By Faith, part 1

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“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

Hebrews is not a book of the Bible that I would suggest to a brand new Christian to dive into and read on their own. It contains some heavy truths and deep theology. It is also written to a group of people who have been in the Christian faith for a while and been exposed to Jesus’ teaching ideas from their parents and grandparents before them. These people never met Jesus, but much like us have been exposed to the truths He taught and came to a saving knowledge through their faith.

Hebrews is written to Jewish Christians who were probably experiencing fierce persecution for denying Judaism and following Christ. They needed an extra reminder and encouragement to continue in their faith. Some of them were trying to even live a hybrid of the two faiths. They wanted to do just enough Judaism to deter persecution from the Jews while at the same time looking similar to Christ to declare loyalty to Him. The message of Hebrews is that Jesus is better, Christianity is superior, and Christ is supreme and completely sufficient for salvation and everything else. Hebrews even compares the two faiths and explains how Christianity is better not only because Christ the Messiah fulfills all of the Old Testament prophesies, but also because His sacrifice is more sufficient for our sins.

Many times I have believed how much easier it would have been to have walked with Jesus and witnessed his ministry and miracles. Who wouldn’t have been able to believe through that? But many still rejected Him who saw Him and even talked with Him. However, even Jesus told his disciple, Thomas, after the resurrection, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” Jesus was referring to us!

Faith is not belief without proof. We don’t say “I believe despite what evidence tell me.” Faith is not belief despite the evidence; rather faith is having a complete trust or confidence in someone or something. That trust or confidence we have in someone is built up over time as they prove themselves faithful time and time again.

The Bible is filled with stories of God’s faithfulness to us despite our lack of faith in Him. Faith is not just a one-time decision we make for salvation. It should become a lifestyle we hold to and do in such a way that it becomes second nature. A reason we struggle with faith is because we hardly know the God in whom we profess our faith. We would not trust a complete stranger. So, if we don’t intimately know God, if we aren’t opening our eyes to see His faithfulness in our lives, if we don’t know the Bible that He has given us to validate our faith, then a lifestyle of faith will remain a constant struggle.

So, how can we trust the Bible and the promises in it as the basis for our faith? Consider not only the Bible as God’s Holy Word, but also as a commentary of history from the beginning of the world. Not only can we see these stories through Scripture, but we have secular historical works that document the reality of these stories. There has been more evidence and information recorded about the life of Jesus than just about any other person of the ancient world.

There was a first century historian of the Roman Empire, Roman Tacitus, who wrote of Christians who suffered under Pontius Pilate. Suetonius, Roman historian and secretary to the Emperor Hadrian, wrote of a man named Christ who lived during the first century. Flavius Josephus, the most famous Jewish historian recorded about a man named Jesus who was the brother of James, a wise man who wrought surprising feats, a man condemned by Pilate to be crucified, who appeared alive again the third day as prophesied. Julius Africanus, Pliny the Younger, Lucian Samosata, Mara Bar-Serapion, and many more were historical writers who confirmed the life and details of a man called Jesus.

Not only can we see these historical, secular pieces of literature that provide evidence of who Jesus was, but we have prophesies from the Old Testament that were fulfilled in the life of Jesus. Over three-hundred Messianic prophesies declared hundreds or thousands of years before the Christ appeared were validated in the birth, life, death, or resurrection of Jesus.

We can also read about the Israelites of the Old Testament and the stories they can tell of God’s faithfulness. Consider when they were rescued from slavery in Egypt. They saw God perform the ten plagues on the Egyptians and spare the Israelites from harm. They were led through the desert by a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night. God opened up the Red Sea for them to safely cross on dry land while their enemies drowned under the waters behind them. Through Moses, God brought them to Mount Sinai, gave them the Ten Commandments, and makes a covenant with them. Even after all the Israelites had seen as evidence and proof of God to increase their faith, they still began to grumble and long for a different perception of what God had planned for them.

Faith is substance. It is evidence. We can have proof even in history that our faith can be validated by a God who always remains faithful to us.

Stay tuned for By Faith part 2 next week when we can have evidence of our faith in our own lives.

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