The book of Hebrews names an element that is absolutely essential to the development of the Christian life --- the quality of faith. Chapter 11 focuses on faith by giving a description of it as well as supplying several demonstrations of it. The first three verses focus on the ingredients of faith.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. 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 (NASB).
From this we learn that faith is not merely positive thinking; neither is it just a hunch that is followed. Faith is not simply hoping for the best; neither is it solely a feeling of optimism. Faith does not possess the quality of believing in something in spite of the evidence. That would be superstition.
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for. It is to the Christian what the foundation is to a house. It gives confidence and assurance that will stand and support the superstructure. Faith is the conviction of things not seen. That which is seen is not the whole explanation of life. There are realities that cannot be seen, weighed, measured, analyzed, or touched; yet, they are as real and vital as anything we can see.
Several examples are given in this chapter of people who lived in the same kind of world in which we live and were confronted with the same problems we face; yet, they mastered their problems and overcame great obstacles through their faith. Consider some of the marks of their faith that we need to develop in our lives.
GENUINE FAITH ALWAYS ACTS. It doesn’t sit around and do nothing. Note that Abel offered (vs. 4), Noah prepared (vs. 7), Abraham obeyed (vs. 8), Sarah conceived (vs. 11), Isaac blessed (vs. 20), Moses’ parents hid him for three months (vs. 23), Moses refused (vs. 24), left Egypt (vs. 27), kept the Passover (vs. 28), Israel passed through the Red Sea (vs. 29), encircled the city of Jericho (vs. 30), and Rahab welcomed the spies (vs. 31). In every case there was action on the part of those who had faith.
FAITH ANTICIPATES. Without faith, life would be a blind march into mystery. Faith gives to life a goal and purpose. Abraham lived as an alien in the land God promised him for he anticipated a heavenly city (vv. 8-10). Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph anticipated by faith that which was beyond their present experience (vv. 20-22). The Christian, in like manner, anticipates ultimate victory in Christ (Rev. 2:10) and eagerly awaits his eternal home (John 14:1-3).
FAITH RISKS. The person of genuine faith gladly sacrifices any present advantage in order to gain future promises. Moses risked his material advantage in order to gain something of great reward (vv. 24-28). He chose the imperishable, saw the invisible, and did the “impossible.” Such is the nature of faith.
These examples challenge us “set our jaws” that we will be determined to be a people of faith.