What faith expects (Hebrews 11:1–3)

Is faith still relevant today? Or does it belong to a bygone era when Christendom ruled? Many who depended on the church to sustain them are seeing their faith crumble.

Does faith make sense anymore? Is it reasonable to believe for something better when there’s so much wrong? In the face of the whole gamut of crumbling relationships from personal despair to social anxiety and global conflicts, we need a very secure basis to hold on to faith.

But it’s also possible to become so preoccupied with our particular moment of history that we lose the bigger picture. Something is happening on a scale beyond our own lifetime. It’s a story beyond my own. This unfolding narrative predates the church. It’s this larger story that people of faith have always relied on in a changing world.

Consider this 2000-year-old definition:
Faith is the basis of what we are hoping for, the unfolding evidence of what could not be seen (Hebrews 11:1). This is where find faith, for God is imaged in people.

Those words were offered to a people whose world was being turned upside down. Their city was in trouble, about to be destroyed by a Roman invasion (or possibly already destroyed). Their families were divided over whether Jesus had saved his people and re-established the kingdom of God, or whether he was just one more failed Messiah. The speaker who offered this definition to the Hebrew people was well aware of how destabilized and painful their lives were (10:32-35).

That’s why he asked them to look beyond their moment in history. He asked them to look back and see how people of faith have always lived for something greater than their own lifetime, people like Abraham who was looking for a city. These are the people of old whose stories we still tell (11:2).

Faith is not hoping against hope. Faith is relying on what God decreed for his world. Our faith relies on God’s faithfulness (10:23). Trusting what God has said forms the solid foundation for expecting a better future, and it shapes our lives today:

By faith, we understand the storyline established by God’s decree. Things that were not apparent are becoming obvious (Hebrews 11:3).

We are living in God’s unfolding story. That’s our identity, our origin, our place in history, our capacity to cope in the present and hope for the future.

Theology may be “faith seeking understanding,” but faith is seeking so much more. Faith is seeking a future — a future for the world, under God. In the face of all our conflicts and struggles to survive, we anticipate a society where every person takes care of their neighbour as they care for themselves, as God takes care of us all.

This is what God decreed in the beginning. This is how people of faith have always lived.

What is your expectation for the future of human society? Do you see an end to our conflicts, a world where no one struggles to survive? How does that hope shape the way you live now? Do you find inspiration in the stories of people who have lived with that hope across the generations? Are you expecting that God’s Messiah will succeed in reconciling the world to himself?

Faith is the basis of what we are hoping for, the unfolding evidence of what could not be seen.

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Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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