Wrapping Up Faith
This week we concluded our extended look at chapter 11 in the book of Hebrews. The famous "faith chapter," as it is known, has had much to teach us. In an attempt to "put a bow" on this section of our study, I want to briefly just summarize a few key points or important takeaways for us in regards to faith - what it is, how it works, and why it is so important to us as Christians.
1. Faith is a fruit of the Spirit's work in our lives
The Apostle Paul, doesn't mince words in his letter to the Ephesians. He tells us explicitly that the faith that leads to salvation is a gift of pure grace on behalf of God (Ephesians 2:8). This is fundamental to the Christian faith because it moves the onus for our salvation from us to God. This is what makes the gospel such good news. We have proven we can do little more than mess things up and get in our own way when it comes to proving ourselves worthy before a perfectly righteous God. If it weren't for his grace and mercy towards us, all would perish and reap the just judgement for our sins.
Too often the Christian faith is painted in a light that makes faith paramount to pulling up our bootstraps and working ourselves into a right relationship with God. If I can just "faith it enough" I can get there. And if I don't, well I guess I just need to try harder. This may be moralistic deism, but it surely isn't Christianity! The key takeaway we need to have (ALWAYS) is that even our faith is received through grace. We cannot miss that!
2. We are called to be faithful
The meaning of the word faithful isn't difficult to decipher. It literally means to be "full of faith." As Christians, we are called to faithful living. And what does that mean? It means that we live lives that are consistently being fueled by unwavering and endless trust and devotion.
Now that sounds like a tall order on the surface, doesn't it? I mean, I don't know about you, but I at times struggle with fears and doubts. Does that mean I am living in disobedience to God? I don't think so, and here's why. At the end of the day, living a faith-filled life means that we ultimately put our trust in the object of our faith. That's really what faith is, isn't it? It's trust. To be a "faithful" husband means that I am loyal and devoted to my wife and her alone. A connection like that is built on a foundation of trust.
I don't like to fly, but as an engineer, I know and understand the science behind how airplanes work. Sometimes for work or even for pleasure, I have to fly somewhere. I may not love it, but I end up getting on the plane. In a sense, that's a picture of faith. I may have fears and doubts about flying, but I ultimately trust the plane to work as it is supposed to, and so I get on board. Our faith in God works the same way. When things are difficult or scary, we may be tempted to doubt God's love and goodness towards us. But in the end, if we choose to walk in obedience (if we choose to get on board) we are proving our trust in him. And in so doing, our faith (our trust in him) proves stronger than whatever fears and doubts are tempting us not to trust. That's the calling of the Christian life...to ultimately trust God and to walk in obedience to him even when it is difficult to do so. And we are encouraged time and time and time again in the scriptures to trust God because he knows we will struggle...so he reminds us constantly.
3. Faith works both ways
One of the inevitable misuses of a text like Hebrews chapter 11 is to paint the picture that faith always leads us to the mountaintop. This is the key tactic of prosperity preachers. If we prooftext the scriptures, it is easy to paint a picture of faith that always leads to good things. But one of the key takeaways on our study over faith came this week as we wrapped up chapter 11; and that is that sometimes we can be faithful, even to death.
In fact, just a cursory knowledge of scripture will likely lead to the conclusion that sometimes, even often, really faithful people meet unpleasant ends...just look at Jesus, the apostles, and the Old Testament prophets. Almost all of them met their demise by cruel and unfortunate means as a result of their obedience to God.
It sure would be great if the story of every believer was one of the good and easy life, but that simply isn't the case. More often than not, the Christian life is one of suffering and persecution specifically for one's beliefs. We often miss this point in the scriptures because we tend to live fairly privileged and sheltered lives as Americans. But this isn't the story for many of our brothers and sisters around the world. In reality, living by faith means we will often walk in places we don't naturally want to go. However, the promise of scripture and the hope of our faith is that we are saved to a life that is not defined by this temporary existence...but by a better, eternal. and everlasting one.
If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
Part 31 - The Ups & Downs of Faith
Questions discussed in this sermon:
1. What does this list of names teach us about faith?
2. How could a quick reading of these names give us the wrong idea of faith?
3. What does your faith feel like?
Next week's lesson: Hebrews 12:1-3