Chapter Two: FAITH

Miraculous Faith
After loving God and our neighbour, faith is the next greatest teaching in the Bible. Love and faith are the concrete we build our lives upon, and many times in the New Testament love and faith are linked together – “hearing of your love and faith”, “faith which works by love”, “your work of faith and labour of love”(1) etc. The apostle Paul says ‘the purpose of every command in the Bible is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith’ and that “now abides faith, hope and love.”(2) Love and faith are the two main teachings that identify us as Christians.

Real Bible based faith, is believing, accepting and doing what God says, as revealed in the Bible. The only way to know true faith is by the fruit it bears.
“Without faith” we are told, “it is impossible to please God”, because anyone who comes to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Heb.11:6).

A Bible definition of faith is given to us in Heb 11:1: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Our faith stretches from the ‘infinite’, believing that God created the universe, which I call easy faith, to the ‘intimate’, believing that God loves me more than I could possibly imagine, which appears to be a much more difficult faith to grasp.

To have faith in God means that we trust him and are certain that what he says is true, that we believe in him and rely on him and are assured that he has the truth of eternal life, and it is his great joy to share it with us.

Not only does faith give us confidence in God for eternal things, but it is a day by day, moment by moment walk with God and Jesus, knowing that we are actually the temple of the living God (1Cor 6:19). God being always present with us through the power of the Holy Spirit, therefore we are able to draw on him for help, strength, courage, guidance and comfort. WOW!

Good, strong, healthy, vibrant, overflowing, unwavering, courageous, growing, active, sharing, joy- filled, rejoicing, Christ focused, Bible based, God honouring, obedient faith, with a solid foundation of love and hope (1 Cor 13:13) is indeed one of the most important and precious goals of every single seeker of truth. In Gal 5:6 Paul tells us that “ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”, and in the book of James we are told that “ faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead .”

Faith in general, is indeed a miraculous quality. With faith our lives are a joy, filled with hope and very much worth living, we tend to have a deep inner peace, knowing that things will end up being OK even if we are in the worst of situations. Without faith our life can be a very sad place, without joy and hope, feelings of not being good enough, not measuring up and all that ‘lousy feeling’ stuff, feeling that things will end up bad, even though the circumstances that we find ourselves in are very fortunate and we may even be the envy of many. The only one to see a problem looming is Mr. Doubt sneaking around within our hearts and minds. Who wouldn’t want faith in their lives, and plenty of it, the choice is ours. Bible faith is far more powerful than every day faith, as it’s focus is on the eternal God with eternal rewards.

We can speculate on what ‘faith’ is, and does, but the Bible helps us to really understand it’s essence by giving us many examples. In Heb 11 We have a list of friends who did various things by faith in God. We are greatly impressed by this list of faithful and could even find it a bit discouraging as we are reminded of their great victories, But surely any thought of discouragement must be turned to hope as we realise that they were very fragile humans, their faith in God was the source of their amazing victories. This is the very reason we have the record, God is saying, they did it, you also can believe and do what is required of you.

We read in Heb 11 That by faith, by faith, by faith these people DID various things . I would just like to look at two of these characters. In v 11,12 it says “by faith Abraham, even though he was past age-and Sarah herself was barren-was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he was as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky”….etc, Romans reinforces the hopelessness of Abrahams situation in ch. 4v18-21 “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations...! Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead….Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith giving glory to God, (Now the crunch line), being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised. Could any of us find ourselves in a more challenging situation than this, God was there for Abraham, he is there for us. Also in the case of Moses, Heb. 11:24-29 tells us of the remarkable feats that Moses accomplished through faith, leaving Egypt and not fearing the wrath of Pharaoh, keeping the Passover and crossing the Red sea, how amazing. But what we find from the book of Exodus is that Moses didn’t feel that he was the man for the task, he felt it was beyond his capabilities. Exod. 3v11 says “But Moses said to God, ‘who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh’ 4v3...What if they do not believe me or listen”…4v10 I can’t speak…4:13 O Lord, please send someone else to do it”

What a changed person Moses became when he finally stopped arguing with God and making excuses and put his faith, his trust in God. In fact there are many examples of faith that started out as weaknesses but the weaknesses are overcome when the eyes are focused on the solution, which is God, rather than on the problem, which is ME.

As we look at the encounters that Jesus had with various people during his ministry we see faith at the very front of his teaching. He was very encouraging to people who demonstrated faith with such statements as, “your faith has healed you, Mat” 9:22, or “According to your faith” Matt 9v29, again “Woman you have great faith, Your request is granted ”or Mat 21v21 “If you have faith and do not doubt”…v22 “If you believe you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer”.

On the other hand Jesus was extremely unhappy when lack of faith was displayed, “O you of little faith”, Jesus often groaned (Mat.6v30), or “He was amazed at their lack of faith”. Jesus had such responses to lack of faith simply because the lack of faith meant the people didn’t fully believe and trust God, but that they found more comfort in limiting Him.

