What kind of faith will you leave behind?

November 18, 2023

man in black jacket walking on brown field during daytime

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.

Hebrews 11:1-2

Introduction

Hebrews 11 is often famous for two things: one, we get a succinct definition of what faith is, and this is helpful as we get from God Himself what He means when He says ‘faith.’ Two, we get a bunch of names that make former Sunday Schoolers giddy and excited after reading 10 chapters of unfamiliar concepts of the sacrifice. What I mean is we get to hear about the exploits of faith of familiar Bible characters. This familiarity and popularity has birthed countless commentaries and articles from venerable authors, of which I am unworthy to untie the sandals of. So why another article on Hebrews 11?

I am writing this because I believe it is important for us to know about it, because one, who doesn’t like Hebrews 11, right? And second, like how a low carb plan can show us its benefits in the long run, this chapter can help us frame how we pursue our journey towards Christlikeness in today’s confusing and chaotic landscape. Thus I have written this article in a particular format that should be helpful to some of our readers (if any of you do get to read this). I will lay out in this article first, the summary of the main lesson I learned in reflecting on Hebrews 11, followed by three (or four, depending on whether I’m a Baptist today or not) points explaining the lesson learned, followed by a reiteration of the summary for retention’s sake.

So, here it is, first the summary lesson of Hebrews 11: The people cited in there are all remembered because of their faith in God in their actual trials in their lives. Now, before you say that I probably just came down from Mt. Sinai after being there for a two millenia just for citing a so obvious fact, let me make my point much clearer. Very often when we think of the men and women cited in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, we instinctively remember them as GREAT men and women of faith. Notice the emphasis on “great.” This is because we grew up in container van  school rooms with the teachers sticking the flannel version of Noah, Abraham, David on the flannel board while describing the actions and outcome of their faith. The exploits of giants slain, children almost sacrificed but let go, lions mouths shut; all makes us think that this is what a man of faith is - doing great exploits for God. Yet, the passage makes clear a few things about the kind of faith that these men and women had, and why it is a legacy worth remembering and worth repeating by us to our succeeding generations.

A faith in God expressed in times of real weakness

Very often, we think of faith as expressible in extraordinary yet imaginary moments. When we think of expressing our firm faith in God, we dream of standing up for what we believe in when we are before the antichrist (and the one world order who would be the ruling party then) asking us if we will recant our faith in Christ. We dream of standing in the mission field, bravely approaching those who look very much like an unbeliever, sharing the Gospel with them and watching them become teary-eyed.  We imagine ourselves of having faith by mental exercises of hypothetical scenarios - such as being impressed by God to give up all for the mission field - and running in your mind that if these were to happen, I will surely go and obey!

Yet the passage in Hebrews 11 tells us that the faith they expressed were encountered during actual events in their lives where they may have been weak on. Abraham was tested in giving up his only child to the Lord when God only granted him one child through Sarah. Jacob was tested in choosing to bless his sons in his deathbed, even after experiencing the betrayal of his sons in removing his favourite, Joseph from him. Rahab did not perish with the disobedient because she actually gave “a friendly welcome to the spies,” spies who had come to seek to destroy her land and her livelihood. These were no imaginary situations where we think we are the hero of the story, and the trials are amplified greatly in our minds, yet the devilish fiends of the spiritual world and our culture - from government agents seeking to persecute and high-carb ice cream cravings could not touch us. These were real life situations where the temptation to compromise is as strong as banahaw coffee drank at 2pm and keeping you awake until 2am, and the weaknesses they felt were also real. They were not super-callous strong men and women who were impervious to struggles. Yet in these circumstances, faith is unveiled to be present during an actual trouble and an actual testing, where you are deep in the situation, struggling mightily in your weakness - where you have to decide, will you believe in Christ and His promises or trust your own circumstances?

A faith in God that results in works of God

Very often, we think of faith as resulting in material blessing or self-advancement. Have faith, you will get the career you want! Have faith, you will have the dream house you have been working hard for! Faith has become a byword for the abracadabra that will result in the manifestation of whatsoever you desire in your heart - from the mansion over the hilltop with the scerenic seaside view to the ‘I do’ at the marriage altar by the leftover single guy from the BTS K-pop group.

Yet, in all the instances where faith was expressed by saints of old, it was often a fulfilment of promises God had made beforehand to His people, promises that were heard, believed upon, and acted on by Abraham, Noah, Moses, Rahab, David, and the rest of the saints. It was not a conjured up promise, nor was it a promise implied by the desires of their heart. It was one revealed by God to them, upon which they acted on even if they could not see how the promise would ever come forth.

