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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Hebrews 10:32-11:3

The Word of God is full of paradoxical statements, such as: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35); “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35); “….whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45). Many of the aforementioned teachings of Jesus are commonly referred to as paradoxical teachings. According to the Merriam Webster’s dictionary, a paradox is “something that is made up of two opposite things that seem impossible but is actually possible.” In other words, a paradox is a seemingly self-contradictory statement containing truth that joins two opposites.

One of the most perplexing aspects of Christianity is the subject of faith. Faith is a paradox in itself. Faith is the mode by which we’re saved; yet, it is a gift (Ephesians 2:10-11). Faith has the power to move mountains; yet, it only requires the size of mustard seed (Matthew 17:20). One of the most familiar passages concerning faith is Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.” (Holman Christian Standard)  For today’s devotional, I want to provide clarity to this perplexing subject of faith by analyzing three questions: 1) Who has faith?; 2) What is faith?; 3) Why is faith needed? 

Let’s read Hebrews 10:32-11:3: “Remember the early days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to taunts and afflictions, and at other times you were companions of those who were treated that way. For you sympathized with the prisoners and accepted with joy the confiscation of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves have a better and enduring possession. So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised. For in yet a very little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. But My righteous one will live by faith; and if he draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain life. Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof what is not seen. For by it our ancestors were approved. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible.”

Who has faith?

Hebrews 10:39 makes it implicitly clear that those who have faith are Christians who have faith and obtain life through it. How so? Well, these Christians are those who are facing persecution, distress and turmoil. In the midst of this commotion, the author of Hebrews reminds them that faith is not only for one’s possession, it is also for one’s perseverance. In other words, faith is not something that we hold on to; it is actually something that holds onto us. Thus, Christians are not those who find life apart from their faith; Christians are those who find life in and through our faith (Hebrews 10:39).

What is faith?

Before I share what faith is, let me first tell you what faith is not.

Faith is not:

1. Trusting in the unknown (it is not a leap into the dark or a rolling of the dice)

2. Trusting in superstition (it not a blind illusion; it is not believing in luck, etc.)

3. Trusting in yourself (it is not trusting in your intellect)

4. Trusting in your religious traditions (it is not trusting in your prayers, fasts, Bible reading, etc.)

In other words, biblical faith is not simply words about God; biblical faith is not works to God; rather, biblical faith works for God!

Here’s my personal definition: faith is taking action on that which you believe to be true; it is the manifestation of your belief in God. In other words, faith cannot be faith without action and assurance. Our faith must be embedded in the assurance that God is truthful, and our faith must be manifested through our actions. May we be assured of God’s present reality within our lives and thereby motivated to experience God’s goodness and glory through our fasting, today.

James Fields
Ministry Fellow at Princeton