By J.R. Miller
A great deal is said in the Bible about FAITH. We live by faith--when we believe in things we cannot see, and then act as if the things were true. That is what the first verse teaches us. "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." We hope that God loves us. If we become so assured of this that we take the hope into our hearts as a fact, that is faith. If we really believe that God loves us, the truth means a great deal to us. We are not then afraid of God--He is our Friend. We have many hard things to endure--losses, sorrows, sufferings, disappointments--but if we really believe that God loves us, we shall not be greatly disturbed by such experiences. If we actually believe that Christ rose from the dead, we know that we have a living Savior who is our Friend, our Companion, our Helper, our Guide.
Faith is being "certain of what we do not see." That is, it makes us as sure of the unseen spiritual things in which we believe, as if they were visible to our natural eyes. Columbus believed there was a land, a continent, another country, beyond the sea, and the belief became such a strong conviction, that he pushed out upon the sea to find the land he believed in, and sailed on until he found it. The Bible tells us of an eternal world beyond the earth, our Father's house, home, eternal life. We cannot see it. But if we have faith, this heavenly country becomes as real to us as England is to the tourist who puts out upon the sea this month to cross the ocean to Liverpool.
"This is what the ancients were commended for." The men who have won an honorable record in the past, have won it through faith. People who have no faith, never make much of their lives. It is so even on lower planes. We can have friends only through faith. We cannot always watch people to see if they are true to us. We cannot keep them always in our sight. When they are away from us, we cannot have spies following them to see if they are friendly to us. Then, we cannot see in people the virtues we want in our friends--truth, goodness, gentleness, unselfishness, faithfulness, nobleness. We can see these qualities only by faith. So we can never have friends, except by faith. All lofty attainments and achievements of every kind are reached only by faith. All true heroes--are heroes of faith.
"By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." Nobody saw God making the worlds. Only by faith do we know how they came into being. The Bible tells us all that we know about this. We turn back to Genesis, and we have a vision of a period where there was nothing but God. "In the beginning God." Then we have a vision of the earth as chaos, "waste and void," and the Spirit of God brooding over it in love, as the future home of God's children. Then we have the story of creation, completed at last in man made in God's image. Whatever theory of the manner of order of creation we may accept, we know at least that "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible."
"By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice." Abraham's whole life from his call was a life of faith--but the supreme test came when he was bidden to give up his son, his only son. He raised no questions. It was not his business to ask why. It was God who had given the promise which centered in Isaac, and it was God who now sent Abraham to Mount Moriah to offer Isaac on the altar. He could not understand--but God understood, and that was enough; Abraham's only duty was to obey. That was faith. He accounted that God was able to raise up Isaac from the dead. Nothing that God commands us to do, ever can bring harm or real loss to us. His commandments never annul or cancel His purposes or clash with them. No painful and costly sacrifice He ever demands can possibly interfere with God's covenant of love.
"By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph." The faith of Jacob, shown in this incident, was in the way he crossed his hands when he blessed these boys. Joseph heard that the old man, his father, was sick, and he took his sons to have the grandfather's blessing upon them before he died. Jacob loved Joseph, and he loved Joseph's sons and adopted them, taking them in among his own sons, kissing and embracing them, then stretching out his thin, trembling hands and laying them on the heads of the lads, while he uttered this beautiful blessing upon them: "The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has fed me all my life long unto this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them." Joseph had set the boys before his blind father, so that his right hand would rest on the elder and his left on the younger. But Jacob crossed his hands so that the right lay on the head of the younger, "guiding his hands wittingly." Joseph tried to correct the old man's mistake--but Jacob knew what he was doing. Ephraim, the younger, should be greater.
"By faith Joseph, when his end was near, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones." We are looking for faith in our study of these old-time stories. Joseph took an oath of his brothers that they should not bury him Egypt. "God will surely visit you, . . . and you shall carry up my bones from hence." That was faith. Egypt had been the place of his glory--but he was not an Egyptian; he was a patriotic Israelite. He believed God's promise that He would lead His people to their own land, and he left it in his will that then his body should be carried up and buried among his people.
"By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months . . . when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." The first example of faith was in his parents. They were led to believe that their boy was to be the deliverer of his people, and so they determined that his life should be spared. It is a beautiful story that tells of the way they preserved him and secured his bringing up, first, under his mother's care that he might be a loyal Israelite, and then under the princess of Egypt, that he might have the best education the world of that day could give him, so as to be ready to be the leader and lawgiver of his nation.
The other example of faith was in Moses himself, who, when he came to know and understand the condition of his people, and their wrongs, renounced Egypt with its honors and wealth, that he might devote himself to the interests of his people. It was a tremendous cost and sacrifice that Moses made cause with his people. But faith never counts the cost. It sees the good before it and gives up everything to attain it.
"He endured, as seeing him who is invisible." Here we have the secret of the endurance of Moses in all his noble life. He did not see God--no one ever saw God, who is invisible. But his faith made God as real to him--as if he had actually seen Him. If we had the faith, we might have and would have, Christ's presence, which is promised to us continually, would be as real to us as it was to His first disciples when they were with Him in Galilee. Then we would be strong, invincible, victorious. Why should we not begin to "practice the presence of God"?