Here is a succinct definition of faith based on our passage:
- Faith believes in God.
- Faith trusts in God.
- Faith hopes in God.
- Faith obeys God (which is one reason for the examples).
- Faith is rewarded by God.
I read an article by another blogger today that intersects with our passage. Tim Challies lost a college-aged son a little over a year ago I believe. People have asked him whether or not he thinks that his son sends him signs from beyond, a question that he gets from both Christians and non-Christians. Here is a part of his response:
I understand the impulse to look for a sign and I understand the comfort that can come when we believe we have received one. Death and all that comes beyond this life is a great mystery. Though we all go that way, none return to describe it, none make their way back to assure us that heaven is real and God’s promises are true. Our loved ones cross the river and are lost to our sight and our hearts burn to know that they have passed over safely. It is natural, then, to hope for some kind of information, to seek some kind of a sign, to know that they are okay.
But even in the absence of a sign, I am convinced that Nick is okay. In fact, I am convinced that he is better than okay—he is the best he has ever been. Though death has for a time separated him from this world, it has transported him to the presence of God. In the moment he left here, he entered there. In the instant he arrived in heaven all trace of sin and its effects were obliterated so that he no longer sins or even wants to and no longer suffers or even can. His faith has become sight. He is in the place we all want to be. And now he awaits the consummation of all things, the reunion of body and soul, the coming of the new heavens and the new earth.
I am convinced that Nick is okay, but not because he has in some way let me know and not because he has sent a sign. I am convinced of all of this because the Bible tells me so. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith allows me to believe even when I do not see, it allows me to have confidence in what I cannot gaze upon with my eyes or hear with my ears or touch with my hands. It allows me to have confidence apart from signs. It allows me to believe that what the Bible says is sure and steady and true.
But it’s important to affirm that such faith is not mere wishing upon a star. It is not hoping against hope or longing against reason. Such faith is not irrational or unrooted. It is ultimately grounded in the factual, historical event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is one who has died and returned to life, there is one who has been to heaven and come to earth. His resurrection is the “firstfruits,” the evidence and guarantee that those who are bound to him will rise like him. The faith that guarantees our salvation guarantees our resurrection. The faith that saves our souls from sin is the faith that soothes our souls in sorrow.