A Commendable Faith
Do you struggle with faith? Pastor Oliver expounds on the faith that God commends.
There were more than 5000 recipients in 24 Awards Category at the 2020 Singapore National Day Awards. Since 1998, these awards have been given out as commendations to individuals. To be commended is to be spoken well of. These individuals were recognised for their merit and service to Singapore. These are men spoken well of by other men. In Hebrews Chapter 11, we also have a list of individuals that God speaks well of. These are men commended by God. These individuals, however, were commended for their faith rather than merit or service.
What does the faith that God approves of look like? This is an important question. In Hebrews 10:39, the author spoke of those who "shrink back" from their faith and are destroyed. In the book of Hebrews, warnings were given to believers who were tempted to give up on Jesus Christ because of the difficulties they were facing. Rather than fall away from the faith, the author of Hebrews tells them that Jesus Christ is better and encourages his hearers to have faith. They are to have the kind of faith that will preserve their souls, i.e., giving evidence of their salvation. So there is spurious or a fake faith, and a faith that gives proof of our salvation. To have a faith that God commends is relevant: given the sad reality of Christian walking away from their faith. So what does faith that God commends, a faith that pleases God, that gives proof to our salvation look like? What is the nature of the faith that God commends?
Hebrews 11:1-2 serve to introduce the list of heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. Just as some of us have a list of sports heroes we wish to emulate, the author of Hebrews aims to encourage believers to a particular kind of faith. The type of faith, as shown by the Old Testament saints and to follow in their examples. "Now, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation."
Verse 1 gives a definition of the nature of the kind of faith that pleases God. What is the nature of this faith? It is a settled confidence that something in the future—something not yet seen but has been promised by God—will actually come to pass. This is because God will bring it about. It is a conviction that God will keep His word, that He will do what He says. What is the kind of faith that God delights in? It is one which takes God at His Word. For it is by this kind of faith that the people of old received their commendation from God.
The rest of Hebrews 11 shows us this kind of faith that is lived out. The believers of old took God at His Word, and they ordered their lives in such a way that demonstrated their trust. Faith takes God at His Word and lives in ways that reflect this trust. My friends, do you take God at His Word? Do you live in ways that reflect this faith? Do we sometimes struggle with doubts with taking God at His Word? Perhaps, you have seen a mature believer whom you have invested in walk away from the faith, and you wonder, "Does God's Word really impact lives?" Perhaps you share the gospel with a friend or relative, and that person does not respond, and you wonder, "Does the gospel really have the power to change lives?" Perhaps, you faced yet another disappointment in your ministry, your relationship, your life, and you wonder, "God, can you really be counted on? Do you really work all things out for good?" Or you gather at your class 20th anniversary dinner, and you hear of all your friends' achievements and success. And you struggle to believe that what you do matters and that Jesus really can satisfy?
My friends, we can take God at His Word. What God says He will do, He will do. Let the weight of His future promises give substance to our lives right now. Though it is challenging to trust in things we cannot visibly see right now, we need to have eyes of faith that see the reality what God has promised will come to pass. Ask God for eyes to see. Our faith is not a stab in the dark kind of faith, for God has already kept His most significant promise to us—to save us from our sins. He sent His son Jesus Christ to come into a specific time and space in history some 2000 years ago. Jesus Christ came to die for our sins in our place. He was raised to life so that we can receive eternal life. God has already kept His Word and has done this—He has accomplished this great rescue at the cost of His very own son, how much more can we trust that God will keep His Word to us as given in the rest of the Bible. My friends, take God at His Word and trust in this promise-keeping God.
Hebrews 11:3 continues, "By faith, we understand that the universe was created by the Word of God so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible." Verse 3 is a transition verse. It draws us back to the beginning of creation before verse 4 goes on to the biographies of the faith heroes. Verse 3 tells us a little more of the nature of the faith God approves of. With the kind of faith that takes God at His Word, we can believe and understand that the entire universe was formed by God's command as recorded in Genesis 1. Creation was spoken in being. God created from out of nothing. This verse echoes Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Faith presupposes God, and that God made all of creation by speaking it into existence through his powerful Word. God's Word has the power to create matter and to create life! In the intro to John's Gospel, we can find echoes of Hebrews 11:3 and Genesis 1:1.
John 1:3, "All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made." The Bible tells us that God creates by His Word, and His Word incarnate is Jesus Christ. All of Creation was made through Jesus Christ. So the kind of faith that God commends takes God at His Word and ultimately places our trust in the Word Incarnate Jesus Christ. Given all the origin stories being told, my friends, do you trust that God created all things and it was for our good? Do you believe that our powerful God spoke creation into existence? This is crucial as every worldview answers the question, "Where do we come from?" And the answer to this question determines our identity. God's Word tells us that God created us. And made creation for our good. This means our identity is rooted in the truth that we are owned by God. God has ownership claims on us.
My friends, if we have faith that God is our good creator, do we order our lives in such a way that reflects this? Do we live Sunday for God and live the other six days of the week our own way, seeking to fulfil our desires? Do we live all of our lives, 24-7, "Coram Deo", before the face of our creator God? Do we submit all our desires, dreams, ambitions, possessions, finances, relationships, time and energy to the ownership of Jesus Christ? Trusting that it is for our good? How would it look like if we do? Even our ministry is owned by God. Do we strive to steward our ministry for God? Do we desire in our service to have all glory and honour go to Christ? Or do we (if we dare admit it), sometimes pursue ministry for our own glory, thinking that we somehow own it—that it is ours and it should serve our own ends?
Faith is taking God at his Word, and trusting that God will do what He says He will do. The outcome of this faith is evident in the way we live our lives. Perhaps some of us here today need to deal with God on some matters. For some of us here today, we realised, "God, my life right now does not fully reflect my faith in you. There are areas I've not submitted to your ownership, and there are areas I'm still clinging to as if they belonged to me." Do spend time seeking repentance and turning back to God. Or for others of us, perhaps you hear God's Word proclaimed and you realise, "God, I struggle with taking you fully at your word." God is merciful. Plead to God with the prayer of the father of the demon-possessed boy, "God, I want to believe... help my unbelief!" For if you desire God's commendation and pleasure, seek faith! For "without faith, it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (Heb 11:6). Amen!
- Pray for the political situation in Myanmar. Pray for peace and justice to prevail. Pray also for the churches in Myanmar that they will be good gospel witnesses during this time. Pray also for safety and protection for the families and friends of Myanmar nationals who worship with us.
- Grace Baptist Church will have our weekend services on as usual during this long Chinese New Year weekend. Please do join us for our Saturday 5pm and Sunday 9am services in person, or our livestream service via YouTube at 9am on Sunday.