Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Nov 12 2013 - Hebrews 11:1-16 – A call to faith

Faith is often contrasted with knowledge: knowledge is about certainties; faith is concerned with what might be – it's wishful thinking, even make-believe. Faith, we are told, is being convinced about something when there is no evidence.

That's not a view of faith which the author of this letter would recognise. He begins chapter 11, his famous chapter about faith, with the words, "Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is not wishful thinking; it is marked by confidence and assurance because it rests in the promises of God. Faith is trusting that God will do what he has said.

Biblical faith is trust in a person. We can all relate to that. If we have ever had to go to hospital for an operation we place our trust in the hands of the surgeon. Nor is that trust without evidence. The surgeon has undergone extensive training. Their performance is monitored by the hospital. They have performed this operation many times before. Sadly, that trust may still turn out to be misplaced. The surgeon is only human and may have a bad day. Your case may be a particularly difficult one and they may not be able to do as good a job as they – and you – would have liked.

But this is never the case with God. He is utterly trustworthy and nothing is beyond his power. We can trust him absolutely even though things may not always happen the way we would expect or turn out the way we would have liked. We can trust him. Here's some of the case notes.

Take the case of Noah. God told him to build an enormous boat to save his family and the animal world from a great flood. There was no evidence for the coming of the flood except for this, God had spoken. Noah believed God and built the ark. It was not simply that he believed a flood was coming – he may even have had doubts about that during the long years of building work – it was rather that he trusted God and did what God had said. He must have been the object of derision for many years as the great construction work progressed; "Fancy devoting your life to building such a ridiculous object!" But, "By his faith he condemned the world" (11:7); quite literally – they were drowned and he was saved. He "became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith." His faith was vindicated by God's fulfilment of his promise. Noah was owned by God and became heir to a new creation.

Similarly Abraham, "when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going" (11:8). Abraham trusted God to fulfil what he had promised, and his trust in God was not misplaced. God always delivers on his promises.

The writer of Hebrews is encouraging his readers – including us – to trust God and keep going. We can confidently depend upon the things which God has said. God is always as good as his word.

Key to our faith in God is that he sent his Son into the world. God has spoken to us in Jesus and all the promises that God has made to us are underwritten by the shed blood and risen life of the Lord Jesus. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the ultimate demonstration that God keeps his word; God can be trusted. "Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." It is the confidence that we too will share in his resurrection life and that the whole of creation shall be renewed at his coming.

Such a hope may seem foolishness to the world around us but we believe that God can be trusted. We believe that the work of Jesus cannot fail and that we can trust ourselves to him and go on following him.

Lord Jesus, we believe that you are utterly trustworthy. May our lives be shaped by faith in you – by confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. May our lives draw others to faith in you and give them also a hope concerning the future, enabling them to live confidently for you in this present age.

Peter Misselbrook