And so, is the faith that I claim to be possessing, resulting in the works of God? Is my naming and claiming towards promises that God actually made to me through His revealed Word? Am I merely spending hours praying for earthly goods and lofty positions while neglecting to pray for the salvation of my lost loved ones? As a wife, am I praying for my wayward husband and submitting to him as the church submits to Christ - instead of bashing Him? Are you working for your earthly master as you are working unto the Lord, knowing assuredly that He who sees you is a rewarder of those who obey Him the eternal master? Should I claim belief only on the things that my deceitful heart wants, and doubt that which God has promised to be His will?

A faith in God that is an unashamed legacy

For the saints in Hebrews 11, their lasting legacy is the faith they momentarily expressed and lastingly experienced. We remember them not for the positions they have attained in this world. We recognize their names not because their names are listed as having greatest riches stored in the Bank of Israel or Judah. We don't remember them because they have been good, kind, benevolent people (though I'm sure many of them are). We remember them because of the faith they exemplified - faith that is expressed in Sacred Scripture as a pattern to follow. By pattern, I do not mean that we will face the same challenges that they had. We may not be asked to sacrifice our own son on an altar on top of a mountain. We may not be asked to hide spies coming to destroy our city. I also do not mean that we have to respond in the same way they did as written, with seemingly a non-struggle with doubt or despair. Yet, we will have our moment in life where we will be called to respond either in obedient faith, or in disobedient doubt. It may be the love-life we are pursuing, the career we are considering, the commitment to the body of Christ we are struggling with, or even the simple day to day choice of drawing near to God - that will be our lasting legacy for those who will come after us.

The pattern that the saints of old have set before us details to us the kind of faith that leaves a lasting legacy. It is a faith that first and foremost listens to God and not presumes over Him. Abraham did not presume that there was a better way to obey God's promise to offer up his son Isaac. Moses never presumed that God would not want him to not be happy and thought it better to stay in Pharaoh's household. They listened to God's voice, probably struggled with it, but yet gave Him their wholehearted trust, knowing that He knows what He is calling them to do. Second, it is a faith that acts in obedience to what is said. Abraham offered Isaac and not pretended to do so like the parishioner who pretends to be getting money from his wallet while the offering plate passes him by. Moses left Pharaoh's household, and all the riches and security it offered him to suffer with his people. He did not leave, experienced the difficulty and then later returned like a young teen committing to burn off his porn use in the campfire of the youth camp and then returning weeks later to his old bad habit. Rahab gave a friendly welcome to the spies, not pretentiously or deceptively, but boldly and courageously, even if she would have been branded a traitor. Faith expressed in obedience is a legacy worth leaving to our spouses, children, and grandchildren, especially as they enter a world that blatantly rebels against God and will one day pay for it.

Final Thoughts

In summary, to have faith in God that is worth leaving behind, it must be first, a faith that is expressed not in imaginary situations, but in times of real weakness. It is also a faith that has to lead to works of God in our lives, where the fruit of our faith is resulting in works or results in our lives that shines the spotlight on God as the bringer of such results. Finally, it has to be a faith that is worth leaving behind for others to follow and take example of. It is not to be a faith that is expressed for a while then disappears, like a father who attends a church service for a month and no longer returns. It has to be a faith that listens to God and not presumes upon Him, and that results in obedience to what God has actually said.

Yet some of you may ask, how can I have such a faith? I am not like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Rahab, and those whose names enshrined in the Holy Words of Hebrews 11. Yes, you are right, not only is your name probably not Abraham or Jacob or Rahab, you also no longer live in their time. In your perspective, you might be thinking that it they have the advantage of having a video-call like experience with God, which you assert, gives them reason to believe and gives you an excuse for your unbelief. Yet, remember how the author of Hebrews began chapter 11:  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. This asserts that no matter what advantage you think the saints of old have over you that emboldened their faith, the author reiterates that their faith is hoping on things that they have not seen. Like you, when God called them to obey and that He will bless them when they do so, in the moment of their obedience, they have not seen that blessing or have the utmost certainty that the blessing they long for would come. Abraham in sacrificing Isaac, would not have known and seen in advance that God would provide a ram as a replacement. Yet he trusted God - because the God that He had was trustworthy and a truth-teller. We have the same God today: one who tells the truth, one who is trustworthy, and this God is calling us to have faith in Him, by listening to Him and obeying what He calls us to do.

That kind of faith, is a legacy worth leaving behind.


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