Who doesn’t want to be a hero? Since our childhood days, we fantasize about saving the world while wearing a cape. Superman and his tightly-clad buddies have us convinced that we would need to perform some epic feat of human strength to reach hero status, but the Bible tells a different story. Hebrews 11 shows us that becoming a hero of faith is a quiet battle that requires strength you cannot train for in the gym and endurance for a race where the distance to the finish line is unknown.
As many of you know / might have guessed, Prince Charlie and I have been struggling to start a family for many years now. A few years ago, after a devastating loss, a shift slowly started in my heart. I went from desperately wanting to have a baby at all cost, to thinking that perhaps it wouldn’t be the end of the world if it didn’t happen.
But instead of feeling relief at this painfully slow shift in perspective (it is an ongoing process) I was filled with apprehension: If I believe that it might not happen, does that mean that I don’t have enough faith that it could happen?
Are we just supposed to believe our wishes into being? If we truly have the faith of a mustard seed does that mean all our dreams come true? I’m sure you can look at your own life and the people around you and see many examples that that is not the case.
In Hebrews 11 we get a crash course about the heroes of faith.
Allow me to expand this verse using the terms used in different English translations:
“Now faith is the confidence/reality/assurance/substance of what we hope for and the assurance/evidence/conviction/certainty of what we do not see.”Hebrews 11:1 (various translations)
The Life Application Bible compares faith in God to a young child looking forward to a birthday. The anticipation and excitement mount as the young child knows there will be gifts and celebrations as well as surprises. “Faith is the confidence based on experience that God’s new and fresh surprises will surely be ours.”
Faith is the confidence of what we hope for
What do we hope for? “God had planned something better for us” (Hebrews 11:40). In John 3:16 we famously read “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
God loved us so much that he still wants to save us through Jesus’ sacrifice after all mankind has done (see Romans 5:19). So, what we hope for is represented in God’s nature – his goodness and sweetness. His presence in our lives gives us the confidence to know that he only has goodness in mind for us (Romans 8:28) and we see his hand already in our natural lives now. John Piper describes this faith as an “enjoyment of the promise through a substantial down payment of the coming reality.”
Faith is the assurance of what we do not see
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18
What is the unseen? The unseen is God and his almighty power. The Word of God brought creation into being and his presence in all things. John Piper described the “fingerprints of God on the things he made – order, beauty, greatness.” This is one of the reasons I passionately wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. You cannot study the human body, as an example of his creation, and not stand in awe of God’s greatness.
But God’s “fingerprints” must go deeper. We should recognize his presence through the Holy Spirit in every aspect of our lives – in the grand gestures as well as the small blessings every day. Experts agree that the practice of gratitude opens our eyes to the glorious presence of God in our lives. By consistently reflecting on the character of God and his hand in every aspect of our lives, we grow our faith and confidence in his character.
Therefore, faith in what we do not see is faith in God’s presence in our lives through his creation and his orchestration of our lives. The ESV Study Bible explains that “biblical faith is not blind trust in the face of contrary evidence, not an unknowable “leap in the dark”; rather, biblical faith is a confident trust in the eternal God who is all-powerful, infinitely wise, eternally trustworthy.” God has proven Himself faithful by sending Jesus Christ and has fulfilled promises from generation to generation.
As I begin to better understand that faith is the confidence in God’s presence and goodness in our lives as well as his almighty power, I move closer to the answer to my question. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). So, no matter how it turns out, it will be for our good. We can’t wish and believe our prayers to become true. Faith is not a mind game, but we can believe in God’s sovereignty to orchestrate our lives for our good.
The rest of Hebrews 11 is dedicated to heroes who displayed such an unwavering faith as defined in verse 1.
Examples include Noah (Gen 6:9 – 9:29) who built an ark when he didn’t even know what rain looked like. Abraham (Gen 15-22) moved to a strange land in obedience to God, believed he would father a son even though he was “as good as dead” and was even willing to sacrifice this son because God asked him to. Sarah’s faith wasn’t perfect but even she “considered him faithful who made the promise” to her and became pregnant with Isaac at an old age.
Moses’ (Exodus 2 -14) parents hid him for three months to save his life for a purpose they could not have foreseen. Through their faith, Pharaoh’s daughter raised him in the palace which enabled him to become the hero that could lead Israel out of captivity through the Red Sea and the desert.
The examples carry on and on with some similarities emerging between the characters. These are highlighted by Kristen Getty in the ESV Women’s Study Bible when she explains that these heroes of faith demonstrated a “settled allegiance to God” and did not want to disappoint him. They also didn’t know what the future held for them, but they built their lives around the instructions of the One who keeps his promises. Finally, “they were imperfect people who put their confidence in a perfect God to restore them and bring them home.” These flawed heroes only saw the promises from a distance, longing for their heavenly home.
They were regular folks, like you and me. We know how it all turned out, but they had no idea. To them, it was true faith because they walked by faith and not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7 )
When I look at this chapter filled with Biblical heroes, I have this strong desire to become a hero of faith myself. In verse 6 we read “Without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
I so desperately want to please my Heavenly Father.
What does this mean when we believe in a baby (or a partner/job/ healing)? We know that even if God doesn’t answer all our prayers, he causes “all things [to] work together for good to those who love [him], to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). Whatever the outcome, whatever the answer to our prayers, it will be good for our souls and our future.
Whatever God ordains for my life, I want to carry my cross and live my life in such a way that my Heavenly Father will look at me with loving eyes and say:
“This is my [daughter], whom I love; with [her] I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17).
Allow me to include a song that reminds me of the truths discussed here and about my ultimate goal: Overcomer by Mandisa.