I can’t get away from the book of Hebrews. To be honest, I haven’t tried. I read through it a couple of months ago, but found myself not ready to move on once I got to the end. It continues to be a wonderful journey with Holy Spirit highlighting various verses, phrases, even individual words, and then helping me really see them. One particular verse, and the insight He has revealed in it, is radically affecting my understanding of the rest of the book of Hebrews, the Bible, and my everyday life. Please read on to join us in this part of the journey.
Hebrews 11:1 NIV (2012) Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. . .
This is such a familiar verse, one we frequently quote in our preferred translation. Perhaps it helped that I was reading it this time in an updated NIV, so a couple of different words jarred me out of rote recitation, forcing me to stop and consider it again. As I did, the simplicity of faith became clearer than ever before.
Haven’t we used this verse primarily for things – even good things and promised-by-God things – and in so doing, made this thing called faith a hard work? Think about it in some of the following familiar statements: “I’m believing God for _________ (fill in the blank), and ________ and ________.” “I don’t have enough faith for _________, only enough for _____________.” “She only had enough faith for this part, not for the whole ________.” “I must not even have a mustard seed of faith.”
We don’t find statements like these in the Bible, though we certainly hear and use them today.1 What’s the common denominator in all these modern-day so-called faith statements? It’s an “I” focus. Faith has become all about us, about our efforts to believe enough for whatever end result we seek. What an endless and wearisome cycle!
But the Bible is good news! The faith, confidence, and hope of Hebrews 11:1 are to be in Jesus Christ alone, not in our ability to believe for the desired change in situations or circumstances for ourselves or others. Don’t believe me? Look at the previous verse.
Hebrews 10:39 NIV (2012) But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
Since Hebrews is written to believers in Christ, we belong to those who have faith and are saved. What faith is required to be saved? Simply, faith in Christ Jesus alone – in what He fulfilled and finished completely in our place because we never could. In Him all our needs are met. Like the believing-while-in-unbelief man of Mark1, our focus (and our faith) is to be Jesus, not what He does or will do. In Christ, all work (healing, too) is already complete and all provision is already made, though our natural eyes may not yet see. He, Jesus Christ, is our answer.
No longer is our question, “What am I in faith for?” Rather, it becomes, “In Whom is my faith, my confidence in what I hope for, and assurance about what I do not see?” And the answer comes via two questions. Is Jesus Who He says He is? Does He always point to our Father? Absolutely. He can be fully trusted. He cannot lie. Whatever He has promised is for all time. That’s where we fix our eyes, regardless of current circumstances. Our faith is not even in what He has promised, though we can bank on it. Our faith is in Jesus Christ, the totality of Who He is, the very Promise Himself. Therein is His peace. Therein is His rest. Therein is our confidence and our assurance about what we do not see.
This major, radical, mind shift is causing a major “tilt” in my brain multiple times a day as the adjustment – the refocus – takes hold, forcing the old-and-gone-wrong to leave forever. What a wonderful journey, though, this faith in Christ Jesus alone!
1 Mark 9:24 – “help my unbelief” – Jesus helped the man focus only on Who He was, no longer mixed with what his natural eyes saw – it was faith in Jesus alone