STOP TALKING AND SHOW ME HOW PRECIOUS IS YOUR FAITH
by Dr. Henderson Ward 4/22/2012 / Christian Living
The prophet Habakkuk, about who we know very little, seemed to be a man full of indignation and complained bitterly that the wicked was out-maneuvering and wrong-footing the righteous and that his, Habakkuk, cries to God were not being heard. In the middle of all of this Habakkuk comes up with a gem of a declaration, "but the just shall live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4b), one of our scriptures for reflection.
Jesus Christ, about whom we know so much and on whom the Bible is so forthcoming and detailed, unlike Habakkuk did not rage against God but against a fruitless fig tree as he traveled with his disciples on his way to Jerusalem. On the return journey the disciples noticed the fig tree was withered and Peter highlighted its condition to Jesus who replied, "And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God." (Mark 11:22)
The writer of Hebrews, about whom we know nothing (we should disregard all the speculation and tradition; the Bible does not name him) wrote a powerful chapter on faith and in verse six tells us this, "But without faith it is impossible to please him" (Hebrews 11: 6a) Let me repeat this salient fact; no faith, no pleasing God!
The writer of Revelation, the beloved Apostle John, in revealing the words of the angel to the church in Thyatira affirming what God knows writes, "I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith" (Revelation 2:19a)
All through the New Testament, this little word "faith" comes up and believers teach it as an essential doctrine to aid our understanding of Almighty God. The importance, power and magnificence of this "faith" find ultimate expression in the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew, "And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief; for verily I say unto you, if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you," (Matthew 17:20)
Faith therefore must be mightily important and precious and, for the Christian, indispensable in his walk with God. In this article we want to reflect on this precious faith and show how, by living our faith, we can show a skeptical world its many astonishing characteristics.
First we should not be deluded by perceptions of faith described
Everyone has a different view of faith and even biblical scholars are not all agreed on this vital subject. We need to examine the different perceptions and test them against the scriptures and in particular we need to be aware of the many false and misleading claims made about faith. Here we will look briefly at what some people think about faith.
We observe that some view faith as a blind leap
For many people, and most of them are outside the church, faith is nothing more that a blind committal to the unknown in a leap into total darkness feverishly hoping that providence will come to their rescue. This is the view mainly of atheist and their fellow travelers and it shows a profound lack of knowledge of the scriptures and a failure to appreciate the substance of faith.
Faith is not blind, as so many wrongly think, it is clearly involved in following the invisible directions of God, "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed." (Hebrews 11:8) We know from the scriptures that Abraham found his destination without blunder and without uncertainty.
Faith is not an unknown venture but an unseen one for God is guiding us along paths that are pleasing to him and preordained for us, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way." (Psalm 37:23) All believers are included here and are comforted by this knowledge.
Faith does not rely on providence to come to its rescue, but rather acts upon divine promises with complete assurance, "By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones." (Hebrews 11:22) Joseph knew of the promise God made to Abraham with respect to the Promised Land and gave instructions that his bones be buried there. It was nearly 400 years later when Joseph's bones were taken from Egypt and buried in Palestine.
We notice that some see faith as a blank check
Many in the church are taught that if they want something from God all they have to do is ask for it and believe that they will get it and it will be given. They see faith as a blank check. When they do not get what they asked for they loose faith and are disappointed not realizing there are requirements to be met for answered prayers including this, "If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." (John 14:14). Anything we ask in Jesus' name means authorized by or having God's approval.
This means praying in accordance with God's will. "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10). It is God's will that matters rather than fulfilling our personal agendas.
This means praying in accordance with God's word as when Elijah prayed for a 3 year drought. "And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word" (1 Kings 17:1) Elijah was standing on firm ground because God had made such a promise, "And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandmentsThat I will give you the rain of your land in his due seasonTake heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship themAnd then the Lord's wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain" (Deuteronomy 11:13-17)
We recognize that some deem faith a bad choice
There are many who are comfortable when they are dealing with something tangible and have never learnt to trust God and would argue that it is very foolish to rely solely on faith.
The Bible tells us that this is not so, and we are glad as believers to affirm that the opposite is true, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Faith is a necessary, and inevitable, choice for believers who want to live their life blessed and happy in obedience to God, "So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." (Galatians 3:9) and again, "He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good; and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he." (Proverbs 16:20)
Remember one of our scriptures for reflection, "The just shall live by faith". That is a great choice for good living in any generation.
As we have fleetingly touched on the views of the naysayers it would be only fair to look at what faith actually is from a practical and biblical perspective.
Next we should be guided by properties of faith defined
Let's be clear that faith is about hope made real
Many people have expectations and wishes that are hopeless and will never be realized and sometimes they refer to this as faith. But true faith in God makes what you hope for real, so that the invisible hope is clearly seen through the eyes of faith. The Bible described it like this, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)
It is as if the future as promised is there but you cannot see it until God hands you (and you put on) the spectacles of faith!
In truth the faithless is looking at the future with blindfolds on and faith main function is to remove them as effectively as did the prayer of Elisha to his servant, "And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." (2 Kings 6:17) The eyes of faith see and enable us to rejoice in what is real; even when that reality is not tangible.
Let's understand that faith is about confidence in God's promises
Faith is much more than hope made real, it is about knowing God's promises and having confidence in them to the extent that you are willing to risk your prestige, your reputation, your future, even your very existence on them.
Abraham displayed this confidence when, at God's command, he abandoned all to pursue a God-centered future as recorded in Genesis 12:1-4.
