Mankind is made to have many spiritual desires, the desire to have love and meaningful relationships, the desire for knowledge beyond the observable universe, and the desire for long lasting happiness. We are spiritually programmed to desire God and we are purposely designed to be incomplete so that we are drawn to God who completes us. Part of this incompleteness is an expectation that there are better times in the future. On one hand, we are anxious about the future, on the other hand, we cannot see the future. This dilemma points us towards God. Because God knows the future, it is possible for us to know the future. This knowledge comes by way of faith. In other words, God knows the future, he tells us about it, and we believe it. Hebrews 11 invites us to put our trust once again in God. Not only does he know things that we don’t, but he is also trustworthy.
Hebrews 4 describes the Christian life like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, the journey from suffering to glory. There will be sufferings in the Christian life, but the world cannot hold us forever, because Jesus is victorious over it. When we experience suffering, what will be the motivation to keep going? It is future glory, a promise for a better future, a hope. No one can suffer onto glory without faith. And to prove this point, the author of Hebrews will go through the Old Testament saints one by one to show how they lived by faith and how they were saved by faith.
- (V. 4) – Abel offered a sacrifice that was more acceptable than Cain’s. God didn’t accept Cain’s sacrifice because he hasn’t done what was right. It seems that Abel was accepted for his work, as he did what was right. However, verse 6 says, “And 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”. Sinners cannot approach God and their sacrifice will not be accepted by God. The only way Abel can offer an acceptable sacrifice is if he also has Christ as his great high priest and that Abel’s sin is forgiven in Christ. His sacrifice was accepted because of his faith, not his work.
- (V. 5) – Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. How could a sinner condemned to death be accepted by God? Even to be brought into heaven. For Enoch to walk with God, he must have seen God, believed in God, and lived his life for God. It is said in verse 6, he drew near to God because he believed in God’s existence and promises that he will reward those who seek Him. Enoch approached God by faith, this acts as a shadow of God’s redemption fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
- (V. 7) – Unlike Abel and Enoch, God spoke to Noah and gave him a specific task to follow. God told Noah to build an ark because a great flood will come through. Although Noah did not see God, he was called to believe in God’s words and to act upon it. By faith, Noah anticipated a flood, feared God’s judgement, and built the ark according to God’s design. Genesis 6:5-7 says the great flood was God’s judgement against the sins of the world, yet Noah and his family were spared in this universal judgement. The difference between Noah and the rest of mankind is not that Noah was sinless but lies in the fact that he believed in God’s words, and he acted upon that faith.
- (V. 8) – In Genesis 12, God told Abraham to leave his country, at this point Abraham did not know where he was going. But when God’s words came to Abraham, he obeyed immediately. He knew God had a plan and he wanted to be a part of it. Abraham knew that God was building a nation for Himself, and he knew that this blessing is greater than all the wealth the world can offer. Choosing between living in comfort and following God, Abraham chose to follow God. Abraham came to understand that his true inheritance is not on earth, but in heaven.
When we read about the main characters in the bible, we might think that they are special people with extraordinary lives, but this is not the case. They struggled with many sins just like us, their situation and our situation are not that different. So how is it that they were able to persevere in challenges in their life? It is by faith, by believing in God’s promises. If they were accepted by God because of their faith, so will we be accepted by God because of our faith.
Like the characters in the bible, we each have our own challenges in life, and we don’t know what lies ahead of us. But throughout the entire bible, there is truth written for us and our life situation. While the characters in the bible received God’s words in a few sentences, we received God’s words in a giant book. Every word written in the bible is penned by God, so is your faith in God weak? Take up the bible and read it, and you will find what you need.
Faith is a journey, and it is a learning process that spans our entire life. In fact, the bible records the failures of Abraham and Sarah to show us how their faith grew throughout their life. The Christian walk is difficult, yet we are called to walk this path. So, there are two kinds of comforts available to us. One comes from not taking another step forward; another one comes from letting go of what we think belongs to us and surrendering it to God, this comfort comes from being closer and closer to God. Out of these two comforts, only one is true. Will you embrace the true comfort in life that comes by faith? The Old Testament saints did it and now is our turn.