By Rodney W. Francis
FAITH is a major part of the Christian faith. It is so important that without faith we are unable to please God. And if we are not pleasing God, then there is something very wrong with our believing and knowledge of God. In this section we will look at four areas of faith: A. The Importance Of Faith. B. How Do We Get It? C. Learning To Use It, and D. What Faith Can Do. May you be blessed as you consider the necessity of faith today.
A. THE IMPORTANCE OF:
For the Christian, faith is essential. It is the making or the breaking of our spiritual progress:
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him (the Lord): for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
The word "faith" has two main meanings:
1. "firm persuasion, the conviction which is based upon hearing, not upon sight, or knowledge; a firmly relying confidence in what we hear from God in His Word."
2. "hope, i.e. expectation of something future; a dearly cherished and apparently well-grounded expectation and prospect of some desired good" (Bullinger's).
“Now faith is the substance ("what stands under”) of things hoped for, the evidence ("conviction") of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Faith is believing – believing God's Word:
2. “. . . that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Faith is believing – believing that Jesus Christ is the One who God has sent (to save us):
“. . . spend your energy seeking the eternal life that I, the Messiah, can give you. For God the Father has sent Me for this very purpose.” “They replied, 'What should we do to satisfy God?' Jesus told them, 'This is the will of God, that you believe in the One He has sent” (John 6:27-29, TLB).
Faith is believing – believing is faith!
Faith is positive – it has no room for hesitation or doubt:
“But let him ask in faith, not wavering. For he that wavers ("hesitates") is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6-8).
In these verses we see that God responds to faith and gives to us according to our faith. But if we are wavering, doubtful (double minded), we will not receive anything.
Jesus met people's needs with the words, “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matthew 9:27-31), or “Great is your faith: be it unto you even as you will” (Matthew 15:21-28), or "Your faith has made you whole” (Matthew 9:20-26, Mark 10:46-52, blind Bartimaeus).
God is a rewarder of faith, and, going by Hebrews 11:6 faith means that we "diligently seek Him” (the Lord). We must actively pursue faith by actively seeking His Word; for “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10: 17).
Faith is important because:
- We are saved through faith – Ephesians 2:8;
- We are God’s children by faith in Jesus Christ – Galatians 3:26;
- We come under the blessings of Abraham through faith – Galatians 3:5-18;
- The just (justified ones) live by faith – Romans 1:16-17, Romans 3:22, Galatians 3:11-14, Habakkuk 2:4, Hebrews 10: 3 8;
- Being justified by faith gives us peace with God – Romans 5:1;
- God’s righteousness is by faith – Philippians 3:9, Hebrews 11:4;
- Faith gives us physical healing – Acts 3:16.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND PERSONAL MEDITATION:
1. What are the two essentials of believing faith? (Hebrews 11:6).
2. Why does faith have to be totally positive?
3. How does God respond to us?
4. Without looking at the study paper, what are some of the things we have by, and through faith?
B. HOW DO WE GET IT?
Faith is so important that God has given us every opportunity to become people filled with faith. Therefore it is vital that we understand how to receive it so we can get on in our Christian life enjoying the benefits of faith. Often our first introduction to Christianity is because of the faith of someone else, i.e. Christian parents. Timothy came from a family heritage of faith (2 Timothy 1:5-7) – his mother and grandmother before him were women of faith.
Moses lived because his parents' faith told them he was a special child with the call of God on his life (Hebrews 11:23). He should have died by the command of Pharaoh, but didn't because faith triumphed.
Faith is not something we manufacture or work up. Faith is resident in Jesus, the Living Word. “He is the Author and the Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2, Galatians 5:6) – that is why we must continually look to Him.
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).
The Holy Spirit makes the Word of God alive and, when that Living Word is received into our hearts, we then have faith. In Acts 6:3-5 we read of Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost.” He became a powerful witness for Jesus (as well as the first Christian martyr).
The Holy Spirit within us energizes and produces faith, for He shares with us the things of God. The Holy Spirit helps us to build up our faith.
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20, NKJV).