We are often very fragile and a little bit on the weak side when it comes to displaying faith in God. Who can’t relate to the man who said to Jesus, ” I believe, help me overcome my unbelief” (Mk 9v24), or to the disciples, when challenged by Jesus on forgiveness, responded, “Increase our faith” (Lk 17v5). Fortunately there is an amazing treasure chest of faith at our disposal, if we just take the time to prayerfully lift the lid and sift through the contents, it is in the Bible. We are told that “ faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God/Christ” (Rom 10v17). The Bible is Gods word, it is the way he has chosen to reveal His plan and purpose to people, and His plan and purpose just happen to be based on FAITH, HOPE and LOVE. Gods Spirit speaks to us mightily through his word directing and growing our faith. It is a tragedy that most people pick up their faith second hand, from what others say and write and think, rather than trusting God to speak directly to them through his word.

As we seek God through the pages of His word we get an idea of how all powerful and immense God is, being the creator and sustainer of the universe (Gen 1)... and not only this, but also this creator God reveals himself to us as a loving Father, who loves us more than we could possibly imagine (Jn 3v16). As we come to see God more clearly through his word and his creation, how could our belief, faith and trust in him not fail to soar higher and higher?

For a short time after the creation was complete, man and God were living in harmony, but this was short lived. As we know the man failed a fairly simple test, the man disobeyed God, being aware that the consequences of this would bring death into the world and destroy his wonderful relationship with God. I don’t think he could have imagined just how devastating the result of him going against God would be. We can’t be critical of Adam, because anyone of us would have done the same thing. We prove this every day by making choices, like Adam did, that, to varying degrees are against the will of God. Sometimes knowingly, sometimes in ignorance. One of the most appropriate Bible verses for us all would have to be Rom 3v23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. This is a humbling place to find ourselves, and we rightly deserve the wages of our ways, ie. “The wages of sin , is death” Rom 6v23. This is the harsh reality of our situation.

Fortunately our father in heaven loves us so much that he doesn’t want us to stay dead, in fact he wants us to have a restored relationship with Him (Rom. 5v9-1), and wants us to live with Him for all eternity. He has taken it upon himself to work out a way by which we can be reconciled to him, (Rom 5:15-20), by providing a way to be forgiven of all our wickedness, the result of which is that we are able to live at peace with Him, now, and have the sure hope of eternal life, and be able to approach him as our very own loving father, confident of his love for us, 1John 3v1...Heb 8v11,12.

The end result of this reconciliation, this forgiveness, this peace, is the wonderful gift of eternal life that we have through faith. We are told in Rom 6v23 “The gift of God is eternal life”. In Jn. 3v16 We have in summary the Good news, I think that “Good News” is a fairly tame way of describing it. It is the unimaginably, fantastic, wonderful, and however else you can describe it brilliant news, this hope is described in the book of John…..”For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life”. If these thoughts don’t bring tears to the eyes, or at least fill you with joy and overflowing hope, may we pray, Please Lord, “Increase our faith”.

This is the answer to a changed life, a trusting faith filled existence rather than a lifeless life without faith. Take God at his word. In Christ you are forgiven, You share in that wonderful promise to Abraham, Gen 12:3….”In you all nations on earth will be blessed” see interpretation at Gal 3v8,9 ”The scripture foresaw that God would justify (To count them as OK before him, his friends, forgiven, set free from sin) the gentiles by faith and announced the gospel to Abraham: “all nations will be blessed through you”.

We also have this hope expressed in Acts 3:25....He said to Abraham, “Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed”...v26 “When God raised up his servant, he sent Him first to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” We can’t really know God until we know Him as the one who has forgiven our sins and wickedness (Heb 8v11,12). Until we reach the point in our faith walk when we can say, my sins are forgiven, Christ died for me, and really believe it, all our thoughts on ‘the truth’ and ‘Gods ways’ are merely speculation, not good news, but doubtful news.

In Christ’s death we share with him in His victory over sin. In His resurrection we share with Him in his victory over the grave and death. At His return we will share with Him in His divine nature. The epistle of John tells us in ch. 3v2 “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is.” v3 “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure.”

We have been saved by a Gracious and Almighty Loving Heavenly Father. Our faith response to what has been done for us is to extend our hand in kindness to others. It starts with the golden rule of “…doing to others as we would have them do to us” Mat 7v12, which is really the least asked of us to do ,” and grows, to “Love others as I have loved you” Jn 15v12… this is where we are called to go and keep growing until the Lord returns. We can only grow as we, by faith, live out the words of the inspired writer. In Heb 12v2 We are encouraged to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross scorning it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. v3 “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and not lose heart.” As you fix your eyes on Jesus, as you meditate on the wonders of His love for you, as you accept, through faith the promises of God as being for you personally - May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom:15:13). Praise God for His kindness, mercy, grace and love, received by faith, for what He has done for us.

