Faith is very important for many reasons, but let me give you three:
1 – We are saved through faith:
Eph 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
2 – Faith pleases God:
Heb 11:6 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.
3 – We are to live by faith:
Rom 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
So we know that faith is incredibly important, by it we are saved! But what is it? Faith is not merely an believing in God in your head. Faith is such strong confidence in God, that we chose to act based on God and His Word and His promises, rather than the world and circumstances.
One of my favourite chapters in the bible is Hebrews 11, it is a whole chapter about faith, and in it we can read about Paul telling us what faith is, who the “hero’s of faith” are in the old testament, and (briefly) what their faith looked like in action. I will refer to this chapter a few times throughout the study. If you want to study faith further, I suggest you read this chapter .
The chapter starts by defining faith, and it is the only place in the bible where faith is defined.
Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
In this verse, “substance” means “confidence”. Faith is the confidence that what we hope for (in Christ) is true and real.
A few verses later (13-16), the chapter talks about a common feature of the “hero’s of the faith”. They confessed that they were “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (v13) and were seeking a heavenly fatherland (v16). In other words, they were not looking to this earth to determine how they would act and what they would believe, but to God. Their actions revealed where their faith was, and our actions reveal where our faith is too.
When I was a child, we would go to the public pool every weekend in summer. My father would stand in the deep end and tell me to jump to him, and promised that he would catch me. I knew that I couldn’t touch the bottom or swim to safety, but I would willingly jump because I whole heartedly trusted him to catch me.
There were two conflicting messages coming at me… the circumstances around me said “you can’t swim, therefore don’t jump into the water!” and my father said “jump, I will catch you!”. I had such confident faith in my father, believing his promise was true, that I willingly jumped.
This is the kind of child like, innocent faith we are to have in the Lord. We are to believe His Word and His promises more than circumstances.
Mat 18:2-3 And Jesus called a little child to Him and set him in their midst, and said, Truly I say to you, Unless you are converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.
Now that we know what faith is, let’s talk about something that can confuse people. Many people believe that if they have doubt, it must mean that they don’t have any faith and must be unsaved. While it is true that you either have faith or you don’t, the bible is clear that there are different levels of faith. Jesus mentions: great faith (Matt 8:10, 15:28), little faith (Matt 14:31), as small as a mustard seed (Matt 17:20, Luke 17:6), no faith (Mark 4:20).
The mustard seed is the smallest seed, about the size of the end of a mechanical pencil. But it grows into the largest herb plant, so large that the birds of the air nest in it (Matt 13:32). Also note that it can take years for this mustard plant to bore fruit, and this is the nature of faith, that it starts off small, and can take years to come to full maturity, but from seemingly small beginnings we can see tremendous results.
The presence of both faith and doubt is written of a few times in the bible. Probably the most familiar to you, is when Simon Peter is walking on the water, takes his eyes off of Jesus, and starts to sink. Jesus says (Matt 14:31b) “Little faith! Why did you doubt?”
A second example is of the father who brought his mute son (who had a ‘dumb spirit’) to the disciples to have the demon cast out, but they could not do it. Jesus casts the spirit out of the boy, and says “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” We read in the next verse (Mark 9:24) the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief”.
We might have more or less faith than the person next to us, we might doubt different things to them. This shouldn’t make us question our salvation, so long as we have faith “as small as a mustard seed”, we are saved. But we should not be satisfied with a weak faith, and should do as the disciples did in Luke 17:5 and pray for more faith.
The answer to doubt is not to leave God. The answer is to cling to the Lord, honestly admitting your doubt, praying for more faith (just like the disciples did) and acknowledging that we really have no where else we can go, because salvation is only available by grace through faith.
My favourite scripture in the bible addresses this issue:
Joh 6:68-69 Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
We also know that faith comes from hearing (reading or listening) to the Word of God (Rom 10:17).
However, we all know that we should not doubt, our aim as Christians is set out in Hebrews 10, to draw near with “full assurance of faith”, “holding fast our profession of faith without wavering”. This is a strong, solid, doubtless faith! Elsewhere in scripture we are told not to have a heart of unbelief (Heb 3:12).
