So… long story, but the commentary is still not done for my study group, even though graduation was about a month ago. I’m still plugging away, and we’re almost done. I just finished writing on Hebrews 11 (which, by the way is an amazing chapter), and thought I’d share some thoughts on the definition of faith in 11:1-2…
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for…” (11:1). In other words, faith demonstrates that the things we hope for are real. “Substance” can also be translated “surety;” our faith is what keeps our hearts steady, believing that the promises of God will surely come to pass in our lives. Without faith, we will be tempted to view the promises of God as nice ideas, pipe dreams that we cross our fingers hoping they will somehow come to pass. Such a vague sense of wishful thinking will not be enough to motivate us to live so as to attain those promises. Without faith, we remain trapped in a desperate sense of self-preservation, not sure whether or not we can count on God to follow through on His word.
With faith, however, we view those promises as a certain fact. There is no question as to whether or not Jesus is coming back for us. There is no uncertainty as to the hope of our resurrection and transformation into His likeness. We can rest assured that meekness in this age translates into glory in the age to come. This confidence and belief in God will fuel our hearts to live in righteousness and hope, joyful in the Lord.
Faith is also “the evidence of things unseen,” or to put it another way, the evidence of the supernatural activity in our lives. True faith, the kind of faith to which the author refers, is not something we can conjure up by our own imagination or desire. Rather, it comes only by divine enablement (see Eph 2:8). Once we receive faith, we must make effort to remain in it, but we first must humble ourselves and ask God to increase our faith and help us overcome our unbelief.
By faith the elders obtained a good testimony, both in the annals of history and before the throne of God. While it is impressive that their names and stories have lived on through generations of history, far more amazing is that their names are honored in heaven. The Lord’s heart is profoundly moved when His people live in steadfast faith and love. This is the God who orders a book of remembrance written for those who fear the Lord (Mal 3:16) and who stores up the tears of His loved ones in a bottle (Ps 56:8). He places a high value on a heart which responds well to Him.