Noah displayed this confidence when, with God's instruction, he built an ark on dry land, miles away from water, and waited 120 years for God to act as outlined in Genesis 6:22.
The harlot Rehab recently converted no doubt displayed this confidence when, at great danger to herself, she displayed a scarlet thread dangling from her window and awaited her promised redemption as noted in Joshua 2:1-21.
Let's appreciate that faith knows God honors his promises
Throughout the thousands of years of earth's existence God has never broken a single promise that he has made and our faith is rock solid because we know that God always keep his promises. Sarah, the wife of Abraham, found this out, "Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised." (Genesis 21:1 NIV) Caleb, the spying partner of Joshua, who gave encouraging news to the Israelites found this out, "Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty five years since the time he said this to Moses" (Joshua 14: 10 NIV) Even old Simeon, promised he would not see death until he saw the Lord's Christ, found this out, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation." (Luke 2:29-30)
All believers can rest assured that God will do all that he has promised to do for he is God Almighty and his promises never fail. Never! This is faith in action, rooted in a trust that never fails and in God who cannot lie and his reliability is matchless.
Lastly we should rely on the merits and performance of faith declared
Does faith achieve anything other than supply a "feel good" component to our existence? That is the question that has to be answered. Looking back through a solid body of evidence we are overwhelmed with the volume of indisputable evidence that faith has procured many outstanding achievements. Believers everywhere have constantly relied on their faith to see them through monstrous difficulty as well as to underpin their persistence in day to day struggles.
It is little wonder then that at the Passover Supper Jesus was so concerned with Peter's faith and here are his words, "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. (Luke 22:31-32) Peter's faith needed to stand up and deliver for his own sake but also for the good of universal Christianity of which he was to be the anointed leader.
When we reflect on faith we enter a realm of such staggering intensity and triumph, such huge attainment and production and such unearthly, and therefore supernatural, matters that there is a compelling need for solid evidence. It is not enough to talk in the abstract and the obtuse for the moment requires concreteness and certainty. So what do we have to back up our claim that "The just shall live by faith" and can we show you the evidence? Yes we can and we can confidently say the following as regards faith's mighty achievements.
Futuristic or existential; faith's achievements are noticeable
What faith does for believers is not limited to something that develops after we are dead and buried, though that has its place, but something visible and practical here and now. If we can speak of faith only in the good bye and bye then we are not living by faith but hoping in faith. Note what the Bible says, "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after there were compassed about seven days." (Hebrews 11:30) Faith is results oriented. Blind Bartimaeus, a notable blind beggar in the streets of Jericho, took the opportunity to exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the results were conspicuous. The Bible records it thus, "And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way." (Mark 10: 52) Faith impacts our lives here and now and we can see and feel the results. Coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus met a large crowd and among them a demon possessed youngster whose father pleaded with Jesus to heal his son. Jesus responded, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." (Mark 9:23) Jesus immediately healed the son and returned him whole to his father.
Faith works and the results are not hidden like government secrets to be revealed generations later but are presently evident! God shows us what faith can do now.
Reflective or shallow; faith's achievements are noteworthy
Believers are fully committed to and serve Almighty God and their faith in him enables not only small things to be accomplished, important though these are but great achievements that are remarkable. Tell the skeptics that by faith God healed you of some troubling disease and they may respond that even doubters are healed of these diseases without divine help. It is not true because all healing comes from God but you can see the rationale behind their point. However when we transcend from the routine to the awe-inspiring and supernatural then they can offer no credible explanation, however much they try to discredit the account.
By faith Joshua stopped the sun in its tracks. A superb act at the request of a believer as told in Joshua 10:12-13. The skeptics can say what they like, it happened gloriously and we have it as an example for all time.
By faith Gideon took 300 men and routed a mighty army of thousands of Midianites as recorded in Judges 7:6-7. Never before or since, even allowing for the legend of the 300 Spartans, has something so dramatic happened in warfare and it was achieved by faith.
By faith Moses parted the Red Sea and allowed Israel to walk across dry land to escape the pursuing Egyptians as recorded in Exodus 14:21. The skeptics tell us that it was a little water over a lot of seaweed and the feet of the Israelites were barely covered with water. This is even more remarkable for then God would have drowned a whole Egyptian army in a few inches of water. Faith can achieve mighty things indeed.
Significant or mundane; faith's achievements are noble
Believers understand the importance of faith. "The just shall live by faith" as one of our scriptures states is not a slogan or a convenient jingle but a guiding principle in godly living and it has many accomplishments both large and small. Faith's accomplishments are not just supernatural and eternal but are imbued with earthly qualities of dignity, comfort and compassion.
Faith comforts the sick as every believer knows from experience and God knows the sick needs comforting.
Faith consoles the bereaved and there is scarcely a family anywhere that has not been touched by death.
Faith cushions our fall. Paul puts it very well when he says in 2 Corinthians chapter 4 that "We arecast down but not destroyed" for this is faith in action at its noblest best.
How marvelous is faith, indeed it is precious beyond measure. It is faith that will save us, faith in Jesus Christ by the grace of God. It is faith that will keep us and sustain us on earth as we are bombarded with the fiery darts of the enemy and it is faith that will get us to heaven by enabling us to live our life pleasing to Almighty God.
With all this we should be extremely clear that we need faith. We can therefore assert with renewed confidence that our faith is uniquely precious and boldly affirm with scripture that, "The just shall live by faith."
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013