What is faith? Over the last several months we have been exploring this very critical and essential subject. And as we have reiterated over and over again, few subjects in the Bible are more important for us to understand and live than that of faith.
Everywhere I look these days, I see our faith as Christians being tested. Whether it's through crumbling marriages, financial difficulties, family problems, serious illness, the death of loved ones or business-related problems, our faith is being tested to the max! Truly, Jesus must be coming back soon because so many of us are in the fire as never before!
The dictionary tells us that faith is "confidence or trust in a person or thing." However, since human trust has been so greatly abused in this world, many people have tragically chosen to put their faith in "something" rather than "someone."
This should never be true of the believer.
God has not called His people to rally around a belief system, but to place their faith and their trust in a Person. If we are to endure to the end, we must understand that the one and only key to our survival is faith in the Person of Jesus Christ.
The reason faith in Christ is so important is because it affects everything we think, say and do. As the Bible tells us, faith is the victory that overcomes the world, the flesh and the devil. (1 John 5:4) In other words, faith is the only way we are able to stand, the only way we are able to live and the only way we are able to love. Thus, the most important thing we can ever do as God's children is to learn how to understand, possess and walk in complete faith.
The definition of faith that I like best is summed up by the words of Paul in Romans 4:21, "being fully persuaded that, what [God has] promised, He [will be] able also to perform." In other words, regardless of what we see, hear, feel or think, true faith is choosing to believe that God will do whatever He says He will do! Faith is simply a radical reliance upon God.
In his book, Combat Faith, Hal Lindsey sets forth a few of the Scriptural promises that come to us through faith:
We are born into eternal life through faith; we are declared righteous before God by faith; we are forgiven by faith; we are healed by faith; we understand the mysteries of creation by faith; we learn God's Word by faith; by faith we understand things to come; we walk by faith and not by sight; we overcome the world by faith; we enter God's rest by faith; and we are controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit by faith.
The issue of faith pervades every aspect of our relationship with God and our service for Him. Faith is the source of our strength, our provision, our courage, our guidance, and our victory over the world system, the flesh and the devil. Faith is the only thing that can sustain us in the trials and persecutions predicted for the last days. It is therefore imperative that we understand exactly what faith is, how we get it and how it grows.
We Can Only Live by Faith
To separate faith from life is impossible because every choice we make comes either from faith in something or Someone, or from unbelief and distrust. The Apostle Paul declared: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)
What Paul is stating here is that "living by faith" is our responsibility. (Hebrews 10:38) Nonetheless, living by faith does not mean "blindly" believing in God, but "wisely" trusting Him to supply our every need. Living by faith is believing that God has promised us a better world and by faith, we have chosen to hold on to His promise.
Job is an example of someone who lived by faith. Although Job groaned in his present circumstances, he didn't lose confidence in the future. He never stopped believing that God would act as his Vindicator, his Advocate and his Avenger.
In the midst of his greatest suffering, Job still avowed, "I know that my redeemer lives..." (Job 19:25) and this kind of trust needs to be the "battle cry" of every believer in Christ.
God is constantly asking us to decide, "Will you live by faith, or will you crumble when you don't see or understand what I am doing?"
An Example: "Living by Faith"
We have spoken before in our newsletter articles of George Muller, the young German Christian who answered the call of God to help poor children in Bristol, England in the 1800s. Mr. Muller had already mastered six languages and was brilliant in his own right, however, he never received a salary for what he did. He established three orphanages, housed almost 2,000 orphans, ran six day schools, helped 24 others, and gave away over 6,600 Bibles and one million tracts.
The only way funds came in for his projects was by his constant submission to the Spirit of God, the reading of God's Word and prayer. In answer to George Muller's faithfulness, God provided all the funds he ever needed. His primary goal for submitting to God and living by faith was to show others that God is trustworthy and that He does answer prayer. Mr. Muller was a wonderful example to all around him, because he looked to God only to meet his needs, and God always did.
