If you’ve been in church for any period of time you’ve probably heard of Hebrews chapter 11, sometimes referred to as the “faith chapter” or the “hall of faith”. The other night I decided to flip there because I’ve been craving some direction from God. Honestly, I’ll admit that I’ve read Hebrews 11 quite a few times, but I’ve never really read it until two nights ago. 11:1 starts out in a familiar place :
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
That’s a pretty solid definition of faith, especially when it comes to the Christian faith. I admired this verse for a few seconds and then read on. I paused briefly at 11:3 to see if I could recite it; I had to memorize this verse for my Bible class at school. Then 11:6 brings me to a sort of, well, uncomfortable place.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Faith – the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. We’ve all got some sort of faith. Especially as Christians. Of course, I have faith that God exists, but that isn’t enough, this verse showed me that, and it made me uncomfortable. For all the faith I have, I’ve probably got just as much, if not more, doubt. You might too. Dare I day, it’s normal. That’s right! It’s normal to have doubt and unbelief. We’re fallen humans living in a fallen world. God knows that we aren’t going to have 100% faith every hour of every day, and that was what I realized reading the second half of this verse. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him – He doesn’t expect perfect faith from us. He just expects us to diligently seek Him and try our very, very hardest to have faith, and trust Him. There’s an old song I grew up listening to called “Settle On My Soul” by the Martins. There’s one line in that song that’s always stuck in my brain, no matter how much I can’t remember the rest of the words to save my life. It simply says “help my unbelief”. God knows we are going to have problems, and He’s okay with that, but He’s willing to help our unbelief if we just ask Him. I used to ask my mom what that line meant, and she’d always tell me that sometimes we really want to put all our faith in God, but regardless of that, we can still have trouble doing it. So, she told me, we just ask God to help our unbelief, and do our best with the rest. I read on in Hebrews, confident that my best attempt at faith is all God was asking me for.
11:8-10 hit me particularly hard. Right in the gut. Right in the middle of a season where God was being quieter than a monk who’d taken a vow of silence. Right when I wasn’t expecting an answer. The funny thing? I had to read the section twice before I even realized that God was getting at. I can only imagine Him chuckling at me.
“You’ve been practically begging me for direction for how long, and when I show you something you don’t even realize it! Here, go back and read it again. There you go. Got it now?” – God probably.
Oh man. I’ve reread Hebrews 11:8-10 at least 4 more times since then, scanning and trying to make sure it was God talking to me – Lord, help my unbelief! Anyway, 11:8-10 says this :
“By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God.”
Now if you read this and just thought “Cool, way to go Abraham!” you’re not alone. That’s pretty much what I thought when I was reading it the first time. Then I felt the subtle nudge of the Holy Spirit to go back and read it again. I do, and what I discovered was amazing to me.
The first thing that hit me was “Abraham obeyed when he was called”. Through His silence, God’s been dealing with me quite a bit about obedience. So, this phrase grabbed my attention and confirmed my question about whether or not God was calling me to do something I’d been considering, or if I was just making it up myself.
The next thing that grabbed me was “by faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country”. One of my biggest fears that God has been dealing with me about is the fear of not being accepted, being an outsider, and it goes hand-in-hand with the kind of obedience He’d been requesting of me. Abraham by faith dwelt in a foreign country. Hello! Abraham was a literal outsider, yet by faith he obeyed God. If Abraham obeyed God’s call and had enough faith to be able to handle being an outsider, I guess I can too.
The third thing that God pointed out to me in His small window of broken silence was where the verses say “heirs with him of the same promise”. Yes, God is calling me to be obedient in a “foreign country” so to speak, but I’m not going to be alone. God is calling others too. I won’t be the only outsider, I guess you could say that I’ll have “heirs with me of the same promise”.
The remaining part of the verse says “for he waited for a city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God”. Waited. Patience is the most seemingly unobtainable of all the spiritual gifts. My youth pastor always jokingly said “If you like how things are going, you probably shouldn’t pray for God to give you patience. You know why? Because to make patience, God had to put you in situations where you have to be patient.” Yet, here I am, the wise fool – praying for patience. Wow! Has God taken His time teaching me that one! Ironic, yeah? Through this part of the verse God showed me that even though His patience-endowing process is slow and painful, it is totally worth it.
Since my reading this passage two nights ago, it seems as though God has re-taken His “vow of silence”, but that’s alright. I’ll be able to thrive on Hebrews 11 (especially 8-10) for a while. If you’re going through a silent spot too, I know it’s hard, but keep seeking and keep trusting. Pray that the Lord will help your unbelief. Eventually, God will break His silence, even if it is for just five minutes. Or, well, 3 verses.