The Jewish Christians to whom the Epistle to the Hebrews is addressed were demoralized and discouraged. Christianity had proven difficult for them. It was radical. It set aside centuries of tradition. It emphasized a new but troubling kind of spiritual freedom. In short, it incurred the wrath of the Jewish religious establishment.
Many converts were ready to turn back and to leave the uneasy, uncharted waters of faith for the comfortable, familiar life of works and moral effort. This was the choice they faced: depending on the Law or following Jesus, trying to appease God or trusting in Him, a complicated religious system or a simple relationship with the living God through Christ.
After reminding these immature believers of the superiority of Jesus Christ, the writer of Hebrews, beginning in 10:19, demonstrates for them the superiority of faith. Faith means we cannot see the outcome, we are not sure what lies ahead (Hebrews 11:1). But we are convinced of the reality of God (Hebrews 11:6). In other words, “We’re not sure what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future.” Faith means clinging to the hope that God will eventually triumph; He will come back to earth in judgment, to reward those who have sought after Him (Hebrews 11:6). And so we obey. We do God’s bidding, even when submission is hard.
It is the response of obedience that qualifies the characters in ch. 11 as people of great faith. Abraham and Sarah believed God; consequently, they obeyed Him, regardless of the consequences. It is this kind of willing trust that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). Anything less will not do.
Those who do not have faith cannot see past the physical world around them. They are limited by their temporal circumstances and are blind to what God is doing. But those who open their spiritual eyes can see the spiritual realities which transcend this world. Their hope is in God’s strength and in His faithfulness. In that hope they find the strength to endure. When it comes to faith, the world scoffs. Faith, at best, seems like a great waste; at worst, it seems almost suicidal. Do we really want to give up all the pleasures of this world for something elusive and ethereal?
Faith is never easy. But the more convinced we are of the reality of an all-good, all-powerful God, the more our trust will grow, and the less we will be overwhelmed by doubts and temptations.