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What is Faith: Charting Our Course
I am inviting you to join me on a journey! Let’s call it “The Journey of Faith.” In many ways it’s like the journey that Christian went on in Bunyan’s timeless book, Pilgrim’s Progress. If you have read the book, you will recall the intense struggle that Christian endured on his journey to live a life of faith. There were many setbacks because of the sinfulness of the flesh and the world, as well as the ridicule of people, yet he pursued on understanding that God’s Word clearly states that he has been called to a life of faith. It is a similar journey that I want us to go on together in this series of articles about “A Life of Faith!”
To chart our course on this journey we need to understand several important truths about faith:
- Faith is central to our relationship with God! Without faith it is impossible to come to Him and/or please Him. The writer of Hebrews made this abundantly clear when he wrote, “... without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (11:6).1 Anyone who comes to God must begin on the foundational truth of the necessity of faith. Faith that God exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him is and always has been the central truth of a relationship with God!
- Faith is the Modus Operandi of the Christian’s life! It is through faith that the Christian life begins as we have stated above — there is no other way. Many Scripture references declare this, but probably the most familiar is Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Galatians 2:16 declares the same truth, “... knowing that a man is not justified (declared righteous) by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”
A spiritual life that begins through faith must also be lived by faith! It is not only when we face crises or difficulties in life that we turn to faith to get us through. Faith is to be the modus operandi of our daily walk as a Believer! Consider what the apostle Paul wrote Romans 1:17, “For in it [the Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” It is interesting to notice carefully the Greek prepositions in the phrase “from faith to faith.” The preposition “from” is ek which can also be translated as “out of,” and the preposition “to” is eis and can also be translated “into”. Literally what Paul stated is that the Christian life begins by an act of faith but it takes us into a life of faith. In other words, in our salvation we move out of the act of faith for salvation, into a life of faith! Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38 state this same truth.
- Faith is necessary for us to please God! In fact, without faith it is impossible to please Him. Again, coming back to Hebrews 11:6, we read, “... without faith it is impossible to please God . . . .” For the Christian, pleasing God should be their daily ambition! This was the apostle Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians when he wrote, “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him!” But, it was not just to the Corinthians that he emphasized this; it was a constant theme to the Ephesians, “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10), the Colossians “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God . . .” (Colossians 1:10), the Thessalonian Believers, “. . . brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.” Even when the Believers were pleasing God, Paul wanted them to “excel still more!” There must never be a limit in our ambition to please God!
When Paul wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy, he reminded this young man that “no soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the One who enlisted him as a soldier! (2 Timothy 2:4)
A God-pleasing life is a life that radiates the same heart as the Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ’s overarching desire was to please the One who sent Him. John, in his gospel, recorded these words from Jesus’ lips, ““And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”
Beloved, as His disciples, our lives must be lived with the same passion and ambition, and that is only accomplished in a life lived by faith because without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6)
- Faith must undergo “testing” to determine its strength! James understood this when he reminded his readers that “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:3). We will come to understand and examine this more closely as we go deeper into our journey of faith.
- Faith comes and grows through God’s Word! God’s Word and a life of faith are inseparable; they go together like a hand-and-glove or a horse-and-carriage! Paul wrote, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). A life of faith will be a life lived in God’s Word!
- Faith provides great benefits! The writer of Hebrews opens the door to the “Faith Hall of Fame” with these words, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval ...” (Hebrews 11:1-2). This passage is not so much a definition of faith, but a description of what faith does. The word “assurance,” hypostasis, means a “support, foundation, or guarantee”2
Think of faith in the same way that you would view a support beam of a massive structure. It is the support beam of our hope. It also gives conviction. The word “conviction,” elenchos, is evidence that makes someone fully agree, understand and realize the truth or validity of something. Even though things are unseen faith provides the evidence, and understanding to realize the validity that the things are true. But, faith also gives “approval,” martyreo, a testimony, or a witness. The faith of “men of old” was a witness or testimony that God was pleased with their lives.
The importance of faith in the life of a Believer is clearly underscored from the preceding discussion. But, what is faith? The word faith is from the Greek word, pistis (noun) or pisteuo (verb) which refers to “a firm persuasion”3
It is the same word that can be translated as ‘belief”, “believe”, or “trust” depending upon the context. It always has an object outside of itself, i.e., faith in God, but it is not faith in faith!
With this in mind allow me to offer a definition:
“Faith is a deep immovable TRUST in God that He will FULFILL what He has PROMISED, and responds in OBEDIENCE to what He commands.”
This definition is derived from one of the most important passages about faith found in the New Testament. It focused upon the life of Abraham: Romans 4:18-21, “In hope against hope he [Abraham] believed (had faith), so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.”
God had promised Abraham that he and Sarah would have a child (Genesis 17:15-16, 19) even though both of them were past the child-bearing age (Abraham being 100 years old, and Sarah 90 years old). Yet, as humanly impossible that this promise would be fulfilled, Abraham trusted God that He could and would fulfill what He had promised! He was fully assured that what God had promised He was able to perform! God’s testimony of Abraham was that he did not falter in his trust in God (even if it appeared that he did at one point, he didn’t), rather than falter he continued to “grow strong in faith giving glory to God.” In faith Abraham continued to walk in obedience to God and His promise.
So based upon this passage we can say that “Faith is a deep immovable TRUST in God that He will FULFILL what He has PROMISED, and responds in OBEDIENCE to what He commands.” May I suggest that you commit this definition to memory. It will be valuable as we continue our Journey of Faith from Hebrews chapter 11. I really hope you will continue this journey with me.
For the love of God’s people,
Pastor Ron Finch, (retired)