Author’s note: This post was adapted and reworked from a post I wrote for my personal blog: Jeofurry’s Jesus Journey. For those who would want to ask, Jeofurry is an old, but unique, nickname I was given in HS.
A few months back in our Thursday night Bible study, we were working our way through Hebrews and the end of chapter 10 into the beginning of chapter 11. Most believers remember Hebrews 11 as the “Faith Hall of Fame” or some similar moniker. But we sometimes forget the faith embodied by those mentioned there. It wasn’t perfect or flawless. The men and women cited there were deeply flawed in most cases, just like the rest of us. But they took action and stepped out to follow God in faith. So what does it mean to live by faith?
It might be easier to start by pointing out a couple of things that it doesn’t mean. The life of faith for a follower of Jesus isn’t a blind faith. It is an examined faith. The writer of Hebrews says that faith is being certain and sure. These words point to a faith that is based on something solid. Now, many scoff and say that there is no proof for God or for Christianity, but in so doing they reveal themselves to be less than curious and unwilling to examine the evidence (or some may try to hide behind the veil of scientific evidence, which is frankly less valid than eyewitness testimony). There is plenty of evidence for those who are willing to examine it(some even claim there is scientific evidence, but that is another argument) and Scripture has proved its reliability over several thousand years now. Hebrews 11 presents a case for the faithfulness of God in the lives of many who have found him faithful, but I can certainly make a list of the times He has proved faithful in my life and I am sure many of you can as well.
The writer of Hebrews presents a second statement regarding faith that we must look to as the bedrock of this idea of living by faith. He says, “and 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.”
The first step of living by faith is to believe that God exists. This is the basis of the first commandment of the 10 commandments according to the Jewish reckoning:
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. – Exodus 20:2
I know most Christians don’t count this as a commandment, but perhaps we should considering this tie with Hebrews. Without accepting this very basic premise, faith is pointless. We have to believe that God exists. Paul makes his case for this in Romans 1 by telling us that God has left Himself a witness:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. – Romans 1:19-20
There is another part to the original statement from Hebrews 11:6 to consider as well. God rewards of those who seek Him. I was listening to some teaching about this idea and heard an interesting comparison. There are plenty of people who do “good things” for various reasons. In fact, there are many atheists who do things that are essentially obedience to some of the same commandments of God’s that most believers ascribe to as well. The blatantly obvious moral things like not lying or stealing and other parts of the “moral laws” as some would label them. This is mostly because we have a conscience (Paul also mentions this in Romans 1) that tells us some things are simply right or wrong. Atheists do not expect God to reward them for these things, even though He may well do so because He does not discriminate in the application of His principles(Matthew 5:44-45). The point is, it doesn’t take a person of faith to do some of God’s commandments; particularly those that are self-evident if you will. But there are some commandments that don’t seem to make sense to us.
In my experience, we tend to point to these less understandable ones as the ones that are “done away with” or “outdated” or something along those lines. Sometimes, it is because they are inconvenient or unpalatable. Depending on your particular interpretation they may be up for debate in some quarters. But let me challenge you a little bit. Those commandments that are still possible to obey today (i.e. not those related to the Temple and things like that), offer a great opportunity for you to experience God in a new way as you take them on, by faith. They provide a framework to live out a life of faith in the one who gave them as instructions for His people. This isn’t about getting saved, it is about growing up in our salvation, and obeying His Word because we are His people. (1 Peter 2:2-12) Faith doesn’t let us sit still; it moves us to action and gives us expectation.
God does promise rewards/blessings for those who keep them, just like the author of Hebrews mentioned as well, and who am I to argue with Him about that. So what do you think? I have found great joy in taking God as His word and living and experiencing His faithfulness to keep His promises and I learned something. Faith is a verb.