Scripture Reading: Hebrews 11 - 13 ...
The very definition of “faith” points those who know the one true God to the future with anticipation and hope! "Now faith is BEING SURE of what we hope for and CERTAIN of what we do not see" (11:1). Some have called those listed in Chapter 11, "Heroes of the Faith," but they would not have considered themselves to be heroes. They were ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary things through the strength God gave them. "Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him" (11:6). Perhaps the central figure of those who lived by faith is Abraham. It was with Abraham that God made His Covenant of Grace that includes Jews and Gentiles who believe in the promised Savior, Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The promises of the covenant were fulfilled through Isaac and Jacob and then the "Seed of Abraham," Jesus Himself.
As he describes Abraham's faith, the writer explains, "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. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth" (11:13). What a way to live ... understanding that this earth is not our permanent home. We have freedom to give our lives to God because we know that we have eternal life waiting for us. This life is for HIM, and when it is over, we will rejoice in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness ... a perfect new world for those whom God will make perfect, even as He sees us now by faith!
It makes me angry to hear those who are rich in the things of this world speak as though that were the goal of this life. Hebrews 11 makes it clear that a life of ease is not GOD's goal for those who have faith. The lives of those whose names are mentioned were anything BUT easy, yet they knew God was with them and they trusted Him. Anybody can say they believe in God when things are going the way they want them to go. It is when life gets hard that you discover whether you really have faith or not. They "quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword ... weakness was turned to strength ... they were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection ... the world was not worthy of them" (11:34-38). Once again you see those living by faith looking to the future, to something BETTER! And we aren't even to Chapter 12 yet!!
What is the something "better" that God has promised to those who know Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord? "God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect" (11:40). That's IT: PERFECTION!! Holiness, righteousness ... being reconciled to God and restored to His image. Heaven and eternity on a new earth await believers and that's why we look FORWARD!! Which takes us to the application in Chapter 12: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus ... consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (12:1-3). Perseverance in the present is the fruit of looking to the future.
Some think believers are "so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good," but that is ignorance speaking. The only way to live by faith is to know that your future is secure. Faith in God requires knowing who God IS and Chapter 12 includes the knowledge that "God disciplines those He loves" (12:6). God is holy and only through faith in Jesus can you know your sins are forgiven and that you can approach God as He is seated on His throne in heaven. THINK of that!!!! "You have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God! ... You have come to God, the Judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of a new covenant ..." (12:22-24).
Our hope is in Jesus Christ, for through Him we are brought into the presence of our Father in heaven. Those who do not know Jesus do not know God and their faith is merely an illusion. As soon as trials come they give up, and as soon as persecution strikes they run away. Theirs is a "fair-weather" faith that is not grounded in the knowledge of the God of salvation, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all those who have lived by faith since the creation of the world. The knowledge of God, of ourselves and of our Savior is the only thing that leads to true faith ... a faith that endures when everything else is shaken.
God tells us that He is going to SHAKE the whole earth and the heavens at the coming of Jesus. But we who live by faith in Jesus today do not have to be afraid. "Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire!" (12:28-29). We are free from guilt and fear and free to worship and rejoice in our God and our Savior Jesus Christ! His Spirit has given us life and we are now reconciled to God. Now we are called to live by faith, listening to God's instructions and obeying His commands. God has placed leaders over you in the local church and He tells you to "Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith" (13:7). Why? Because "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever" (13:8). If He could be trusted yesterday, He can be trusted today and tomorrow and forever!!!!
So now, at this moment, "May the God of peace ... equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen!"
"Father in heaven, as I live in this world I ask that You would help me to keep my mind and heart on You and Your promises. Give me wisdom and grace to live with hope, trusting You to never leave me or forsake me. I NEED YOU! Every moment of every day I need You to help me to live by faith, to not grow weary, to persevere, to endure. In my weakness, make me strong!! I love You, O Lord, my God!! In Jesus' name, Amen"