Faith and Waiting on God
If a cartoonist was asked to capture the opposite of Hebrews 6v12 (“…imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”) using a current story that most in our nation would be familiar with, I doubt anyone could do better than this…
According to Scripture, there is an undeniable connection between FAITH (without which it is “impossible to please God” – Hebrews 11v6) and learning to WAIT patiently for God’s perfect timing for His promise/s to be fulfilled. It’s a concept our generation struggles with, but it’s that connection that I want to explore in this article.
When I read Hebrews 11, the great chapter on faith, I am immediately drawn to the fact that those mentioned in the chapter are not superheroes but regular, “wonderfully” frail people like you and me. Their great exploits for God was not because they were great men and women but they trusted in God who is great! The emphasis of the chapter is not a museum exhibit to honor the memory of the great faith heroes of the past but an encouragement, exhortation and invitation to a living experience and intimate fellowship with God, through the person of Jesus Christ.
If you take the time to study the story behind each example sited by the author of Hebrews in chapter 11, the same pattern emerges…
- God speaks to His people,
- His people (eventually) obey, and
- God is proved faithful by fulfilling His promise.
The Hebrews 11 “heroes’” conviction that God is faithful is the foundation for their obedience – just as God has revealed Himself to be faithful in the past, so He is now! And it’s this same conviction born out of relationship with Jesus that enables us to step out in faith in response to the word of the Lord. “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” is the wonderful promise of Hebrews 13v8.
The writer of Hebrews emphasizes the faithfulness of God as the foundation for faith in his buildup to Hebrews 11v1. A few comments…
Hebrews 10v35-39 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. 38 But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
“Why should we endure and not shrink back? Why should we hold on to God’s promise and wait patiently?”
Firstly, because our faith will be richly rewarded. Although salvation is already ours as a free gift of grace, we are promised reward in this life and the next if we persevere in our faith (v35-36).
Secondly, because God is coming to fulfill His promise (v37). v37 is a reference to Habakkuk 2v2-3, “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.” (The Message).
Thirdly, because the grounds for waiting patiently is the proven faithfulness of God (v38). Faith is essentially trusting in the faithfulness of God. We can live by faith because we believe Hebrews 10v23, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Habakkuk 2v4 continues, “…But the righteous shall live by His faithfulness!” What a wonderful promise that is!
This brings us to the famous definition of faith; Hebrews 11v1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (NIV)
Unfortunately the NIV does a poor job in translating v1. Faith is not “being sure of what we hope for” but rather “the assurance / the substance / being sure of things hoped for”. The ESV does a much better job of translating this verse, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for…” or more accurately, “Faith is the assurance of things God has promised.” Notice the contrast between “what we hope for” and “things God has promised”. God is the object of our faith and because He is faithful, we have faith! Faith never looks within; it always looks to God! RT Kendall once said about faith that “we live in a day where the church’s faith has become man-centered!” What, or who, is the object of your faith?
In v1`faith is also described by what it is not; it is the conviction or evidence or certainty of “things NOT seen.” “We live by faith not by sight”. Sight is the opposite of faith. As soon as we see the promise fulfilled we no longer need faith. Faith is the parenthesis between the undeniable appearances of God’s glory in our lives! It’s the time between the mountain top experiences. “Why can’t we live from “mountain-top” moment to “mountain-top” moment?“ Because without faith it is impossible to please God.
We are able to stand firm in FAITH, patiently WAITING for the fulfillment of the promise because God is faithful to do what He promised to do. Faith is waiting patiently for God, being fully persuaded by His integrity to keep His Word.