Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Hebrews 11:1-3, 6; Psalm 46:1-3, 8-11

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. —Hebrews 11:1

11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. . . . 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2   Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should
change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3   though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah....
8   Come, behold the works of the LORD; 
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9   He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
10  "Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth."
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah


In the movie Miracle on 34th Street, Doris is an event planner for Macy's. Doris is certain that there is no Santa Claus, and she makes sure that her little girl doesn't have any reason to believe in him either. Her carefully ordered, executive world made sense only when things were structured in a "what you see is what you get" sort of way. There was no room for things that could not be explained. However, by the end of the movie, Kris Kringle has given her reason to think that maybe she was wrong. She finally says, "Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to."

Like the character Doris, we struggle with things that we can't reason out. We want scientific explanations, numbers,' and statistics—things that are measurable. Our world doesn't give much credit to things that don't seem "logical." Again, like Doris, we who are in the church have learned that what we have experienced sometimes trumps what we think we know of how the world works.
We often think of faith as if it were some sort of intellectual doctrine, but this chapter of Hebrews shows us something else. Faith is trusting in the promises of God. Faith is not something we believe but something we practice.

The writer of Hebrews gives us a two-part description of faith. First, we hear that faith is "the assurance of things hoped for." Faith has a confidence right now about what the future holds. However, there is a second part of faith: "the conviction of things not seen." Christians realize that there, is a big difference between what we see and what is real. When we look at the world, it seems to be a place of utter chaos and destruction. As we glance through the headlines, it's tempting to wonder, "Hey! Who is in charge down here?" What we see tells us that the world is a corrupt and dangerous place. What is real is "that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet." ("This Is My Father's World"). When we look at ourselves, it's easy only to see our faults and failures. What is real are God's words to us: "I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine . . . you are precious in my sight, . . . and I love you" (Isa. 43:1, 4). Our faith allows us to see the evidence of God's presence in our world even when our present realities cloud our sight. Faith affords us the opportunity to look at the world through the eyes of hope.

At first, reading the "Faith Hall of Fame" list that we see in Hebrews can make us feel like we will never measure up. But when we look again, we see that the people who are hailed as role models turned away from the world's standard of greatness. Noah built a massive boat in the middle of a desert because God told him he'd need it. Abraham and Sarah heard the words "Go to a land that I will show you" and went without the careful planning that most of us would prefer. And don't forget that Abraham was ready to sacrifice Isaac at God's direction; Abraham knew that God would provide. We would call the Department of Children and Family Services on him! These giants of the faith are held up before us because they were all ordinary enough, but they knew that God was extraordinary.

For many of us, a Psalm we turn to for comfort  is Psalm 46. The psalmist eloquently spells out that which we most need to be true: that even though God's "got the whole world in His hands," "His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me."

The writer of Hebrews would have appreciated the psalmist's words, because they show us what faith in action does. We often think of the Psalms as lovely, poetic renderings of a life that nowhere matches our experience. We think of them as idyllic and safe. But who would say, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (v. 1) without having known God's deliverance? The psalmist has known a very dangerous time. Because he was kept safe, he believes that God sees his trouble and answers his call for help.

A young girl once told a friend, "Faith is like your birthday. You don't know exactly what you're getting or what the cake will look like, but you know it will be good because it always has been before. I always want to believe there is something good out there."
When she died in an accident at the age of 20, those attending her memorial service expressed how much her faith in God had helped them through their own storms. Many people would have called her an optimist, but it was more than that. She had seen God's hand holding her, and she was completely convinced of God's goodness.

Christian faith is knowing that we are held "gently in the palm of God's hand," even when it feels like we are in the pits of hell.


How has your life changed because of your faith? What has your faith cost you?

Where has "reality" come into conflict with your faith? When have you been called to trust in something that didn't make logical sense?

Of the people mentioned in the "Faith Hall of Fame," with whom do you feel you have the most in common? Why? With whom do you have the least in common?


Living God, thank you for your faithfulness. Teach us to have the faith of our ancestors who trusted in your promises. Remind us that faith is not something we talk about or believe but something that we practice. When storms threaten to undo us, help us to see that you are our refuge and strength. Draw us close to you. Amen.

Compiled from The Present Word and Congregational Ministries Publishing is not liable for for the content of this Bible Study and Blog.

From The Present Word © 2012 Congregational Ministries Publishing. Used by permission.