Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 (NIV 1984)
Alice laughed…‘one CAN’T believe impossible things.’ ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast…’ (1)
Some people view faith like the Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll’s famous novel: it’s physically impossible to walk on water, to feed thousands of people with five small loaves and two small fish, and to rise from the dead, but I’ve just got to have faith and believe these events took place.
This, however, is not biblical faith, according to the writer of the letter to the Hebrews. For him faith is rational. The word ‘certain’ in our header scripture means to validate through evidence. That’s why some of the older translations of the Bible like the King James version use the word ‘evidence’:
‘the evidence of things not seen.’ (Hebrews 11:1, emphasis mine).
‘By faith we understand…’ (Hebrews 11:3). And the Greek word translated ‘understand’, is a word that means to think or to reason. Faith comes to understanding through reasoning. Faith, through reasoning and thinking, perceives that the ‘seen’ material world by itself does not make sense. There must be a supernatural, unseen reality as well. It is this unseen world that makes sense of the seen, and you can’t have faith unless what the Bible tells you about the unseen world makes sense.
Building on this the writer goes on to show that this faith must become personal to us. Repeatedly he tells us that individuals acted by faith:
‘By faith Noah…’ and
‘By faith Abraham…’ (Hebrews 11:7-8) and so on. Faith is a personal encounter with God. It’s God saying, ‘I want you personally’, and when that call comes into your life, it makes you question, it makes you think about what you are going to do with your life and what you are living for. It makes you question everything, and it can change the entire direction of your life.
That change of direction, in response to God’s call, leads to joyful obedience: By faith, Noah built the ark
(Hebrews 11:7), and Abraham went to the place God led him
(Hebrews 11:8). We will come to realise that there is nothing more important than our relationship with God and that there is nothing more important than living for him.
How does all this work in practice? Well, being alive in the 21st century means we didn’t see Jesus’s death, resurrection, and ascension with our own eyes, but we do have the eyewitness accounts of the New Testament writers providing us with the evidence. We can examine this evidence, be certain of these events and make them personal to us: Jesus died, rose, and ascended for me. And as he lives in us with his great love, we can now live for him in joyful obedience. This is biblical faith in action.
As we get up each morning, let’s consider afresh God’s great love and make it personal – God’s great love for me in Jesus – and then commit to living for him throughout the day ahead. Now, that’s something worthwhile to think about before breakfast.
Thank you, Father, for the gift of faith. May we be certain of the evidence before us, and personalise our faith rooted and grounded in Jesus, so that we go forward everyday living life in service to him. In Jesus’s name, we pray,
Have a good week, walking by faith.
- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, chapter 5.