“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Our reading for today, Hebrews 11, opens with this short definition of faith. Although this definition is not long, it is not necessarily simple. The concept of faith – believing in something we cannot see – is complicated, at least for me. The author of Hebrews knows that just giving us a definition won’t make the concept any more real to us. So, he gives us examples of people who have obeyed God by faith alone. The author of Hebrews names Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, the Israelites, and Rahab! As if these were not enough, the author tells us that he doesn’t even have time to tell us of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets!
Listen to what just a few of these people accomplished through faith: Noah obeyed God and built an ark – even though he had never seen rain. Abraham obeyed God and traveled with his people to an unknown land. The Israelites believed God and crossed the Red Sea – on dry land. The walls of Jericho fell after the people obeyed God’s instructions and faithfully marched around it seven times. “Through faith [they] conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight…received back their dead by resurrection.” (Hebrews 11:33-35)
What have you done in your life that you could not have done without your faith in God? In 1998, our family moved from upstate New York to Central Illinois – far away from our family and friends. We did not know a single person here in Bloomington / Normal when we arrived. Yet we knew that God was leading us here, and so we moved in faith. A few years later, in the summer of 2000, my husband and I decided to homeschool our children. At the time, we knew only two families who homeschooled; yet we knew that God was asking us to teach our kids at home. And so we obeyed, in faith.
Opposition often accompanies obedience. We read in Hebrews 11 that many “were tortured…suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment…were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword…went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated…wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves…” (Hebrews 11:35-38). In both of the situations I described above, we encountered opposition from friends and family who disagreed with our decisions (although certainly not to the magnitude that the author of Hebrews details!) I can only imagine the opposition that Noah faced when he began building a boat before the world had ever experienced rain. Yet Scripture tells us that Noah worked on that ark in “reverent fear” (Hebrews 11:7) God saved Noah and his family from the flood. When we moved our family to Bloomington, God brought people into our lives who taught us about Jesus. The blessings of obeying God and following Him in faith far outweigh any opposition we encounter.
What could you do, what dream could you accomplish, because you have faith in God? Today, listen to the stirrings in your heart. Begin to dream big. And remember that God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think! (Ephesians 3:20).