Convinced: Faith Defined

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1-2)

I believe all kinds of things I could never hope to prove to you absolutely and scientifically. Honestly, I could not prove them all to myself. Still, somehow, I am convinced. I’m not rolling the dice. I’m not making an educated guess. I’m not wishing on star just because I have to believe in something.

convinced_350I’m certain that God exists, that he is personal and active and emotional. I am sure, in fact, that he hates sin, that he forgives sinners who trust in Jesus, and that he loves me as a son.

Is my faith in him courageous and wise or foolish and tragic? That depends on whether he is as the Bible describes him. I’ve staked my life on the belief that he is. Maybe you have, too.

Now what? Come back this week to think about what the convinced should do about it.

Think: Can you truthfully describe yourself as convinced in the reality of the God of the Bible? If so, what would you tell someone who asked you “why”?

Pray: If you’re a Christian, thank God for the faith to be sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.

Do: Check out some other definitions of faith by typing “define:faith” into your Google.

Convinced: From What He Has Made

“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” (Hebrews 11:3)

However you think about the creation/evolution debate in your own head and heart, the final question always comes down to faith: Do you believe the universe was formed by God’s command out of invisible stuff? Are you convinced he made it?

convinced_350I can respect honest disbelief in the creator God, but there is no way to have the God of the Bible if he is not also the God who made the universe. The stakes are high for those who refuse to see him in what he has made. Romans 1:20 says they are “without excuse.”

God means to be recognized—by faith—through the “plain” evidence (v. 19) of a world so teeming with life and color and scale and light that it must have required His “eternal power and divine nature” to exist at all. (v. 20)

The debates will rage on, but everyone will understand by faith—or not—for themselves eventually. Are you convinced?

Think: Do you think it makes any logical sense to believe in Jesus as the Son of God who died for your sin without also believing that God created the universe? Why or why not?

Pray: Thank God for using his eternal power and divine nature to form the universe at his command out of what is not seen.

Do: Read Romans 1:18-23 – and then continue reading verses 24-32 to see what follows for a society that rejects God as creator.

Convinced: Enough to Sacrifice

“By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” (Hebrews 11:4)

So what does faith look like in the real world? That’s the question Hebrews 11 answers by pointing to real-world people who made choices based on faith in what they could not see.

convinced_350I’m not sure Abel is the most encouraging example to kick things off with. After all, he died for his act of faith, killed by his jealous and apparently faithless brother. But we see three big things about faith choices from his story.

1) Faithful sacrifice doesn’t always lead to a “good” outcome on this side of heaven. In fact, it might get you killed.

2) God honors those who trust him with their actions. What is it worth to be “lifted up” by God?

3) Our acts of faithfulness may outlive us. Abel’s example is still echoing off the walls of history and contributing to the glory of God long after he and his brother and everyone he knew at the time have died. What else can you do that will matter (in a good way) a hundred, a thousand, or a million years from now?

Think: Has acting on your faith in the invisible God ever cost you anything? Has it ever gained you anything? How can you know?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be willing to act based on your faith in him even if it may cost you something valuable.

Do: Make a quick list of three choices you made this week because you believe God.

Convinced: Enough to Walk

“By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” (Hebrews 11:5)

You can read the whole biography of Enoch in Genesis 5:21-24. It’s basically this: He walked with God for 300 years and then “God took him away.” Today’s verse makes sure we know that’s not just polite funeral talk. God was so pleased with Enoch that he let the man skip death.

convinced_350Why? Enoch walked with God. It says so twice in his bio there in Genesis.

That phrase has become so cliché in modern Christian circles that it has lost almost all of its meaning. Here’s how it makes sense to me:

I walk with God when I believe in his presence with me enough to actively include him in what is happening with me right now, in this moment. I think the strength of our faith can be measured in how many of those moments we can string together. Perfect faith would be a life in which those moments are never interrupted by faithless ones.

Think: What percentage of your waking hours would you say include an awareness that God is with you and that you are his?

Pray: Ask God to help you to walk with him more and more as you grow in your ability to trust him.

Do: Notice how this idea of endurance in “walking with God” fits into what James wrote in James 1:2-4. Wonder if Enoch faced a lot of trials that helped him trust God with so much endurance.

Convinced: What’s Possible

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

The word impossible doesn’t show up much in English translations of the Bible – and mostly only to say that nothing is impossible for God (except lying in Hebrews 6:18). But the writer of Hebrews used the word several times, including this one.

convinced_350Impossible doesn’t leave room for sometimes or occasionally or even very rarely. It’s an absolute word. We can never ever make God happy without trusting him. That’s not really surprising, though; we wouldn’t expect God to be happy with anyone who thinks he is pretend.

The mind-swivling idea behind the word impossible here is that it means it is possible for a mere human person to please God if we believe he is real – in all the ways his Word describes – and to keep looking for him like we expect to find him and get everything we will ever need from him.

God likes that.

Think: Can someone who has already “found God” through faith in Jesus keep “earnestly seeking” him? If so, how? And how does he reward our searching?

Pray: Ask God to help you to keep trusting him more and more and to keep finding more and more about him in every area of your life.

Do: Search out more about God by going to BibleGateway.com and typing the word impossible into their search engine. Notice especially the nine or so New Testament passages.

Convinced: Obey without Seeing

“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” (Hebrews 11:7)

I’m not surprised, I guess, that some people have a hard time believing that the biblical account of Noah and the ark is factually and literally true. Imagine how hard it must have been to believe before it happened!

convinced_350Imagine how hard it would have been for him to accept the idea of a worldwide flood, of an enormous shipload of animals adrift, of all the destruction and death. His act of faith in building that vessel seems far greater than mine in believing it happened.

The words “by faith” show up three times in this verse. Noah’s belief showed up in what he did, in how he obeyed. Noah’s faith saved his family and revealed the faithlessness of everyone else who chose instead to do what was right in their own eyes.

Think: What hard thing is God asking you to trust him and do even though you can’t yet see how it will work out?

Pray: Ask God to help you to have the kind of faith Noah had, the kind that obeys even if you don’t understand all the hows and why’s.

Do: Choose some specific command of God to you from his Word to obey in your life today, maybe something you’ve been putting off.