What is Faith?
Text: Hebrews 11:1-6
I. Imagine a tight rope stretched across Niagra Falls. A crowd gathers around a man who pulls a unicycle out of a box. “Ladies and gentlemen,” the man announces, “may I have your attention! In my hands is a unicycle. How many of you believe that I can ride this unicycle across the falls on that rope and safely reach the other side?” The crowd, eager to see the feat, raise their hands and enthusiastically shout, “We do! We do!” “Wait! That’s not all!” the man continues, “How many of you believe I can safely cross while balancing someone on my shoulders?” The crowd continues to wave their hands and shout, “We do! We do!” “Great!” the man exclaims, “Now which one of you volunteers to ride on my shoulders?” Suddenly all hands drop and there is silence.
A. Did the people really believe the man could cross the falls?
1. Perhaps to a degree.
2. But they were unwilling to trust their lives with this man.
3. There was a limit to how far their faith would go.
B. Keep this story in mind as we discuss the concept of faith.
II. How the world views faith
A. One little boy responded “Faith means believing when you know it can’t be true.”
B. In the classic movie, Miracle on 34th Street, a character in the movie said, “Faith is believing in something when common sense tells you not to.”
C. Another intellectual stated, “Faith begins where reason ends.”
D. Many people apply such definitions to biblical faith.
1. They approach the Scriptures with a suspension of common sense. Rationality is tossed out the window.
2. To believe is to leap where reason cannot take you.
E. It is seen even in our dictionaries. The American Heritage Dictionary defines faith as, “belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.”
1. If this is what the Bible means by faith, then it would absurd to argue with anyone about the truthfulness of the Bible.
2. Faith to the world does not rest on objective evidence.
III. God’s definition of faith - Hebrews 11:1
A. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for”
1. The word translated assurance means a foundation or in the abstract, something that gives confidence.
a. It is the reality of something (“person” or “nature” in Hebrews 1:3)
b. It is the opposite of something imaginary.
2. Faith, then, is the foundation on which the rest of Christianity is built.
a. It allows us to act as if these things are so.
b. You may have never been to Sidney, Australia, but you could plan a trip there, confident that such a place exists.
c. Without seeing God, angels, or heaven, we can act in confidence that such exist.
3. Our hope is our future salvation - Romans 8:23-25
a. We have not seen heaven, but we long to dwell there.
b. It is faith in the promise of God that heaven awaits us which gives us the endurance to remain faithful to God.
B. “Faith is the conviction of things not seen”
1. The word translated “conviction” means evidence or proof.
2. It is a convincing argument of what you have not witnessed
a. When all the evidence is weighed and you conclude that it cannot be anything else but that conclusion.
b. It cannot be something you have seen because the witness establishes it as a fact - II Corinthians 5:4-8
3. Our confidence allows us to act on what we did not see.
a. A jury, after listening to the evidence, draws a conclusion as to the guilt or innocence of the one charged with a crime.
b. They did not witness the crime, but their confidence in the drawn conclusion allows them to give a sentence.
C. Faith is based on evidence
1. Why do we believe in a Creator? - Romans 1:18-20
a. I find a watch lying in the dirt.
(1) Do I conclude that it evolved there by random events?
(2) No, its complexity and functionality leads me to conclude that it was made by someone far more intelligent and capable than the watch.
b. There is evidence in the existence and functionality of the universe to compel a reasonable man to acknowledge that there is a God.
c. A God who must be greater than what was created.
d. Hebrews 11:3
(1) We have faith that the world was created by the word of God
(2) We have confidence that the things we see around us did not come from pre-existing matter.
(3) Notice that the Hebrew writer starts from the very beginning. If you don’t believe that God created the world as stated in Genesis then how can you have confidence in anything else that God has told us or has done?
2. Do we blindly believe that Jesus is the Son of God?
a. We are asked to believe the evidence presented - John 5:31-47
(1) The testimony of Jesus
(2) The testimony of John
(3) The testimony of God through miracles
(4) The testimony of the Scriptures
b. Jesus told his audience not to believe if there was no evidence - John 10:36-38
3. Faith comes from hearing - Romans 10:17
a. Hearing what?
b. Hearing the evidence of the gospel
D. Faith then affects the believer’s life. We act in accordance to what we believe - Romans 1:17
1. Our confidence then becomes the stable foundation from which we act.
IV. The effect of faith in people’s lives
A. Abel offered a better sacrifice because of his faith - Hebrews 11:4
1. That faith lead to God’s testimony of his righteousness
2. That faith left a legacy that has lasted thousands of years.
B. Enoch’s faith also left a lasting memory - Hebrews 11:5
1. He did not die because God took him. Another testimony to a man’s righteousness
2. His faith pleased his God.
C. Faith is absolutely necessary - Hebrews 11:6
1. A faith that is confident in God’s existence, else why would anyone live righteously.
2. A faith that is a rock in its expectation of being rewarded for doing what pleases God.
D. This is the type of faith that allowed Noah to spend 120 years building an ark - Hebrews 11:7
1. In a world that probably never saw rain, yet Noah was confident that God was going to wipe out the world with a flood.
2. He condemned the world because he believed God’s word while the rest did not. They had no excuse.
E. The list goes on of people acting in accordance with their confidence in God in regards to things they could not know in advance.
V. The question is do you have confidence in God?
A. Do you really believe there is a God who will one day judge this world?
B. Do you really believe that God means what he says? That you must live in obedience to his word?
C. Do you? Then why aren’t you doing something about it?
D. James 2:14-20
E. Act as if you believe God. Live your life as if what God has said is a reality.
F. The example of Paul's confidence - II Timothy 1:12