Tuesday, June 30, 2009
What is faith? A direct answer has been provided for us in the 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews. This one book of the Bible provides in its forty relatively short verses an exact meaning, and some definitive examples of this often misunderstood and often undervalued spiritual principle.
Hebrews begins with the definition, that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." But it does not leave us there with no direction as to where this quality originated, or with no practical examples that highlight the simple definition of faith.
It is the 'substance' of things hoped, their very essence or foundation. Without a solid foundation, a structure or a system, or a person, will crumble. Faith is the substance of every good thing that we wish for ourselves and those we love. With faith, the achievement of all our dreams and goals is made possible.
It is the 'evidence' of things not seen. We cannot 'see' the being of God. We cannot look into His eyes. His arms do not wrap around us in a hug that we can feel. But when we have faith, we are actually aware of His loving presence in our daily lives. During our best of good times, our most difficult periods of challenge, and during our most awful of tragedies we experience that we are never alone.
In the book of Hebrews we receive numerous examples of men and women who entrusted their faith in God and were rewarded. Noah in preparing the ark and its inhabitants while the sun shone. Abraham in his willingness to offer up his only son as a sacrifice in the belief that God would raise him or have a greater plan. Moses in choosing the truth of his Hebrew background over an adopted Roman one when confronted with a future filled with likely persecution.
Faith, it turns out, comes directly from God. "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." God created everything that is now, ever has been, and ever will be in existence. We can know this intellectually, without recourse to blind faith. Common sense in understanding visible and theoretical science points us to the signature of our Creator. Faith helps fill in the blanks and answer the questions.
God did not leave us photographs or video of his creation, but He did inspire our ancestors' words and visions to be left to us in the Bible. He did impart in us an intellect and critical thinking ability. And more importantly, He sent His Son to us to teach us directly. Jesus Christ let us know through His teaching that we "need only have faith as small as a grain of mustard seed, and we can say to a mountain "move from here to there", and it will move."
In Romans 10:17, Paul imparts to us that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." This gives us practical instruction that we can gain and strengthen our faith by listening to God and the teaching of Jesus Christ, who emphasized this act of listening many times during his public ministry.
Read up on God's word, on Jesus' teachings. Perhaps just as importantly, listen to them. Go to church and hear His words spoken, His lessons taught, and share the experience with others. Remember what Jesus said, that "wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them." Your faith will be affirmed in His truth, the truth which truly shall set you free.