Walking by faith: Challenge of the New Year

Hebrews 11:1-6

John Ditty - Sunday School Lesson

The new year comes with a challenge. Every new year does, doesn’t it? This year comes not with a new challenge but a renewed challenge. That challenge? Walking by faith.

The response of some might be, “I struggle with faith. I’m a person who does better with hard proof. Give me a picture; even better let me be the one who takes the picture.” Is it true people have a hard time practicing faith? Not at all.

That’s a bold statement isn’t it? You might ask, “Can you prove to me that nobody has a problem exercising faith?” My answer, “Yes.” Here are three things that you probably did this morning and faith was at the center of the activities:

1. You walked to the bathroom and without pause flipped the light switch.

2. Then you walked over to the sink and without checking to make sure everything was connect correctly you reached to turn on the water.

3. It didn’t surprise you when the water got warm, even though you had no idea if electric (or gas) was still flowing to that hot water tank hidden somewhere in the house.

Here are a few more: you got out of bed without first testing the strength of the floor, turned on your car, pushed on the brake pedal, and sat in a chair. When your day is done, you are expecting to get home safe, find your home still there when you arrive, eat dinner (trusting the food will still be good), watch TV believing the cable, even more the satellite is still functioning.

Are all these really acts of faith? Yes. How can we know for certain that any one of these will be as we expect them? We trust they will all perform as desired. So, is a person’s problem exercising faith or is it deeper? Could it be that faith is not issue, but rather faith in God is the problem?

Over the next several weeks we will be working our way through Hebrews 11 which has been entitle, “The Hall of Fame of Faith.” We will see many stories about people; some who knew a bit about the Lord and some who knew a lot, but regardless they all trusted Him.

The central focus of Hebrews 11 is faith. It is summed up in verse six: “Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.”

Seven times in the opening six verses of this chapter the word faith is used. What is the meaning behind the word? In the Greek the word can mean to be persuaded or trust. In the Bible is tends to be directed toward one’s view of God and Jesus. When relating to God it is the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and giver of eternal salvation through Christ. When directed toward Christ it is a strong and welcomed conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God. In short, Biblical faith is an unwavering trust that God the Father and God the Son are exactly who they say they are and do what they say they do.

From verse one we see the faith that builds faith; the act of seeing as real or concrete what we cannot see. “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.” This is proof based on conviction. Can I prove God exists? No but I know that He does. Faith is an unwavering belief.

God places within every Christian a proof so the individual knows He is real though I cannot prove to you He is. That proof is the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul wrote, “He has also sealed us and given us the Spirit as a down payment in our hearts.” (2 Corinthians 1:22). Thus our faith is not unfounded or blind but rather it is empowered through God’s Spirit living within the heart of the believer.

Moving on from his opening statement concerning faith, the writer then goes back in time to show faith played out in the lives of those who, from ages past, walked in faith and the result of their walk. Where does he begin? At the beginning of our story; he goes back to creation.

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by God’s command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible.” (v.3) God starts with the first of His activities with humanity, the creation. In short God commends those who trust that everything created was created by Him. Why start with this? If I cannot get past God’s first words to me (Genesis 1:1) then how can I move on with Him?

Within creation lays the foundation for who God is to us and who we are to Him. If we don’t believe this why believe the rest? Without God as Creator He is taken out of the picture. If He is not the creator than what authority does He have in our lives? Instead I become the source of all that I believe is right or wrong.

So that’s where God begins. He asks you the question, “Do you believe Me?” Can anyone prove God created everything? There are no eyewitnesses to the event. But God says it is so and that’s where my faith in Him enters in and the Holy Spirit reassures me that it is true.

From that point forward, the writer tells stories of ordinary people who trusted God; faith-filled individuals through whom God did amazing things.

God says, ““Now without faith it is impossible to please Me.” Ask yourself, “Do I please God?” The challenge of this passage and new year is to be a person who does.

Hebrews 11:1-6

John Ditty

Sunday School Lesson

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