If you were asked to define faith, what would you say? Faith is something we exercise? Something we jump into? Many people would say things like that, but they would be wrong. Faith is not something we do, it is reliance on something Jesus did for us.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews defined faith as ‘the assurance of things hoped for’. (Heb.11:1a).
The word hope has changed greatly since Bible times. The modern use of the word is wishing for something uncertain: ‘I hope it doesn’t rain.’
The Bible meaning of hope is sure, trusting in something reliable, anticipating good things to come.
My hope is found in nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
(hymn by Edward Mote 1797-1874)
Hebrews also says faith is ‘the conviction of things not seen.’ (Heb.11:1b). Jesus came into this world so we can be sure of things beyond what we can see. There will be a time when we do see, but until then we trust him.
The people commended in Hebrews chapter 11 didn’t know about Jesus, they lived before he came. But they trusted in the promise of God.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. (Heb.11:13)
At the White House National Prayer Breakfast, Barry Black, the first African-American Senate chaplain, preached.
Black’s mother, a sharecropper’s daughter who had a limited education but unlimited vision, had challenged him and his siblings with a promise of 5-cents for every verse they memorized.
“One day I memorized 1 Peter 1:18-19,” Black recalled. “I was only ten years of age. [The verses read,] ‘We are redeemed not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ,’ And even at ten I had sufficient analytical skills to know that the value of an object is based upon the price someone is willing to pay.”
Black continued, “And when it dawned on me, a little guy in the inner-city, that God sent what John 3 calls the only one of its kind, ‘His only begotten son,’ to die for me, no one was able to make me feel inferior again.”
The story of Cain and Abel confuses some people. They don’t understand why Cain’s offering was rejected and Abel was commended because of his offering.
In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. (Gen.4:3-5)
Read the story carefully: Cain brought only some, Abel brought the best and the first. Cain thought anything would do, Abel was more faithful. Jesus is the firstborn, Jesus is the sacrifice, Jesus is the Lamb.
… Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead … (Rev.1:5)
… without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Heb.9:22)
John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
If we put our trust in anyone else we cannot be safe.
Abel left a legacy right down to today.
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. (Heb.11:4)
Does your testimony speak of Jesus? Faith in anything else is sinking sand. We need to tell others.
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk