Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2
We are called to learn and develop faith, because faith is essential and of the utmost importance for every aspect of the Christian life. Without faith, we can do nothing! Faith is not just for church leaders, pastors, or missionaries, but we are called to know and share it. Faith is necessary for any Christian desiring to grow deeper in the Christian life. Faith is the impacting and convicting work in you by God, being used and being exhibited from the precepts of Scripture. Faith comes from God, and is given to us so that we might use it, in turn, to draw closer to Him. As Christians, especially those who are responsible for the education and care of others, we are called to build our spiritual formation from the solid foundation of the Bible.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 11:3
This article is designed so that you as a pastor or church leader might understand the basics of faith as determined from the precepts of the Bible. By understanding faith and what Christ has done for you, you will be able to build His Church by hearing His call and put into action real, effective, and effectual Christian growth and action through faith for His glory and Kingdom. In the daily life of the Christian, whether that of a housewife, a CEO, a pastor, an iron worker, an accountant, a salesman, a statesman, a teacher, a grocery checker, or a missionary, there will be times of stress, uncertainty, and failure. We will be tired, tried, and tested. We will go through setbacks, difficulties, and suffering. We need to understand faith in a real, heartfelt way so that we can keep our eyes fixed upon our Lord. Faith is not based on superstition or in things that are unknown, unseen, or on our gullibility. Rather, it is based on facts of real substance and sound reason. Faith will become even stronger and better through the afflictions we face. Faith must not be just an idea or a plan; it must be a reality. It must be working in us before we can be effectively used by our Lord.
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "but the righteous man shall live by faith." (Romans 1:17)
What is Faith?
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
Hebrews tells us what faith is. Christ is what we hope for; Christ is what is to be seen! Faith is the real, effectual promise of God that gives us the hope and confidence we need to receive, act on, obey, and trust God's promises because God is real, sovereign, and trustworthy. We can trust God for the future because we can see what He has done in the past-from creation, from testimonies, and from His infallible Word. Faith reassures us of God's love and grace and gives us direction and motivation for the Christian life. Faith looks to and is fueled by hope. It gives us optimism, builds our confidence, helps us to be bold and to remain faithful, and to persevere in the faith-all for the glory of the risen Lord and the building of His Kingdom.
Faith in and of itself will not save you or empower you; it is the object of the faith that does this. Allow me to explain this. The object of that faith is Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. Faith means that we are committed to Christ; it is our faith that puts us in Christ and keeps us there. Thus we, as Christians, must live by faith. Faith is putting into practice our trust, assurance, hope, and conviction. Faith is not a force we obtain or manipulate or control. We cannot think that just because we believe in something, it must be true. If this were so, we could go to the supermarket and believe we are a cucumber, which would not, of course, make us a cucumber.
By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. Hebrews 11:4
Christianity is not based on fairy tales or superstitions but on facts and realities. Faith is not subjective, based on feelings or personal ideas; rather, it is substantive, meaning it is based on fact and reality. Faith is based on knowledge given by God. It includes historical evidence, logical reasoning, and the confidence in whom God is, and is further confirmed by valid testimonies. We have a wide body of knowledge. Our Bible is a collection of 66 books written over a 2000-year period of time by dozens of authors, all inspired by the Holy Spirit. Just consider the millions of personal testimonies, historical archeological evidence, and the thousands of volumes of works by gifted authors and teachers. The Bible is reality and truth; the Bible tells us about faith.
The Call to Develop Faith
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:17
Real, impacting, effectual faith will have results. It will be lived out. Faith is received alone, but it does not just stand alone; it is to be grown and shown. Faith will be backed up by the proof that it is present in a person. If there is no proof, there is a good chance that the vessel is empty of faith, or the cap is on so tight it cannot come out. If you buy a soda, you expect to have a can with the substance of a refreshing beverage in it. If the label says "coke," and when you open it and pour it into a glass, and all that comes out is "chicken feathers," you may come to the conclusion that the label and contents do not measure up to each other. It is the same case with faith. Faith is given and received by Christ's work of grace alone. James' point is not that salvation requires works, an effort to receive it, or even to cement it. Rather, real faith will result in an outcome that backs it up. Faith will be lived out in the believer's life, thinking, words, and actions. From a faith that is developed and practiced will come a Christian who is powerfully used. Faith will create the initiative from the realization of who we are in Christ, and then we will live out our lives in Him and for Him, through His power and because of our convictions.
