Here is another look through Hebrews 11, which is full of people who are famous for their faith. But have you ever noticed that when the writer describes them, they are all presented in terms of some action? Noah constructed an ark, Abraham left his home, Jacob blessed his grandsons, Joseph instructed about his bones, Moses chose to be mistreated, Joshua fought.
Often we equate faith with a mental assent to the facts. Faith, however, is synonymous with action: apart from action, there is no faith. In fact, there isn’t even a noun form of the word “faith” in Hebrew. Faith is only expressed as a verb, because faith never exists apart from action. The saints in Hebrews 11 became famous for something they didn’t even have a name for, because apart from action it does not even exist.
Faith is a conviction expressed in a choice. It starts with belief, but if this “belief” does not lead to obedience, it is not yet faith. Your “belief” does not become true faith until you act upon it in obedience. Faith is belief in action.
Years ago, my best friend and I went rappelling for the first time. The idea of repelling is that you lean your weight against a rope and use that rope to essentially jump down the mountain. When it was my turn to go, the instructor told me to lean back and let the rope catch me. Despite my fear (and after a quick prayer asking Jesus to come into my heart again, just to be safe), I leaned back. Of course, the rope held and I repelled down the side of the mountain.
My friend went next. From the bottom of the mountain, I could see him shaking. After about ten minutes, I saw him reach his foot down and start climbing down the rock face. He got halfway down before he found a spot that he couldn’t climb around, but instead of leaning back and letting the rope catch him, he climbed right back up!
My friend’s approach to repelling is a lot like some people’s approach to faith. He might have “believed,” but he failed to act on it, and it did him no good. Faith is not “believing that the rope will hold you”; it is leaning back on that rope.