11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
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.”
12:1-2, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
5:1-2, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
10:8-10, “But what does it say? “The word is near 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 and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
2:17-18, “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.”
2:26, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
Mark 9:24b “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
“Oh no, not another one of those faith sermons. Faith, Love, Joy, Temptation; can’t you preachers be creative, can’t you preach anything else?”
Yep! This was really said to me back in the late 80’s by a normally affable little old gentleman. Evidently, he was being a little melancholy due to a situation that cropped up a couple of weeks before. I replied to him then as I will right now; “You can’t be a Christian if you don’t have faith!” There, I said it. It’s the truth by the way. As the Scriptures above indicate, you can’t even have a relationship with God Almighty, our Heavenly Father, let alone please Him, without having, walking in and actively engaged in FAITH!
LIFE HAPPENS!! No, it’s not a bumper-sticker, it’s reality. Whether you’re trying to sell your house and move to another part of the country, or you are recovering from a heart-attack with new stents in place, or you have just given birth to a precious treasure whose limbs are all out of whack, or like I just went through, you develop an abscess in your teeth that can affect a heart condition and you need help NOW, you need faith in a God who has said His promises are steadfast and sure!
Life happens and it’s a journey to be sure. But the real question is, do you stumble and bumble your way through it, or do you stay focused on a clear, set and determined path, DESPITE what life throws at you? “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand.” – Psalm 37:23-24.
Faith as Hebrews 11:1 states isn’t in what you see, it isn’t in what you envision, but rather it’s based on what you HOPE in the Lord and especially as that hope pertains to His promises. You may not SEE the steps the Lord has placed before you, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there, and it is our Hope in the Lord that causes us to put one step in front of the other.
I’m reminded of a scene in the now classic movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where the main character Indiana Jones must traverse a wide chasm to get to the Holy Grail, the chalice from the Last Supper. Looking ahead, it appeared there was a huge gap or open expanse between him and the side he needed to get too. As he was facing a decision on how to step, the camera panned from a straight-on view to a side view and you could see from the new perspective that it was an optical illusion and that there really was in front of him a solid path or bridge that spanned the chasm. Eventually he surmised something along those lines and threw dirt and gravel into what seemed to be “thin air” and he could see the now designated path.
The whole exercise according to the Hollywood writers and such was to demonstrate faith in what the character couldn’t see but what was there. In spiritual terms, it still fell short because he wasn’t willing to take a step until he DID see the pathway! As Christians, we are told by the Lord through His Word to take a step and that He has already laid out a path before us. With faith, you aren’t given the luxury of waiting until the path becomes visible and then moving forward, for then when it IS seen, it is no longer faith!
So it is with our Salvation as well. We first have to be told about such a great gift somewhere in our spiritual beginnings. Someone had to tell us about this “Gift of Salvation” and our need for it. Thus the Apostle Paul tells us that in Romans 10:17. We have to hear the Word of God first and foremost before the “seed” of that Word can germinate and grow into what we now know is faith.
Don’t get me wrong, we all start out with a little bit of faith in general. Take for instance walking into a darkened room within you house; what do you do first? If you are like most people, you walk through the doorway to that room, reach out and flip on the light switch. Immediately you expect the light to flood that room. Now you don’t see the electricity surging through the wires. You don’t even see the light bulb that is the instrument of that light, yet. But the moment you flip that switch, you expect, you HOPE for light to flood the room. In fact, we are so accustomed to it happening time and time again, we give no discernable thought to it. We just EXPECT light!
Why is that do you wonder? Because as a child you witnessed the miracle of instant light over and over again from your parents and you just followed their example knowing that every time you flipped that switch there would be light! Now, in your adulthood, you don’t just BELIEVE there will be light; without thinking about it you KNOW there will be light (barring the unfortunate situation where the bulb or electricity has gone out).
So it is in the spiritual, you hear the Word enough, that seed is planted, it is sown, and the Holy Spirit waters and nurtures it and soon enough, almost like a miracle a shoot appears, life as it were. I remember when I was young, a kid, a child really, I always had questions about God and Heaven. Used to drive my mom crazy with the questions! My dad couldn’t be bothered so it was always my mom that was bombarded with them! I even asked anyone who would listen outside the home, like teachers and friends at school. Finally as a teen-ager, going to High School, I met this other teen my age who wasn’t afraid to talk about “religion!” We used to talk for hours at times, in study hall, after classes, etc.
