“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10)
Hebrews 11 has often been cited as the “Hall of Fame” of faith. The purpose of the author (who is unknown) was to encourage those Christians who were tempted to doubt and fall away from Christ because of the pressures of persecution. He desired them to persevere just as did their spiritual ancestors. To do this, the author presented a masterful exhortation on faith. He began with a brief definition of what faith is: absolute confidence in God’s promises based upon what He has done and who He is. The author expounded on this definition by enumerating the faithful heroes of the Old Testament. Through faith they all endured persecution and trials despite the consequences.
Though the world may extol those people who, by its standards have lead exemplary lives as evidenced by their good deeds and notable accomplishments, however that be defined, faith is exercised by ordinary believers, not super saints (as if there were such a thing). Although saints are righteous and holy, at the same time they are weak and sinful. Their faith is demonstrated by actions and deeds that result in God’s glory and favor. Sometimes favor comes in the form of earthly prosperity, success, or spectacular achievements as with Noah and Abraham. Some of the outcomes can seem to be negative, as when the person exercising faith dies before the promises of God are realized to any extent. Such was the case with Abraham. Although he was the Father of the Hebrew race and viewed with a great deal of respect we must remember that he was not perfect. Lest we think faith such as his is unattainable for us, we must recall that he doubted. He acted on those doubts. He sinned. He created problems for himself, his family and his neighbors. Yet through it all he believed God. His faith governed his lifestyle and choices. In his life he did not realize the promises of a nation, innumerable descendants and blessings. Yet he knew absolutely these would come because God is always faithful to His promises. His life teaches us that we must persevere in the face of obstacles and persecution, pain and loss. We can be sure that our reward and commendation will come, if not in the temporal world, then surely in the Kingdom of God. This assurance will carry us through.