“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
Hebrews 11 lays out an excellent portrait of faith. Looking at each person mentioned, we see a broad spectrum covered by the phrase “by faith.” In the first several verses of this chapter, there are some practical ingredients of faith for our own lives.
1. There must be a word from God
“For by [faith] the elders obtained a good report” (Hebrews 11:2). “Obtained a good report” carries the idea that they received a report from God about what they ought to do. They did what God had desired for them to do. Abraham received a word from God and left Ur of the Chaldees with no other instruction than, “go.” Peter stepped out onto the water with one word, “come.” Jesus always did the will of the Father. How willing are we to step out on just a single word? We like to see it all on paper, or make sense of every step before we step out. We want it to make sense financially before we give. The problem is, that that is not faith. When we receive the word from God, it is our responsibility to respond by faith. One author said it this way: “Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die.”
2. There must be a worship of God
“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Hebrews 11:4). Abel offered a sacrifice acceptable to God. He came into a place of genuine worship. His sacrifice was, first of all, a picture of the gospel message. “…and without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). An innocent lamb died for the guilty sinner. This sacrifice also shows humility in worship. It is not about how I want to worship, that was Cain’s problem, but rather, it is about what God desires. Worship is all about the object of worship, not the worshiper. (More on worship). Abel brought an acceptable sacrifice that was well pleasing to God and thus entered into a wonderful time of worship; by faith.
3. There must be a walk with God
“By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5). In Genesis 5:22, the Bible tells us that “Enoch walked with God.” Here in Hebrews 11, it says that he pleased God. Truly one cannot step out by faith without a walk with God. Walking with someone infers a few thoughts:
a. To walk with someone, you must be close to that person. How close do we try to get to God? “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:8).
b. To walk with someone, you must be going in the same direction. Many say they walk with God, but their lives are going in opposing directions. The moment you are walking in a different direction, you are no longer walking together.
c. To walk with someone, you must be in agreement. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3).” You must be in agreement with His ways. One thing that is so telling of the culture of Christianity today is the number of believers that indicate that they, or culture, are right, and God is wrong. We must come into agreement with God. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord…” (Isaiah 1:18).
d. To walk with someone, you must be together. You cannot get ahead of God, and do not lag behind. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way” (Psalm 37:23).
4. There must be a work for God
“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Hebrews 11:7). When you are worshipping God, are walking with God, and received a word from God, what’s left is to act upon it. Faith will always lead to an action. In Mark 2 there was a man who was bed-ridden and was carried by his four friends. When they could not get to Jesus, they tore apart a man’s roof and lowered him in. The Bible tells us that Jesus “saw” their faith. It was displayed outwardly. All throughout Hebrews 11, we have examples of people’s extraordinary faith leading them to action. Could you truly have faith without it being connected to action? “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18). Faith will always lead to an action. If there is no work for God, I have to wonder, was there any faith? Just to clarify, we are saved by grace, not works (Ephesians 2:8-9). There is nothing left to be done for salvation on the part of man but to repent of unbelief and confess Christ as Saviour. However, faith without works is dead.
5. You must have God’s power within
“Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11). Anything done in the flesh will come to nothing. In the flesh, we cannot please God. Furthermore, God has never asked us to do anything for Him that we could do in the power of our flesh. Jesus mentioned that on the day of judgment, many people will say to Him that they did many wonderful things in His name, the problem was they did it in iniquity and not by faith (Matthew 7:22-23). Anything by faith must be done by the power of God through you. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
So how about it? Have you received a word from the Lord? Get into your Bible, it’s full of promises, guidance, and direction from God that you can claim for yourself today! Have you engaged in a genuine worship of God? (more on worship). How’s your walk with God? Are you in step with Him, or are you consumed with your philosophies and ways? What work for God are you engaged in, by faith? And whose strength are you relying on? Each of these building blocks are essential, as you build your life of greater faith.