I would tell Ron (later became my brother-in-law) about what the Church said/taught, as I was raised Catholic, and he would tell me what the Bible said. This went on for almost a year. He knew where I went to church, what denomination I was, but I never knew what church or denomination he was until one day he invited me to a special Wednesday night youth service, he called it. I went, I was thoroughly intrigued as I had never witnessed a service like this and the guest “preacher” was totally engrossing! I couldn’t hear enough about what he was preaching. Then he gave an “altar-call,” a call to repent of our sins and allow the Lord Jesus Christ to come into our hearts! There, instantly was that green shoot from the sown seed that had been watered for almost a year. Faith sprung up, I believed this is what I needed. I was religious (at 16 that was something) but I needed to become spiritually reborn. The Word of God had been planted and watered and now it was time for results.
Now don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t thinking these things through like this back then. All I knew was that I needed to get to that altar and let Jesus do the work in my incomplete life back then. I made my confession, willingly and I believed with all my heart that I was changed back then, that I definitely was something new! It hearkens back now, to my steps being ordered of the Lord as Psalms 37:23-24 stated; and here is the completion of that thought based on the analogy of the light switch as compared to faith: “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” – Psalm 119:105. When you read or hear the Word of God enough and it takes root, it is like the electricity that is coursing through the wires in the walls of the house, connecting the light switch to the light bulb. When you need a bit of faith for a given situation in your life at any moment, you have the power to believe coursing through your being already if the Word of God has been stored up within your spirit!
Now as no natural analogy is entirely perfect for those things in the spiritual I want to make this thought clear; the faith to believe is based or should be based in the promises and the words of the Lord as written in our Bibles. It is not some magical belief or thought based in just general principles. It is not based on what you can imagine within yourself for that is bordering on New Age concepts that are contrary to Scriptural principles and thought. But again our belief is rooted or founded in the words of the Lord through what we read and hear from the Living Word of God! Any other belief is just what I stated before; it is New Age or magic, both of which will breed death in your spirit and the Bible tells us to avoid completely!
When faith grows, when it matures it becomes much more than just belief, but it evolves and grows into knowledge. Yes, I know I have stated this many, many times before, but it bears repeating for it does mature from mere belief to actual KNOWING! Don’t be confused, it is still faith, but so much more than just basic belief. Today for instance, due to time, experience and natural and spiritual maturity, I KNOW I am saved, redeemed, reborn in Christ. It is no longer just the experience that I had when a teenager where I believed only that I was saved.
Now in my life there is a peace that abides no matter the circumstances. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t concern for a situation, but it is no longer worry and apprehension. In actuality peace and even joy can accompany situations that in other instances would be bothersome and worrying. The reason for the peace is the justification by faith that the Apostle Paul speaks of in Romans 5:1-2. Justification or simply put, the reason for, or the belief because of, my faith and the experiences that have accumulated over the years and the resolutions that the “steps of the Lord” have demonstrated to be completed in any given situation. They add up to knowledge that when the Lord says He will take care of me, that He will meet my needs, that He will not forsake me in my times of need, then His word is true and I do not have to doubt that I will get through anything because of Him and Him alone!
One other thing; just because He has ordered my steps does not mean I no longer have free will. I still CHOOSE to follow Him and the path that He has put down before me, and the reason the path is as it is, is simply because we serve an Omniscient God, one who knows everything in advance! This is why we NEVER can take God by surprise and why He can make everything that happens to us work out for our benefit, even what the world would consider seemingly bad things! (Romans 8:28).
The Apostle Paul goes on to say this; Romans 8:29-31, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Many people stumble over the words predestined and foreknew (as some versions translate it), but they are thinking on a merely intellectual plane and not discerning with the spirit. The Lord God Almighty, as I stated earlier, has a Character trait known as Omniscience. It means that he has ALL Knowledge or is All-Knowing. For us to be predestined, just means that since He isn’t taken by surprise by our choices, He has the way prepared for us already in the knowledge of those choices.
When Pharaoh of Moses’ day was hardening his heart, the Lord said this, “But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” – Exodus 9:16. Pharaoh had the choice to do what was right, but God KNEW what his choices would be, so used those very choices to demonstrate His (God’s) glory and power throughout the land. God didn’t make Pharaoh do the things he did, but He knew that Pharaoh would do them!
So it is with us throughout our life’s journey. When we are a child of God, He knows our choices. Some choices still have consequences that require discipline, which is never easy, (Proverbs 3:11-12, Hebrews 12:5-8), and others are a delight to Him (Psalm 37:23).
We sometimes forget that when we proceed with a choice, we are taking action; with actions , of any kind, there are causes and effects. Our choices become a verb rather than just a noun or a “something.” As with so many things characteristic of a lifestyle, which itself implies action, or moving forward, the spiritual lifestyle and especially FAITH is made up of many actions.
