By Chrissy Reyes & Ray Gao
With edits, additions and formatting by Stephanie Nannen and Jason Poon
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
– Hebrews 11:1
The book of Hebrews was written to a primarily Judeo-Christian audience in the midst of persecution (Hebrews 10:32-34). This community knew God, had followed God’s law for generations, and believed God would fulfill the ultimate promise to send them a savior, the Messiah. They imagined the Messiah would be a king: someone who would topple the Roman Empire and lead them back to their homeland, after a long period of exile.
They believed that Jesus was the Messiah. However Jesus wasn’t the kind of Messiah they had expected. They believed that Jesus’ resurrection was part of God’s redemptive plan. But in the meantime, they were still exiles, living under the rule of the Roman Empire.
Sometimes we lose faith because we don’t have the eyes to see what God is doing. We are unable to look beyond the pain and brokenness—in our own lives and in the lives of others—as we live out our calling from God. The writer of Hebrews exhorted this community to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
But what is faith? And how do we cultivate the virtue of faith in our own lives and communities?
Your Kingdom Come
On one level faith is simply trust in God’s character and promises. But faith can also be exercised on a deeper, more profound level. Faith is the means by which make real on earth the heavenly realities of God’s Kingdom. Faith moves us forward, through the “already but not yet” tension we feel when we see and experience the sin, brokenness, and injustice all around us. We don’t yet see the perfect justice, peace, and redemption that is already fully realized in heaven. But by faith we call those things into reality here, “on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Faith is the vehicle used to help us experience God’s power and better understand what God is doing in the world. The article “Epic Is About Faith” describes faith as “having eyes to see something where there is nothing—in people, in mission, and in the challenges of life.” Faith requires us to see the invisible and believe the improbable. Faith empowers us to persevere, even when we are gazing at a big empty field instead of the crops we had expected to start growing by now.
Faith is demonstrated through the actions it produces. There is no such thing as a passive faith. James writes:
Do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. (James 2:20-22)
We build intimacy with God when we step out of our comfortable, known ways and follow wherever God leads. Even when the path God calls us to travel doesn’t seem to make any sense.
Faith comes with no guarantee of success. Faith is not a formula, where if we put in X, God will produce Y. In Hebrews 11—often referred to as the Hall of Faith—the author chronicles the faithfulness of God’s people over the centuries. The stories of are meant to inspire. But midway through the list of heroes, the author pauses to remind us: “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, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13). Sometimes even heroes don’t get to see the culmination of their faith.
FOR GROUP STUDY
Read Hebrews 11 and then discuss the following questions:
- Which stories in Hebrews 11 stand out to you or resonate with you? Why?
- The first twenty-eight verses of Hebrews 11 feature a lot of language around seeing/sight/looking and visible/invisible. Where were these heroes of the faith looking? And what kinds of things they were able to see? How do faith and sight relate to each other in this passage of Scripture?
- Share about about a time you stepped into the unknown. How did God meet you there?
- Is there an area where you’ve been trusting God for a long time, despite lack of results
Hebrews 11 might be best known for the “big name” stories it recalls. But don’t overlook the last verses of the chapter, where the author mentions a group of unnamed people who lived out their faith in the midst of torture, exile, poverty, and desperation (Hebrews 11:32-40). Scripture commends and commemorates these people alongside leaders like Moses and Abraham. Because in between all those Bible stories, generations of God’s people quietly lived out their faith in the day-to-day work of following God.
It can be inspiring to talk about taking big leaps of faith in ministry. But sometimes walking by faith just means showing up when God tells you to, sticking around for what’s next, and leaving the results to God.
- What does it look like for you to show up? What kinds of things keep you from showing up more often?
- What areas of your life require faith right now?
- Have you experienced seasons of your life where you’ve been faithful, but seen no results?
- How does this study challenge your view of faith?
- What is a unique cultural expression of faith from your personal life, family, or larger community?
- What would it look like for your team to be more intentional about faith
- How do you balance the tension between believing God for big things and setting goals as a team? How do you evaluate your ministry if you’re not seeing “results?”
- How can you each other accountable to be faithful?
- What’s a current challenge to your team viewing your campus(es) with eyes of faith? Where are you struggling to remain faithful?
- Where are you actively cultivating a culture of faith in your movement
- What are concrete ways that you model faith to student leaders, and that they model to other members of the movement?
- In what ways is your movement showing up in the difficult realities faced by various student groups on campus?
- What is a unique cultural expression of faith in your movement?
Tell the story of your movement in the format of Hebrews 11. Start with the phrase, “By faith…” then describe steps of faith that you have taken individually and as a movement. Reflect on where you have seen God move and where you are still waiting.