Hebrews 11:1, NIV
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Once upon a time, a young man decided he wanted to try ice fishing. He liked fishing during the summer, but this was a whole new experience for him. It seemed the weather was right. It was freezing outside! So, he got his fishing gear together and went down to the lake. He hoped the ice was thick enough.
Now, he had heard that the ice was plenty thick enough, but looking out on the ice, no one else was fishing. He hesitated. He called a Park Ranger who assured him the ice was thick enough to drive a truck onto it. He had been told the Ranger was an old pro. So, he believed the ice was plenty thick enough. It was not just hearsay.
He had enough information to walk out on the ice, but it was still a step of faith. Jumping up and down, testing the ice as he went toward the deeper waters, he had assurance of what was underneath the surface of the ice which, of course, he could not actually see.
He trusted what he had been told. He had confidence in what he walked on. He called his fishing buddy and invited him to join his “fishing expedition.” And they had a great fish fry that night!
There is a subtle difference between the world’s concept of faith and the Bible’s, between the world’s concept of hope and the Bible’s. It is indistinctly elusive for me to describe, but I’ll give it a go … It begins with how we think about faith. Before I was born, faith meant a person’s persuasion. When I was young it had become much more simple: Faith was the church you went to. Faithful was that you attended with some regularity. Faithfulness was putting money in the tray the Deacons passed around. My faith growing up was Presbyterian.
I never became confident in the existence of either God the Father or Jesus the Son. God the Holy Spirit was supposed to be in everybody, but by the time the church service was over the only thing in me was a hunger for lunch. Pancakes was my hope. My confidence was that we always had pancakes after church.
There is also a significant difference between the world view of hope and the Biblical view. The worldview of hope seems to me to be merely a wish like “I wish we weren’t moving away from all my friends.” The reality is Dad has to go where his job takes him.
It follows how we think of assurance matters. I suppose as in my little ice fishing story, it all depends on how high the risks are. The higher the risks, the more assurance is needed.
“I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow” is low risk. The risk depends on what the event is — family picnic, 4th of July Parade, working on your tan? With a changing weather pattern, there is not a whole lot of confidence there to put your hope in. Why? Because there are no assurances. We neither can see how thick the ice is, nor what the weather actually has in store. Often we act with blind faith without any assurance. We want to go ahead with our plans, our beliefs, our lives, whatever. We insist.
What the Bible gives us as assurance is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Not just one Park Ranger testifying to the truth. At least Twelve others who experienced life with Him, who saw Him crucified, ate with Him raised from the dead, and saw Him ascend into Heaven. Then, in hiding, cowering in fear of their lives, they suddenly changed and boldly went out, in spite of the dangers to their own lives, and shared their experiences of new life with Jesus.
Beyond that you’ve got all the Born Again Believers” like myself. But who am I? Who are we to tell you all anything? Yet, further, Jesus Himself will give you real life assurances like cleansing you inside, real forgiveness. Real experiences. Real solutions in your life. Confidence in His presence in your life and living. His continuing faithfulness. No longer just hoping God is “out there somewhere,” but truly an interpersonal relationship, solid footing.
That’s Biblical faith.
My experience gives me assurance. So I can hope with confidence. I can walk out on the ice with confidence or walk on the road ahead with no visible view. There is no need for me to “work up” my faith or for me to get all “psyched up.”
It does seem to me that the world view of faith requires too much effort and assumption, too much taking for granted. It requires me continuing to put money into the basket, not receiving anything except an elusive vanishing phantom, an empty promise of “someday.”
What about the here and now?
As an old ballad goes, “You can always change the road you’re on.” A person can always choose to go back to their previous faith, philosophy, mindset — the good old way, but I never met anyone who after “praying through” would give that a second thought.
Now, some may think they’ve tried Jesus’ way, but I am pretty sure they just tried some dead religious denomination or philosophy that only has the form but not the substance, not the power for real change … Again,“… faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
This passage of Scripture is constantly working in my living life: “
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.” (John 14:16, NLT) and “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6, NLT) “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV)
So, even though I am nothing special, the love of God encourages me in trying to share my experiences with you. Not for nothing.