Every week we went to church. I stood and sang, hoping for little more than a recognizable hymn. I sat and listened largely unconcerned and unaware of what the main idea was even supposed to be. I kneeled and repeated the liturgy from memory wondering what any of it really had to do with my oh-so-fragile teenage life.
Every so often, God would remove my blinders and the Truth would penetrate every lie I was believing and unveil itself plainer than my over-attended face in the mirror.
The day I memorized Hebrews 11:1 was that kind of day. I don’t recall the context. I haven’t a clue what the sermon was about or which one of my boyfriends I was obsessing over. But I remember the impact that verse, coupled with the Holy Spirit had on my young life. It reads this way: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
I cut it out of the bulletin that day. I saved it. Not being overly religious by any means, this was a big deal for me. I remember how perplexed I was as I spent many days after meditating upon it.
“Assurance. Conviction. Sure. Certain. Those words are so direct; so final. But if the Bible is true, and this is in the Bible, then I have nothing to worry about. Nothing. No outward circumstance. No unresolved conflict. No unreconciled relationship. God is. Therefore, I am safe. My life may be a minefield, but my soul is a sanctuary.”
I got it. God, in his amazing grace, gave me, an undeserving wretch, what most mistake as a flippant profession bumper stickered on an unchanged life. God gave me faith. Saving faith. It’s what many name and claim but few actually possess. This faith was real. It was life-changing.
The Hebrews chapter went on to speak of the giants of true, biblical faith. It spoke of faith powerful enough to keep a dead man alive, keep a live man from death, save an entire family, move a man from a comfortable life of selfish ease to a foreign land of God-dependent patience, give a barren woman a child, make an innumerable generation from heir-less grandparents, and make many others willing to die a martyr’s death just to keep it real. Hebrews 11 talks about people who had more hope in God’s Word than every logical conclusion of their own eyes and ears. How can it be? How did their faith do these things?
It was real. It was saving. It was sure. It was certain. Their faith wasn’t wishy-washy and just-in-case faith. It was this-better-be-true-or-I-got-nothing faith. It was this-has-to-work-or-I’m-toast faith. Ironically, even though their faith was wholly true and recklessly real-er than anyone else’s, most of them were toast anyway. Yeah. Faith doesn’t immunize us from severe suffering. It simply quarantines our spirit from suffering’s harmful effects – worry, doubt, fear, sin, unbelief, etc.
Over the past 16 years I’ve spent as a Christian, I’ve often forgotten this verse. I’ve worried like the overprotective mother of an only child. I’ve doubted like a devil. I’ve friended fear like a four year old. I’ve sinned like a biker on his birthday. I’ve even, sometimes, stopped believing I was born for better. But, not today. Today God reminded me of Hebrews 11:1. I know what faith really is and I’m sure of it. I’m certain. I’m convicted. And come hell or high water, I know my God, is.
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” ~Exodus 3:13-14