Faith = Listen + Hear + Understand + Obey

We treat with respect most memorials of persons who are generally reputed to have done exceptionally well in their respective areas of endeavor. Tracy McGrady is one of the 2017 Basketball Hall of Fame inductees.  Buck Buchanan is revered in Pro Football Hall of Fame. And these are just two Halls of Fame in America. Your country will have its own Halls of Fame as persons who have excelled, and in some cases, even given their lives in pursuit of excellence, are celebrated.  The Bible tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).    It is therefore only fitting that the Bible identifies some Heroes of the Faith who have excelled in Faith. And that is exactly what Hebrews 11 is dedicated to doing.

Before we look at Hebrews 11:8-13, allow me to point out the obvious.  This list is dated, but will never be out-dated. If a new list were to be printed today, perhaps your name could be included. So, here is the good news.  A new list is being created every day, and God Himself is recording the facts, and at the right time, will reward you. So do not become weary in well-doing… for in due course, you will reap if you do not faint (Galatians 6:9)

The word faith is not of any specially high lineage. It really means “belief” as a noun and “believe” as a verb.  Therefore, on the surface, “faith” is not such a big deal. Push a little further however, and the question becomes, “in what do you believe or place your belief”. And that is where the rubber hits the road.   It is faith in God and belief in His Word that is counted for righteousness. To prove this, we are told in James 2:19, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” And of course, the Greek word used here of the demons is the same word that is translated “faith”.  So we do not get credit for believing the wrong thing.  We do not get credit for believing the right thing.   We get credit for believing God.

So that raises the next issue. For me to believe God, I must accurately hear what God is saying. This is not as straightforward as some may have us believe. Think of communication between two people, and all of the problems that are encountered, even when they speak the same language. The foundational problem in effective communication is that people typically say less than what they mean and others typically hear more than what was said. And the reasons for this are obvious.

When I try to communicate a message, I typically would have all the details of my message in my mind. If my message includes a woman, I may simply say, “the woman was walking on the road.” What I did not say is that the woman was about 6’ tall, very, very slim, was wearing an extra short mini-skirt, was smoking a cigarette, and was swaying from side to side. Now have I deceived my audience? No! They simply would not be able to figure out why the Police car stopped abruptly, and a female officer began to interrogate the woman. Oooops, I may have also forgotten to mention that it was at 2.00 am and in the down-town hotel area.

On the other hand, picture the person listening to me saying that I saw a gorgeous woman walking on the road, and immediately I wanted to give her a ride to wherever she was going. Immediately, the person listening to me is likely to conclude that I was attracted to this woman, probably beyond the basics, and that my desire to give her a ride to wherever she was going was an investment I wanted to make in order to maximize the returns I received from my investment of time and money. Had I mentioned that she had a baby in her arms, two toddlers clinging to her legs, and pulling a shopping basket with groceries, I may have been credited with purer motives.

I have no authority to make a general statement, but for many Christians communication with God has its own challenges… challenges that we must master in our own self-interest. We must listen to God with an open mind, and without our pre-conceived preferences for what we want to hear. The easy part is hearing from God as He speaks through His Word… [Logos].  We generally refer to that as the Bible. But which translation of the Bible? Were the translators inspired? Certainly not to the degree that the original authors were. Are there differences between translations? Yes. So how do I know which one is right?  All of these are legitimate questions that should be asked and that can be systematically addressed in a serious Bible Study course. But one thing must be said to counter and balance some of the questions I have asked. The Bible is not a dead book.   It is the only book which when opened, the Author shows up! And as part of that “showing up”, God’s Holy Spirit stays with us during the study of His Word and promises us to teach us all things and lead us into all truth. So regardless of the challenges in translations, the original Divine Author who inspired the original human authors, is still alive and well and in the inspiration business.

Hearing and understanding the Rhema Word as understood by some Christians is a little bit more challenging and a lot more risky. The Greek word Rhema is used in Matthew 4:4 & 12:36. Although this is not at all clear in the Word of God, many Christians treat the Rhema as God’s current personal, specific communication with a Christian. Whether or not it is called “Rhema”, hearing from God contextually is a critical part of communion with God, just as personalized, contextual and contemporary prayer is essential to fellowship with God. God is alive and so am I. God communicates with me in the now, and I respond in the now. Not much of that is likely to be found in the Bible which was written 2000 years ago. However, the Bible remains the objective standard by which the “Rhema” must be evaluated. God is not going to contradict His clearly established character of Holiness, Love, Truth, Faithfulness and Righteousness.

The good news is that God wants us to hear and understand Him.  When His willingness and ability are matched with our desire to hear from Him, He will make Himself clear to us. And this is where faith begins. The minute we are satisfied that we have heard from God… we must immediately believe what He says and act upon His Word in obedience.  And here’s the rub… faith does not have the luxury of tangible evidence and external validation. However, obedience to God as a result of faith in His Word will bring in our lives the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.

Faith itself is the substance of the things for which we hope and faith is in itself the evidence of things not seen by the human eye. “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance” (Hebrews 11:13)

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