Faith that is not powered by Christ, and then practiced by our trust and obedience, is useless, false, dead, and even demonic. Thus, the practice of our faith is not about salvation, but rather how we are to live for Him with conviction
Faith is Great
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 1 Corinthians 1:30
Faith is simple, but it is not simplistic; it is not just simple belief, because even the demons believe. Faith is not blind trust because we know the One who is leading. Thus, faith sees what is behind us, what is beneath us, what is above us, and what is before us, and that is our Lord Christ, leading and guiding us. Faith is still trusting in what is not seen and believing our God. Because we do not see the options or how we are interconnected with others, we tend not to see the damage sin does. We are so busy seeing circumstances, we do not see the plan God has for us. For us to see with faith, we need to combine belief with trust; we are to believe in Christ-not just about Him. Therefore, we need to look to Christ rather than what we fear or have been through.
Faith provides the substance and essence of our relationship with our Lord. It looks to our future; it is our hope. Faith is a two-way street; we receive it from God and respond with trust. He then multiplies it. It would be like a lake which had a source and an outlet. If we only have an outlet, we would dry up. If we just have a source, we become like the Dead Sea, lifeless and void. Faith must flow both into and out of us. It is the contagious faith that flows out of us that God uses to fish.
He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. Matthew 8:26
You of little faith. What a sting those words must have been to the worrisome disciples, as they realized they had messed up again. This passage is about relying on God's power. The Disciples believed and saw some incredible events, but somehow what they had observed and participated in firsthand did not create in them an ability to trust when something new came about. We will see this testing within ourselves when the storms of life buffet against us. This includes the tempests of frustration, the chaos of stress, the gossip from toxic people, the daily grind of life, wrong choices, people conflicts, and, of course, sin. How we deal with these is paramount to our ability to trust God and develop our faith in Him. Real, concrete faith is built in times of stress, hurt, and pain. If we prepare to trust in Christ, we will be taken safely across. If we do not, we may sink.
"Little faith" is the lack of confidence and hope in Christ. It is withdrawing from His call and precepts, or it is not trusting and relying on His power. "Little faith" does not see God's best for us, or what He sees in us. "Little faith" is being self focused, confused, prideful, and not trusting in Christ. On the other hand, the faith which we are called to know and use is great and perfect faith. Great faith is reaching to Him, growing beyond what we think we can do. It is the realization and the acceptance of our Lord's precepts. It sees His call beyond our feelings or what others say to us. This is about being God focused, taking a hold of His call and blessings, and realizing our obligations while resting and trusting in Christ.
Just as Abraham and Joseph demonstrated to us in the Old Testament, God's desire is for all Christians to have and practice great faith. He tells us that faith is to be planted, grown, and cultivated, as one does a seed. So, it is something we are initially given, but it is up to us to make it grow. We cannot sit around, put it under the couch, and expect great things to happen. Faith requires action.
The picture of faith is shown by how Jesus was relaxed during the storm, a depiction of faith for us to emulate. We can rest under His cover and be tranquil in composure and free from our stress. There will be times when we are afraid. Sometimes, we will be just a little nervous. Sometimes, we will be outright panic-stricken, as the Disciples must have been. We will see the storms of life come against us, causing us to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Even those who have been through them before and have grown and matured will become tired and wearisome. The danger is when our faith breaks down into fear so we do not venture out with it. We become stuck, and refuse to learn or grow.
God may even take us through the storm to the very edge of our breaking point to get our attention. But, the only thing that will be broken will be what must be broken-our will; the rest of us will become stronger. Just as most fisherman were unwilling to venture past the coastline (for good reason for them, not for us with faith), if you do the same with your walk in Christ, you will sink in those shallow depths as you will not realize that Jesus is there to take you through it. All you will see is the storm and not the growth and Fruits that it can bring you. You will not develop true confidence in our Lord, nor will He be able to take you where you will learn the most and do the most good.
"Who is this" in your life? In all honesty, if you believed in what Jesus had just done, the only answer to this rhetorical question would be that He is God! God's presence and power were demonstrated as He controlled the weather.