Mr. Muller believed that faith rested upon the Word of God. He used to say, "When sight ceases, then faith has a chance to work." As long as there was any possibility of human success, he felt faith could accomplish nothing. Thus, his motto was, "God is able to do this; I cannot."
His greatest desire was to live a public life of faith so that others' trust in God would be strengthened. He felt it would be living proof that faith works, if he as a poor man, without asking the aid or finances of anyone, simply by prayer and faith, could have all his needs met.
When there was no money, as happened often, he would simply say, "The Lord in His wisdom and love has not sent help, but I believe, in due time He will." And, He always did! As a result of George Muller's life of prayer and faith, he was given the necessary money to build three orphanages, house and feed almost 2,000 children, buy all the furniture and supplies needed to furnish and run the homes and schools, and hire all the needed personnel to manage the facilities. Muller expected God to answer and expected His blessings on his labor of love. And he always received it, because he lived by faith. Mr. Muller epitomized Galatians 3:11, "The just shall live by faith."
Not Seeing and Not Feeling, Yet Still Believing
Unfortunately, unlike George Muller, much of our faith as modern-day Christians rests upon what we can see and feel, and this is why much of our personal turmoil exists. God knows that we can never truly live by faith as long as we are being manipulated by our senses. His Word reveals that the farther removed we get from our faith resting on the things that we see and feel, the more deeply we enter into a life of real faith in God.
Instilling this kind of naked faith is one of the reasons God allows "night seasons" in our lives. When we are no longer able to "see," we will be forced to live by faith. And, when our faith finally stops being dependent on the realm of our senses, we will be free to enter into the rest of God.
God knows that the less we "see," the more faith we'll have to live by. As Jesus stated, "...blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (John 20:29)
Faith Allows Us to "See" God
Faith is the telescope that scans the heavens for the majesty of God, as well as the microscope that magnifies His hidden wonders. Furthermore, faith is the code-breaker that allows us to interpret God's Words and understand His meanings.
Faith is the only path that not only allows us to "see" God, but also draws us nearer to His presence and to being able to fellowship with Him. Only as we walk by faith can God make the darkness light before us and enable us to see His incredible handiwork.
Therefore, faith is the only avenue that will bring us the intimacy with God that we yearn for and that He so desires. (Hebrews 11:6) Only as we see God as He truly is and see ourselves as we really are will we ever become truly pleasing in His sight. In other words, no prayer, no tears, no fasting without faith, will ever bless Him.
Faith Reveals the Character of God to Others
When we reflect God's image - His joy, His wisdom, His Love and His peace - in every circumstance, good or bad - the world will see Jesus through us. Remember my friend Diana whom we spoke about in last month's newsletter? Remember the two nurses who came to Christ as a result of seeing Diana's faith in God, even as she was dying? Even in dying, Diana was living her faith. Like Diana, the life of every believer should be a magnifying glass focused on Christ, because what we do tells the world what we believe. Doing demonstrates our belief.
When our faith crumbles in the midst of hard circumstances, we are telling the world that God is not trustworthy, He is not faithful and He is not loving. If Christians display such a lack of trust, then how can unbelievers be expected to put their trust in Christ? Instead, we must show the world that faith in God is always the answer, and that He is our only refuge in times of trouble.
Faith Enables Us to Be Overcomers
Faith not only enables us to overcome the flesh and the world, but also overcome the devil. Only faith can repel the enemy. Thus, when we lose faith, we leave ourselves wide open for his vicious attacks. Satan knows that faith and doubt cannot coexist, therefore he does everything in his power to make us doubt God and His faithfulness.
Doubt and unbelief affect every choice we make. Unbelief can destroy our sensitivity to God's voice, and if we choose to entertain this attitude, we'll end up spiritually shipwrecked.
This is exactly what is happening in the Christian body today. Satan is on an all-out attack in all of our lives and if we don't recognize this and if we don't pick up our Shield of Faith, then we will never survive! Doubt can always be traced back to unbelief in God's Word and His promises.
Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, which is one of the main reasons why being in God's Word on a daily basis is so important. However, Hebrews 4:2 goes on to say that, "The word preached did not profit them [because it was not] mixed with faith."
Doubting the character of God will stop your spiritual growth and ultimately devour your faith. The only way you can ever counteract such doubt is by an act of will to believe that God will never let you down and never deceive you, no matter what He allows in your life.
An Example: Aggie
I'd like to share a story from one of David Wilkerson's newsletters, 1 that perfectly illustrates the danger of doubting God:
In 1921, two young missionary couples in Stockholm, Sweden, received a burden to go to the Belgian Congo (which became Zaire). David and Svea Flood (along with their two-year-old son) joined Joel and Bertha Erickson to battle insects, fierce heat, malaria and malnutrition. But after six months in the jungle, they had made little or no contact with the native people. Although the Ericksons decided to return to the mission station, the Floods chose to stay in their lonely outpost. Svea was now pregnant and sick with malaria, yet she faithfully continued to minister to their one and only convert, a little boy from one of the nearby villages.
Svea died after giving birth to a healthy baby girl, and as David Flood stood over his beloved wife's grave, he poured out his bitterness to God: "Why did You allow this? We came here to give our lives, and now my wife is dead at 27! All we have to show for all this is one little village boy who probably doesn't even understand what we've told him. You've failed me, God. What a waste of life!"
David Flood ended up leaving his new daughter with the Ericksons and taking his son back home with him to Sweden. He then went into the import business, and never allowed the name of "God" to be mentioned in his presence. His little girl was raised in the Congo by an American missionary couple, who named their adopted daughter "Aggie."
Throughout her life, Aggie tried to locate her real father, but her letters were never answered. She never knew that David Flood had remarried and fathered four more children, and she never knew that he had plunged into despair and had become a total alcoholic. But when she was in her forties, Aggie and her husband were given round-trip tickets to Sweden, and while spending a day's layover in London, the couple went to hear a well-known black preacher from the Belgian Congo.
After the meeting, Aggie asked the preacher, "Did you ever know David and Svea Flood?" To her great surprise, he answered, "Svea Flood led me to the Lord when I was a little boy.'" Aggie was ecstatic to learn that her mother's only convert was being mightily used to evangelize Zaire, and he was overjoyed to meet the daughter of the woman who had introduced him to Christ.
When Aggie arrived in Sweden, she located her father in an impoverished area of Stockholm, living in a rundown apartment filled with empty liquor bottles. David Flood was now a 73-year-old diabetic who had had a stroke and whose eyes were covered with cataracts, yet when she identified herself, he began to weep and apologize for abandoning her. But when Aggie said, "That's okay, Daddy. God took care of me," he became totally enraged.
"God didn't take care of you!" he cried. "He ruined our whole family! He led us to Africa and then betrayed us! Nothing ever came of our time there, and it was a waste of our lives!"
That's when Aggie told him about the black preacher she'd just met in London, and how the Congo had been evangelized through the efforts of his wife's one and only convert. As he listened to his daughter, the Holy Spirit suddenly fell on David Flood, and tears of sorrow and repentance began to flow down his face. Although God mercifully restored him before he died, David Flood left behind five unsaved and embittered children. His anger towards God had totally wasted his life's potential, and created a tragic legacy for his family.
This story clearly illustrates the fact that we must never doubt God or base our faith upon our own human understanding of what God is doing. Had David Flood chosen by an act of his will to accept his situation as coming directly from the hand of God, who knows what awesome fruit God could have brought forth from his life? God is involved in every aspect of our existence, and there is no sorrow so great that He cannot "recycle" it to bring forth blessing.
The wise Christian believes that everything God allows in his life comes forth from God's Love, and has been designed to transform him into Christ's Image. Let's remember to keep in mind C. S. Lewis' words, "What seems to us good may therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil (in His eyes)."
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This article has been excerpted from Chuck and Nan's book Faith in the Night Seasons. Next month: Why is Faith so Important?, Part 4.