Being Fully Persuaded
Few subjects in the Bible are more important for us to understand than that of faith. The dictionary tells us that faith is "confidence or trust in a person or thing." Since human trust has been greatly abused in this world, many people have 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 trust in a Person. If Christians are to endure to the end, we must understand that the one and only key to our survival is faithfaith in the Person of Jesus Christ.
As George MacDonald once wrote: "It is Thyself, and neither this nor that, nor anything told, taught, or dreamed of that keeps us living."
Faith is developed over the years by the various trials and testings that God allows into our lives. Many Christians have wrongly chosen to associate faith with their feelings. This kind of emotional faith can survive only as long as life is understandable and within their "control," but what happens when the rug of human understanding is pulled out from under them and events in their lives turn chaotic or uncontrollable? These Christians then sink because their faith is built on emotionalism, not on the solid rock of faith in Christ. True faith is being able to keep afloat in the dark sea of circumstances.
True faith must be closely interwoven with our will or our choices. Faith is strengthened when we choose to believe in the unfailing character, faithfulness and perfect Love of God, no matter what events surround us. When we choose to wallow in fear and doubt, however, faith is weakened. All unbelief and all debate concerning the integrity of God must be repented of and all argument and controversy concerning God's promises must be abandoned. We must choose, by faith, to believe that God will forever be true to His Word.
God is not only the author of our faith, He is also the finisher of our faith. Faith begins and ends with Him. Faith is not something we can manufacture within ourselves, something that resides in our personality or something that is determined by heredity, intelligence or even religious belief. Faith is simply being fully persuaded that God is able to do all that He has promised.
Although each believer receives a measure of faith upon conversion, our capacity for faith will be enlarged or diminished by our own individual choices. Thus, it's imperative we be completely convinced that God will keep His Word and do the impossible, regardless of how we feel or what we think. Any hesitancy or staggering on our part comes from unbelief and doubt.
A Scriptural Example: Abraham
Abraham in the Old Testament is a perfect example of one who had unshakable belief in God. He got to the point where he offered no arguments, no debate and no questions when God told him to do certain things. This automatic obedience needs to be our response also.
Abraham wasn't always a man of unwavering faith. In fact, he once lied to protect himself from the Egyptians (Genesis 12:11-20) and then fought with unbelief concerning the personal promise God made to him (Genesis 16). But in his later years, this same man agreed to sacrifice his son in perfect obedience to the Lord (Genesis 22:11-18). As the story of Abraham's life unfolds, we see this flawed man moving steadily from cowardice to faith, from fear to love and from doubt to obedience.
This response is surely the one God wants from every one of His children. We can either choose to trust and mature into an Abraham, or doubt and diminish into a Judas.
The Bible tells us that faith works only by love. This means not only God's Love for us, but also our love for Him. We are to love Him and have faith in Him, no matter how crushing the weight of our circumstances and no matter how much our emotions tell us to run and hide. In other words, the only motive that should ever move us is our love for God, not our circumstances, others' responses or human expectations and presumptions.
As George MacDonald so beautifully reminds us: "Every common day, we have to fight the God-denying look of things, to believe that, in spite of their look, they are God's and God is in them, and working His saving will in them."
When the Lord told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, I'm sure Abraham's every thought and emotion was screaming, "No!" Yet, he obeyed without question. How could a loving father willingly sacrifice his son? The only possible explanation is that Abraham loved God more than he loved his own son, and he loved God more than he loved his own life. A fierce love for God is the only true motivation for obedience.
Abraham was simply a human being who diligently practiced loving and receiving God's Love every day of his life, and from that practice emerged an overcoming faith and an unquestioning obedience.
As Francis de Sales wrote: "You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so you learn to love God and man by loving. Begin as a mere apprentice and the very power of love will lead you on to become a master of the art." (emphasis added)
Only by faith in God's divine promises can we be made "partakers of His nature." Only through faith can we be "kept by the power of God." And, only by faith can we obtain "the salvation of [our] souls." (1 Peter 1:5, 9)
Definition of Faith
My favorite definition of faith 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." 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! Consequently, faith is a radical reliance upon God.
The farmer plants seed in complete faith that there will be a harvest, and believers bury their loved ones in faith that God will raise them up in eternity. Our choice to believe is based upon the character of God. Just as Abraham believed God would be faithful to His promise and make of his offspring a "great nation," so he chose to believe God would somehow save his son in order to accomplish that promise.
We are asked to believe in, act upon and walk out God's promises by faith. And, even if we might not see them being fulfilled in the way we thought, He still calls us to believe.
Other Scriptural definitions of faith include:
"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, [and] the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1) or, as another translation put it, "faith is being sure of what we hoped for and certain of what we do not see."
