Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 NIRV
When I was the in the eighth grade I took a “Spiritual Gifts Test.” This test was supposed to help a person identify which of the gifts of the Holy Spirit they’d been blessed with. I scored highest in wisdom and discernment. Cool. But I scored lowest in faith…like rock bottom low.
At the time, this concerned me. It didn’t make sense. How could I call myself a Christian and not have faith? And if my faith was really that weak, was I a true Christian at all? I mean, isn’t that the main tenant of Christianity – Faith in God through Christ?
As I’ve grown and matured as a Christian, I have come to realize something very intriguing about what we call “faith.” Most people, Christians included, define faith as hoping for the best or believing in a positive outcome. So when we talk about faith today in our western/American culture, what we are usually talking about is not actually faith at all. It’s optimism.
We have been raised on Disney movies and rom-coms claiming that “if you just have a little faith” (read: look on the bright side), all will be well. As Christians, we often define faith as the belief that God will do what we want. We have come to believe that faith means always believing God will heal, prosper, or reward us.
This is not the biblical definition of faith.
In Hebrews 11, we are given a definition - “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” “What we hope for” here is not in reference to the way we hope for a raise, or a win, or a cure. Here, the author is referring to our eternal hope. You see, faith is not being sure that everything will always come up roses; it’s being sure that the Gardener knows what He’s doing even if it doesn’t.
In this chapter, we are given some examples of faithful people from the past - Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses among others. These were not people who always believed every situation would turn out to their benefit.
God asked Abraham to kill his only son. Abraham loved Isaac. He didn’t want to kill him, and claimed that God would provide a sacrifice in his place. But Abraham was not considered faithful because of his optimistic hope. He is recognized as faithful because he was willing to kill Isaac if God demanded it. Faith then is not optimism.
It is commitment.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not called faithful because they believed they would be saved from the furnace, but because they were willing to go there even if they were not.
The apostles are not revered as faithful because they believed God would spare them martyrdom. Most of them were certain of their fate, but we call them faithful because they met that fate with courage and the conviction that Heaven awaited them.
We are called “faithful” spouses not because we think there will never be times of hardship or struggle, but because we enter into it knowing there will be, and because we stay true to our partners when they come.
This doesn’t come easy, and it certainly doesn’t come naturally. We are not intrinsically faithful beings. We are “prone to wander” as the hymn says. Faith is not something we just have. It is something God cultivates within us.
If you are not feeling very optimistic today, don’t worry. God has not called us to be optimists. He has called us to be faithful, and that is a gift you cannot give yourself. Pray for faith, for commitment, and for courage of conviction, and then rest easy knowing that God is faithful even when we are not.
Our faith is weak, but you are “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). Give us the strength and grace to follow wherever you may lead, to obey despite our temptations, and find you in the hard places. Grow our faith, God, that we may be known as the faithful, not only in name, but in fact.
In Your Name,Amen