I used to drive a lot. A daily, one-way 50 mile commute seemed like no big deal―and that was before GPS told me what to do. Today we let our smartphones guide us around the traffic jams and find the best path. Back then was a different story. Experience. That’s what told me where to go. Oh, I got it wrong all the time, but then I learned and made adjustments. Get caught once at a particularly bad bottleneck, and you’ll never do it again. I learned the patterns. I could tell where I needed to go based on where I’d already been. I learned.
Then I got a smartphone and moved to a new city. Suddenly I was dependent. Suddenly I found myself turning on my GPS just to get to the grocery store.
Faith is a journey. And trust me there are roadblocks. There are traffic jams. There are freeways and rush-hour and road-rage-fueled arguments and detours. But there’s also a GPS way to do it. The quick and easy path of faith. And if you’re not careful, this can get you lost on your way to Wal-Mart when the battery dies.
The author of Hebrews knew how to learn the path. Experience. Personal experience is probably the greatest teacher, but if you’re smart, you’ll learn from other people’s mistakes. If ten people trip in front of you, you’d better change your approach if you don’t want to fall too. In chapter 11, the author of Hebrews catalogues all those “giants” of the faith as immortalized in the Hebrew Bible (what we call the Old Testament). Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samson, Gideon, David, Daniel. If you look at the finer details of these stories, nothing was easy. Many of them suffered greatly. Many of them had a dark side and had tremendous moral failings. But something kept them going. Faith.
In chapter 11 alone, the book of Hebrews uses the phrase “by faith” 19 times. And if I learned anything from my days as a literature teacher, it’s this: if the author repeats something a lot, they want it to sink in. In Greek there’s no word for “by” here. Instead, it’s understood by the ending of the word “faith.” And you could just as easily use a different word in front of it. In faith, through faith, with faith, by means of faith, enabled because of faith, etc.
We’re not promised a smooth path. But by faith, through faith, and with faith, we can find a way. We can persevere. Just. Keep. Going. Stay the course. And “learn to lay aside every weight” (Heb. 12:1) that drags you down and holds you back. Cause trust me, the traffic jams are coming.