Thursday, July 16, 2009

By God’s Faithfulness… (Hebrews 11) 160709

Chapter 11 of Hebrews is a classic. When I was a young Christian, I was taught to call this chapter the “Hall of Faith” or the “Hall of the Faithful”. And all those names being mentioned in this chapter are to be called the “Heroes of Faith”. But as I learn and read more about the Bible, I know that some or most of those names are not perfect examples to be classified as “Heroes of Faith”, maybe except the one in verse 4 (just kidding).

George H. Guthrie commented that the general pattern followed with each example throughout chapter 11 is as follows: (a) The word pistei (“by faith”); (b) the name of the person who by his or her own faith or the faith of another is being used as an example; (c) the action or event by which faith is expressed; and (d) the positive outcome.

Sometimes the positive outcome is omitted, as in each of the examples at 11:20 – 22; at other times the author includes a concession (e.g., “even though” at 11:11) or a rationale for the act of faith (e.g., 11:10, 19, 23, 26).

The common denominator for all these names is the word “by faith”. In my own understanding of faith, it is not merely a hope or some kind of confident feeling or trust; it is Jesus Christ Himself. Faith is a Person. Faith is tangible. The KJV Bible translates verse one as: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for. In other words, faith is something of substantial nature, essence, actual being, and reality (this range of meanings are taken from its Greek word, hypostasis.)

That is why Christian faith is more than just a belief system or having a hope. It is both factual and irrational. Factual because we know the facts about the one who we believe in and the one who put our trust in to follow. Irrational because we act and live our lives in accordance to a new reality, which is the spiritual reality; this is a life of faith. This is what we call, live by faith.

By faith, we do crazy stuffs. By faith, I married my wife; and I am loved. By faith, I left teaching profession and become a pastor; and I am enriched. By faith, I have a child; and I grateful. By faith, I love the people around me; and I am maturing in patience. Similarly, by faith, you give away one month of your salary to the church; and you have freedom. By faith, you give your child a hug after he has failed his Maths test; and you have multiplied love. By faith, you refuse to cheat at your parking coupons; your get to keep your car!

We do all these because we know God is faithful. It is because of His faithfulness; we can do all these crazy stuffs and still be blessed. As I say, many of those names mentioned in Hebrews 11 are not exactly heroes; they might be even “zeroes” like Gideon, Barak, Samson (v32). But the point is not about whom those people were or what had they done; it is all about God and His faithfulness. It is not by their faith that they are in Hebrews 11; it is by God’s faithfulness.

Maybe the next time when you read Hebrews 11, whenever you come across the phrase “by faith”, change it to “by God’s faithfulness”. Therefore, do whatever God has led you to do, it maybe crazy, do it by God’s faithfulness.


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