I remember being in Sunday school when I was eight or nine years old. The teacher asked what faith was, and I blurted out the answer, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1.” We had just memorized it as a family, and I was proud I knew what faith was.
But until recently, I didn’t know what faith meant for the mundane struggles of my life, especially the daily grind as a mom. Does faith have anything to do with getting angry at my kids, eating more cake than I should, or wasting time on Facebook? Does an oft-repeated, little-understood definition intersect with exhausting mom life?
It does: the author of Hebrews moves us beyond a definition. He spends ten chapters proving that we will receive the salvation in Christ God has promised us. These promises, but even more our ability to come before God as His beloved children, are the “things hoped for” in Hebrews 11:1. Sarah, Abel, and the other examples in Hebrews 11 witnessed to the worth of what He promised. Their confidence that they would receive it changed how they lived.
It can change how you live, too. We are told what our lives will look like when we live with our hopes set on His promises in Hebrews 12:1-2:
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Lay aside encumbrances. Run with endurance. Look to Jesus. These are components of faith. Faith is living with the conviction that Jesus is worth more than all of the encumbrances we cast away and all of the pain we endure.
Moses exemplifies this. Hebrews 11:24-26 describes him giving up his rights as a Prince of Egypt to suffer with the people of God, because he was looking to Jesus. He laid aside the treasures of Egypt that would have hindered him from following God. He endured persecution and difficulty, because he “considered reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” Moses knew with certainty that what was coming in Christ was worth more than the vast riches and comforts of any earthly kingdom.
Likewise, we can say no to sin and lay aside distractions when we are looking to Jesus. Fix your eyes on Him – the “unseen,” rather than your “seen” circumstances. Seek satisfaction in Him, not your earthly desires.
But who is this Jesus that we are looking to as our reward?
Jesus founds our faith. Without His death on the cross atoning for our sin, we are God’s enemies. You and I deserve His judgment, not His help. We look to Him with hatred, not love and desire. Unless He makes us spiritually alive in His resurrection, we can’t see beyond what’s right in front of us to the great things He has promised.
Jesus perfects our faith. He takes it from a weak initial faith to complete dependence on and satisfaction in Him.
Jesus is our example. Even more than Moses, he laid aside encumbrances, ran with endurance, and looked to future joy. Like a runner pushing through the “hump” with her mind focused on the finish line, Jesus looked not to the pain around Him and His own wants, but to the joy set before Him. He looked ahead to His reunification with the Father. We can look ahead to the day we will see and know Him fully and receive the fullness of what has been promised.
The woman in childbirth can endure the pain when her goal is not comfort, but Jesus. The mother entertaining children on a trans-oceanic flight with long delays can be patient when her hope is in Christ, not the end of the journey. The wife in a difficult marriage can remain faithful when her joy is in her Savior, not her husband.
This is the direction of our faith, the goal of our race. Look to Jesus: the One who delivers God’s word to us, intercedes for and sympathizes with us, is a sufficient sacrifice for our full salvation, and endured suffering and temptation – the Jesus put forward by the rest of the book of Hebrews.
You can lay aside discontentment when you look at what you have in a God who will never forsake you.
You can say no to another piece of cake when you know it’s not going to satisfy you, but that God can. You can also accept it with thanksgiving, setting your hope on what your Heavenly Father thinks of you, not what the mirror reflects.
You can put down your phone when you’re not seeking the approval of men because you’re secure in Christ.
You can stop losing your temper every time your kids squash your desires if you want to please God more than you want your way.
Are there encumbrances and sins you need to lay aside? Are you running with focused endurance, or are you distracted from what really matters? Are you looking to Jesus, or are your eyes on the trials in front of you? Live by faith, with the conviction that what you will receive in the Unseen Jesus is greater than anything you could possess on this earth. He is the Son of God, worshipped by Angels, righteous ruler of a forever kingdom, partaking of flesh and blood to sympathize with our weaknesses, dying to free us from death, judgment, and slavery to sin. He completely satisfied the wrath of God so there is none left for us and gives us full access to God our Father.
How would your life change if instead of chasing after earthly desires, you lay aside encumbrances, live with focused endurance, and look to Jesus?