In a previous blog, we talked about what faith is. Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Now that we already know what faith is according to the scriptures, how do we know we have faith? We know that we have faith in Christ based on what we do. Hebrews 11 gives us multiple examples of what having faith is through the lives of Old Testament saints.
The historical context of the “faith hall of fame” found in Hebrews 11 is that Christians who received the letter of Hebrews were going through severe persecution and suffering. The writer said that the Hebrews, in chapter 10:36, needed strength to endure because others were departing from the way. What did they need to endure? The answer is faith. Faith endures because of the “conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), which produces hope to endure even under challenging circumstances. The readers of Hebrews might not have seen anything hopeful because of the severe persecution they were facing. Still, faith has the power to endure because of the “assurance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1). They had assurance because God has revealed himself to humanity in various ways (Hebrews 1:1-2) and proven himself to be trustworthy over and over again(Hebrews 10:23).
Faith Listens to God
The first person to model how faith can give endurance in the most difficult of times is Abel. Abel was one of two boys that Eve gave birth to in the beginning (Genesis 4:1-2). He is among those lifted up in the hall of faith of the book of Hebrews because he listened to God. Cain, his brother, brought an offering of fruit from the ground (Genesis 4:3), but Abel, in obedience to the Lord, brought the firstborn of his flock (Genesis 4:4). Both came to worship. Still, Abel offered a “more acceptable sacrifice than Cain” (Hebrews 11:4). Abel offered his sacrifice in faith (Hebrews 11:4) as opposed to Cain.
It is believed that during Cain and Abel’s time, God would send fire from the sky to burn up offerings. In Leviticus 9:24, fire came down from heaven and burnt up an offering, again during Gideon’s time (Judges 6:21), Samson’s birth (Judges 13:19-20), and during Elijah’s time on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:38). Hence, back to Cain and Abel’s story, Cain could not understand why God would display his glory in fireworks with Abel’s offering and not his (Genesis 4:5). Still, we know what God values and how the rest of the story goes.
How to Listen to God
The entire chapter of Hebrews 11 teaches us that faith is based on a belief in divine revelation, and it would have been plain to both Cain and Abel how they were to offer their sacrifices. But only one brother did it in faith, the right way. In Abel’s case, God revealed that he wanted a sacrifice of an animal offered in faith to cleanse their sins. This revelation would most likely have come through Adam and Eve’s teaching. Adam would have told Cain and Abel about what happened in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6-7, Genesis 3:21). God made the first sacrifice there. This had to happen since he had said that death would follow eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:17). However, God had an animal die in their place instead of death coming to them. The animal dying in place of Adam and Eve is a profound foreshadowing of Jesus later dying in place of sinners (1 Peter 3:18, 2 Corinthians 5:21). Abel must have paid much attention to this story and known that he had sinned as much as his parents and needed grace from God to continue living, so he offered an animal in faith. Abel believed in God’s revelation and genuinely needed God to accept his offering.
This story teaches that faith not only listens to God but also obeys what he says. It considers God’s past works and believes his revelation through the scriptures is accurate. Are you listening to God through his revealed Word? Too often, we see other people saying that they have faith in God, yet they live a life that clearly shows they neither listen to God nor obey him. They are like Cain; sin is crouching outside their door, waiting to destroy them (Genesis 4:6-7), and ultimately in hell. Consider if you have faith; if you do, your life and character must show it.
Faith Walks With God
Next, we learn what faith does through the story of Enoch (Hebrews 11:5-6). Enoch had faith which led to him walking with God (Genesis 5:24). In that time, we see others who lived before him mentioned multiple times. For example, the scriptures say, “all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died” (Genesis 5:5). The exact phrase “and he died” is repeated a few more times in Genesis 5 in reference to Adam, Seth, Enosh, Mahalalel, Jared, Methuselah, and Lamech (Genesis 5:8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 27, 30). Then, Enoch appears, who “walked with God and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24).
How to walk with God
We begin by considering Adam and Eve and how they used to walk with God in the garden before they sinned (Genesis 3:8), signifying that they had communion and were at peace with God. Apart from this, walking with God also means that we “do justly” and “love mercy” as we “walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). It also means that we agree with God in obedience to his will (Amos 3:3). It is a pleasure to walk with God (Psalm 16:11). The constant and continuous enjoyment of the presence of God as we walk with him in faith is possible for you now. This is a foretaste of how it will be in heaven.
When we say Enoch walked with God, it means what all of the scriptures above tell us. But Jude 14-15 makes things interesting by adding how Enoch walked with God amid a very ungodly society. Enoch expressed his faith by continuing to walk with God despite the unrelenting ungodliness around him. Faith will enable you to walk with God despite the surrounding circumstances. God is calling us, his children, to do the same today. Are you walking with God despite what others say and do around you?
As you claim to be a follower of Christ, may your proclamations be backed by a life of listening and walking with God. Those who truly are of faith will pay attention, do what faith asks, and go where faith leads. Do you have faith?
Living by Faith Series by Pst. Colin Smith