The assurance, substance, conviction and evidence of faith
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 [f]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 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. It does indeed require faith to believe in creation, there is no proof. But in making the statement, what is seen was not made out of things which are visible, the writer of Hebrews, thousands of years ago challenges the scientific theory, put forth relatively recently, which believes that everything we see was created from some single large collection of matter, something visible, which exploded. Just as in the case of creation, there is no proof for the “Big Bang” theory. Scientists and those who trust in human knowledge and understanding scoff at the idea of a God who created everything by speaking it into existence, as the creation account in Genesis says. Yet without any proof, they believe that everything we see, even the unseen vastness and the intricacies of creation, were created through a series of random occurrences. To believe in that theory of the beginning of the universe and to believe wholly in evolution rather than creation, is to trust the theory of someone who themselves believe that it is only by chance that they are more intelligent than a slug. In truth it takes more faith, more blindly believing in the theories of science, to believe that we are the result of good luck as opposed to an intentional plan of a creative God. Each person is free to follow the faith of their own choosing, at least in God’s world. In the world of science, those who disagree, those who reject the accepted theory are ridiculed and ostracized. I choose to follow the logical evidence of what is seen and what is unseen.
The text 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. There are many who say that faith in God is an intolerant and exclusionary belief system. They say that it is intolerant to exclude those who think differently, even though that is what they do. But it really is simple truth, if someone does not believe that God is, that He exists, how can they possibly please Him? Why would someone even try to please someone they don’t believe in? The second part of the statement is also simple truth. God rewards those who having believed that He is God, seek Him. The writer of Hebrews lists a number of people who lived their lives based on believing God yet did not see the fulfillment of all that they were promised. They did not receive the full reward of their faith in this life. The text says: 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. We too, like all these people, may not receive all of the promises, all of the rewards of God, here on earth, where we are temporary residents. The fullness of what we are promised is actually the promise and the blessings of the kingdom of heaven, not of this earthly realm. Yet the text begins saying: Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. The King James translation says: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Our faith in the promises and blessing, the rewards of God for protection, provision, prosperity, healing etc have assurance and substance, there is conviction and evidence of what these things are for us. We have assurance because of the substance of God’s goodness we have known and seen. We have the conviction to believe we will see, based on the evidence we have seen and heard. There may have been no one present, at creation, to provide the evidence of an eye witness account, yet the vastness and the intricacy of creation is evidence itself. We do though have eye witness accounts of God’s blessings, His protection, provision, healing and all sorts of miracles. They are provided for us in scripture and can be heard and seen from and in those who believe He is God today.
The text says: Those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 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. Colossians 3:2-4 says: Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. The fullness of God’s promises and His blessings will be ours with Christ in glory. We should indeed live our lives with an eye toward that future promise and assurance. Yet Jesus says: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” As we live in faith, with an eye toward the future promise, God will also give us everything we need, here and now. Jesus says: “Behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst." (Luke 17:21) Again looking at the King James, it says: “Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” If the kingdom of God itself is in our midst, literally within us, then so are all the blessing and promises of that kingdom. In John 14:20-23 Jesus says: “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him… If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” We have within us all of the promises of the kingdom of God, because the God of creation lives within us. Jesus taught us to pray saying: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We are to pray that all of the blessings, promises and rewards of heaven would be here on earth. In Mark 16:15-20 it says: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed. More than only praying that the realities of heaven would be seen and known on earth, because we carry the kingdom of heaven and all of its blessings inside us, we are to be the evidence of our faith in and to the world. With an eye toward heaven, we are to bring heaven to earth.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit I believe that You are! I believe that You are a rewarder of those who seek You. Holy Spirit help me not to look outside for the evidence of God’s blessings and promises, but rather to look within myself. May I fully see the miracle that the God of creation lives within me. May I live as the evidence of my faith, abiding in and declaring His promises to the world. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven as I faithfully preach the gospel to all creation. Amen.