If ever there was a day when we needed faith, it is today. The world around us is shaking. The pandemic is an obvious disturbance affecting the whole globe and touching everyone of us. The social upheaval is enormous as well. Great changes are taking place at warp speed. Threats to the economy abound. Political shifts are occurring so fast all over the world, it is hard to imagine. Who can be trusted in the mass media? It is hard to know what to believe and who to believe. And attacks on the Christian faith are stronger than ever.
It says in Psalm 11:3, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” If our foundations are in this world, we will be utterly shaken. If our foundation is faith in the Lord, we will be kept safe and secure. I want to talk about faith this morning—real Christian faith. We will look at three aspects of faith so that we can understand faith better and grow stronger in it.
If ever there was a day when we needed faith, it is today.
The world around us is shaking. The pandemic is an obvious disturbance affecting the whole globe and touching everyone of us. The social upheaval is enormous as well. Great changes are taking place at warp speed. Critical Race Theory is being taught in many places. Cancel culture has become commonplace. The other day it was reported that even Dr. Seuss children’s books are being cancelled.
Also, moral relativism is the order of the day and gender confusion is rampant. Threats to the economy abound. Political shifts are occurring so fast all over the world, it is hard to imagine. Who can be trusted in the mass media? It is hard to know what to believe and who to believe. And attacks on the Christian faith are stronger than ever.
It says in Psalm 11:3, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” If our foundations are in this world, we will be utterly shaken. If our foundation is faith in the Lord, we will be kept safe and secure. As Josiah preached la few weeks ago in Matthew 7, the Lord is the rock and we are to build our lives on him.
I want to talk about faith this morning—real Christian faith. We will look at three aspects of faith so that we can understand faith better and grow stronger in it.
A Definition of Faith
Turn with me to Hebrews 11:1–6. Verse 1 offers a definition of Christian faith and it has two parts:
- Confidence in what we hope for
- Assurance about what we do not see.
Assurance about what we do not see what we will discuss this morning. Confidence in what we hope for is a derivative of faith called hope. It is faith in God for the future. We will discuss this in a few weeks.
Looking at Assurance
Why do we need assurance for what we do not see? Because God is the unseen God. He is Spirit. We have a record about God and his dealings with mankind in his word. But we were not there to see it. We rely on the record. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
Some say in their Christian experience they have seen Jesus. I have not. Even with Jesus, I must believe the unseen. Some equate this with irrational thinking. “Only believe what you see”, they say. They associate the unseen with the unreal or the untrue. But If I am to have a relationship with God, I must go beyond physical sight and choose to believe the unseen. “God is Spirit and they who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
True faith, saving faith, goes beyond what I see to commune with the unseen God.
A word about the book of Hebrews. The Hebrew Christians were in a time of turmoil as we are. It was decision time for them. The Jews were opposing them and, like Saul did before he became the apostle Paul, they were killing them as well. Do we cling to the old ways of temple worship and ceremony, or do we put our faith solely in Jesus and follow him?
To bolster their faith, the writer argues that Jesus is the true Apostle of God, and our great High Priest. Then, in chapter 11 he recounts a list of those in the Old Testament who chose to live by faith.
In these opening verses he shows us three aspects of faith, three ways in which faith is presented in the word.
- Faith is a gift
- Faith is a choice
- Faith is a discipline
Faith is a Gift
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible (v. 3).
Who are the “we” in this verse? It seems he is referring to Christians, but belief in the God of creation extends beyond the Christian faith, and goes back to the dawn of human kind.
We know that God told Moses that he created the world and how he created it because he recorded it in Genesis. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen 1:1).
But I am sure he explained these things to Adam and Eve as well, so that from the earliest days of mankind, we have had the understanding of creation. We don’t know when the events of Job occurred but most likely in a time before Abraham and Moses. Job is full of references to God’s handiwork in creating the world. Job says,
“Ask the animals and they will teach you, or the birds of the air and they will tell you, or speak to the earth and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:7–10).
At the beginning no human eye was there as a witness to these things. Therefore, it was very good of God to give us a record of what he did. And not only did he give us a record, we also have the fruit of his creative genius at every turn of our gaze. We read this in Romans 1:
“Since what may be known about God is plain to them. For since the creation if the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen , being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God or gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (1:18–21).
You see, God at the beginning afforded us a gift of faith, the belief in the unseen God and his mighty power to create. All of mankind knew it. Such knowledge was gifted to them.
What happened? Because of sin, man rejected the gift given, their understanding was darkened, and they corrupted the idea of God in their foolish minds. The gift was the revelation of the Creator God, and man turned from it.
The Lunda people we worked with in Africa had a name for the Creator God: Nzambi. However, they believed that he was distant and unknowable. But the spirits in the environment were close and powerful and threatening. They believed it was these spirits who caused their babies to die, and stopped their crops from growing. So they spent their time seeking to pacify the spirits rather than seeking Nzambi. That is what animism is. God gave them the gift of the knowledge of their Creator and they ignored him. Fortunately, many Lunda have heard the gospel and have come to know Nzambi personally through the word. But unless God, by a gift of faith, opens their eyes to the truth, they do not respond. Their understanding remains darkened.
God stills grants gifts of faith today. We still need to pray that God will gift the lost with eyes of faith to see the truth and understand.
But it is not just the lost that need to receive the gift of faith. It is God’s people as well. When it comes to specific gifts of the Spirit, one of them is specifically the gift of faith.
“Now to each one the manifestation of the spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit” (1 Cor 12:7–9).
These people with the gift of faith have great ability to trust God. Many years ago George Muller, a man of great faith, ran an orphanage in England. When the food ran out, he would gather the children at the empty tables and give thanks for the food, and a knock would come to the door where someone moved by God would bring in the needed food for the children.
Most of us do not have the gift of faith like George Muller. I can tell you, it is not one of my gifts. But God still gives wonderful gifts of faith to all who ask.
When the disciples were told by Jesus to forgive over and over, they said, “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). When a father was challenged to trust Jesus for the healing of his son, he said, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). When people are suffering from fear and worry, I tell them to trust God to give them gifts of faith. Ask and you shall receive (Matt 7:7): “Lord, please take my fear and give me faith. Take my fear and give me courage.” God answers these simple prayers with gifts of faith.
Faith is a Choice
Faith is not only a gift, it is also a choice. Let’s return to our main text in Hebrews 11.
“By faith, Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead” (Heb 11:4).
Abel knew in his heart he had to respond to God and bring an offering. He had to make a choice which offering he would bring. No doubt he remembered what had happened to his parents, Adam and Eve, when they sinned: God shed the blood of animals in order to clothe them with skins. So the way to God was established. It was by animal sacrifice. And that became the prescribed way to God throughout the Old Testament, until Jesus came to be the final offering for sin. This is what it means when it says Abel still speaks: he becomes our example of the obedience of faith. He chose to listen to God and do what God said.
Cain knew the same thing, but he was a gardener and so he chose to please God his way by bringing an offering of the produce of the field. We know what happened. God rejected his chosen offering and came and pled with Cain to make it right. But Cain wouldn’t listen. Instead, he became angry and jealous and ended up killing his brother, Abel.
God counted Abel’s choice of obedience as righteousness, but Cain’s refusal to obey ended in judgment.
It is the same with faith today. We are called to exercise our will to choose to trust God’s way of salvation, that is by faith in the sacrifice of Christ for our sins. There is no other way to forgiveness and life. To choose otherwise means death.
The gospel is very clear. Man must make a choice to respond to God in faith and obedience, and he is responsible for that choice.
In the past I have had the opportunity to share my faith with others who have shown interest. Some have responded with, “I wish I had your faith.” That is when I tell then that faith is a choice and they are accountable to make their own decision, their own choice, as well.
Listen to these verses:
“To all who receive him, to those who have believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
There is a verse that requires some extra care, and that is Eph 2:8–9:
“By grace you have been saved through faith—and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works so that no one can boast.”
Some believe that the choice of faith is somehow a work of man, and so the faith that saves is all a gift of God, not something we choose. But the testimony of Scripture is that God waits for a person to respond to him in faith and then he saves. The gift of Ephesians 2:8–9 is not faith, but it is the gift of salvation. That gift is only given to those who call on his name in faith.
Many of you know that last month I had a heart attack. I woke in the night with a great pain in my chest, so disabling that I could not even lift my hand to get out of bed. I prayed for help. I woke Kathy and asked her to call for the ambulance. I have to tell you this. Calling for the ambulance was in no way a work of faith. On the contrary, I had no strength to do anything but call for help. That is the same with salvation. Calling for the Lord to save me is an admission that I can’t do any work to help myself.
So, if you are an unbeliever, don’t wait for God to give you the gift of faith. Instead, make a choice to believe in Jesus as your Saviour. Call out to God in faith and he will save you.
Believers also need to continue to make choices based on faith. “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith” (Col 2:6).
So often we forget to live by faith, and faith is a choice.
When you wake in the morning and have to face a new day, what do you do first? I hear some of you saying, “I do nothing until I have had my coffee.” Choose faith first. Call on the Lord and ask in faith for grace for the day. Then have your coffee.
When you are faced with an important decision in life, what do you do first? I know what I am tempted to do, and that is worry. Worry is a choice. It means I go to mull the decision over in my mind and fret about it. Worriers need to know that they are trusting, not the God of the universe, but themselves. Worry is reliance on your own understanding.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not in your own understanding” (Prov 3:5).
Choose to pray first. Then you are trusting God first (Matt 6:33).
When you are in trouble, where do your turn first? “The one who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13).
Faith is a Discipline
Faith is a gift, faith is a choice, but faith is also a discipline, a life style. Our example is found in Hebrews 11:5–6, and his name is Enoch.
Very little is said in Scripture of this man, but in actuality he was the first prophet. Jude describes how he prophesied about the coming of the Lord. But back in Genesis 5:22–24 it says of him,
“Enoch walked with God for 300 years. … Enoch walked faithfully with God and he was no more, for God took him.”
When it says God took him, it means that he was caught up into heaven without seeing death.
You see, faith was his lifestyle, his habit of living. Not just for one day a week. Not just when he felt like it. But always. And God was pleased with Enoch and one day he took him straight to heaven. God is happy to see his children trusting in him. Conversely, he isn’t happy with us when we fail to trust him.
Some of us look like wonderful followers of God on Sunday, but then there is a hidden lifestyle, one that betrays where our heart really is. Not Enoch. What he preached, he lived.
He is the one described in Hebrews 11:6:
“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists, and is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek him.”
That word “earnestly” is a powerful word. It means with all your heart. It means with all your days. It is a continual seeking after God by faith. When you live this way, your faith becomes strong, like a muscle that is daily being exercised.
The prophet Daniel was that kind of a man as well. He leaned on God and prayed three times a day. When the command came from the king to only pray to the king, Daniel answered by going up to his prayer room, opening the windows so all could see, and prayed to the living God. No threats to his life were going to stop him from his prayers. Prayer is the language of faith.
That is faith as a discipline, a lifestyle, a habit. It is what is meant when it says, “The just shall live by faith” (Gal 3:11).
Some of us struggle with habits that do not glorify God. Habits are hard to break. We need faith to break them, faith in the Lord. But I have seen this, the best way to break a habit of sin is to replace it with a habit of righteousness. In Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), they have a saying: when you fall back to drinking you need 90 in 90. Which means 90 meetings in 90 days. That helps some people to change because they have substituted a different habit. How much better to say to the Lord, “I will meet with you every day for the next 90 days. I will repent and I will commune with you and seek your grace for my need.” This is not a quick fix but the most effective one. The cure to walking according to this world is to walk with God by faith. To earnestly seek him with all your heart.
So that is faith in three aspects. Faith is a gift that God generously gives. It is initiated by God out of the generosity of his heart of love for us. Even the belief in his great act of creation is a gift of faith. God gives it to us, we suppress it only because of our sin. He gives great faith to some of us as a gift of the Spirit. To the others of us, he gives gifts of faith for the day as we ask him. So ask! And be thankful for the gifts God has given you.
Faith is also a choice, specially when it comes to salvation. We must exercise our will to choose the Saviour. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Call on him for salvation. Choose to follow him and do what he says. Just as Abel did. Learn to call on him for every need, for protection, for provision, for understanding, for comfort, for deliverance, for everything.
Faith is a discipline, a lifestyle, a habit. Keep on calling on the name of the Lord. Whether circumstances are good or bad, keep on trusting him, no matter what. You say, what if I haven’t been doing this? Then start today. Be like a Daniel and put some dedicated prayer times into your day. Learn to keep your heart open to commune with God at all times. Pray without ceasing.
May the Lord help us to be people of faith and so please him!