Hebrews 11:1-16 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval.
3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. 4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
8 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. 9 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; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
In today’s text the writer begins by defining or describing faith. It says: Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Many times it seems as though we have a hope in Christ, we have a hope in the promises of God. There is a difference between having faith and having hope. With hope we may have heard or read about God’s promises, we may have seen them come to pass for others, but in our own situation, in our own circumstances, we don’t have confidence that it will work out. We hope for the best, all the while fearing the worst. Fear really is an opposite of faith. Fear is believing more in what we don’t want to happen than what we hope or desire to happen. Fear robs us of faith. Faith is believing regardless of what we see, what the evidence of the circumstances may be. Faith is the assurance, believing beyond the evidence, that what God says is true. Our faith is increased by the things we see and the things we read about others, but at its foundation our faith must be established on and in God and Jesus. We must believe God, who we don’t see, more than the circumstances we see and experience.
God is an extraordinary God. He created and maintains the heavens and the earth. Surely He can take care of us. While He is an extraordinary God, capable of things beyond our comprehension, He is also the God of the ordinary. He cares about the normal everyday things in our lives. Jesus says: “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on… Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’… your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25-33) Jesus also says: “truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (Matthew 17:20) Our faith to trust and believe for great things, increases as we trust and believe for everyday ordinary things. How can we have faith to believe we can open blind eyes if we have not trusted God to take away the pain of a headache? It doesn’t mean that we don’t also do practical things, but we need to ask and believe God for things every day. Then we need to thank Him when they come to pass. That’s how we grow from hope to faith.
The text then gives an example, an application of faith in our lives. It says: By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. Indeed it does require faith to believe in creation and many will mock us for that faith. The truth is though that believing what they believe, that everything we see came from nothing, that the order and perfection of creation happened and continues to happen by chance, also requires faith. They too must believe in something that they cannot see. The text says we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God. It is more than a theory to explain the unexplainable, it is knowing, it is believing, it is trusting what God has said and what the Holy Spirit bears witness of, it is the logical belief that something that was created requires that there be a creator, rather than the foolish belief that something spontaneously came from nothing and order was the result of chaos. Believing that God is the God of creation is vital to our believing that He will answer our prayers and provide for us. Hebrews 11:6 says: without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. We must believe that God is, in order to believe what He will do. The one who questions that God is cannot have faith to believe. Without faith, we are also without the assurance of hope. We are hopeless.
The rest of the text gives examples of men and women of faith from the Bible. It cites people who trusted and believed God and His promises despite what they saw and experienced. Many of them waited long periods, almost their entire lives, to see the fulfillment of God’s promises for them. Many of them, like we ourselves often do, tried to make the promises come to pass on their own, interfering and delaying the plan God had and has. These accounts are there to encourage us and build our faith. One of the most important lessons we can learn from these accounts of faith is the importance of patience and perseverance. Hebrews 6:12 says: so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. James 1:2-4 says: count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
The text ends saying: All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. Like them, we will not see the fullness of our inheritance and of God’s promises to us here on earth. We too are only temporary residents here. Whether we are given many or few days here on this earth, they are really but a twinkling in the scheme of eternity, where we have confidence that God will bless forever through Christ. God says: I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.(Jeremiah 29:11) Jesus says: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) There is a plan and a promise for each of us here, in this life. Then for us, like those before us: But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit. I have faith, I believe that You will accomplish everything You have planned and promised, here, now and forever. Amen