Wednesday, December 10, 2008



We began this series with this sentence: When your life is out of control and your back's against the wall, you need a faith-lift. Well as we continue working on giving you a personal faith-lift, we come to what many have called the Hall of Faith. It's found in one of the earliest writings in the New Testament in the book of Hebrews. In the eleventh chapter the writer of this book illustrates extraordinary faith exercised by simple, ordinary people with unusual results. Each of these illustrations is helpful in lifting your faith. It's ordinary people living extraordinary lives!

Hebrews 11 begins with a definition of faith: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

So, what is faith? Faith is the promise of God! Faith gives confidence of "things hoped for." Faith gives "conviction of things not seen." It makes things concrete and gives substance to the invisible! Faith gives us a connection with God, because by it we gain approval from God and by it we understand the miracle of creation-"that the universe was formed at God's command." Faith makes the promises of God a reality!

I like how The Message expresses it: The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. By faith, we see the world called into existence by God's word, what we see created by what we don't see.

In essence you can say that faith is taking God at His word!

Faith is not only the promise of God; faith is personal! The writer of the Hebrews goes on to speak about Adam and Eve's two sons, Cain and Abel: By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

Again, The Message renders it this way: By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That's what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, that belief continues to catch our notice.

These two brothers lived their lives before God differently. Cain was a gardener and Abel was a herdsman. Cain offered sacrifice to God as a ritual-something he was supposed to do. Abel offered sacrifice to God by faith with his first-fruits-something he wanted to do. So, Cain did what he did to get by while Abel's heart priority was for God. Therefore, Cain's offering to God was disapproved and Cain became mad at God and the world, ending in being silenced. Abel's offering was approved and still speaks today. Cain, because of his anger, killed his brother, Abel. And, even though Abel was put to death, he continues to speak today with this principle of heart-generated faith.

There is something else about faith. Faith is powerful! What makes ordinary people live extraordinary lives? I have found three basic ingredients: FIRST-People of faith keep changing their perspective; they see the God who is there! This is a decision of the will-your choice!

SECOND-They keep committing to personal programming-to hear what God says. This is a discipline of the mind.

THIRD-They keep centering the priority of their hearts on God-to know what God wants! This is a desire of the heart! With this decision of your will, the discipline of your mind, and the desire of your heart, your ordinary faith becomes powerful!

You've got two choices and the first one doesn't count! Either, like Cain, you lose God as priority of your heart and leave the presence of God. Then you've got a real problem!

Or, like Abel, you center on God as the priority of your heart and gain God's approval. Then you've got the real power to go through anything. Abel is a supreme illustration of the work of faith. No matter what you offer to God, you must bring it to Him with all of your heart.

So, it's not a ritualistic, religious act of the mind and body, but totally and wholly a relational matter of the heart. Remember, God looks on the heart and man looks on the outward appearance. So, how's your heart?