indeed, the author of Hebrews is because of the structure of this letter. Jon Courson points out that Paul always began his epistles with doctrine (who Christ is, what He accomplished, who we are in Him), and then made practical applications telling readers how to live out this Christian faith. In the final three chapters of Hebrews, the writer now shows practically how faith is expressed in the real world. ( see Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament, P. 1493). Having argued to Jewish believers to continue in their reliance on Christ alone, not their traditions and rituals, he now shows them how, even from the very beginning, salvation has always been by faith, not by works. He begins with a definition of faith:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

After If we can actually see something, we don’t need faith. Faith requires that we believe even though we DON’T see. The world says, “Seeing is believing.” But faith says, “Believing is seeing.” It’s amazing how your eyes only open to see once you take the step of faith to believe!

This is what the ancients were commended for. (vs. 2)

As we go through this chapter, we will see how carefully the author - I’m just going to assume Paul, if that’s alright with you - chose the specific examples of faith he outlines here. It’s also significant that many names are left out. But what truly amazes me, is how EACH of them BELIEVED God without SEEING. None of them had the advantage of reading about their stories in the Bible. 

Abraham could not take courage from the stories of Abraham, he had to LIVE them. Noah had no idea what a flood would look like since he’d never seen it rain. He had not read about Noah and the flood. He did not know about the rainbow promise, but he believed that God would fulfill the promise to judge the earth! In the same way, Paul and Silas (not mentioned in this chapter), who had been brutally flogged and thrown into prison in Acts 16, were singing in prison, not because they had read the story of Paul and Silas! They had no idea how the story would turn out. They were worshiping God in the midst of their agonizing pain, believing He was in charge and that He was worthy of praise no matter what the outcome.

You and I are in the midst of our faith stories. We have no idea how they will turn out. Will God rescue us from our trials or through them? Our act of faith is to believe that God knows what He is doing; He knows where He is leading; and He has a Kingdom purpose that He is accomplishing through it all. The way we join these other heroes of faith is to just believe that He is Who He says He is and that He will keep ALL of His promises! Our story is NOT dependent upon OUR faithfulness to God, but on His faithfulness to us! Hallelujah! It’s so good to be back in here. Please pray that I will be able to stay here faithfully in the next few months to complete this study!  

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