February 21 I Sunday
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” —Hebrews 11:1-2
How can someone have faith, confident of what they hope for and assured of what they cannot see? Scripture is filled with people displaying faith in God, such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses’s parents, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and many others. We find their names in Hebrews 11, often regarded as the classic chapter on faith because the writer lists a whole range of people who had displayed faith. Hebrews 11:33-36 tells us what they experienced: “…who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.”
Yet interestingly, embedded in Hebrews 11 are two verses that stand out. The first one is verse 13: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” And the second one is verse 39: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised....” Both of those verses are summary statements, saying they did not receive the things promised even though they were living by faith when they died.
How is it that these people, who were commended for their faith, did not receive the things promised before they died? We want and expect in all likelihood an unbroken line between the exercise of faith in God and the results that we are looking for when we do. In other words, we want a straight line from faith to experience, from promise to fulfillment. It is one of the primary reasons given, in conversation with people that say they left the Christian faith: “I believed God for this and it didn’t happen.” However, this is what faith against the odds is about, being sure of what we hope and certain of what we do not see.
Living by faith is not deciding, “Today, we are going to have faith for something.” Living by faith is the basic attitude and disposition of our lives. At all times, in all circumstances, in all discouragements and in all results we live by faith. May we have faith against the odds and live in such a way that fully trusts in God.
Prayer: Dear God, may my faith stand firm in You even when it is against the odds. I ask that You keep me confident of the things hoped for and assured of things I cannot see. Thank You, God.