The 75th anniversary of the church family that I serve happens in October 2015, but we have a 75th Anniversary Team that is already hard at work planning an exciting year of celebration beginning in October 2014. They have chosen Hebrews 12:1-2 as our theme verses for the anniversary year.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (ESV)
These verses follow the great “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 that lists people from Scripture whose lives are examples of faith in God. One of those mentioned in Hebrews 11 is Abraham, of whom we read:
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to lie in the land of promise, as in a foreign land . . . for he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God . . . Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven . . .”(Hebrews 11:8-10, 12 ESV)
Faith is the indispensable element in our relationship with God, because “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)
James Montgomery Boice points out several important things about Abraham’s faith in his book TWO CITIES, TWO LOVES that we can apply to our lives today.
“Abraham’s faith was based on the Word of God only. At the time of the conception of Isaac, Abraham was not able to father a child. Yet here was God promising not only that he would have an heir but that he would eventually have children beyond any human possibility of counting. Where could Abraham find external support to assist him in believing this “wild” promise? From the point of view of human experience the situation was desperate. So Abraham believed God only because it was God who made the promise. And he believed God despite contrary appearances. Abraham believed God rather than his own inadequate observations or understanding. Faith always stands with God and his Word, even when doing so appears foolish from a human perspective. And it often does, simply because the world’s way of thinking is so contrary to everything spiritual.
“Abraham’s faith was also a faith that acted. Faith believes God, but it also acts decisively. In fact, I define true biblical faith as “believing God and acting upon it.” How do we know that Abraham believed God? We know because of what he did. He believed God enough to leave Ur for Canaan, to remain in the Promised Land even when the going got rough, to engender Isaac when he was ninety-nine years old.”
How does this apply to followers of Christ today? We, too, must base our faith on the solid foundation of the Word of God. We must trust the character and promises of God for our lives. And on that foundation, we must step out “in faith” to act upon the promises of God. As Boice concludes, “This is the kind of faith we should all have – if we are Christians. The God we serve is the God of Abraham, and God is developing faith like this in those who know him. God brings life out of death, love out of hate, peace out of turmoil, joy out of misery and praise out of cursing.” God worked in – and through – Abraham and many others in the “great could of witnesses” in Scripture, and he will do the same in and through us today as we actively live by faith in Him.