Thursday, August 20, 2015

"The Substance of Faith"

     "Faith is the substance of things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:1).

  God's promises are so certain to be fulfilled that trusting Him initiates our possession of "things hoped for."  We may not yet physically see or hold that for which we wait.  However, if we pray and wait according to our Lord's will, faith serves as the firstfruits of experiencing the reality of God's promises.  Thus, trusting God serves as substance in the spiritual sense.  This does not preclude the necessity of the Lord's promises being manifested outwardly in the ultimate sense.  "The Lord will do this thing that He hath spoken" (Isaiah 38:7).  It does mean, however, that we possess tangible spiritual reality when we genuinely trust our Heavenly Father in accordance with His Word.

    What do we possess?  The first answer rather involves "Who?".   We experience the living Person of the Lord Jesus Christ when we exercise faith in God.  "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).  The presence of Christ in us constitutes the believer's "hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).  Dwelling within us is the Spirit of a Son who perfectly trusts His Father.  We will not perfectly respond to the power of such indwelling, but a completely faithful Christ nevertheless motivates and empowers our confidence.  Thus, we "look to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith" as the dynamic source of trusting God when we do not yet see the complete fruition of His promises (Hebrews 12:2).  No greater experience of the Lord Jesus is presently possible than knowing Him as the power whereby we "endure, as seeing Him who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:27).

    We also possess the opportunity to honor our Lord in a manner that full reception of God's promises does not provide.  Of the many trusting saints mentioned in the epistle to the Hebrews, the writer declared, "By it (faith), the elders obtained a good report" (Hebrews 11:2).  That is, the Old Testament elders fostered a good reputation by their trusting the Lord for promises that they never fully received during their earthly lifetime.  For whom did they obtain this "good report" or reputation?  Not for themselves!  "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord… If any minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth, that God in all things may be glorified by Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 1:31; I Peter 4:11).  Our brothers and sisters in Hebrews certainly provide good examples of faith.  We don't for a moment, however, extol their virtue, but rather the glory and reputation of the One whose Spirit and revelation of Himself makes our choices of faith possible.  "Now faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).  When we trust God for promises yet to be fulfilled, we provide "evidence of things not seen," evidence of the Lord's faithfulness known in darkness no less than in light.

    Finally, walking by faith opens a door into the most beautiful potential imaginable for the trusting child of God in Christ, namely, to bless the heart of our Heavenly Father.  "By faith Enoch… had this testimony, that he pleased God" (Hebrews 11:5).    A dear friend of mine recently preached a message in which he recounted his days playing high school football.  During practice one afternoon, John collided with a juggernaut running back, tackling the star, but being knocked silly in the process.  "I couldn't see", John recalled.  "Everything was black, and I barely knew where I was.  But I heard a coach yelling at me, "Good lick!"  Instantly, I didn't care about how I felt, or my jarred brain.  I pleased my coach, and all that mattered was his affirmation.  "Good lick!"  In his sermon, John went on to add, "Can you imagine how we will all feel if one day we hear our Heavenly Father say to us after a lifetime of often not being able to see the fulfillment of His promises, but trusting Him nevertheless, Well done, thou good and faithful servant?  What will it be like to know that we have pleased God?!"  Indeed.  What will it be like?  It will be like everything that matters!  And in this hour, we can know that we please our blessed Lord as we believe His Word.  Nothing matters more or even as much, and regardless of promises we may not yet fully have in hand, the joy of pleasing God means that we have in heart that which most fill and fulfills us in the very depths of our being.  Yes, faith is substance.

"We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
(Romans 5:2)

Weekly Memory Verse
   I will both lay me down in peace and sleep, for Thou Lord only makest me dwell in safety. 
(Psalm 4:8)

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