We Walk by Faith
One doesn’t have to be a Christian for very long before the popularity of Hebrews 11 becomes apparent. It is considered to be among the most beloved and the most important chapters in Scripture. I think this is true partly because of how it celebrates the Old Testament heroes of our Sunday school childhood: Noah, Abraham, and Moses.
It’s also because of the style of the chapter. The ending builds to a glorious crescendo; one can almost hear the preacher’s voice growing stronger and deeper—“conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises”—it reminds me of that final fusillade of fireworks in the summer night’s sky. The chapter is a literary and rhetorical masterpiece. It tugs at the heart arguably like nothing else in Hebrews. This chapter—not just its players—rightly belongs in the Hall of Fame.
But I have come to appreciate Hebrews 11 for another reason, one I was blind to until halfway through this project. Before you get too excited, I’ll say candidly that the revelation wasn’t exactly deep or profound; remember, I’m from Mississippi and I was homeschooled, so manage your expectations! What I have to offer here won’t blow your mind.
However, something doesn’t have to blow your mind to change your life.
Halfway through my study of and reflection on Hebrews, I found myself wondering why our author had to write to a group of Christians about the deep realities of our faith—the supremacy of the Son, the priesthood of Christ, the advantages of this new covenant that accrue to us. If these profound and blessed truths were experienced automatically, why talk about it? Why did he place so much emphasis in his homily on drawing near to God, particularly if this is something every Christian encounters by virtue of the saving work and faithful intercession of our Lord?
That’s when I realized—they don’t. Not every Christian experiences that nearness, that intimacy, that wonder of being beckoned to intrude boldly on the divine presence amid many dangers, toils, and snares. What was true of the original audience of Hebrews has also been true of me, as well as most every other Christian. While we might have been “in Christ”—though we had become “sons”—we were unaware of the glorious realities of that status. We were unaware of the access we had obtained.
I once applied for and received a credit card because of the travel points offered to whomever enrolled—the “introductory offer” as it’s sometimes known. I knew the other perks offered by this card were pretty good, but I was in it for the points, so I didn’t take the time to scour the brochure and memorize every single benefit the card conveyed. It was over a year later that I learned I had been paying unnecessarily for “access” or “perks” that were already mine simply by owning the credit card. In other words, those services were free to me as a courtesy. For example, the card granted me access to airport lounges where I might rest a while before a flight. The card gave me rental car insurance for free so that I didn’t have to use the agency’s or rely on my own carrier. The card covered me with purchase protection (e.g., extended warranty) instead of having to obtain it from the store or a third-party. I already had access or could lay claim to numerous benefits, but I wasn’t doing so because I was uninformed.
I think that was the Hebrews’ problem; it has been my problem, and likely yours, also. When we emerge from baptism’s waters, it’s not as if a magic wand gets waved by an angel and we instantly are made aware of all the spiritual blessings granted to us in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:3). Aside from the emotion of it all (and the emotional high from becoming a child of God is quite powerful and can last a long time), it’s common not to feel any difference in our lives post-conversion, at least eventually. For the first few weeks, yes, everything seems different. But when we come down from the clouds, the rhythms of day-to-day living return to their familiar patterns. We begin to walk less by faith and more by sight. We can’t help but focus on what’s immediately in front of us: family matters, work responsibilities, financial struggles, health issues. Perhaps that’s Satan’s most common tool; not to snare us in some grave moral failure, but to teach us to walk by sight and thereby blind us to the blessings bestowed upon us by the supreme Son.
The only way to experience these blessings is by faith. It’s that simple—and that hard. Remember our author’s words in chapter 2, that we do not yet see everything under the feet of Jesus, but by faith we see the Son crowned with glory and honor, and by faith we know that he will one day soon reign over all. Likewise, we do not yet see every burden lifted from our shoulder; we do not see every storm dispelled to stillness, but by faith we see a faithful and merciful high priest dealing gently with us and granting us insider’s access that our pleas and petitions and prayers might be heard at the throne. Most certainly, there are times for each of us when we do not feel every sin forgiven, every transgression forgotten—the prince of this world loves to broker in shame and guilt. But by faith, we know our high priest has atoned for all our misdeeds once and for all.
The world’s retort to this is to dismiss it as a mere psychological mind game, an immature “believing it makes it so” mentality that gets you nowhere. But if we believe the world was fashioned out of nothing; that a floating barge delivered eight souls from a global flood; that seas have separated, mountains have moved, and fortresses have fallen apart; if we believe that a man three-days-dead rose from his grave to be declared the supreme Son—then I have no issue believing in the blessings God says are mine in Christ Jesus. The problem isn’t with being unrealistic as it is being uninformed.
Yes, all the magnificent claims of Hebrews are true. Claims of sin and salvation, of fear and faith. Claims of sacrifice and suffering, perseverance and priesthood, of drawing near versus shrinking back. You just have to read the “brochure”—the final word God has spoken through his Son—then live as if it’s so. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).
Michael Whitworth is the founder of Start2Finish and author of several books, including the award-winning The Epic of God and The Derision of Heaven. In his spare time, Michael enjoys reading and drinking coffee, watching sports, and spending time with his awesome family.