Heb 10:22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies having been washed with pure water.
Heb 10:23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering (for He is faithful who promised),
Heb 3:12 Take heed, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
I have repeated myself many times now, but it is a very important point. Faith is having so much confidence in God’s Word that we act as if it is true, even in spite of what the world or the circumstances around us might be telling us. This is a nice place to pause and very quickly talk about “works”.
Faith is something that must be put into action – think of it as a verb, something we do, not something we merely believe in our minds. Faith that we do not act upon is dead (James 2:20). Faith without works is a belief, but without the strong confidence and trust that causes us to act on our beliefs. Notice that belief alone is not enough, even the demons believe! (James 2:19).
This is why we are told to judge a tree by it’s fruit (it’s actions, works etc) (Luke 6:44). In other words, we are judged not by what we claim to believe, but by what our actions demonstrate that we do believe.
Go back to the example about me at the pool. If I truly have faith in my father to catch me, I will jump! And if you truly believe in God, and His Word and His promises, you are going to act like it!
Hebrews chapter 11 gives us a lot of information about the “works” and attitudes of those with great faith. There is a major focus on Moses (v23-30) and Abraham (8-10, 17-19), one or two lines for each of Abel (4), Enoch (5), Noah (7), Sarah (11-12), Isaac (20), Jacob (21), Joseph (22) and Rahab (31), and mention made of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets (32).
I have plans to do future study on these people that I will place on the forums for reading, but is too long to include here today. We can have a short look at Moses faith and draw out a few points of interest about him from Hebrews 11:24-26:
Heb 11:24-26: Having become great, Moses by faith refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
Moses chose to suffer with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasure of sin. Moses also chose to esteem (respect, value) the reproach (rebuke, shame) of Christ more than the treasures of Egypt. Moses was looking to the reward that we have in Christ, not just for salvation, but for all of His promises to us!
One thing we need to keep in mind, is that when we reject the world and it’s wisdom, it will also reject us. Do not be surprised at all when you are persecuted, feel like you don’t fit in, or have nothing in common with the world. This is part of the Christian life.
Having faith in the Lord does not guarantee a trouble free life, in fact we are to expect persecution. We have already met the “hero’s of faith” in Hebrews 11, have a look at some more verses in that chapter that describes some of the events in these hero’s lives.
The account starts off very positively with many answered prayers and blessings. In verses 33-35 we read that they:
subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the strangers. Women received their dead raised to life again,
But in verses 35-37, we also start to see some of the trials of having faith in this world. Read what else they endured:
and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.
They endured a trial of cruel mockings and scourgings; were stoned, they were sawed in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented.
As we have seen, people of great faith in the bible had more than just an academic belief. They had a strong trust in the Lord that translated into action. They looked to Him and His promises, instead of the world and circumstances, and held on for the prize of eternal life with Christ. This kind of faith comes at a cost, having to deny yourself, and being rejected and persecuted by the world.
Our Christian walk might not be as dramatic as the events we read in this chapter, but we still experience the blessings and trials. Faith will cost you! We need to have enduring faith, that remains constant, regardless of whether we are going through a blessing or a trial.
Hebrews 11 lists many people with great faith, but we really ought to keep reading into chapter 12, where we are reminded that Jesus is the perfect example of faith on earth, and the person we should look to:
Heb 12:1b-2a let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith,
To finish, I want to remind you that God is faithful, even when we are not. His faithfulness works both ways: He is faithful to give eternal life to those who believe in Him, He is also faithful to condemn forever those who do not believe in Him.
As 2 Timothy says:
2Ti 2:12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.
2Ti 2:13 If we do not believe Him, yet He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.
If you are not a Christian, now is the time to repent and to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let me tell you how you can become a Christian if you are not one already.
We have a sin Problem!
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,
Sin has a penalty Penalty!
Romans 5:12 Therefore, even as through one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed on all men inasmuch as all sinned:
God has made a Provision!
Romans 5:8 But God commends His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
Through faith in Jesus, we have a Pardon!
Romans 10:9-10 Because if you confess the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses unto salvation.