For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. – Hebrews 11:2

We have seen that when it comes to the salvation of our souls, active and saving faith is faith that works. It is faith that is based upon a relationship of trust placed in Jesus Christ. It has Him as its object and gives the believer strong evidence and proof of the things he hopes for and cannot see.

Aside from faith affecting behavior what other side effects are present when we have faith? Does faith work its way out in other ways beside just our behavior? Hebrews 11:2 states that by faith “the elders obtained a good testimony.” By having faith their testimony was improved. What does it mean to have a good testimony?

Those who have gone before us in the faith, by trusting in God and the promised coming Messiah (by grace alone through faith alone), obtained a good testimony. It is interesting what many today think of when we ask them to give their testimony. The typical testimony starts out with the believer talking about how he or she lived in sin before they trusted Christ, and usually the bigger the sin the more sensational the testimony.

As the testimony unfolds, we hear about all that they struggled with and all that God delivered them from and by the time they get to the point in the story that they were converted, they stop, as if the climax of a testimony is the moment of being born again.

In reality, when the Bible talks about testimonies is it talking about telling the story of right now today and the things God is doing in our life. It is a testimony rooted in the moment, not just a telling of everything that happened up until salvation. How often do we recount all that we did before being saved when God does not even remember those things? (Psalm 103:12; Micah 7:19). While we may remember and recount those things the true power of a testimony is seen in how our faith is working right now, today.

Yes, it is glorious that we have been saved from sin, but at times I fear that we revel in the depth of depravity before we glory in the unfathomable love and grace of God. As I stated, Biblically speaking, ones testimony may have some background given, but it is a testimony to what God is doing – it is about our present reality.

Another interesting fact here, especially from this verse in Hebrews 11, is that in the original language the testimony is coming from someone else other than the faithful individual being remembered. This is not the elders talking about their testimony. It is a good testimony from an outside source as to what their faith has accomplished in their lives.

Literally, this verse does not say that they worked to gain or obtain this testimony. It states that they were testified of, or had a witness given about them. Here we see in verses 4 and 39 that it is God who is giving this testimony. It is God who is testifying on their behalf, giving the ultimate approval to their lives of faith. So one “side effect” of faith is that God will testify to our obedience (Matthew 10:32).

Do we ever think about our testimony from that perspective? What would Jesus say about us if He were asked? Certainly then a testimony could never be given to exalt the man instead of exalting Christ. Evangelist Del Fehsenfeld, Jr, the revivalist who founded Life Action Ministries, preached often that the only degree that really mattered was the AUG degree. Ever heard of an AUG? It is an “Approved Unto God” degree bestowed by God when we have a good testimony. Are we living right here and right now in a way that glorifies God and gives Him the opportunity to give a good testimony about us?

What other side effects are there from this faith that works? A few items from Romans 5:1-5 and James 1:2-8 are worth noting.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

By faith we have been justified. Because we are justified we have peace with God. As a result we rejoice in hope and even are able to glory in tribulations. Because tribulation produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope. And true hope does not let us down but testifies to us of the love of God. Speaking about how faith holds us up under tribulation, consider James 1:2-8:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Here we see more side effects of faith. We see joy in the face of trials and tribulations. We see patience leading to maturity in the faith. Faith is foundational to the Christian life. It is how we enter new life and how we continue to grow. It is essential to our development and our maturity. Faith, complete trust in Christ that casts out fear and doubt, is required for peace, joy, and hope. It is necessary for patience and a right perspective and outlook on life. Faith in Christ carries us. It really does define who we are and what we do for Christ and what He accomplishes through us.

That is why through faith we are able to obtain a good testimony, and it is also why without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Remember, anything we do that is not faith based is sin. Whatever we do that is faith based glorifies God, gives Him an opportunity to testify about what He is accomplishing in and through us, and gives us a good testimony in the church and in the world.

What is our testimony? How is our faith working right now? What good is it accomplishing? What side effects are present in the midst of struggles, trials, victories, and obedience as we continue to walk by faith?