The sign that greets us as we enter the Hebrews hall of faith provides a definition of faith:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. (Heb. 11:1-2)
Wandering through the hall, we get a few details about seventeen hard-hitting faith players. Seven more are mentioned by name. Nineteen times the chapter uses the phrase “by faith . . .” to tell of their exploits. The descriptions follow a pattern that fits the definition we saw at the door. What unseen goal was the person pursuing? Most of all, how did they turn faith in their unseen object of hope into action? Let’s look more at the list of actions and objects; what is included and (perhaps more interesting) what is not included. Abraham is typical of the pattern:
By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Heb. 11:8-10)
Abraham is a double star; he is noted for doing two related things “by faith.” His first “action” was to leave the family home in Haran and cross a desert to an unknown destination. The second action involved a semi-nomadic life. Like every other member of the hall of faith, Abraham’s actions involved personal cost or risk.
Turning to the object of Abraham’s faith, the passage tells us he had his eyes set on the city of God. Surveying the list of faith objects in the chapter confirms that Abraham’s fits the pattern. First, God revealed it; a wishful-thinking human did not make it up. In addition, it had more to do with fulfillment of the promise to the nation, not just an individual and his clan, and it often extended beyond the horizon of death. Abraham was so motivated by a desire for God’s dwelling with men and believed in it so much that He spent a lifetime camping.
Among the grand objects of faith and the corresponding sacrificial actions in Hebrews 11, I see none of the everyday items that are the bulk of the buzz at many church meetings. It might be worth taking a few minutes to list your objects of faith in a column and write your actions next to them. When I analyze my faith objects, I come up with the following list:
- Health for a friend
- Resolution of problems at work
- The maturing of the bride of Christ
- A School of Ministry for my church
Quite a variety! I’m challenged because it is easy to become absorbed in self-centered and short term visions of which God initiated hardly any. They mostly benefit me and involve little or no risk or personal investment. Often my “actions” amount to prayer and a small financial contribution. Some are, frankly, trivial. For those items, I’m not expecting even a mention in heaven’s hall of faith!
Perhaps part of maturing in the Lord is to extend the list to include more items that are rooted in God’s eternal purposes. At the same time, presumably our conviction that such objects of faith are worth a wholehearted commitment will grow stronger.
Invite God to reveal new objects of faith to you and to call you to new levels of action. And see where it leads!
Do you know anyone who would benefit from Bible devotions like this? Please share Bible Maturity with them.