"By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God."
Hebrews 11: 31
"Heroine of Faith"
"Faith is the effect of God illuminating the mind and sealing the heart, and it is His mere gift."
What does it mean to me when I hear the words, "by faith?"
"Faith is the subtle chain which binds us to the infinite."
Elizabeth Oakes Smith
"The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see.…"
Hebrews 11: 1
When my husband, Jim, and I were hit by a drunk driver and spent four months in the hospital and two years in outpatient rehab learning to walk again, I often prayed, "Dear Lord, help me to have faith in You through all this mess."
One night, as we lay in bed at our home, a preacher came on the television. I'll never forget what he said. "There's somebody out there in TV Land that God wants to heal tonight and He'll do it if you have enough faith." I looked at Jim, his body so broken he could only get around in a wheelchair. Then I looked at the wheelchair by my side of the bed, too. I could only get in and out of bed with my handy wood slideboard. My entire left side was immovable, as though I had had a stroke. As this preacher continued exhorting his audience to have "enough" faith, I began to ask myself, "How much faith is really enough to get God to act?" To be quite honest with you, I knew at that particular point in my life, my faith-o-meter was nearly on empty. Two weeks later, when Jim was diagnosed with osteomeylitis and gangrene in his right foot and had to undergo the amputation of half his foot, as I sat in a wheelchair by his bed in a local hospital, my faith plummeted to zero. When I thought back to the television pastor's words, I said to myself, "Your faith girl, is useless."
I know you have probably been in a similar situation because so many of you have written to me and shared some disastrous situations that you are going through. What's more, these horrific problems, have stretched your faith to the breaking point.
Over the next few days, we're going to look at a different brick that is part of the "firm faith foundation" which Paul describes at the beginning of Hebrews 11, the "faith chapter" in the New Testament.
This particular chapter, Hebrews 11, is often referred to when Christians herald the accomplishments of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses.
But low and behold, in Hebrews 11: 31, we find the name of one of only two NAMED women in this entire chapter. The first is Sarah, the mother of a great nation and the second is Rahab the prostitute.
As you go through Hebrews 11, all the individuals mentioned are people who were part of God's chosen group. But then, there's Rahab! What's more, an entire verse displays the "firm foundation of faith" Rahab, a Canaanite, built her life on. I really like the Amplified Bible's translation of Hebrews 11: 31. "Prompted by faith Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed along with those who refused to believe and obey, because she had received the spies in peace."
From this passage we find the first of our 5 building blocks and it is the essence of faith. Rahab believed! If we go back to Joshua 2: 11, we find Rahab telling the spies, "The Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath." I had to think about this for a minute. Everybody else in Jericho had heard the stories about what God had done for the Israelites from the time they left Egypt to their arrival in Canaan, and yet, only Rahab chose to believe God. The wonderful Oswald Chambers penned these words: "Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose way you may not understand at the time." Don't you love that?! I can assure you, Rahab didn't understand all God was doing when the spies arrived at her front door. But in spite of that fact, her belief in who the God of Israel was, never wavered.
St. Augustine wrote that "Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand."
Now I want to put these illuminating words under the microscope of practical application. When I was lying in bed, my body broken in bits, I had a choice – to believe God had my life under His control – OR – to decide that God was not worth believing at all.
I contend, that at some point in our lives, we all face critical junctures where we ask ourselves, "Do I believe or don't I?" It is at this starting point where Jesus said, "If you have (faith) (trust) (belief), even the size of a mustard seed, that's all you need." And note, Jesus' words weren't telling us we had to have faith in our own ability or that we had to have "enough" faith before He would help us – just the opposite. Alister McGrath noted that, "Faith is not something we can achieve; it is something achieved with us by God."
No where do we see this truth exemplified more dramatically than in the life of Rahab the harlot who took the evidence from Heaven and chose to believe in God, even when she didn't understand everything God was doing. As Clark Pinnock wrote, "Faith is a resting of the heart in the sufficiency of the evidence."
This is why Rahab is included in the faith chapter, Hebrews 11, for as God's illuminating light shown upon the evidence, Rahab the harlot, believed.
"Faith is not shelter against difficulties, but belief in the face of all contradictions."
"You who are over us,
You who are one of us,
You who are --
Also within us.
May all see you – in me also.
May I prepare the way for you.
May I thank you for all that shall fall to my lot,
May I also not forget the needs of others
Give me a pure heart – that I may see you.
A humble heart – that I may hear you.
A heart of love – that I may serve you.
A heart of faith – that I may abide in you."