Hebrews 11:1-3 (NKJV) 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
Hebrews chapter 11 is considered a definitive Biblical explanation of Faith. Within it is a list of people often referred to as God’s Hall of Fame of Faith. A hall of fame is where we enshrine those who are the best at any endeavor. I live near the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This Museum contains room after room of artifacts and memorabilia of the sport of baseball. In a prominent position in the museum is a room called the “Hall of Fame.” It contains plaques dedicated to the best who ever played the game. Hebrews 11 contains such a list of people.
I do not really think it is truly accurate to call it a “hall of fame,” even though I do call it that. A hall of fame tries to honor all those who are the all-time best of whatever the hall is celebrating. In this case, it would be impossible to have a comprehensive listing of those who have walked in outstanding faith throughout history. There are simply to many. Verse 32 of this chapter says as much.
We know that the first verse of Hebrews 11 is the clearest biblical definition of faith. It is the substance of things hoped for. Hope has many good definitions and any of them could be applied here. I like the thought that hope implies possibility. Jesus said to a father whose faith had been challenged by life, that if he could believe “all things were possible.” Faith must begin with the understanding that what is impossible in light of natural limitations is possible for God. Without hope, faith has nothing to grab hold of.
It my conviction that because faith is necessary for salvation, every Christian has faith. The new birth makes us “believers” by nature. That said, we often lose our sense of possibility. I believe that is what the devil is usually after when he opposes us. It is very difficult to cause a person who has been born again to stop believing in Jesus, the Father or the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. The goal for our enemy is to let us believe in salvation and the existence of God, while robbing us of our expectation of what God CAN do. That expectation is called hope. If active faith that can change things is the substance of what we hope for, if we are robbed of hope our faith can no longer affect the natural world.
Faith is also the evidence of what we cannot see. We cannot see God. We cannot see the realm of the spirit where God lives. We cannot see the power of God. How can we believe what we cannot see? How can we expect beyond what our senses reveal? That is what biblical faith must do.
There are a number of things that produce this in a Christian. One of them is memories of what God has done. The Old Testament calls them alters. Many times, God spoke to Israel and said build me an alter in this place. One of the reasons God often gave was so that when your children pass by, you will remember to tell them what I did.
I believe we need alters. I am not talking about living in the past. I am talking about remembering what God has done in the past. That memory becomes part of our faith evidence that if God did something once, he will do it again. If he provided for my needs once, I have evidence he will do it again. My faith is based on what I know God has done and therefore will do. Whatever God has done in the past he can and will do again. Provision has been a consistent place I have used this in my life.
I have seen God provide for me and my family in many ways. When I face another challenge or I know I am called to step into some area of ministry for which I do not have the resources, I look back on what God has done to provide for me for over 40 years of ministry. This evidence gives me the wherewithal to believe for the current situation. My faith in what God has done becomes my evidence that he will do it now.
There is another evidence that is even more sure than my own alters. That evidence is the written word of God. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing the word of God. This is a statement made in relation to salvation. Nevertheless, I believe if faith for salvation comes from hearing the Word of God on salvation, then faith for anything else the bible promises comes from hearing the Word of God on whatever he has promised.
The Word of God is his will on any subject. If the Word of God says something can be done, it can. If the Word of God says God will provide for all my needs, and it does, He will. The written Word of God is not just a book. It is a living thing that has been infused with the life of God as a seed is infused with the life of a plant. When it is planted in our heart it grows into faith for whatever it is representative of.
The Word of God for healing produces faith for healing just as the Word of God for salvation produces salvation. You can put in whatever the Bible promises to us and faith for that promise will be produced. In that sense the Word of God and the faith it produces is the evidence that what I cannot see will happen. A promise I have stood on often in my life is from Philippians.
Philippians 4:19 (NKJV) 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
When I look at my situation and the evidence assures me that there is no way I will have the resources I need, what do I look to? I look to the promise of God. My God says he will meet my need. That is the only evidence I need to know that he will. When the devil, the world, or anyone in it points to the natural evidence to “bring me “back to my senses,” I point to the supernatural evidence and continue to trust in the God who spoke the Word.
It is important to remember that the words are not magic. Our faith is not in the words but in the one who spoke the them. However, the words he spoke are evidence of what he will do. When I look at the promises in the Word of God, they supersede the evidence in the natural. I trust in the Word more than what the natural evidence tells me. I have never been disappointed. There have been times when I have not seen things happen the way I wanted them to or how I thought they would. It is important to remember that God is the one who gives the evidence and he will bring things to pass in his way and his time.
I felt it was important to give this bit of perspective and review, but it is verse 2 that caught my attention. It tells us that by faith the elders obtained a good report. That is where the hall of fame comes into play. Although it is not an exhaustive list of the people who did outstanding things by faith, it is a representative list of Old Testament characters that did. The final verse of chapter 11 points to the fact that we have something greater than they did and that what they did was pointing towards us.
Hebrews 11:40 (NKJV) 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
Although what we have is better, it is still faith. If the Old Testament elders listed here could obtain a good report from God by walking in faith, how much more can we obtain a better report if we follow their example. What did the people in this chapter do to obtain the “good report?” What attitudes can we learn from them that will help us in our faith walk? That is what we are going to find out.