“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. By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.”
Last month we learned that Hebrews 11 is a sort of “hall of faith,” where God highlights for us various heroic acts of faith. How would you define a “heroic act of faith”? Considering how differently man and God answer that question reveals why faith itself truly is a gift from God.
Man sees that phrase, “heroic act of faith,” and focuses in on the heroic part. To be “heroic,” man reasons that an act of faith must be something exciting, something big, something that draws attention. Therefore, man conjures up his own ideas regarding “heroic acts of faith”: walking barefoot in the snow, climbing a staircase on one’s knees, handling poisonous snakes without being bitten, to name a few.
Contrast this with what God reveals. By faith, Abraham moved his family and lived in tents. By faith, Sarah expected to give birth to a child. Man reads this and says, “But these are just everyday occurrences!” What man sees as ordinary, God says is extraordinary! To man, a “heroic act of faith” is one that must be seen by others. To God, a “heroic act of faith” is one that simply flows from clinging to His promises. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Abraham’s move consisted of leaving his home country, as well as his extended and immediate family, though God gave him no indication as to where he would be moving. But what God did give Abraham was many precious promises. Promises that God would watch over him, to make him a great nation, and the Gospel promise that in his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. And so, Abraham “went out, not knowing where he was going.”
When Abraham reached the God-intended destination, God promised to give the land as an inheritance to Abraham and his descendants. But throughout his life, Abraham only tented in this land, moving from here to there, and the only real estate he actually owned was a burial place purchased for his wife. By faith, Abraham knew that a greater inheritance awaited him, “for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
By faith, Sarah clung to God’s faithfulness and promise that she would give birth to a child. There was no logical, medical evidence to suggest that this could happen, since Sarah was past the age of conceiving and Abraham was “as good as dead.” Sarah trusted and believed because God said so.
What do all these “heroic acts of faith” have in common? A simple and steadfast reliance on the promises of God’s Word. Acts of faith then are not heroic because of what man does, but because of what God does and promises. It’s not the activity of your faith that is great, but rather the object of your faith—the holy God in heaven, Who loved you so much that He gave His only-begotten Son to die for your sins that you might ever live with Him. Believe it. Amen.
Chad Seybt is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming.