Establishing a Diagnosis
Many people will spend more time examining the vegetables in the supermarket than they will spend evaluating their faith.
Generally speaking, faith is relying on what God has done rather than on one’s own efforts.
In the Old Testament, faith is rarely mentioned. In its place the word “trust” is frequently used, and verbs like “believe” and “rely on” are used to express the right attitude one should display to God.
The classic example is Abraham, whose faith was reckoned as righteousness (Gen. 15:6), and at the heart of the Christian message is the story of the cross: Christ’s dying to bring salvation for all.
Therefore, faith is an attitude of trust in which a believer receives God’s good gift of salvation (Acts 16:30-31) and lives in that awareness thereafter (Gal. 2:20; cf. Heb. 11:1).
In this Four Part article I will attempt to pry the lid off of deceptive faith. Together, we will begin to discover that what we thought was authentic faith was a bit shallow when trying to apply it to today’s concerns. Unfortunately, there are those among us who will not take time to investigate, and discover that they actually have a cheap imitation of the real thing.
Doctors, concerning faith issues, were bolstered by a California study on the effect that prayer had on recovery from heart problems. About two hundred heart patients were assigned to Christians who prayed for them, while an equal number, a control group, received no known prayers. Neither group knew about the prayers, yet those who received prayer developed only half the complications that were experienced by those in the control group.
A similar study by the Dartmouth Medical School examined the effect of prayer on healing when the patients prayed for themselves. The death rate six months after bypass surgery was 9 percent for the general population but only 5 percent for those who prayed for their own healing. And none of the deeply religious patients died during the period of the study.
What this tells us about faith is contained in the first stanza of a much longer poem by Annie Johnson Flint
Oh, blessed rest from fear!
All my unfolding days
To Him are plain and clear.
Uncovering the principles of faith is a daily process and involves contemplative prayer. I would strongly suggest that you read Chapter 11 of the Book of Hebrews.
This is one of the most popular chapters in the Bible. Here we find the “Faith Hall of Fame.” Verse six of this chapter is probably the most quoted verse in all of Hebrews: “And 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.”
How to Recognize a Mature Faith
Those who chose to live in the fast-lane of life spend their time dodging the fiery darts of the devil. David began to grasp the importance of God’s promises at times of great sorrow.
Do you take time to slow down enough and become quiet enough to listen to the restlessness of your heart? Do you hear the incompleteness within? Do you experience that desire, that feeling that there must be more?
Our minds and hearts are constantly overwhelmed with stimuli, but do not confuse this feeling, which happens when life goes wrong. Rather, it is a desire that becomes louder as we become quieter. This restlessness that we experience is always out there. Again we spend most of our day in the fast-lane, and so often that comforting feeling goes unnoticed. This is simply because our minds and hearts are preoccupied with other activities.
When we stop our brain-chatter, or even slow it down for a few minutes, we unwittingly turn-on a different kind of heart melody. That is when we cease our meaningless conversations; when we put work and study to the side; when we just listen, we begin hearing it, and begin experiencing that new feeling deep inside as a longing, a desire for something more. We notice this longing for what the writer of the book of Hebrews calls “a better country.” Hebrews 11:16.
All us desire, deep down, to be associated with, (this is puny human talk), someone who accepts us for who we are, in spit of who we were. God is not ashamed to be called our God: such is His condescension, never be ashamed of being called His people. This is the beginning of faith
Some of the characteristics of a mature faith might include:
1. Trusts in God’s saving grace and believe firmly in the humanity and divinity of Jesus.
2. Experiences a sense of personal well-being, security, and peace.
3. Seeks spiritual growth through study, reflection, prayer, discussion with others.
4. Serves humanity, consistently and passionately, through acts of love and justice.
These are a few of the important characteristics of a mature faith. Can you add to this list?
Faith and works should travel side by side, step answering to step, like the legs of men walking. First faith, and then works; and then faith again, and then works again, until they can scarcely distinguish which is the one and which is the other.
Walking a Tightrope of “Works”
The main observable characteristic of walking a tightrope is the ability of maintaining balance. Faith is much like wearing a “blindfold” while walking across an unknown space.
There are some facts that you know about tightrope walking:
1. You are confident about your skill to place one foot in front of another when you can see where you are going.
2. However, wearing a blindfold creates doubt. The tightrope is the same; your skills and ability are the same. But that blindfold creates doubt in your belief system.
3. How many would trust you to walk across a space while wearing a blindfold? Especially if you were pushing a wheelbarrow with them in it?
There you have it. Oswald Chambers said in Run Today’s Race, “Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love. There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace.”
The story was once told about unbelief. While in a calm a sailor was asked to set his sails in place. He refused because he said there was no wind. But the person requesting the sailor to drop the sails said, “The wind is coming, you just can’t see it.”
Of course there is more. True faith is a justifying faith (it makes us righteous in the sight of God) because, “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
It is a protecting faith because, with “the shield of faith…ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Ephesians 6:16). It is a stable faith, “for by faith ye stand” (II Corinthians 1:24). This faith is also a purifying faith, “purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9). Furthermore, asking faith receives answers to its prayers, “in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:6), and a strong faith recoiling “not at the promise of God through unbelief; but…strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Romans 4:20).
Faith is dead to doubts and dumb to discouragements.
It is blind to impossibilities, and knows nothing but success.
Faith lifts its hand up through the threatening clouds,
to lay hold of Him who has all power in heaven and on earth.
Faith makes the up-look good, the out-look bright,
the in-look favorable, and the future glorious.
~ V. Raymond Edman – (I made slight modifications to this poem)
Many more examples can be made regarding faith, but I feel that this is enough to wet your appetite to begin your journey. Is there more, yes just a bit more.
Obedience and Disobedience: an Act of Faith
This seems like a play on words so let’s take a closer look at the sub title. Common sense tells us that obedience cannot come into play unless we know certain basic facts. What are those facts? And what are the primary essentials, which we must know to live our life according to His plan for us.
The first and most important element to obedience is that we have an unshakable belief in the existence of God.
How can you know what disobedience is unless we know what pleases God. Unless a man knows the likes and dislikes of God, how can he choose and adopt one choice and reject the other?
Another thing that we all try to avoid is the consequence of being disobedient. We must know what blessings would be showered upon us if we choose God’s way and lead a life of purity, virtue, and obedience, or do we? Thus the knowledge of life after death is absolutely essential for this purpose. Man must have an unwavering belief in the fact that death does not mean the end of life; that there will be resurrection and he will be brought to the highest court of justice, to be presided over by God Himself; that on the Day of Judgment complete justice will prevail; and that good deeds will be rewarded and misdeeds punished. This sense of responsibility and accountability is quite essential for the full-fledged obedience of the Law of God, and this takes faith to accomplish.
Faith is what we have described in the foregoing discussion as “Knowledge and belief.” The Arabic word is Imaan, which we have rendered in English as faith, literally means “to know”, “to believe”, and “to be convinced beyond the least shadow of doubt”. Faith, thus, is firm belief arising out of knowledge and conviction. And the man who knows and has unshakable belief in the unity of God, and in His Attributes, in His Law and the Revealed Guidance, and in the Divine code of Reward and punishment is called faithful. This faith invariably leads man to a life of obedience and submission to the will of God.
I feel the most significant scripture, and certainly one of the misunderstood verses is that of Ephesians 2:1-10. Let’s take a look at what this group of verses says about faith.
This passage is used by Protestants to show that salvation is accomplished through faith alone. The implication here is that salvation is a gift from God and cannot be justified by what we do.
The message is just as valid at the time Paul wrote it as it is today. Where once, before God’s grace was given to us, was part of the world of sin, and partaking of physical and mental pleasures, which did not merit God’s grace because He loved us even in our sinful state.
Undeserved grace is the main component in faith. Once we realize that everything in our past has been forgiven through Christ Jesus. This is what the cross is all about that Jesus should sacrifice His life once and for all that we should not suffer doubt. Faith comes once we have accepted the terms of His sacrifice. Faith is the firm and unquestioned belief, in spite of our past behavior, that we are in the arms of Christ and that we will begin to live our life by putting foolish and sinful behavior behind us. This is the ultimate act of obedience.