I have recently been spending some time on a chapter in the Bible - Hebrews 11. This chapter is often referred to as the Hall of faith due mainly to the fact that it lists the men and women who lived exemplary lives of faith.
One thing I noticed about these people was that there was nothing superhuman about them. They were men and women just like you and I. What set them apart was that they decided on a course of action which changed not only their lives but also the destiny of nations.
The chapter starts with a definition of faith “as the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”. It goes further to say, “This is what the ancients were commended for” (Hebrews 11: 1- 2) One thing that strikes me about this definition is that it has it’s basis on two important factors, “the seen” and “the unseen”.
We all hope for something. The reason for this is that we live in an uncertain world. No one has absolute certainty about what would happen the next minute, hour or day. We hope that when we go to bed that we will wake up the next day in good health and able to do the things we have planned for the day and we hope things would go well. Hope however can only carry us so far. Proverbs 13:12(a) confirms this, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”
Following from the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1, Faith is confidence in the hope we have. It however does not end there, it is also the assurance of what we do not see. Faith spurs us into action. It moves us to act in the expectation that something will happen because of the One in whom we trust. When we hope, it is in expectation that what has not existed will come to into being. Faith is the confidence in that the things seen will emerge from the unseen.
There are quite a number of personalities mentioned in the 11th chapter of Hebrew but the one that always captivates me every time I read that passage of scripture is Enoch. Not much is is said about him in the Bible except that he was the father of Methuselah, the oldest man recorded in the Bible who lived for 969 years. He was also mentioned in Jude 1:14 in reference to a prophecy regarding the second coming of the Lord Jesus.
Other than that, what we know of Him in the book of Hebrews is, “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: He could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God (Hebrews 11:5)
Wow! What an experience that must have been for Enoch. I am sure growing up and watching people die and attending funerals, he would have thought that at some point he would die too and people would attend his funeral. Enoch had a kind of faith that pleased God so much that God just decided, “I need this man in heaven to be with me now” Was there anything special about Enoch? I don’t think there was anything more special about him than other heroes of faith. Why then was he just taken away without dying? The clue is in the verse that comes after his introduction. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
The clue to why God took Enoch was that he pleased God with his steadfast and immovable faith. He pleased God so much that God decided to make an example of what it means to please Him.
So many people in our day go to great lengths to please God. They think that by trying to do good, giving to the poor and using resources at their disposal to support their community and for those who are religious, supporting their religious organisations, gets them browny points with God. While doing these things are good and commendable, done with the wrong motives and without faith, yields no heavenly returns.
The bottomline here is that God wants a heart that believes that He exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek him. There are many who would confidently say that they believe God exists but the second part of that statement is where most people miss out. To follow God earnestly requires faith. Abraham had no clue where he was going; all He knew was what God told him, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you…” (Genesis 12:1-2)
There was no record of hesitation on Abraham’s part. He just obeyed, taking his family and all his possessions setting out on a journey without any direction or GPS to lead him but trusting God to lead the way. No wonder he has a prominent place in the Hebrew Hall of Faith.
You and I have the opportunity to be the modern examples of men and women of faith who pleases God. He is looking for people who not only believe that He exists but who sincerely seek Him. This is why He gave us His son Jesus - the invisible becoming visible to help strengthen our faith.
When Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples heard Jesus had risen from the dead, he gave a cynical response, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25) One week later, he saw Jesus and I can imagine him wishing he had never uttered those words. When Jesus asked him to come and put his finger in the holes in his hands and side, He could only exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) In His response, Jesus re-affirmed the definition of faith as given in Hebrews 11, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
Jesus here echoes the definition of faith as quoted in Hebrews 11:1. He said that those who believed He had risen even without seeing Him, were blessed. In other words, God was pleased with them.
Changes in circumstances is usually the main reason why many who started trusting God falter and begin to seek other solutions but God wants us to trust Him no matter what. He is pleased not necessarily when we act but when our action is based on our faith in Him.
It takes faith to please God. I really want to be one of those whom God sees today and takes pleasure in because of my faith in Him, what about you?