God gives to every Christian “the measure ("capacity") of faith” (Romans 12:3). In other words, God gives us the ability to function in faith. Therefore we ought to do what God has called us to do “according to the proportion of faith” (Romans 12:6), or function in that realm where our faith level is at.
Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:9). The gift of faith is the special enabling of the Holy Spirit to enable us to accomplish things beyond our own realm of faith. For example, large financial achievements in the work of God, miraculous provision, healing, etc. Faith is also a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Our faith needs to continually grow. Increase of faith comes through humility and willingness to serve others (Luke 17:5-10). According to the Bible we can have "little faith" or we can have "great faith”.
The following Scriptures in Matthew’s Gospel all tell us of “little faith”:
In Matthew 6:24-34 (especially verse 30), Jesus teaches us of the importance of knowing that God is able to provide for us. Faith trusts what He has promised. God is well able to provide our food and clothing. Do not limit Him – that is “little faith”.
In Matthew 8:23-27 (especially verse 26), we are told of Jesus’ power over the elements. The disciples panicked in the midst of the storm – Jesus rebuked them for their smallness of faith.
In Matthew 14:22-33 (especially verse 31), when Peter walked on the water, he did so by faith. Then, when he got his eyes off Jesus and on to the circumstances around him, his faith failed and he began to sink. Jesus rescued him. Peter's little faith still accomplished more than the other disciples in the boat!
In Matthew 16:5-12 (especially verse 8), the disciples smallness of concept and their limiting themselves to natural reasonings, brought them the description of having "little faith."
Now we shall look at what “great faith” can accomplish:
In Matthew 8:5-13 (especially verse 10), the Centurion at Capernaum was honoured by Jesus (above and beyond any Israelite), because he had “great faith” in the authority he recognized was in Jesus.
In Matthew 15:21-28 (especially verse 28), the Syrophenician woman had sufficient faith to press in to the Lord - and keep pressing in even when it seems He rebuked her. Jesus honoured her “great faith,” and her daughter was healed. Let us be people who settle for nothing less than great faith! So, in answer to the question, "How do we get faith?" here is a summary:
1. From Jesus “the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
2. From “hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10: 17).
4. From the Holy Spirit Who gives “the gift of faith” (1 Corinthians 12:9).
5. From the Holy Spirit Who produces “the fruit of faith” (Galatians 5:22).
6. From God Who gives us “a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
7. From Godly parents (2 Timothy 1:5).
8. Faith is increased in us through humility and a willingness to serve others (Luke 16:10).
9. We choose whether we will be people of little faith or great faith (Matthew 9:29). “According to your faith, be it unto you,” declares Jesus.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION (AND PERSONAL MEDITATION):
1. How do you know when you have faith?
2. How do you think others will know when you have faith?
3. Do you know of any examples of the gift of faith in action?
4. What does Jude verse 20 mean to you? How would you build yourself up in faith?
5. Discuss ways of increasing your faith.
C. LEARNING TO USE IT:
In our first two sections on Faith we have looked at: (a) The importance of, and (b) How to get it. In this third section we want to take what we have received and begin to more consciously use it. God has already given to us faith. In fact God has chosen us because we are "rich in faith” (James 2:5). To keep it rich and alive we must use it.
- Faith is more than talk.
- Faith is demonstrated by our works of action.
- Faith is an action.
What does it profit ("advantage, assist"), my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” If a brother or sister is naked and destitute ("to be left, forsaken of any thing") of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled, but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:14-18, NKJV).
Faith is based upon God and His Word. The Holy Spirit within us responds to God and His Word, thereby helping us to release faith. We can know so much about God and His Word, but until we act upon it faith cannot be fully released. Our faith actions can be shown in simple things, i.e. giving a meal or food to someone in need, showing kindness, help, etc., without looking for a natural reward. Another illustration of faith is shown in Luke 17:5-10 where Jesus taught us to do those things which are “our duty to do.” Humility in serving one another is a way of learning to use faith.
Stephen, in Acts 6, was a man “full of faith and the Holy Spirit” who was one of the seven men chosen to wait on widows' tables. Our first reaction to this may be, "If he was full of faith, why only serve at tables?" Answer: To prove a Bible principle: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” (Luke 16: 10). If Stephen failed in that responsibility he would never have been trusted in bigger things. Stephen exercised his faith in that seemingly mundane task, proving himself reliable and faithful. It was not very long before his faith released him into greater things, for we read in Acts 6:8, “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” Stephen learned in serving people how to release faith and soon was serving God in a powerful ministry of deliverance.
