In my last post I described walking through Hebrews 11 like entering a corridor at the museum. Paintings hanging on the walls, dim light from the ceilings and windows, and statues and busts of important people lining each side. Next to each of their depictions sits a plaque with the little description we find in Hebrews 11, all beginning with “By faith…”
They are highlighted by the writer because they are people who provide an example of what living by faith means for those who come after. For us.
All of these people mentioned in Hebrews 11 are commended for the faith they had. They didn’t receive what was promised to them in this life, but they continued to live by faith because God had revealed to them something greater. A future together as his people, living under his right rule, in his perfectly created place.
In v39-40 we read,
“All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.” (CSB)
The writer reminds us that living by faith is for the long-haul. It’s no short, sharp, snap discipleship program. It’s a lifetime of living by faith. Throughout the chapter we read of those who in their lifetime suffered and did not acquire the fulfilment of the promises given to them by God. Yet, they endured in the faith, by faith, so that they would be made perfect at a later time. And that later time is when all of God’s people are gathered. When all of God’s people are together in the place he has set out for us.
All the saints, whether old or new, will be made perfect when all of God’s people are together. Whether that be the Old Testament saints, the Hebrews themselves, or whether that be us. There is a future hope of being together with God in perfection.
So as we walk this corridor of heroes of the faith we can be encouraged to live by faith ourselves. To be followers of Jesus for the marathon of life, not just the sprint of this season. With this in mind, here are six ways this passage encourages us to live by faith for the long-haul.
First, Hebrews 11 helps us when we are in times of doubt.
While doubt is not the opposite of faith, it certainly has an impact on our faith. Whether we are struggling to see God, doubting his goodness and faithfulness, or when we’re confused by what he is doing in our lives then we can lose sight of what he has promised. Hebrews 11, however, enables us to see that he is indeed faithful to his promises and that those who went before us held fast to Christ knowing there was something better in the future, something worth holding on to.
Second, Hebrews 11 helps us when we are struggling with sin.
We might feel plagued with sin. We might feel guilty. We might feel ashamed. We might be holding on to certain sins like a comfort blanket, always reasoning with ourselves that we will be able to battle with it and get over it at some point in the future. Instead, we can take confidence in knowing that Christ has that sin, has forgiven us for it, and is in the process of making us perfect in him. Therefore, we live by faith that he has taken the sins of the past, present, and future, and has dealt with them decisively for eternity.
Third, Hebrews 11 helps us when we wonder what we’re meant to be doing for God.
Those who were commended were people who lived by faith. They didn’t sit and wait around to be taken to a better place. They didn’t live in laziness, twiddling their thumbs wondering what they were to do. Instead, they trusted God in the ‘now’, obeying his commands and trusting his judgements. The future is in God’s hands and for us we are to trust and obey. Anyone remember that old hymn, “Trust and obey”?
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
This may involve choices we make about our lifestyle, or our career, or our relationships, or our spending habits, or our social media use, or our use of time, or our service, or our attitudes, or our behaviours. God, of course, doesn’t just deal with one aspect of life but the whole of life. Our response is to live by faith.
Fourth, Hebrews 11 helps us know we’re not alone.
Thank goodness we aren’t the centre of the world. We aren’t the centre of reality. God is. And we see through this list that we also need to put our life in perspective.
God is the one who is to be the centre of our worship, we aren’t.
God is to be the centre of our lives, we aren’t.
Yet, God is with us. We are not alone.
Further, we know that so so so many people have gone before us, treading out a path like a walking track in the bush. Someone else has done this and so can we. Someone else has walked the same path we’re on and lived by faith. So can we. These millions of believers before us can inspire and encourage us to live by faith.
Fifth, Hebrews 11 helps us to know we are being made perfect.
Those final two verses show us that we aren’t perfect and nor are the saints of the past. The aim isn’t perfection in this lifetime, the aim is to live by faith.
And so, we take encouragement that we are being made perfect through Christ, who uses our lives and our experiences to shape and mould us into more like him. This is also living by faith.
Sixth, Hebrews 11 helps us to know there is a better day.
I’m not sure what you’re going through right now but I suspect there’s something. Everyone is always dealing with something. With this being the case Hebrews 11 provides for us a hope. A future hope. A hope that one day things will be better, that one day we will be with God and it all will be made perfect. One day the acute pain of living now will be made into sustained enjoyment with God.
And perhaps this is the key.
For as we walk with God by faith we walk in the shadow of those gone before, encouraged and inspired by their faith.