What is Faith?
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion. Hebrews 3:15
I’ve misunderstood faith for much of my life. In my addiction, I believed God could save me from the drugs and so, I asked him to deliver me. I heard others say that if I was struggling with sin that I needed to stop striving, sit back, and simply believe that God can fix me. This version of faith was equivalent to positive thinking. If God didn’t answer, it was because I didn’t have enough faith – I didn’t believe hard enough. So, I would sit, squeeze my eyes shut, pray hard, and try to get my brain to make the leap that I really, really believed . . . and I got nothing. Looking back, I had it all wrong.
Today’s passage reveals my error. In it, the writer of Hebrews commanded his audience to listen to voice of God, warning them not to disobey as the Israelites had once done in the rebellion. His reference was to the well-known story of the Israelites after their exodus from Egypt. God had once pledged to Abraham that he would provide his people with a promised land. So, after leaving Egypt, God directed the people to the land of Canaan. Moses sent ahead 12 spies, 10 of whom came back with terrifying reports about the people in the land. The Israelites were fearful and refused to obey God. They didn’t go into Canaan, the land that God promised them. God said go and they said no.
The passage goes on to explain the heart of the Israelites problem – So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:19). God’s people believed he existed. They would have claimed faith. Then however, God asked them to obey him – to do something that was difficult and frightening. Faith, in this story didn’t mean positive thinking. Faith meant obedience, even in the presence of fear and doubt. Faith meant doing what God said, even though it wasn’t what they wanted to do.
Faith isn’t simply acknowledging God exists. Faith is believing in him and then living like it, making our actions follow our beliefs.
For me, in my addiction, that didn’t mean doing nothing. I wasn’t trying too hard. I wasn’t being obedient. Obedience meant going to treatment, changing my life, and doing whatever it took to abandon my drugs. Once I obeyed, God changed me. Faith didn’t mean positive thinking, but rather, following God, even when I didn’t know the future and even though I didn’t want to do what he asked. Faith was believing in God and then making my feet follow him, despite my fear and doubt.