Thursday, November 10, 2011

Faith and Hope

My personal Bible time is really inconsistent these days. My ESV Study Bible is wonderful, but it can be overwhelming. (Should I read the text and then the footnotes? Go back and forth? Read the footnotes before the text? Overload!) I'm currently in Hebrews, one of my favorite books - at chapters 11 and 12, my longtime favorite chapters in that book. Last night, the very first piece of commentary I read blew me away. I thought, a la my friend Casey, "Let's close in prayer" (i.e., please disperse, nothing more to see here).

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. - Hebrews 11:1

By defining faith (Gk. pistis) as “assurance” and “conviction,” the author indicates that biblical faith is not a vague hope grounded in imaginary, wishful thinking. Instead, faith is a settled confidence that something in the future—something that is not yet seen but has been promised by God—will actually come to pass because God will bring it about. Thus biblical faith is not blind trust in the face of contrary evidence, not an unknowable “leap in the dark”; rather, biblical faith is a confident trust in the eternal God who is all-powerful, infinitely wise, eternally trustworthy—the God who has revealed himself in his word and in the person of Jesus Christ, whose promises have proven true from generation to generation, and who will “never leave nor forsake” his own (13:5). Such faith in the unseen realities of God is emphasized throughout ch. 11 (e.g., 11:7, 8; cf. v. 3) and has provided confidence and assurance to all who receive Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Faith and hope are hard for me to separate, which I guess is appropriate since Scripture often puts them together. I think the main difference is that faith is more about being - who God is, who we are as His children - and hope is more about doing - events that we wish for. Faith is the solid foundation of hope, the "substance" of hope. It's only through faith that we can hope appropriately. I hope for many important things, and I believe it's healthy to keep hoping for them even if they never happen. But if my hopes don't come to fruition, I will still have faith - "settled confidence" - in the goodness of God and the steadfastness of His love for me. He's promised never to abandon me, even when I feel abandoned. His character is true even if I can't see what He's doing and might never know the reasons why. Hope might let me down, but faith never will.

In the words of one of my favorite Paramore anthems, it's not faith if you use your eyes. :)

PS - This post was also partially inspired by a recent post from Dana at The Abundant Life, which gave me some much needed hope and encouragement. She's amazing!

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