Faith is "judg[ing] Him faithful Who [has] promised." (Hebrews 11:11)
Faith is "endur[ing], as seeing Him Who is invisible." (Hebrews 11:27)
Can you see the giant leap that is required to move from our natural thought processes to a supernatural faith in God? Be assured, this kind of faith comes from experience. A high jumper doesn't start with the bar at maximum height, but little by little, He raises it until the day his body achieves excellence. If he is faithful in the small things, then his skill will be steadily increased. And it's the same with us. If we are faithful in the small things, then our faith will also be steadily increased.
St. John of the Cross expresses it this way:
"Faith is a gift from God that enables us to go beyond our reason into the reality of the Divine...It's a personal loving relationship with God and becomes the bond that links us to others."
The question we must ask ourselves is: Are we building our lives upon faith in God, or are we building our lives upon faith in our own natural skills, strengths, intelligence and abilities?
How do we build our lives upon faith in God? By daily choosing to walk in childlike dependence and trusting Him, even in the smallest of ways (Matthew 18:3); by being obedient to His Word (1 John 3:22); by appropriating His promises (Matthew 21:22; John 14:13-14; John 15:7); and, by loving others in His Name (Matthew 22:37).
Real faith is not feeling, not seeing, not understanding and not knowing, but still trusting God. Real faith is being convinced that no matter what we see happening, no matter what we understand to be true, and no matter how we feel, God will be faithful to His Word and He will perform His promises to us, in His timing and in His way!
Real faith is allowing God to be God. It's allowing God to do in our lives all that He needs to do, good or bad from our point of view, in order to conform us into His image. Real faith is allowing God to strip us, flay us and crucify us, if that's what is needed to purge and sanctify our soul from sin and self.
David Hazzard clarifies what real faith is:
"There is a clear line of distinction between true faith, which is set on things above and cannot be shaken, and the meager thing we call faith, which rests on our human understandingand so it is a thing that is rooted in our life here below. If you want to grow in spirit, you must cross this line. What we normally mean by faith is really only our soul's ability to form thoughts about God. Real faith is the ability to see with the eyes of [our spirit]."
The classic verse that validates Hazzard's declaration is Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."
True faith allows God to do all that He needs to do in order to make us holy so that we can dwell in and enjoy His presence. True faith accepts God's night seasons as part of His will towards us in order to accomplish His will in us. And, at the same time, faith clings to God's promises of a future "new" day.
Faith is the unequivocal strong conviction that, no matter what happens, God will never leave us or forsake us. True faith ravishes the heart of the Lord, and the man or woman who exhibits such faith will surely "walk through the wilderness leaning on the breast of their Beloved." (Song of Solomon 8:5 NAS)
An Example of True Faith: Diana
The example of Diana Bantlow comes to mind as someone who truly, "walk[ed] through the wilderness leaning on the breast of [her] beloved." I have spoken often of my beloved friend, who was terminally ill with leukemia.
Throughout her ordeal, no matter what the circumstances were, no matter how much pain she suffered and no matter what her emotions were saying, Diana continually chose to trust her God and to lay down her will and her life to Him. Having such tremendous faith, she was confident that God would never leave her or forsake her. She also knew that He would never allow anything into her life that was not "Father-filtered" and that would not eventually bring Him glory. So she trusted Him in everything.
Because everyone saw in Diana an intimacy with Jesus that none of us ever had experienced, during the last six months of her life she was invited to teach a woman's Bible study. Now, others might have chosen to spend those last precious moments at home with their families. But not Diana. After she prayed about it, she felt strongly that God wanted her out there sharing her faith and describing to others exactly what He was doing in her life.
The Bible study instantly grew to about 50 people. At the time, I had been a Christian for over 15 years, yet I had never met or seen anyone like Diana. She loved God and it was apparent to all of us that God loved her specially. Her life and walk constantly reflected that knowledge.
She often came to teach the Bible study after her chemotherapy sessions. To ease her pain we would prop pillows up behind her so she could sit more comfortably. With a radiant face, she would then begin to tell us about God's Love and His faithfulness and trustworthiness. There was never a dry eye in the room.
Of course Diana experienced natural human emotions, like the rest of us. But her faith and love of God kept her making faith choices to give those things over to Him and, instead, trust Him implicitly. Truly, Diana did walk through the wilderness "leaning upon the breast of [her] beloved."
Diana's story proves that pure faith is simply accepting a situation that we cannot understand and no longer being troubled by it. Diana's kind of faith means accepting everything that happens to us as coming from the hand of God and being convinced that God will use it all for His glory.
The question is: Do you trust Him to do so? Can you walk through the wilderness leaning on the breast of your Beloved? (Song of Solomon 8:5)