What I’m Thinking: Faith’s Assurance

Faith is the assurance of things not seen – but faith is also informed by hope’s fulfillment in the lives of others.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the eleventh chapter of the letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16), which opens with what might be a familiar definition to you: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen.”

It’s a good working definition for religious faith. In faith we are concerned with relationship with a God whom we do not see. Even those closest to God in those most ancient stories did not see God, but experienced God’s presence, God’s action, God’s words.

Faith, however, is not quite the same as hope, because of the use of the word “assurance.” It is not merely that we hope that something will happen. We come into faith with something of a confidence that this thing we hope for will happen. Faith is related not just to hope but also to expectation, not just what we want to happen but also how firmly do we believe that it will?

Curiously, the author of Hebrews — who wasn’t the Apostle Paul; Hebrews neither claims to be written by Paul nor frankly does the author of Hebrews sound much like the Apostle Paul — the author went on to provide illustrations of people with faith. These included Abraham. And here’s the thing.

Abraham certainly did possess great faith, heard promises from God, promises that took some time to come to fulfillment. Indeed, the author of Hebrews says some of them never were fulfilled in Abraham’s lifetime. Abraham became an ancestor, but the proliferation of his children and grandchildren and great grandchildren and umpty great grandchildren was something he, of course, could never see. Not in a human lifetime.

But all of the examples offered by the author of Hebrews are examples not just of promises of God but promises of God fulfilled. We are the heirs, the heirs of faith, of people whose hopes were fulfilled.

And I think that is part of where our confidence, where our assurance of things hoped for, our conviction of things not seen comes from. We do not come into a faith relationship with God with a blank slate. We come into our faith relationship with God from the experience of those who come before us. Those people experienced the fulfillment of God’s promises. They experienced God’s trustworthiness. They experienced God’s faithfulness.

From their witness, may we find that assurance of things hoped for, that confidence of things not seen.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you were thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , , | Posted on August 1, 2022

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1 Comment

  1. by Janet

    On August 1, 2022

    After listening to your commentary and hearing this phrase frequently these days, “Hoping to return to normalcy”, the question I ask myself is, “What is my own definition of faith?”

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