Sure of the Future and Certain of the Invisible
Sure of the Future and Certain of the Invisible (Hebrews 11:1-7)
We have an inclination to name eras of time. The 1980s were called the "me generation" because of an obsession with individual fulfillment. The 1990s may be called the "we generation" because of the emphasis on family. We speak of ages—industrial, atomic, space ages.
What if the periods of your life were given a title? Have you ever entered the "faith age"? Faith shapes life in three dimensions—future, past, and present.
Only Faith Can Make the Future Certain
This passage is not really an exhaustive definition of faith. Rather it gives the chief characteristics of faith. The emphasis is upon any kind of faith, whether Christian or otherwise. First, there is emphasized the arena in which faith operates. There exists a definite sphere with which faith has to do—the future ("things hoped for") and the invisible ("things not seen" 11:1, KJV). To speak of the life of faith is to ask how you relate to those two spiritual frontiers. Old Testament men and women had nothing to rest upon except the promises of God, without any visible evidence that they would ever be fulfilled. Yet they regulated the whole course of their lives on the basis of those promises. That is faith. They could do that because of the certainty which faith achieves. Faith gives solid ground and acts as the title-deed to things hoped for in the future. Things which in the present have no existence as yet become real and substantial by the exercise of faith. Faith makes the future present! All of this is contingent upon the attitude which faith demands (v. 6). Even the initial approach to God must believe in His existence and His interest in us. Such a belief enables one to seek Him with a persistent diligence.
Only Faith Can Explain the Past
Faith does not deal exclusively with the future; it likewise enables us to have any comprehension of the past. Only faith explains history. Faith about the certainty of the future rests squarely on our faith that understands the past. Faith thus helps us to understand the two most significant things about the past.
First, we understand by faith only that the world was created by the Word of God. That the cosmic universe of time and space came into existence because of a specific utterance of God is a confession of faith. That faith rests squarely upon the Genesis account of creation. But it is faith that gives validity to that revealed Word and to our highest thinking about creation. The belief that the world exists as an expression of divine will is fundamental to a life of faith. Second, the world does not contain its own explanation. As Weymouth translates, "What is seen does not owe its existence to that which is visible" (v. 3). Material causation is not enough. The visible universe was not made out of what we see. That is not the confession of science; it is the triumph of faith.
Only Faith Can Enable Us to Please God in the Present
So far we have dealt with abstract definitions. We need to see an embodiment of what faith is. The entirety of this chapter relates the incarnation of faith in the life of specific people with definite problems.
Only faith enables us to please God in our giving. Abel's stewardship was more excellent than Cain's because of Abel's faith. This may mean that his gift was quantitatively more or qualitatively better. God specifically testified that Abel's gift was right because he gave it in faith. Further, faith enabled Abel to give with abiding significance. We must give in faith if our giving makes any durable difference.
Only faith enables us to please God in our living. All we know about Enoch can be said in a sentence—he walked with God and was not. His fellowship with God in a corrupt age was an expression of faith. Faith makes fellowship acceptable. On the other hand, Enoch's kind of fellowship with God is an evidence of faith.
Only faith enables us to please God in our serving. Noah's faith differed from that of Abel and Enoch in that it was directed to a special revelation. Noah was told to prepare for that which was unprecedented in the history of the world. Noah's faith consisted in taking God at His word and making the required preparations. Faith enabled Noah to pay careful heed to the word of God. Such faith vindicated Noah who through his faith "put the whole world in the wrong" (v. 7, NEB). Only faith enables us to serve in the present when the vindication of our service is in the future.