At the conclusion of Part 2 of this series we stated that we would “… develop our understanding of obeying God as we further examine Faith ……. and learn about the key principles God has set forth for us to grow in our walk with Him”.
So, let’s examine the topic of Faith.
To many people the word “Faith” simply refers to a “belief system” or a creed, or the doctrine of their church. The Webster’s Dictionary gives 3 definitions: (a) strong belief or trust in someone or something; (b) strong religious feelings or beliefs; and (c) a system of religious beliefs.
The Bible, however, has a clear definition which stands apart from these others and needs to be understood if we are to walk with God and be successful in life. It is found in Hebrews 11:1-6 – here’s the full quote from The Message translation (emphasis added):
1-2 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.
3 By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.
4 By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That’s what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, that belief continues to catch our notice.
5-6 By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. “They looked all over and couldn’t find him because God had taken him.” We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken “he pleased God.” It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.
The New King James Version is a little more blunt: “…Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen… “. From this we can make the following observations:
- Faith is believing God will work; it is believing that the intangible Word of God is true, even when tangible, physical circumstances seem to indicate otherwise.
- Faith is assurance. Assurance is the opposite of doubt – faith never doubts. Faith is the confident assurance that, when God’s Word says a thing exists, it exists regardless of whether or not we can currently see it. Having assurance is more than a state of mind, it’s living, acting and speaking as people who what God has said about the matter at hand.
- Faith is acting on proof. Proof is legal evidence that something exists. A title deed is legal proof of ownership; Faith is acting on the certainty that the Bible, the Word of God, is our title deed for the things that God has promised us.
- Faith is perceiving as real fact that which is not revealed to the senses. See John 20:29.
- Faith is believing God spoke the truth in His Word; that He is not a liar, that He loves us and that He is able to do what He has promised to do. See Numbers 23:19.
Given the above, the Faith that we are talking about here – the Faith that is essential to our being successful in life – is always based on the Word of God, the Bible. Here are some more Bible statements;
Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in heaven. Psalm 119:89 NKJV
Heaven and earth will pass way, but My words will by no means pass away. Matt. 24:35 NKJV
By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. Hebrews 11:3 NKJV
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. John 15:7 NKJV
Faith is an extremely valuable and precious “commodity” and it should be no surprise to quickly discover that there are some common fake substitutes. If Faith is such a powerful tool to enable us to be successful in life, you can be sure that our enemy, satan, has counterfeits which he will use to distract and deceive you. Three of the most frequently encountered are:
Foolishness: which is defined as acting without judgment, sense or discernment. For example, it is foolishness to walk around and claim everything you see if God did not promise it to you or give it to you in His Word. The “Name it, claim it, frame it” kind of faith is plain foolishness.
There is a clear warning to us in Romans 12:3: “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith”.
We have been given a “measure of faith” which has enabled us to trust in Jesus for our salvation, and this “measure” of faith is developed by our exercising it (much like a muscle is developed by exercise). We exercise it by thinking soberly (not irrationally) and basing it on God’s Word. So here are a few examples of foolishness, often falsely indulged in in the name of Faith:
- It is foolishness to pretend you have something in an effort to display faith, while it is clear
to everybody that it’s nothing more than foolishness.
- It is foolishness to buy something you cannot afford, believing God will provide.
- It is foolishness to immediately resign from your job after someone has prophesied that you’ll be an evangelist or minister.
- It is foolishness to marry someone purely on the basis of a prophecy.
God has made provision for you to avoid falling into the trap of foolishness. Not only have we been warned to think soberly, but when you received Jesus as your Saviour you also received a measure of the Holy Spirit Who now lives within you, and 1 Corinthians 2: 12-16 (NKJV) says:
“12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy[a] Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?”[b] But we have the mind of Christ.”
We shall discuss the role of the Holy Spirit in more detail in a later article, but for now be assured that He is available to you to guide you, teach you, and keep you from straying into foolishness.
Presumption is another counterfeit of Faith to watch out for. We see a great deal of this in everyday life and it is very dangerous, especially when it is confused with Faith. A straightforward definition of Presumption is: “To take for granted; to suppose something to be true; entitled to believing something without any examination of the subject or having any proof; (making a decision) on the strength of probability; to assume.”
Being deceived by Presumption can result in untold sorrow, discouragement, and even serious hurt. It can even destroy one’s faith.
A couple of examples of Presumption are:
- “I presume that if I resign my job and become a healing evangelist, people will definitely get healed.”
- “I presume that if I go into business with another Christian, God will automatically prosper us.”
- “I presume that if I marry a Christian, God will automatically bless the marriage.”
Finally, Hope needs to be contrasted with Faith as they, too, are NOT one and the same thing
Living with or in Hope simply means “To expect with desire; to desire realistically; to be optimistic.”
But Hope, on its own, never receives – it is always based on something, sometime in the future. In reality Hope is never able to receive anything in isolation, it always needs faith to give it substance. Read Hebrews 11:1 again, carefully.
Hoping for something without exercising active Faith is simply wishful thinking and cannot and will not bring results. We many times hear a person saying “I hope I will be healed” after they have been prayed for. This clearly indicates that Faith is not engaged: a statement evidencing that Faith is being exercised would be something like “According to the Word of God in 1 Peter 2:24, by Jesus’ stripes I am healed, thank You, Lord!”
Hope without faith remains hope and will never see the desired outcome manifested.
We will continue our study of Faith in the next article in this series. It is an extensive topic but we are focusing on the essentials in order to help you make a success of life.
In the last article we pointed out that Hebrews 11:6 says “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”, and so in Part 4 we will focus on what Jesus had to say about Faith and observe how He operated in Faith.