Faith is Outside of Natural Circumstances:
Faith does not depend on circumstances, feelings, or what we see with the natural eye. All these things may be quite contrary to what faith says. For example, when God told Noah what was going to come upon the whole world, Noah knew he could be the means of salvation for his household. By faith and being “moved with fear” (Hebrews 11:7, Genesis 6:5-22, Genesis 7) he began to build an ark – a huge boat on dry land – even though the world had not, up to that time, known rain. All natural circumstances told him (in the eyes of the people) that that was a crazy thing to do. But Noah’s faith won the day, whereas the people’s lack of faith caused them to perish.
Likewise, Abraham believed God for a son even though he and Sarah were 100 years and 90 years old respectively (Romans 4, Genesis 17 and 21, Hebrews 11:11). Everything natural was against them. Faith gave them a son.
One of the areas where faith often gets hindered in our using of it is that of being afraid to act, a lack of courage and boldness to declare publicly what God's Word says and can do!
- Christians can witness to the lost (that is an act of faith).
- Christians can pray for the sick – you can do that! It takes faith to tell others Jesus can heal them and to ask if they would like you to pray for them.
THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
In the area of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Christians can learn to exercise their faith through the operation of the vocal gifts – prophecy, and tongues, and interpretation of tongues. When we come together in fellowship we can make ourselves available to the Lord. If and when He wants us to give out a prophecy, or a tongues message, or an interpretation of a tongues message, we will know in our spirit because the Holy Spirit witnesses with us.
When we know this, we then look to the Lord for the right timing in the meeting – the anointing upon us lets us know this - then at that point we have to exercise faith by speaking forth publicly that which has been given to us privately by the Holy Spirit. What we say needs to be within the guidelines of edification ("building up"), exhortation ("a calling near, a stirring up") and comfort ("a solace, to cheer up") (1 Corinthians 14:5, Romans 12:6).
Faith, Bible faith, is not a silent thing of the heart. We must confess it, speak it out: “We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe and therefore speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13; see also Psalm 116:10).
But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way . . . But what does it say? “The word is near ("close to") you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus (the Word) and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved ("to make sound, to save, preserve safe from danger, loss or destruction"). For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:6-17, NKJV).
Salvation is an ongoing thing, an ongoing confession of our faith in Jesus. Speaking out aloud our positive confession and belief in God's Word is a very faith-building and faith-releasing thing. Let us finish off this section with a very positive statement Jesus has given to us:
“Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, HE SHALL HAVE WHATEVER HE SAYS. “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask (“to ask for something, require, desire, demand – expressive of petition from an inferior to a superior”) when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:22-24).
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION (AND PERSONAL MEDITATION):
1. Can you name some other "faith works" not mentioned in this section?
2. How important are the "little things" in the Christian life?
3. Can you give an example of how you are learning to exercise faith?
4. How can we deal with hindrances to faith?
5. Discuss ways of increasing your involvement in exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
6. How can we improve our confession of the faith?
D. WHAT FAITH CAN DO:
For the Christian, faith is one of the most important and effective "keys" he will ever possess. Faith can unlock anything and also unlock us into anything. It is faith alive in us that releases the power of God. And what can stand in the way of the power of God when it is in action? Jesus taught us that faith alive in us enables us to have “whatever we say” (Mark 11:22-24). He had just demonstrated faith in action by speaking a curse on a fig tree, which withered up and died! (See Matthew 22:18-22, Mark 11:12-24).
HEBREWS CHAPTER 11:
Let us turn now to the Faith Chapter of the Bible – Hebrews 11 (the whole Bible is a faith Book, but this Chapter is recognized as such because it is all on the subject of faith). This is what faith does:
- Gives us the evidence ("conviction") of what we are believing for (verse 1).
- Enables us to obtain a good report (verse 2).
- Gives us understanding that the worlds were framed by the Word of God (verse 3).
