Religion has never meant quite the same thing to all persons. In history there have been essentially four ways in which religion has been meaningful to people: To some religion is inward fellowship with God; to others, religion is a standard for life and a power to reach that standard; to others religion is the highest satisfaction of their minds; and, to yet others, religion is access to God, that which removes the barriers and opens the doors to God’s living presence.
It was this fourth conception of religion that attracted the writer of the letter to the Hebrews. He found in Christ the one person who could take him into the presence of God. Jesus, for the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, was the one person who gave access to reality and access to God. That is the key thought of this letter, this book of the Bible. In the eleventh chapter we find a magnificent exhortation to have faith. What does it mean to have faith?
To have faith is to have a new way of looking at reality. Each of us is born with five senses, which enable us to apprehend reality as it appears on the surface. We see, hear, taste, touch, and smell the world in which we live. The organs that make this possible are a part of our natural equipment.
We might think of faith as an organ that takes us beyond the five senses and enables us to perceive another, deeper level of reality. By means of faith, we are able to trust the truths of God that are beyond our natural ability to understand. Thus, faith is itself a verification – the verification of the things we cannot see. So, we often speak of seeing with the eyes of faith.
Such faith, according to the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, enabled people like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac to trust God’s promises and to obey God. When faith dawns and begins to develop in a person’s life, one is able to look at reality as it appears to the five senses and apprehend still another dimension that gives things a meaning and purpose they did not have before. Faith gives us a new way of looking at things.
To have faith is to have a new source of energy. The key to understanding the power of faith lies in the wonder of the human psyche. Faith is itself the power given to those who have made a decision to believe and to trust. It is the power to act. Indecision keeps all that power locked up and causes depression, anxiety, and frustration.
On the other hand, confident decisions unlock enormous reservoirs of power and energy we will need to carry out those decisions. Thus, if we want to experience the energy of faith, we have to decide what we’re going to do about the new understandings we have seen through the eyes of faith.
Finding creative solutions to complicated problems is the specialty of people of faith. Faith keeps us from giving in easily to problems and provides energy to struggle with them until they have been mastered and overcome. It doesn’t take eyes of faith to look at the past or to maintain the status quo. What about tomorrow?
I believe we can and we will keep our eye on tomorrow because we are people of faith. The kind of faith we have is the sort that guided and empowered the patriarchs and prophets and our Savior and the early Church to persevere. It will be the same for us. We have a vision and we will act on it, trusting in the promises of God. This faith is nothing less than the fuel cell of the Church! To have faith is to have a new source of energy.
To have faith is to have a new kind of security. Jesus said, “Have no fear, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom. Sell all your belongings and give the money to the poor. Provide for yourselves purses that don’t wear out and save your riches in heaven, where they will never decrease, because no thief can get to them. For your heart will always be where your riches are” (Luke 12:32-34).
What does he mean? He means that the Kingdom of Heaven, the Realm of God, is the most valuable thing in the universe and it is God’s desire to give it to those who place their primary trust in him. Whatever we possess here is but a shadow and dim reflection of the great treasury of that Kingdom. Like Abraham, who lived in a tent, with no permanent home, we look for that city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And yet, we cling for security to so many things.
Whether or not we actually sell all that we have and give the money to the poor, the role of faith is that it produces a sense of security apart from our attachments to the present material world and our possessions. Faith gives us a new kind of security.
Finally, to have faith is to have new life. When Abraham answered God’s call to leave his safe, secure homeland and journey into a land he did not know, he began a new life. All who have such faith are the descendants of Abraham and have God’s gift of new life.
Martin Luther said, “Faith is a living trust of the heart.” To live in faith is to live under the conviction that everything and everyone belongs to God. Faith, therefore, conditions the way we relate to our world and the people in it. And what is the opposite of trust? Fear. The good news is that faith is the agent that enables us to overcome fear. It relives us of some anxiety that is produced by our idea that God won’t come through. It frees us to accept our place in the divine plan for all things.
We have a commission to live life to the fullest, equipped with this living trust of the heart. So, we have new life to live today and every day, until for ever. When, with the YES of faith, we see and greet from afar the heavenly city where life never ends, we begin to experience a foretaste of that life here and now. That vision illuminates and transforms our present reality and we are alive unto God. To have faith is to have new life.
In a Nutshell… To have faith is to have a new way of looking at reality, a new source of energy, a new security, and a new life. So, fear not, little flock. for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Don’t trust your fears more than you trust your God to keep promises. Reach out and experience the world and the persons around you with the five senses. Then, experience all of these things with the faith that comes from God so that you might see it all as God does. It will transform you and free you become all you were made to be! And, it will attract you to other people of faith in ways that overcome differences for the greater glory of God as together we work, pray, and give for the spread of the Kingdom of God.
I'll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
St. Andrew’s Cathedral
P.S. I have always found these lines from this secular song to be a beautiful illustration of faith.
It’s the heart that fears the breaking
that never learns the dance.
It’s the dream afraid of waking
that never takes a chance.
It’s the one who won’t be taken
who cannot seem to give.
And the soul afraid of dying
who never learns to live.
When the night has been too long
when you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter – far beneath the winter snows
lies the seed that with the sun’s love
becomes the rose.