As I was teaching the youth group about faith last night I was struck anew (afresh?) by something in Hebrews that isn't often talked about (at least in my experience). We assert, of course, from 2 Corinthians that as Christians we walk by faith and not by sight, and then we begin with Hebrews 11:1, the classic definition of faith, which says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." When sight (the world, its wisdom, its declarations, its definitions, our physical circumstances, etc.) come into conflict with God's Word or what we know to be true about His nature, goodness, power, trustworthiness, love, etc. then, by faith, we choose God's Word or promise or leading and not sight as how we will walk.
Often from there we head into Hebrews 11:6 which tells us, "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." Clearly we must believe not only that He exists (even the demons do that), but things about His nature and character—as any good relationship requires. Then Hebrews 11 opens up into an amazing Hall of Fame of faith of Old Testament people that walked by faith. It is an incredible chapter which leads into the encouragements to us in the chapters that follow it.
But, so often it seems that we skip, or simply quickly read over, Hebrews 11:3 which God deemed important enough that He put it almost immediately after the definition of faith and as the first "requirement" or "by faith . . ." that He lays out. Before Abel, or Enoch, or Noah, or Abraham, or Sarah, or . . . He says, "By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible." As the most foundational and basic beginning of walking by faith God says that by faith we understand that He created the Universe—what is seen—from nothing, by His word. Talking about Abraham, the father and model of our faith, Romans 4:17 says of God that He, ". . . calls into existence the things that do not exist."
Clearly the realization that God calls into existence, from nothing, that which is His will is a critical component of our faith (I'll share why I think that is in a minute). And that helps us see why the literal Genesis account is so attacked by Satan, causing it to be disregarded and mocked among non-Christians and often added to or taken away from by Christians. If God places so much emphasis on it, it makes sense Satan will realize how important it is. Even among many Christians who deeply love God there has come a compromise on it, or an adding to it.
Satan knows that our stand on Genesis has the potential to define our faith stand and he will do, I believe, all he can to draw us from the utter simplicity and beauty and truth of Genesis 1, read in its most basic and obvious way. Just like someone trying to get a pet to swallow a pill who knows enough to cover the bad thing (the pill) in good things (cheese or ground beef), Satan knows he won't get Christians to say the Bible is wrong, so he'll cover the lie with enough truth to get us to swallow it. It might go something like, "God created everything (truth). God spoke it into being in the beginning (truth). God is God of Creation (truth). And then He used evolution or millions of years to bring us to where we are today (lie)." There is so much "God" in that whole thing that it is easy to start to swallow it. I know I did for many years.
Even a subtle compromise like that starts to undermine faith, which can cripple a walk that is supposed to be based on faith and not sight. Even subtle compromises like that start to anchor us in "sight" in contradiction to God's Word. Even a subtle lie like that gets us to start to look around and see what God "used" to make things like they are. And here is why I think it is so dangerous, and why I believe God stands against it in His Word.
1. It undermines faith in God's Word. We start to feel an obligation to mesh God's word to what we think "science" tells us. We start to think that God left all this stuff out of His Word in Genesis 1, and later in life when we desperately need to trust God's Word and promises there is that seed planted that there might be a, "Yeah, but . . ." somewhere hidden in that promise or in our ability to trust what God says. The reality is that any time we begin to feel obligated to condescend God's Word to "science" we have begun our fall, or the fall of people who trust us as teachers and mentors. Because, that same science has no room for miracles, parting of oceans, resurrection from the dead, the reality of angels or demons, eternal life, etc. To be a consistent person you must be consistent (that's obvious) and that means that if purported "science" trumps God's Word for you in one area then it is only a matter of time until it erodes into other areas, if not for you then for people you are influencing.
2. We start to subtly believe God needs "things" or "situations" to build or bring about His solutions. We then start to look around us in the "impossible" situations in our life and look for what He might use to bring about the solution. The reality is, in many cases, there is nothing in the physical we see that He can use. Our situation looks impossible. It is then we must have absolute, unshakable faith that our God speaks and from nothing comes forth His will. It is then we must walk by faith, and not by sight, but if we have somewhere started to believe He needs to take things that are to make new things we will find around us no hope.
It is so, so clear from God's Word that He wants us to walk by faith. To do this He wants us to understand that His Word trumps all sight and wisdom of the world, and that He requires nothing but His Word and our faith to bring about from nothing His will and solutions (remember Sarah, in Hebrews 11:11 who, by faith, received the power to conceive—her faith met God's promise, and the "impossible" happened). I personally believe that an undermining of Genesis 1 in people's minds is one of the very first and most critical places of attack of the enemy and it is proving devastating to the faith of many, especially youth standing what feels like alone and naked in our "hallowed" halls of education. If God put a clear reference to Genesis 1 as His first "By faith . . ." in Hebrews 11, shouldn't we, too, put a high priority on it?