Almost every verse in Hebrews 11 begins with these two words: “by faith.” It is almost independent of which translation you read. They all use these words or something similar. Notable exceptions are the first verse which defines faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” The Message translates this verse as “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.” Many of the Old Testament heroes were commended for their faith in this chapter, but the last two verses said that “none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” These Old Testament heroes lives spanned hundreds of years with only the promise of a Messiah and they never saw that promise fulfilled; yet they were not only commended for their faith but also for what they accomplished through that faith.
Jesus also had some things to say about faith. After His disciples were unable to drive a demon out of a young boy, they asked Jesus why they couldn’t but He could. His answer in Matt 17:20 is “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Have you looked at a mustard seed lately? The one in the photo below seems bigger than the ones I’ve seen before; but it does make the point. I know I am woefully deficient in the faith department and that’s an area that I am trying to improve.
Jesus also compared the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed in Matt 13: 31. He said, “Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.”
I think we can conclude from these two passages that we can do amazing things with the tiniest amount of faith, but if we use it, practice it and strengthen it, it will grow even bigger and more powerful.
Back to Hebrews, the real heart of the matter of faith comes in chapter 12 when the author says, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” This implies to me that we each have our own race to run and it has been marked out for each of us. Runners and swimmers are trained to look forward; don’t look behind to see where the competition is, look ahead to the finish line. And run your race the best you can, not someone else’s race.
For some reason, the past day or two have been hard. I know both Robin and I have had Carter on our minds and we’ve had some brokenhearted discussion about it. It is precisely at this point when we are unable to see where we are going that we continue “by faith”.