Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. Hebrews 11:1-2
Is evidence or proof something visible or invisible?
This language is typically used in the legal system where evidence or proof bears witness and draws the conclusion of what has previously gone unseen. So if our faith is the evidence that bears witness to our unseen convictions, the world around us will (though not always) be able to conclude by the expression of faith where our hope lies. In other words, your life is evidence of what you believe.
So if faith is the assurance or evidence of things hoped for, what do you hope for? What does your life, the expression of your faith, tell me is true about what you believe on the inside? Because here is the danger: we’re all pro to live for small hopes.
A controlled schedule?
A spouse? Or a more affectionate or helpful one?
Not looking dumb or irresponsible or crazy to others?
That this trial will be over soon?
Verse 1 says that our faith will be shaped by what we hope for. If I hope for an easy day, it will be evidenced by my frustrations when others’ needs must come before my own, my remarks when I’m inconvenienced, my sighs when I have to sacrifice once again.
If someone’s ultimate hope is for a spouse, their faith will be placed in whatever it is they think will attain a spouse—exercising, being accommodating, making sure they’re in the right places at the right times, even “becoming more godly.”
If we hope this season will be over soon, we’ll be disappointed easily, constantly numbing and disengaging, looking forward to the relief of the end. We won’t engage where God has us, and we’ll start looking to other places for life, joy and peace.
What we hope for dictates the movement of our lives. This is why the author of Hebrews begs believers not to throw away their confidence but instead to hold fast to their hope. He knows that if they begin to hope in anything less than Christ, their lives will be dramatically shaped by it. They won’t live lives of sacrifice. They won’t embrace the hard road of sanctification, persecution, and self-denial. They won’t persevere through the suffering that is inevitable in this life. They must cling to their eternal reward of being in God’s presence through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as their all-sufficient and eternal hope.
Dallas Willard once wrote in his book, Life Without Lack (another Bible margin note of mine), “Striving or pretending is not the way to faith. Nowhere does the Bible say that you should make yourself have faith, or that you can have faith if you say it, or that you ought to have faith because you are a Christian. Remember faith is ‘the substance of things hoped for.’ When you have faith that you will have something you are hoping for, it is because God has created that confidence in your heart, and he is going to bring it to pass in partnership with you.”
The author of Hebrews aims to conjure up this kind of confidence by taking his audience through a line of men and women whom these Jews would have highly esteemed, whom they would have looked to as the founders of their religion. What he intends to showcase is how each of them lived by faith, how they persevered to the end.
They were living for something bigger than they could see, something beyond the present circumstances, something more compelling than the “normal” life and the status quo. The author makes clear that there is simply no explanation for the expression of their faith apart from a dependent, trusting relationship with God.
I want to make the observation that each of the stories of faith in Hebrews 11 are different. Each of them was called to trust the Lord and walk in faith in ways that were unique and circumstantial. For many of us, we get caught looking to the left or the right, thinking, “I wish I had a faith like theirs.” But the reality is, we are to live with our eyes not on our brothers and sisters but on our God. Our faith will not look like theirs because we are not them. We do not have their lot, their circumstances, or their particular lives. God has chosen for each of us the exact arrangement of our days, relationships, and experiences for us to know him and love him, to trust that his promises are good and secure, to seek him in faith, and to see his glory put on display through our humble lives.
When we see a brother or sister enduring trials with supernatural joy, showing other-worldly patience in hard relationships, or loving the Word in ways we’ve yet to experience, let us, as C.S.Lewis says, “run up the sunbeam to the sun.” Don’t stop at the reflection and marvel at it, but run up to its source—consider what these people’s lives are actually saying about God. And instead of responding in shame, may it cultivate a hunger in us to know more of God.