Living by Faith

We learn from Hebrews 11 that a great purpose of the Old Testament is to teach us about faith, and to build our faith. Hebrews 11 is filled with examples of faith, and they are just a selection of many more examples that could have been chosen from the Old Testament. Likewise in the New Testament believers are identified by their faith. We are called “the household of faith”, “the faith”, we have “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ”, and are “established in the faith.”(3)

Faith is essential to our salvation, ‘without faith it is impossible to please God’(4). It is the way God saves us – He ‘purifies our hearts by faith’, ‘our faith makes us right before God’, ‘the promise we will become heirs of the world is through our faith. God did it this way so we could all be saved’, ‘we are justified by faith, and so have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’(5). Faith is the way we live our lives – ‘the life we now live, we live by faith in the Son of God’, ‘the just shall by his faith’(6).

What is faith? You cant see it, buy it or wear it. It is a power inside us that motivates us to follow God and Jesus Christ – ‘this is the victory that overcomes the world – our faith’(7), and in Hebrews 11 we are given many examples of what faith is able to do. It is believing “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”(8). It is believing we are made right with God and have peace with Him. It is believing our salvation is assured through a life of faith(9). It is believing the supernatural –and not limiting God. He does not belong in the box we often make Him fit in. Peter, a disciple of Jesus, walked on water by faith – but then looked at the wind and waves and began to sink. Jesus said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt”(10). The disciples of Jesus were caught in a storm, and their boat began to sink. They thought they were going to die, so they went below and woke Jesus. He climbed to the deck and calmed the sea and said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it you have no faith”(11).

In Hebrews 11 we are also given examples of believers who God worked miracles for – because of their faith.

Faith is believing God has a different life for each of us, and honouring His direction for each of us. In Hebrews 11 we see the diversity of faith. For Abel - it meant death, for Noah - being saved, for Daniel - shutting lions mouths, for his friends – escaping fire, for the woman in Shunem – having her Son resurrected, for David – victory in war. For others – wandering in dens and caves, hiding in fear, being eaten by lions, burnt at the stake, being stoned, sawn in half, tortured. From the time the gospel was made clearly known to all people – which began with John the Baptist – for him it meant living in the desert, wearing camel skin and eating locusts and wild honey. For Jesus it meant being despised and rejected, eating with tax collectors and sinners and having no place to lie his head at night. For the apostles it meant forsaking everything they had, being beaten and having a death warrant from Jews and Romans. For the apostle Peter it meant crucifixion, and for the apostle John it would living to an old age (12)

If these are our examples, then living by faith is not intended to be always comfortable, civilized and predictable. It is not fitting all believers in a nice little box. Faith is at times radical, risk taking, being different, ready to change. Faith is linked inseparably with grace (the favour God shows us and the help God gives us) and the two stand together as one, “it is of faith that it might be according to grace”, “we have access by faith into this grace by which we stand” (13), and faith and grace are sometimes interchanged, because they are so closely linked(14). Faith is the way to Gods grace.

Faith is such an important thing to understand and to ask God to give you – I mean, what is it? We hear the word faith used – you know, people of ‘this’ faith or ‘that’ faith (is that what it’s about?) Is it a set of beliefs? What is the faith that God wants me and you to have? “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them: for the Lord your God, His is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you" (15).

It’s so easy to be faith-less. Just before the Israelites went into the promised land with Moses, God made Mt Sinai thunder with great power. But the people were so scared of what they saw, they wouldn’t get too close to Him. They thought he was a hard, scary God, and pushed Him away. But He wasn’t trying to scare them off by showing them thunder and lightening, He was trying to show them that all this power was going to be with them when they went into the promised land. He was going to fight for them. He was their shield and protector, and there was no force or army that could ever beat Him. All they had to do was trust in that. He was on their side, to deliver them. But most of them never got it. He was never the object of their affection.

God delivers people who believe that He delivers them. That’s the faith He requires. That He has done it. He lists up the poor and the needy, He exalt the low and brings down the mighty. He is my strong tower and my defence, and in Him I won’t be moved. I will run to Him and be safe.

Not many of the faithful had an easy time of it thought – usually the opposite. Because faith makes you as bold as a lion, not in your own righteousness, but in declaring His righteousness to other people. Because He is with you, and in you, and you in Him. He shows you to hate evil and love righteousness. This often puts the faithful in dangerous situations. They’ve been sawn asunder, burned alive, swept away, because of what they’ve said, and where they’ve gone... but they always had faith in God, they always declared that God was right, and that man was wrong.

And now we are to declare His righteousness to those that will be born, that He delivers us.

