Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for sending us the Holy Spirit Who is the Author and Prefector of our faith! Thank You for thereby linking us eternally with the entire Trinity and also with the saints in heaven and on earth. May we always value our God-given faith higher than anything else in this life. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE OBJECT OF TRUE CHRISTIAN FAITH!
TEXT: Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
What’s your most valuable possession? What do you treasure more than anything else in life? Some would say: “My health.” That’s a pretty good answer, but throughout life our robust bodies let us down, break down, and ultimately fail us. Some would say: “My portfolio of investments is sacrosanct.” Ah, but it keeps going up and down and in the end “you can’t take it with you.” Some would say: “My spouse, my children, my friends and extended family.” That, too, is a good choice. But all of them cause heartache at times; none of them can make you eternally fulfilled. Some would say: “My honor.” That, too, is a noble choice. But have you always been totally honorable toward everyone, all the time?
No, there can be only one answer to that question for a Christian. What is your most valuable possession? Of course, it is your faith. As Scripture says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”
Hebrews chapter 11 is known as “the faith chapter” of the Bible. It is a wonderful section which lifts us heavenward and causes our souls to simply soar. But it is also very “down to earth” because it treats of Christian faith as living reality—more real and more valuable than anything else in life.
The opening words are jarring: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” In human terms, a hope is not a reality.—If you doubt that just think about all the stocks you hoped would go up and it went down instead! Likewise, “certain of what we do not see” also seems rather preposterous. To us certainty is being able to feel, taste, touch, smell, and see something. To us, if it’s outside the senses it isn’t real. It has no reality. And yet, Christian faith is more real than anything else in life. It is firmer than any bedrock. It is stronger than any piece of steel. It provides insights into the hidden things of God that otherwise would cause our minds to go blank. That point is made real by these next words: “By faith, we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”
Now you must understand that when the world talks about “faith” they don’t mean Christian faith. They mean some sort of vague hope, a feeling based on emotions, a psychological tool to prop us up when we’re desolate, helpless, and needy. To the world, basing your life on this kind of “faith” is a fool’s errand. It shows psychological weakness and should be avoided at all costs. This is also the rationale they use to deride and mock Christian faith.
But, of course, Christian faith is really none of the above. First, it begins and ends with God, specifically Jesus Christ. St. Paul says it well in Ephesians when he writes: “By grace (God undeserved love) you are saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.” Faith is a gift from God, a reality from God, wrought by His great love for us in Jesus Christ. We don’t will ourselves to believe. We don’t earn this gift by special, supposedly “Godly” actions on our part. No, this eternal link, this portal to God is His gift to us. It comes when He changes our hearts to accept and embrace Jesus as our Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil. It comes through God’s vehicles of grace: His Holy Word and blessed Sacraments. So, from beginning to end, true Christian faith is all about God, gives all glory to God, and through it God clamps unto our eternal soul and won’t let go.
To be sure, at times our faith is weak and at times it is strong. So it has been for every saint—including the ones talked about in our lesson. And yet the link remains, because God’s gift is always strong and the object of true faith is always strong, namely Jesus Christ. Our grip on Him may flail around and sometimes slip, but He never moves. And that, my friends, is the one and only reason we can always rejoice even if our mind doesn’t always understand and our senses cannot always grasp God’s reality.
The rest of our text goes on to outline the faith-filled lives lived by various Old Testament heroes of such faith. It speaks of Abraham listening to God’s voice and braving the unknown to find the promise land. It speaks of him trusting in God’s promise for a Savior from his lineage, even though human reality told Abraham: “this is impossible.” If you read the entire chapter, countless other saints are recounted and their faith is celebrated, too. These people weren’t foolish. They weren’t deluded. They were just like you and me. They recognized that life without God and His love for them was empty and quite meaningless in the end. But with God and with Christ it was rich, full, and would last forever. Yes, faith gave them the ability to understand Godly reality instead of remaining mired in mere human, limited reality. Listen now as the writer to the Hebrews outlines the intersection between these two, diverse worlds:
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
CHRISTIAN FAITH IS THE ULTIMATE REALITY. All other forms of what we think is so real, valuable and important cannot stand the test of time. They cannot last beyond the human time line and will not transport us into eternity and the heavenly realm. Only Christian faith can do that. So, celebrate your faith. Value your faith. And thereby value and celebrate Christ, Who has given it to you. Amen