WONDERFUL THING IN THIS PASSAGE – People may be impressed by our looks, our intellect, our strength, our eloquence, our leadership, our talent, and our accomplishments. None of those impress God. Faith impresses God. In the entire Bible, Jesus was “amazed” only twice: at a Centurion’s faith and at His hometown’s lack of it (Luke 7:9; Mark 6:6).
Possibly more than any other chapter in the Bible, Hebrews 11 teaches us how highly God values faith: “For by it our ancestors won God’s approval” (v.2). “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (v.6). The names of 16 men and women were called out for honor in this chapter by the Lord Himself, and He explains: “All these were approved through their faith” (v. 39).
No wonder you and I join millions of Christians ever since the original twelve in praying “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). Hebrews 11 helps by defining the particular kind of faith that impresses God:
Faith is acting on what God says rather than on what we see.
None of the heroes of the faith acted on what they saw because “Faith is…the proof of what is not seen” (v. 1). Noah “was warned about what was not yet seen” – it had never rained – but God warned him about it and for 120 years, he “built an ark to deliver his family” (v. 7). Abraham had never seen a land west of his ancestral home, but at God’s instruction, he set out for it, “even though he did not know where he was going” (v. 8).
Moses couldn’t see how he could rescue his entire nation from slavery. He couldn’t see how God could possibly fulfill His outlandish threats against their oppressors, but he got in Pharaoh’s face over and over with God’s demands. Why? God had spoken to him, and “Moses persevered as one who sees him who is invisible” (v. 27).
Looking forward or backward, right or left, the Israelites saw nothing but walls of raging water towering above them and defying every understanding of how the world works, but God had commanded them forward, and “by faith they crossed the Red Sea as though they were on dry land” (v. 29).
But faith is not just doing something heroic, something against the odds, something others would be afraid to do. It is acting on what God says rather than on what we see. The Egyptians saw the Hebrews ahead of them walking safely through the sea, and they were emboldened to follow. However, God had not commanded them to do so, and “When the Egyptians attempted to do this, they were drowned” (v. 29).
WONDERFUL THING IN OUR LIVES – What has God told you and me that we are afraid to do because we can see the negative results? We’ll be ridiculed like Noah. We’ll step out into the unknown like Abraham. We’ll look like fools listening to an invisible voice like Moses. We’ll go against all conventional wisdom like the Israelites. Who knows what we’ll risk in the process?
God does. And that’s what impresses Him: that, if necessary, you would choose “to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasure of sin” (v. 25) because you “considered that the One who had promised was faithful” (v. 11). Has God given you an understanding of His will or an assignment in His kingdom that requires some steps of faith. Is this a good day to take the first one?