- Enables us to make the right sacrifices to God (verse 4).
- Enables us to please God (verse 5).
- Teaches us that God does reward those who diligently seek Him (verse 6).
- Moves us with fear to do the will of God (verse 7).
- Gives us obedience to fulfil God's call into the unknown (verse 8).
- Gives us vision to look for that which God builds (verses 9-10).
- Enables babies to be conceived and born (verse 11).
- Enables saints to not be "tangled up" with the world (verse 13).
- Enables us to make the most supreme sacrifices in the midst of testing and trials, according to the Word of God (verses 17-19; See also Genesis 22).
- Releases blessings (verses 20-21).
- Gives knowledge of death (verse 22; See Genesis 50:24-26).
- Brings protection against death (verse 23).
- Gives victory over fear (verses 23, 27).
- Gives strength to make the right decisions (verses 24-26).
- Enables us to suffer for righteousness' sake (verse 25-26).
- Helps us to see pleasures for what they are – temporary and seasonal (verse 25).
- Gives us the right values in life (verse 26).
- Gives us endurance ("to be strong, firm") (verse 27).
- Gives us insight into the invisible (verse 27).
- Gives us the protection of the Blood of Christ (verse 28).
- Gives us advantage over the worldly people in the area of miracles, supply, protection, deliverance from the enemy, etc. (verses 29-30).
- Gives protection to those helping Christians (verse 31).
FAITH ENABLES US TO:
- Subdue ("contend against") kingdoms (verse 33).
- Bring about and do righteousness (verse 33).
- Obtain promises (see them brought to pass) (verse 33).
- Stop the mouths of lions (any wild beast) (verse 33).
- “Extinguish the power of raging fire” (verse 34, AMP.).
- Escape death from the sword (or gun, knife, etc.) (verse 34).
- Be made strong out of weakness (verse 34).
- “Be mighty and resistless in battle” (verse 34, AMP.).
- “Make whole armies turn and run away” (verse 34,TLB. See also Deuteronomy 32:30;Joshua 23:9-11; Judges 15:15-16; Psalm 91:7).
- Raise the dead (verse 35). Notice it was the women of faith who are mentioned as doing this!
- Accept torture, rather than compromise the faith (verse 35). They could go "free" if they would renounce Christ. This torture included trials of mockery, scourging (being whipped), being bound up in prison, being stoned, cut up with saws, killed by the sword, wandering about with next to nothing, being destitute ("to be last, behind"), afflicted ("pressured"), tormented ("suffering evil, being ill used"), having to live in dens and caves, with only the food one can find (verses 35-38).
The Bible saints chose to live by faith rather than give in to the will of man and compromise. They did this to “obtain a good report” – to get God's approval, which was everything (verse 39). They did not receive the promise, because the promise is for you and I today to receive, live out and fulfil by faith in Jesus our Risen Lord (verses 39-40). When we live by faith in the promise of Jesus we can:
- Be provided with money (Matthew 17:24-27).
- Receive clothing and food (Matthew 6:25-34).
- Heal every sickness and disease (Matthew 8:1-17; Luke 9:1-2; Luke 10:1-9 and 17:20; Acts 10:38. This also includes delivering people from evil spirits).
- If there is anything we have missed, then include it here. Faith has the answer. ALL THINGS ARE YOURS! Hallelujah! (1 Corinthians 3:21-23; Philippians 4:13,19).
Jesus said: “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and IT SHALL REMOVE . . . AND NOTHING SHALL BE IMPOSSIBLE UNTO YOU” (Matthew 17:20 KJV).
Faith in you will do what you will let it do – "according to your faith, be it unto you” (Matthew 9:28-29).
May these notes encourage more of the outworking of faith in our lives. Let us pursue it earnestly, knowing that God is a rewarder of them who believe Him enough to diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). God bless you mightily.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION (AND PERSONAL MEDITATION):
1. What stage do you think you are at in faith? In other words, what can YOUR FAITH do for you right now?
2. Do you believe your faith can conquer every negative mood in life? i.e. depression, grumpiness, anger, pouting, etc? (These things all help to destroy our faith).
3. Is there anything that faith cannot do?