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Another lesson we learn in concluding our study of the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 is the lesson contained in two little words that are so easy to overlook. “By faith.” These words are used over and over again throughout this chapter as we see the life of faith that these men and women of God lived. They lived by faith. They died by faith. They did mighty works, won great battles, and saw miracles and promises that are at times beyond comprehension. By faith they simply trusted God. They took Him at His Word and were able as a result to see the Spirit through them accomplish amazing things.
As we remember what faith is – a trust in Christ that is a gift from God by His grace – we do need to pause and see what happened to those who walked by faith instead of by sight. So often we walk by sight – doing what we have always done and responding like we have always responded. Faith asks more of us. Faith involves taking a risk. Trusting God when we only know that He can be trusted but have no idea about the outcome of our actions.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego knew that they had to trust God, even if it meant their death in the fiery furnace. Noah and his family had to trust God and build an ark not knowing if they would drown with the rest of the world and only having the promise of God to hang their hopes upon. Abraham took his family on a journey to the Promised Land, not knowing here he was going, and we saw so many other examples in our study.
The sure promises of God should be more than enough for us to believe, but we are so prone to doubt the truth and decide instead to walk by sight. When we walk by faith the Spirit gives us wisdom and discernment. When we walk by sight we can be confused, deceived, and even presented with counterfeits from the the world, the flesh, and the devil. Think about it. We are so quick to doubt the Word and the Spirit and also just as quick to follow what we see with our eyes instead.
When we are trying to discern God’s will why are we so quick to look for visible signs motivated by doubt about what God may be doing? Why are we so easily led by fear into doubt and despair? Why do we find the Word of God so difficult to believe? Has God ever lied? Can He lie?? (Titus 1:2).
Another question I wonder about often as a pastor – why do people find it so hard to hear the voice of Jesus through His Word? Doesn’t His Word tell us that we who are His sheep will hear and know His voice? Yet so many find it so difficult to hear and know it, it makes me wonder if there are goats in the sheep pen.
In John 10:22-30 we read:
22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.” I told you and you do not believe. How often does God tells us as we read the Word, as we hear it preached, as we sing it to one another when we are praising God in worship? How often does God tell us through meditating on His Word, by the power of His Spirit through verses we commited to memory perhaps years, even decades ago? How often does God tell us through Biblical counsel, through the loving rebukes of friends and family, through reproof and correction and even through our conscience as we learned last week, as members of the New Covenant His law is written on our hearts and minds?
There really is no lack of God speaking today is there? How often does God tell us and we do not believe? Yet Jesus says that this lack of faith, this unbelief, is expected and natural in the lives of those who are not His sheep. His sheep know Him. They know His voice. They listen, they hear, they follow, they obey. If we are sheep, why do we act like goats?
You see, we as His sheep, we do hear His voice. But we do not believe because we have been deceived. We have believed a lie. We have fallen for that old lie that originated in the garden, “Did God really say?” As doubt enters the picture we have decided to place our faith in our own self, in our mind, in our emotions, in our own ability to reason and rationalize. We would rather trust ourselves than to trust His voice.
Let me ask you, how often have you been misled by His voice? Now, how often have you been misled by your own thinking? If what Jesus tells us is true, if we are His sheep and know His voice and follow Him, then is it ever really that difficult to hear His voice? Or are we just listening in all the wrong places? He has told us….in His Word. Why then is the Word the last place we go to hear His voice?
By faith we need to simplify our lives. We need to slow down, be still, and know that He is God. We need to learn to listen. We need to walk by faith and not by sight. Try this during the week – things that seem confusing and overwhelming, leave them behind. Seriously. Simply trust God. If you find it difficult or have doubts or cannot hear His voice, then get in the Word. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Unstop your “ears of faith” and learn to listen. Pray that God would strengthen your faith.