January 2, 2020
by Greg Wellman
Laity of Mafair UMC (Kingsport, TN)
The Meaning of Faith
11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
The Examples of Abel, Enoch, and Noah
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.
The Faith of Abraham
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” Hebrews 11:1-12 (NRSV)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
As a long-distance swimmer, I’m sometimes asked how I avoid boredom when swimming. Mostly, I enjoy the quiet or the chance to listen to music. Sometimes, however, I get to hear “that still small voice.”
Several years ago, I swam a 10-mile river race near Chattanooga, Tennessee. Participating swimmers have kayak pilots for the race, and I was fortunate to have my brother-in-law Justin guiding me. This was a new experience for both of us, but we pretty quickly developed a good system of “teamwork.”
Justin's job was to set our course. With my head facedown in the river, I had little sense of direction. Even if I chose to bob up and look around occasionally (losing momentum), Justin still had the elevated eye line. Justin kept his kayak such that the front half was in my line of sight while breathing, 8-10 feet to my side. All I had to do was maintain that constant distance to his boat, and my course stayed true. Too far away? Pull a little left. Getting too close? Break a little right.
Here's the thing. “Teamwork” isn't quite the right word. I was dependent on Justin, and thankful to have him alongside me. He didn't need me at all. He could have paddled down the river far faster than I would ever be able to swim. I had faith in the course Justin was setting, and it would have been ridiculous and wasteful for me to question where he was headed.
Hebrews 11 begins, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” and then gives us a few heroes of the faith, including Noah and Abraham. Throughout scripture, we see that God is on the move, and that while God doesn’t often disclose the entire plan upfront, active faith and trust on our part allows us to participate in bringing God’s purposes to reality.
As I realized in my swim, if we recognize our dependence and keep our eyes on God, then God will plot a true course, guiding us successfully to the finish.
Loving father, as I move into the year ahead, help me to notice where you’re already working, and give me the faith and courage to align my course with yours.