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In The Eye Of Faith

In The Eye Of Faith

by Lonnie Kent York

Published in
The Christian Informer
February, 2003

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Last updated:
March 11, 2003.

We all need a little encouragement in this life so that we might be able to face the various trials that we meet. In our own faith toward God we need to realize that God provides us with this encouragement. If we could only realize that we have so many who have shown us the way that we should live, and that they stand as witnesses to our own faith, then we might try harder to live before God and all men as we should.

This was one problem that existed when Paul penned his letter to the Hebrews. Their faith was being tried as never before, and they needed some encouragement to remain faithful: even in difficult times. This encouragement comes in what we know as the eleventh chapter. If we could view this chapter like a piece of beautifully written music, we might be able to learn its great secret and live our lives in harmony to God's will for us.

All music possesses a theme. The theme of a piece of great music flows throughout, building to this climax, where its listeners are affected by this theme. Paul's writing in this section of Hebrews is similar to a well written symphony. You have the theme presented in the first movement. Next, the theme is developed by various minor themes, which broadens the scope and impact of the major theme. The third movement sometimes is a fast paced intermixing of the major and minor themes. The fourth movement usually brings all the themes together for the conclusion. All this is well orchestrated, with the final effect being to move the listeners to some experience or action.


The major theme of this section of Hebrews is presented in the first verse: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." The key word in this theme is FAITH. One note, however, does not make a musical theme; so, too, one word is not the theme of Paul's message. Faith IS something. It is the substance or confidence of the things we hope for. If we do not possess confidence in God's word, then we cannot possess faith. Our confidence in God's word creates within us our faith. It is also the evidence or proof of the things which we cannot see. The word of God provides the evidence we need to sustain our faith in the promises which God has given. Thus the theme, then, consists of what our faith is made from and how we can continue to maintain that faith. This theme, then, will be developed throughout this section of Hebrews, with the purpose to move the Christian to action on their faith.


Next, Paul defines this theme: "for by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." This simple, yet powerful definition of our faith illustrates how our own faith can sustain us, even during difficult times. To further define this theme, Paul provides two simple examples. "By faith" we see that Abel and Enoch demonstrated this theme in their lives. Abel, although dead, still speaks of his faith today, and Enoch is a grand illustration of one who pleased God. These two men show forth the theme in its fullness.


The second movement begins with the introduction of the minor themes. "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him:" (verse 6). There are three minor themes in this verse: first, if we do not possess this type of faith, as Abel and Enoch, then we cannot be found pleasing before God. The consequences of such a state is too fearful to consider. The second minor theme is that we must, by this faith, believe that God is who He says He is. This sounds simple, yet the word for "believe" means to be fully persuaded that God is who He says He is. It is one thing to say you really believe in God, and another to BELIEVE fully in Him. Last, we must have confidence that God is a God of promise. Unlike men, God does not go back or forget His promises. If we are faithful, then we shall receive the full benefit of His promises.


The third movement is usually the longest in most compositions. Here the theme and its minor themes are well developed. This is true of Paul's development of the theme of faith. We have nine examples of this theme presented. In each we have the three minor themes illustrated in varying degrees. With the illustration of Abraham these themes are well developed. In each we have the expression "by faith," then we learn of their belief in God and their confidence in God's promises. Yet, we find that the final consequence of their faith is not mentioned. Some musical scores are like this, in that they wait until the conclusion to bring the theme to its final conclusion.


Toward the end of the third movement we have a list of others whose faith is an example for us to follow. Of these Paul said: "of whom the world was not worthy. Looking over this list we find some of the trials that those who had the proper faith endured. My faith seems so small when compared to the faith that they expressed. Note what some endured for their faith: "were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented." And we feel that we have had difficult and trying times!


Yet "these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise." A sad note is sounded at this junction in the development of this theme. Was their faith in vain? Had God not fulfilled His promise? No! They had not yet received the promise! The promise was not to be found during the time of the Old Covenant, rather in the New. Almost at the instant the last sad note sounds. the tempo picks up with the rousing affirmation that the promise is coming. "God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." Together, saints of old and the new would find the full promise of God, won for you. Now the tempo stops momentarily, leaving us breathless as we wait the conclusion.


"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith: who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12: 1,2). With this statement we find the conclusion of this beautiful movement is salvation's music. The spirit of this portion ought to lift us up on eagle's wings, and we should soar to new heights of determination to live our lives faithfully to God, for He is a God of reward and promise. But, we need to examine this conclusion more carefully.


Unseen by our fleshly eye, there exists this great cloud of witnesses to our faith. Examine their faith and their end, and then live accordingly. We are not without example. Many have been motivated to endure more and fight longer just because of the faithfulness of one who lived before them. So, too, Paul says that we have all those just mentioned and more, who constantly witness before us the benefits of an acceptable faith. We ought to be moved by such witnesses to put aside the sins which are weighting us down in our lives - moved to continue the race until the end, moved to keep our eyes on Him who gives us hope: Jesus Christ. He is our great example and rewarder. In Christ we can find the fullness of God's promises.


After experiencing this spiritual symphony on faith, my own inner being is lifted up and encouraged. Know this: you are not alone in your struggle. Others have also experienced the same discouragements and trials, and they were able to conquer them, being victorious over sin. They were able to do this only when they viewed their lives beyond the veil of this world we live in. They realized that this world was not their home, and that there really is not much in this world that they desire, except to do the will of their Father. This was the key to their faith. Their confidence in the HOPE and the proof of God's faithfulness. They were able to endure until the end and to realize that only in Christ could their hope be fulfilled.

Will you be found in the number of the faithful? Read Revelation chapters four and five sometime. Here you can visualize the scene in Heaven when the victory over sin was won for you. To not be moved by this description indicates a possible weakness in one's faith. Until you can gain victory over sin in your life, you cannot expect to lift up your voice as one of the great multitude in Revelation chapter seven. Remember, the witnesses have shown us the way to live, our task is to now so live that we too can be a witness for the life of Christ.

[The preceding beautiful analogy of encouragement Is a reprint of an article by our late brother Lonnie York which appeared In the March 1987 Issue of the brotherhood paper, The Watchman, which was edited by brother York and Delmer Lee and was printed and mailed by brother Charles Everett. Brother York and all others instrumental in furnishing The Watchman to the brotherhood were involved in a great contribution to the spiritual well-being of its readers for a number of years. As you may know, brother Lonnie passed away recently, and we thought a reprint of this article might help to perpetuate the fond memories we have of our brother in Christ. -Richard Nichols]