There are days when I feel that I don’t quite have this faith thing figured out; and yes, the wording is deliberate. As we are often prone to do, we look to the right, and to the left; to what he, she, or they are doing better that we, etc.
Perhaps you don’t have this type of experience, but I often feel like others have figured out something that I have yet to stumbled upon, as they seem to have the look of faithfulness.
It begs the question, what does faith look like?
In Hebrews we read:
“But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Heb. 10:33-39).
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible … And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:1-3, 6).
We often evaluate the effectiveness of faith by outward appearances of good things, ignoring or not recognizing the negative. We assume that the absence of apparent struggle means better life, and therefore better faith, read Hebrews 10:33-34 above closely again.
I do not, however, find that appearances make an accurate barometer of what faith looks like.
The author of Hebrews reminded his audience of the trials they experienced after they came to faith in Messiah. They endured reproaches and tribulations, and often joined with others in their challenges.
He reminds them of the first things of faith, which often run contrary to public opinion and accepted intellectual ideas. He reminds them of others who have come before (Heb. 11); and finally, he explains that faith, the hoped for evidence of the things not yet seen, is the only way to please the Lord God.
He reminded them of where, and from whom they had come.
Yet, what if my experience of faith looks different than that of others? What if my life is altogether fine? Or, I seem to face trouble at every turn? What if I fall somewhere between?
I would say there is no perfect picture of what the life of faith looks like: save for Yeshua/Jesus himself. See, faith is lived within the framework of life, and life is a place of both challenges and joys, victory and setback.
In life we need endurance. The author of Hebrews reminds us that in faith we need endurance (Heb. 10:36). Endurance in faith grows as faith is exercised in every circumstance life offers, until that day, when He graduates us to glory.
Read Paul’s testimony:
“Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (II Corinthians 11:23-28).
If we were to measure the fruit of Paul’s faith from his own testimony, according to the expectations often applied today, he would be found wanting; but Paul was able to testify that he had run and finished the race, he had kept the faith (II Tim. 4:6-8).
See friends, faith endures because it is coupled with the hope that keeps us going when giving up would be easier: hope takes hold, and faith holds on.
Faith is not about how we feel in it, but Who we have trusted in: Messiah. He is, and must remain the object of our faithing.
So do not measure your life, or faith according to the standards of this world, or those well meaning saints who make you feel less than. Look to the examples provided in Scripture, with their ups and downs (I Cor. 11:1), remembering that your faith is in Messiah Yeshua/Jesus, and in Him, our every need is met (Phil. 4:19). As He said: “follow Me.”
If you haven’t figured this “faith thing” out, don’t worry, as we follow Him, we learn it from Him (Matt. 11:28-30).
What does faith look like? Jesus.
Be well. Shalom.