We live by love and faith, and we need to be aware of things that can minimize or destroy our growing faith. Perhaps the greatest problem is being justified by works rather than our faith, and from the beginning to the end of the Bible this teaching has mostly come from within the church. When the disciples asked Jesus for ways to ‘increase their faith’(16), he said faith grows when we don’t see our works as profit to God or making us better than others. The apostle Paul says, “a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”(17). Paul is speaking here about the law of Moses found in the Old Testament, and the same is true of any other laws we make to justify ourselves – ‘I go to church all the time’, ‘I read the Bible every day’, ‘I organize church functions’, ‘my family wear respectable clothing’, ‘ my children win church prizes’, ‘I thank you God I am not like those church people over there’. These ways to justify ourselves can be like the prayer a Pharisee gave – “God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” With all the Pharisee did – he was not justified before God.

The tax collector who ‘did’ much less, and could only say, “God be merciful to me a sinner”(18) was justified before God. Faith is the unity we share as Christians. We are of the “household of faith”(19) – not the “household of works.”

Duty, guilt or shame can easily damage our growing faith. ‘I must go to church’, ‘God is an angry God’, ‘He is angry with my sins’, ‘I am guilty’, ‘I am not good enough’, ‘I must go to church to appease Him’. When we are constantly driven by guilt and shame or duty, or others use guilt and shame to manipulate us, this is not a life of faith. We need to build our faith in the love, justification, grace, peace, freedom and rest that God and Jesus give us in the gospel – and allow this good news within us to bear its unique fruits.

Appearance is another way to wrongly justify ourselves before God . Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘you clean the outside of the cup – clean the inside, then the outside will be clean’, ‘you outwardly appear beautiful to men’(20). True disciples are known by their fruits of love, kindness, gentleness, faith etc(21). Our unity is in love and faith – not in what we wear or how many church activities we attend. A church with high standards is a church known for its love and faith – “we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all saints”(22), “remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labour of love and patience of hope”(23). The Pharisees especially were caught up in this tradition of appearance rather than ‘encouraging each other in faith’(24). To be fully accepted in their ‘group’ a person had to follow their strict laws of washing, of the Sabbath, make long prayers, have wealth, physical health, and an appearance of holiness and sinlessness. Likewise we can be bound by similar traditions and have ‘groups’, rather than one body of believers who fully accept each other because of our faith in God and Jesus.

An insular religion minimizes and can destroy true faith. ‘The world out there is evil, only mix with the people of our church or denomination’, ‘let all men become all things to us’ rather than becoming “all things to all men, that by all means we might save some”(25). Insular religions tend to make more rules than the simplicity of faith that unites us.

Justifying ourselves by knowledge destroys the power of faith and love. The apostle Paul says, “knowledge puffs up, but love edifies”(26). Knowledge of itself is useless before God. ‘If we have all knowledge and have not love it profits us nothing’(27). The Pharisees were an example of this. They had an amazing knowledge of the Old Testament – but they did not love all people and killed Jesus. The true purpose of knowledge is to grow in love and faith and encourage others(28)

The New Testament speaks about “the joy of faith”(29). What is this joy? It is the joy of knowing our faith cannot be stolen. It is the joy of believing we will be in the Kingdom with God forever. It is the joy of believing God and Jesus are always with us. It is the joy of believing we are forgiven.

Faith is sometimes a step into the unknown, an agreement to not be always comfortable. It is an adventure – believing all things are possible. Faith is being ourselves – and using our unique talents for Gods glory.

As you think about faith, read the life of Jesus in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). What did a life of faith mean for Jesus? And what does it mean for you personally in your unique life and situation?

(1)Philippians 1v5, Galatians5v6, 1 Thessalonians 1v3 (2)1 Timothy 1v5, 1 Corinthians 13v13 (3) Galatians 6v10, James 2v1, Colossians 2v7 (4) Hebrews 11v6 (5) Acts 15v7-9, Romans 4v13-16;5v1 (6) Galatians 2v20, Habbakuk 2v4 (7) 1 John 5v4 (8) John 3v16 (9) Romans 5v1, John 3v36 (10) Matthew 14v31 (11) Mark 4v40 (12) John 21v18-22 (13) Romans 4v16,5v2 (14) Romans 3v24,28; Acts 15v9-11 (15) Deateronomy 31v6 (16) Luke 17v5-10 (17) Galatians 2v16 (18) Luke 18 v9-14 (19) Galatians 6v10 (20) Matthew 23v25-27 (21) Galatians 5v22-26, Matthew 7v12-20 (22) Colossians 1v4,8 (23) 1 Thessalonians 1v3,8; 4v9 (24) 1 Timothy 1v4 (25) 1 Corinthians 9v19-22 (26) 1Corinthians 8v1 (27) 1 Corinthians 13v1-3 (28) Isaiah 50v4 (29) Philippians 1v25

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