By Faith Abraham…
“It will be alright, you just got to have faith.” As well intentioned as this statement might be, it is less than helpful when faced with the trials life brings. Sure, we need faith, but we need a specific type of faith.
What is it? Hebrews 11 portrays the faith we need to endure. When Hebrews says that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen, it is portraying faith’s future-posture. But immediately we see that this is not the American optimism that says “it will all work out in the end;” for the text speaks about a resolute confidence that the things you hope for actually will come true. Such confidence in future events would be brash and even irrational, except for the fact that it is based on God’s promises. Abraham provides an example of such faith: his life was a promise driven life. Specifically, he was looking forward to an eternal city (v10), a heavenly country (v16), designed and built by God.
Do you have it? Two things mark a life that has the faith that it takes to endure. First, people who have this faith live as resident aliens. They confess themselves to be strangers and exiles on the earth (v13). Like Abraham, Christians always have an ambiguous relationship with the places where they live. On the one hand, Christians live as foreigners, displaced from their homeland. Thus whether a society is liberal or conservative, traditional or progressive, capitalist or socialist, communal or individualistic, no matter what, a Christian will never fully fit into any city or culture this side of heaven. On the other hand, Christians are the true heirs of the world. They live as in a foreign land (v9). They have a certain love for this world, not because of what it is, but because of what it will someday be by God’s grace.
Second, people who have this faith live in obedient anticipation. The phrase “by faith” resurfaces 18 times throughout this chapter. In each case the author shows how faith is, in Martin Luther’s words, a busy little thing. Faith acts in the present in anticipation of God’s future; it presumes upon the power and promise of God. Such anticipation invites preparation as Christians live in light of God’s future.
How do you get it? As we look at the qualities of faith, we must admit that, sadly, most of us do not have it; or if we do, we have it in part, but not in full. So how can we grow in the faith we need?
First, we must reflect on the City of God. Verse 16 tells us that those who had this type of faith desired a better country. One of the primary reasons why so many of us do not have this faith is because we are more satisfied with the city that is than with the city that is to come. We need to have our inappropriate desires dislodged by something more desirable. The sanctified Christian imagination plays a crucial role here. Reflecting on the city to come will show it to be more desirable than any city that is.
Second, we need to reflect on God. Abraham and Sarah were able to live as they did because they considered God, his faithfulness (v11) and power (v19). We need to consider God as well, and consider how he is not ashamed to be associated with those who desire this city (16). God’s character and power is revealed supremely in Christ. Faithful to his promise, he provided a savior and powerfully raised him from the dead. He associated with sinners when he bore our shame, suffering, and sin on the cross