When the apostles complimented the Christians in the early church, they didn’t
list their worldly success, nor did they talk about their talent to entertain,
nor the number of members added to the church, nor the great facilities in
which they met, nor did they repeat praise that might have been given them by
other men. Not at all. The apostles continually pointed to their faith.
The Biblical concept of faith has been corrupted in modern times in several
ways. In the name of tolerance, the advocates of today’s multicultural
promote many “faiths,” so that a person’s faith simply refers to his
particular brand of religion. Faith is that which distinguishes one
congregation from another in the kind of worship they conduct. Does it come
from the Word? A person may have membership in a church or denomination and
have no real faith at all. Some people are continually being fed the gospel
of self-help and self-esteem. Faith, to many, means to “believe in yourself,”
or as some preach it, the practice of positive thinking.
Such concepts do not qualify for what the Bible calls faith. Nor does
Scripture advocate “faith in the future,” which is the mere idea that whatever
we do, things will all turn out right!
FAITH AND REALITY
In Hebrews it is written, “Without faith it is impossible to please him; for
he that cometh God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of all
those who diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith if not belief is a myth
or a tradition. Rather, it is belief that God is Who He says He is, that He
has revealed Himself through Jesus His Son, and that He will do and act just
as He has promised.
There is a gospel song which says, “My God is real, for I can feel Him in my
soul.” But the reality of God does not depend on how a person feels about
Him. Paul wrote that “the invisible things of him from the creation of the
world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (Romans
1:20). God is as real as all creation, even though millions may not have any
feeling about Him at all. Those who depend on their feelings to give evidence
of God will fail to know His presence in times of great problems, the very
times when they need him most.
Christian faith is based on objective truth, on facts that are unique and
absolute: that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God; that everything Jesus
said is true; that He died and rose again and now sits on the throne of his
kingdom with all authority in heaven and in earth. These facts were not
invented by men, nor are they mere traditions. They are historically true.
They are absolute realities.
Faith embraces much more. It is to be believed that by Christ’s death we can
be forgiven and reconciled to God; that He is with us all the time; that He is
going to visibly and powerfully return, will raise us up from death, give us
eternal life, and give up his reign to the Father. Faith is to believe that
as we daily walk with God in the light, the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son
“cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
One reason for division and confusion in the religious world is that much of
what is called “faith” is not grounded in the Truth revealed by God. The
Scriptures say that, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God”
(Romans 10:17). Rather than that, much of what people call “faith” is based
on nothing more than feelings which are generated by songs and sermons aimed
at creating a great emotional “experience.” After the occasion, in the midst
of a crisis, that “feeling of faith” has vanished. However, Scriptural faith
is not produced on a diet of sugary theology presented in many pulpits today.
Neither is true faith produced by simple sad sentimentality. Biblical faith
is derived from the truth of the Word, and is actually hindered, rather than
helped, by all the embellishment and flowery speech of men. (See 1
Faith is the root of our relationship to God, our Creator. We cannot see Him
with our human eyes, touch Him with our hands, nor hear Him with our ears. We
relate to Him only in a mind-to-mind way, where He gives us truth and we
believe Him. Therefore, faith is not merely an arbitrary requirement of God
as some kind of test for mankind. It is an absolute necessity if there is to
be any relationship between man and God. There can be no value in His plans,
purposes and revelation for man if man, does not believe in the reality of it
LIVE BY FAITH
The Scripture says, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). But what
does that mean? For one thing, it means that while we cannot see God, we have
faith that He is with us. This is not because we “feel” Him or have some kind
of experience that indicates His presence, but because we believe the promise
of God that He would never leave us. A true Christian does not have to have
daily reminders through subjective feelings to be able to depend upon Him–this
person simply needs to believe Him.
After Jacob’s vision of the ladder and God’s promise to him, Jacob said,
“Surely Jehovah is in this place, and I knew it not” (Genesis 28:16). But you
and I certainly ought to know it, by faith, because He promised to be with
us. In a religious service you may hear someone say, “I could just feel God’s
presence.” Well, isn’t that nice—we are blessed when our feelings are in
harmony with the reality of God’s presence! But what of those who had no such
feelings? When God promises to be present, he is present whether you have a
feeling or not. The just are not to live by feelings but by faith.
Faith cannot be measured by circumstances. When things are going well, a
person may think that his faith is just as it should be. Popular preachers
tell you, “Trust God to keep you safe from harm and give you health and
wealth. He will protect you from sickness and pain if you just have faith.”
Then when the believer falls into serious difficulties he doubts his faith and
he questions his relationship to the heavenly Father. Faith is not
necessarily rewarded with material blessings and a pain-free life.
One of God’s means of building faith involves suffering and hardship. Here is
the test. When material security is lost, friends are removed, and health is
threatened, do we then still have total faith in God? Indeed we do, for faith
if perfected in grief. The Lord tells us that, though we may be saddened and
dismayed through our trials, these things are beneficial. You see, by these
our faith is tested as “gold tried with fire” that it may prove worthy of
praise and honor and glory when Jesus Christ returns. (See 1 Peter 1:6,7).
TRUSTING IN GOD
Usually we pray that God will change the circumstances under which we must
live, and He often does this, but faith is trusting God in spite of
circumstances. It is having the mind of Christ. It is accepting the
circumstances and praying as Jesus prayed to the Father, “Not my will, but
thine be done” (Luke 22:42). Such faith requires our willingness to be
transformed according to God’s judgment, willing for Him to disrupt our lives
and tear away whatever careful design we have for it, and replace the
qualities that are so proudly “our nature.” Yes, replace all that with much
less attractive qualities to the world—genuine humility, undying patience,
true compassion, love without dissimilation, and self-sacrifice.
Faith is to realize that we have been wronged we patiently and lovingly not
avenge ourselves, “but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written,
Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Faith is to
say, “Whatever God wills is best, wherever it may lead me and whatever it may
cost.” To live by faith is to be so yielded to God’s will that a person is
happy to accept whatever circumstance God provides, believing that God gives
only good gifts to His children. It is to accept Christ’s challenge: “If any
man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and
follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Faith is to take God’s will into consideration with every decision saying, “If
the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (See James 4:13-16). Let
us say to you, dear reader, take heart child of God, “For whatsoever is born
of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the
world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).