Bible Study: Faith
According to Hebrews 11:1, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. But howdo we acquire this faith?Howdo we get this conviction about spiritual realities that we cannot knowwith our senses? Sometimes it just seems that to trust God and to believe whatHe says takes all we can musterwithin ourselvesindeed it sometimes feels beyond our grasp, especially when our senses tell us that whatwe are trying to believe could not possibly be true.At the same time, faith is an incredibly simple thing which we exercise on a daily, even minute-byminute basis.Howdo we knowthat an elevatorwill not plummet ten stories to the ground when we step on it? So to step on an elevator is an act of faith that itwill operate properly. Also,when we get into a car,we are exercising trust thatwe will be relatively safe and that other drivers will not ram into us. To exercise faith, then, is simply a matter of making a decision to trust something or someone without having definitive proof of their reliability. In fact,we rarely have the luxury of having anything definitively proven to us; usuallywe mustmake the best judgmentwe can, based on the facts we possess. When it comes to the spiritual realm,however, we are not dealing with facts we can verifywith our senses; ratherwe are presented with truths that can be believed or disbelieved, lived by, ornot lived by. These truths steadfastly resist any kind of demonstration as to their truth, except through experience of a lived-out faith.
But I have been talking as ifwe merelywere believing some kind of truths about the universe,when the faith which the Bible speaks of is faith in a person, in fact the One Person in the universe,God Himself. Faith is not believing some truth about the universe, or even some truth aboutGod; rather it is trust in an invisible person,who governs the universe in absolute sovereign power and total goodness and love.To trust in God means to believe that He is willing and able to do whatHe has promised. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is filled with examples of those who have taken God at His word, acted accordingly, and so received Gods approval (11:2). Faith is simply the decision to take God at his word and obey in the moment thatwe are required to make a choice. Exercising faith is simply acting as if something were true even though we have no way of rationally demonstrating that it is so. And God is constantly presenting us with crossroads in which we mustmake the decision to trust Him or not trust Him despite our feelings, and this trust always manifests itself in concrete obedience. Faith that is not acted upon and that does notmanifest itself in obedience is not faith in the biblical sense.The apostle Paul speaks of the obedience of faith (Rom. 1:8). Faith at its basis is simply a decision, and one would not speak of acquiring a decision: one simplymakes the decision to take God at His word when the temptation not to presents itself.
But how do we make the right decision to trustGod and His word and not keep making wrong decisions to trust in self and our own feelings and perceptions? Basicallywe must become more convinced of the reality ofGod and His promises than the reality of our own feelings in the moment.We must become convinced that there is an invisible spiritual reality that transcends what we can see and feel.The writer of Hebrews says thatwithout faith it is impossible to please God, forwhoever would come to Him must believe that He is and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him (11:6).To believe that He is is not simply to believe in Gods existence; it is to believe that the biblical God is the One Person who is ultimately real and that everything in creation are only expressions of this One Person in one form or another.According to Moses, Gods name is I AM (Exod. 3:14).Our problem lies in the fact that our own thoughts, feelings and reactions to our circumstances seem more real to us than God Himself, so thatwe do not penetrate beyond the appearances and see everything that happens to us as a form of God coming to us.
Noah,when warned byGod about events to come that he had no proof would actually happen (though one wonders howhe knewthat itwas God who warned him), respected thatwarning and built the ark (Heb. 11:7). Noah did notworry about not having enough faith, he simply obeyed God when the word came.Noah sawthrough the appearances that everything would remain the way it had always been since the creation and trusted God instead of his sense-perceptions and soul reactions. Knowing whatGod was like, he was not surprised at the warning of a flood, for He knewGods hatred of sin,howsin provoked God to wrath. In otherwords, Noah sawthe flood as a form ofGod coming in judgment against the sins of humanity, and since he respected the reality ofGod more than the reality of his own feelings, he obeyed God and built the ark.As a result,God saved him and his family from being condemned with the world.
And when God told Abraham to set out for a new land,Abraham obeyed without knowing where he was going (Heb. 11:8).Against all reason, and against every feeling, he set out on a journey that mostwould consider foolhardysimply because God had told him to go.Which one of us would start a journey and tell all our friends and relatives thatwe had no idea where we were going, only that God would tell us when we got there. Dont you think, if they had even the slightest feeling of affection for us, that theywould try to stop us and convince us of the foolhardiness of such a venture? And except for the command of God, so itwould be. ButAbraham obeyed God and set out.Abraham did not trouble himselfwith acquiring faith; he simplymade the decision to take God at His word and set out on the journey. Abrahams faith was not a mere intellectual faith in some rational proposition, a merely soulish faith of reasonrather Abraham committed himself to the truth ofwhatGod was saying by his concrete obedience.
And when Abraham was told that he would be the father ofmany nations and that Sarah would bear him a son even though she was ninety years old and Abraham over a hundred, he did not waver in unbelief over the fact that his bodywas as good as dead, but grew strong in his faith because he was convinced thatGod was able to do whatHe had promised (Rom. 4:18-21).When Abraham reached the crossroads of decision; he chose to take God at His word rather than trustwhat his reason and feelings told him. He knewthat his body was as good as dead as far as procreation was concerned, but He knewthat His God was One who was the Lord of life and death, who had the power to give life to the dead if He so chose. But if you look atAbrahams life in Genesis 12:24, you will find thatAbraham had not always trusted God. He had not trusted God when Ishmael was conceived nor did he trustGod when he lied to Pharaoh and Abimelech about Sarah being his wife. But each time he made the decision to take God at his word and act accordingly,his faith became a deeper and deeper conviction until it became an inner knowing about the invisible reality ofGod.
So how do we acquire faith that it is really no longer us but Christ who is living His life through us (Gal. 2:20)? First, like Abraham,we must face the fact that we are as good as dead as far as producing anything righteous in and of ourselves. Apart from Christwe are rotten and sinful to the core.We should certainly not indulge in the fantasy of our own goodness when Jesus himself said that onlyGod was good (Mark 10:18).Having faced the facts,we can then take God at His word thatwe are crucified with Christ and that it is no longerwe who live, but Christ who lives His life through us.Bymaking the decision in each and everymoment to take God at His word and act in obedience to what the Spirit prompts us to do,we will find thatGod is faithful to His word and actually does cause Christ rather than Satan to live out through us.With each decision to trustGod, our faith will bear fruit and eventually the conviction of things unseen will grip us and we will have the inner knowing of this reality.As Norman often said:Whatwe take, takes us.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 22 No 4
- The Life of Faith
- How It Really Works
- Faith Lessons
- Faith Defies Difficulty
- Words to Live By
- Testimony–C.T. Studd
- Wanted: Faith and Fools
- How Acquire Faith?
- Bible Study: Faith
- Not my Will but Yours
- Tape Review: "Faith Creates a Reality"
- Mighty Through God
- Editor’s Note
- Book Review: The Law of Faith, Chapter 26