Concerning life and faith, take for instance the word journey. It can be said that life is a journey, a noun. Journey is described as “something.” But in relation to life being a journey, you can also say that we journey through life, a verb. Now journey becomes something we do! So this is why the Apostle James is so specific in the way he described the concept of faith. So much emphasis had been put on it as a “something” that it had begun to lose its distinction within a Christian’s lifestyle. We can talk about faith to others and they can easily infer that you are talking about some supernatural mystical force that brings the believer what ever it is he has enough of “IT” to draw on!! It no longer becomes the spiritual powerhouse that allows us to journey through this life as a disciple, a follower of Christ and Christ’s example!!
James sets the record straight and in my opinion (notice I said opinion) it is the perfect companion to the Book of Hebrews. To me, it is truly inspired that the order of the Books in the New Testament has Hebrews first and then James following it. The fact that a great deal of exposition is dealing with faith as an attribute of Christian behavior in both Hebrews and James is amazing and yet they find the ability to write about the results that faith provides in other areas!! That to me, is definitely the Hand of the Holy Spirit!!
James is so keen to point out that faith, being “something” is nothing without “doing” or actions. He elevates the concept of faith to beyond some New Age philosophy that deals with man’s ability to conceive, dream and believe to the actual implementation of that faith!! You see someone in need? Don’t just wish them warm, clothed, fed, prosperous, if possible within your ability make it happen by giving them blankets, clothes, food, or finances! In his day, the emerging church had already started turning from bringing all their personal belongings and putting them together for the poor, to doing just what he said was an abomination; “go in God, be blessed, be warm, etc., etc.”
James makes a great analogy also. I hope it isn’t lost on many, when he states at the end of chapter two: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” – James 2:26. Faith is relegated from the mysterious unto the body of a person in analogy and Works are compared to the spirit! Just the opposite of what most would consider. We would NATURALLY assume that faith, being a spiritual characteristic would be compared to the spirit of man, the life, or life’s blood that makes us who we are and that works, that is the natural progression would be compared to the body of man. This is actually what so many had relegated faith to being, the “it, the thing” rather than the motivator, the effect, or action of that “thing!” In essence, the cause is FAITH and the effect is WORKS. James knew what he was writing about under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Works are the result of what we do not see. If they are what produces fruit and life in others, it is tangible and a direct result of the faith that is NOT seen! The works is the HOPE in Hebrews that is not seen in Hebrews but becomes the EVIDENCE as seen in James!
Now as relating to Salvation and Redemption, James does not and is NOT saying that works saves. The Scriptures do NOT contradict and if they do in your analysis then it is your interpretation that is wrong. Concerning Salvation, what does Paul say? “That if you confess (works) with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe (faith) in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes (faith) unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession (works) is made unto salvation.” — Romans 10:9-10 (Emphasis added is mine).
So it isn’t the works that saves you but rather that cause (faith) which produces the confession or works. They go hand in hand, because as James says, you can’t have faith that is alive without a result of that faith. It is nothing, it is magic, occult, trying to get something out of nothing!!! Please, please don’t forget that your faith has to be in Some ONE, our Lord, God Almighty. Faith in yourself as the New Age prescribes, through conceiving, dreaming and believing is misplaced and never consistent, but only in God Almighty THROUGH the Lord Jesus Christ will faith be PLEASING to the Father and consistent in its results!!
In closing; do you feel you “lack” faith? Read and listen to your Bible more! Ask the Lord, the Originator of our faith for more as the father of the son with the mute spirit did in the Gospel of Mark. The Lord has promised to always give more of what we NEED in our spiritual lives, ALWAYS! Need more wisdom? Need more grace? Need more faith? Ask and it WILL be done, as promised and the Lord NEVER goes back on His Word!
Don’t let these abundant false teachers tell you that you lack faith and that is why you don’t receive something from God. God will always speak to you, the individual BEFORE He ever speaks to a stranger about a need you have! He may use a stranger to confirm that He IS speaking to you, but the Holy Spirit is your guide and counselor as much if not more so as someone who is gaining fame and fortune by televising the plight of God’s individual children! IF, and I stress, IF you lack faith then cry out as that father did in Mark, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” God, our, YOUR Heavenly Father will hear you and give you an answer to any of your questions and concerns! He’ll let you know if you NEED to be healed, if you NEED extra finances, etc., etc.
People, dear people, do NOT rate success by what you have and do not have and especially in light of the world’s standards. Rate success by your intimacy with your Heavenly Father through Christ Jesus! Rate success by how you follow His leading and commandments, to love Him and to love your neighbor! That is REAL and TRUE faith! That is REAL LIFE!!
When life happens as it most surely will until the Lord calls us home, look at each situation through the eyes of the Lord, the final outcome, and not what is immediately starring you in the eyes. That is faith at work.
Remember what the Apostle Paul wrote; “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.