The first Bible verse my kids learned was Hebrews 11:1. It was pretty cute when, at 4 or so, they marched out of Sunday School with the verse on a little strip of paper. They spent that week reciting it so that when they went back the next Sunday, they got a sticker. This was 14 years ago for my daughter and 18 years ago for my son. I would guess they might remember the situation, but probably not the verse.
1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
– Hebrews 11:1
The good news is that I still remember the verse all these many years later. The bad news is that I went through all of those years without really thinking about what it means. I say this because only today did I realized that this verse has so much meaning packed into just 17 little words. Let’s dig into it a little deeper.
Hope is a a feeling of expectation that a certain thing will happen. It is something that everyone feels, probably on a regular basis. It’s grounded in the fact that something in their life can happen, but not necessarily that it will happen. We wouldn’t say that we hope for something that can’t happen – that’s hopeless. We might say, however, that we hope something occurs that can happen or has happened before. For instance, we can say that we hope that our team wins a certain game. That hope is much more well-founded when it is based on more information like the number of times they have already won versus lost. In this way, hope grows as we see more evidence that something is more likely to happen.
Now let’s look at faith. Faith is bigger. As the verse says, faith is confidence – It’s what hope grows to become. Faith is hope with reasons. Faith is a 10 and 0 record and a 3 touchdown lead in the second half.
To me, Assurance is an even stronger version of faith. The difference is that assurance always has some action behind it and maybe that is where the word gets its strength. Assurance comes from seeing the Red Sea part, Jericho’s walls fall, David defeating Goliath, Naaman’s leprosy healed and the Temple being rebuilt. It grows with the Messiah’s birth, John’s baptisms, and Jesus’ life, miracles, death and resurrection.
But wait, you say, these things happened in the past and we can’t experience them now except in the Bible. How does our hope grow into faith and then assurance? As the verse says – “We do not see!” There are no more prophets to perform miracles and Jesus is currently sitting at the right hand of God. What are we to do? Here is the thing, our Father has provided a gift for us that will deliver this assurance for us.
4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
– Acts 1:4-5
So today, it works like this. We hope that a seemingly hopeless situation will work out for us. In desperation, we go searching for more hope. If we find Christ in that looking and we trust that He will help us, we turn over the control of our life to Him. Then, Because we trust in the Lord, the Holy Spirit lives in us and assures us that our Faith is well-founded.
So, Hope grows to faith and faith, with some action, becomes assurance all driven by the Holy Spirit. And then we are perfect, right? We are now “assured” and we will never lose faith again! AWESOME!
Well, no, maybe for a time, but it’s more likely that we will need to renew that assurance on a regular basis, maybe even hourly in times of severe stress. Jeremiah does an excellent job of describing this cycle of hope renewed to assurance in Lamentations 3.
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
– Lamentations 3:19-25