Faith is not just belief, for as the book of James tells us, even the demons believe in God. Belief does not save. Faith has a deeper aspect to it that is rooted in trust and obedience, and planted in us by Christ's work on the cross. It will have involvement, partnership, and heart. We are fools if we think all we need is to believe in God and take comfort that our salvation is assured. Our assurance, in that case, would not be in Christ, but rather in our feeble thinking.
Faith is the realization of God's providence and sovereignty. This means that God is in total control; thus, we can trust our Lord completely, whatever unfolds before us. Providence helps fuel our faith, not obstruct it. The ultimate love of God is that He laid down His life for His enemies! When we have a grasp on God's providence in our lives, we will have confidence. We will be able to share our faith without fear. Thus, who we are in Christ gives us the confidence so we will not be embarrassed of who we are or what we share as Christians. We, as Christians, must live by faith and take comfort in His sovereignty, as this is the smart thing to do.
We did not earn our faith; hence, grace is the ultimate free gift. We need to consider that faith is like building materials, where bricks need mortar to stick together along with rebarb, the metal reinforcement poles to hold it all in place. They have to be set on a firm foundation. Bolts are needed to attach the wood frame for the walls and siding, and so forth. With faith, each part is built on the previous parts; as they build upon one another, they form our net of faith. Nothing can be used as materials for the net unless it is given to us by God. Each aspect of the net, each piece of rope, is formed from our trust, Fruit, character, and obedience that comprise the strings of the rope. These strings are then twisted, formed and strengthened by our experiences in Christ and from our spiritual disciplines, giving us faith. The twisted strings form the rope, and our community and growth with others crisscross these ropes to form the net. Faith is the cornerstone of the Gospel. Faith is the quintessential aspect with which to build the net; it just cannot be done without it. We are to trust God and His promises and provisions.
Faith Has Substance
See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright- but the righteous will live by his faith. Habakkuk. 2:4
Faith is demonstrated by substance and connection, how we choose to live our lives and touch others for Christ. It shows how our morality is applied. If we ignore our brothers and sisters in the Lord, or the world, while we boast we are in Him, what good is our faith? Our demonstrations are ineffectual, and even detrimental to others. Faith is not a substance that is to stand unused.
Faith is not just an academic subject, something we debate and talk about, nor is it about emotions. Rather, it is real and it must be the motivating, impacting force within us. If we have faith and do nothing with it, we are being illogical and absurd. Saving faith is a living faith; it will have genuine results. Thus, our desire, as Christians, will be to put into practice the precepts of the Lord, not because we earn anything, but because we are grateful for what we have and desire others to have it, too. Our faith will have activity that shows others and God that our faith is real.
Faith is like the wind. We cannot always see it, but we can see its effects. Faith without deeds is like having a flashlight without any batteries. In Habakkuk, we read that those who survive the Judgment do so because of their faith in God. In the Old Testament, having faith meant to pledge one's life on the assertions that God gives. When we are obeying the Holy Spirit and submitting to His leading and will, we are pledging ourselves to be used. It is not by our will, but by His, so we will become the net He uses to catch others. We will be "fishers of men!"
Dedicated Jews in Jesus' time would spend many hours a day in various spiritual disciplines, to show their commitment even when their attitudes and hearts were corrupt. Jesus condemns the pious frauds in Matthew 23 because, even though they had the commitment, they did not have the heart. But, we cannot say I do not need commitment; I do not need to make a stance or allow my life to be constrained by the precepts of Scripture. If we give in to our laziness, thinking we do not want to be a pious fraud or a prim and proper hypocrite, we negate the commitment! When we do this, we end up throwing the baby out with the dirty bath water! Get rid of the dirty water-the wrong attitude and hypocrisy, but keep the baby-the work that it takes to build your faith up.
Paul calls himself a "bondservant" (Romans 9:3) which was, in Greek times, the lowest form of a slave. He was totally at the master's disposal and even expendable; he rowed the boats of war with a whip at his back. This word means totally surrendered devotion. The slave/disciple of the Lord has a will that has been sacrificed to God's will, and thus is totally at the disposal of our Lord. Paul's slavery was his freedom. Paul knew the duty of working to build the faith; he was a Pharisee. He was also a hypocrite, spending as much time in hypocrisy as a Pharisee as he later did as a defender of the Christian faith. He did not give up the diligence to learn; he gave up the bad attitude and the slander of our Lord.
© 1999, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org