Understanding and Applying Faith
Principle Scriptures: Mark 9:23; Luke 17:5-6; Romans 1:16-32; 3:22; 5:1-11; 10:14-17; 12:3-4; 1 Corinthians 16:13-14; 2 Corinthians 5:7; 13:5; Galatians 3:1-14; Ephesians 2:8-9; Colossians 2:6-12; Hebrews 2:4; 11: 1-6; 12:2; James 1:2-4; 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:7-9; 2 Peter 1:2-9; 16; 1 John 5:4
We are called to learn and develop faith because faith is essential and of the utmost importance for every aspect of the Christian life. Without faith, we can do nothing! As Christians, especially those who are responsible for the education and care of others, we are called to build our spiritual formation from the solid foundation of the Bible (Rom. 10:17; Heb. 11:6).
This essay is designed so that you might understand the basics of faith as determined from the precepts of the Bible. By understanding faith and what Christ has done for you, you will be able to hear His call and put into action real, effective Christian growth and action, by faith, for His glory and Kingdom! In pastoral ministry, there will be times of stress, uncertainty, and failure. We will be tired, tried, tested and go though setbacks, difficulties, and suffering. We need to understand faith in a real, heartfelt way so we can keep our eyes fixed upon our Lord. Faith will become even stronger and better though the afflictions we face. Faith must not be just an idea or a plan; it must be a reality. It must be working in you before you can be effectively used by our Lord. Although this study is aimed at pastors and church leaders, any Christian desiring to grow deeper in the faith will find it impacting and convicting because it is from the precepts of Scripture.
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “but the righteous man shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)
What is Faith? (Rom. 1:16-32; 5:1-11; 10:14-17; Gal. 3:1-4; Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 11:1; James 2:14-26)!
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Christ is what we hope for; Christ is what is to be seen! Faith is the promise of God that gives us the hope and confidence so we can receive, act on, obey, and trust God’s promises, because God is sovereign and trustworthy. We can trust God for the future because we can see what He has done in the past—from creation, to testimonies, to His infallible Word. Faith reassures us of God’s love and grace and gives us direction and motivation for the Christian life. Faith looks to and is fueled by hope, it gives us optimism, builds our confidence, helps us be bold, to remain faithful, and persevere in the faith—all for the glory of the risen Lord and the building of His Kingdom!
Faith in and of itself will not save you or empower you; it is the object of the faith that does this. The Object of that faith is Jesus Christ as our Lord. Faith means that we are committed to Christ; it is our faith that puts us in Christ and keeps us remaining in Him (Rom. 1:17). Thus, we, as Christians, must live by faith (1 Cor. 1:22-30)! Faith is putting into practice our trust, assurance, hope, and conviction. Faith is not a force we obtain or manipulate or control. We cannot think that just because we believe in something, it must be true. If this were so, we could go to the supermarket and believe we are a cucumber, which would not make us a cucumber.
Christianity is not based on fairy tales or superstitions but on fact and reality. Faith is not subjective, based on feelings or personal ideas; rather, it is substantive, based on fact and reality! Faith is based on knowledge given by God. Our faith is based on historical evidence, logical reasoning, the confidence in who God is, and valid testimonies. We have a wide body of knowledge. Our Bible is a collection of 66 books written over a 2000 year period of time by dozens of authors all inspired by the Holy Spirit. Just consider the millions of personal testimonies and thousands of volumes of works by gifted authors and teachers. The Bible is reality and truth; the Bible tells us about faith. Faith is simple but not simplistic; it is not just simple belief, because even the demons believe (James 2:19). Faith is not blind trust, because we know the One who is leading! Faith is still trusting what is not seen and believing our God It combines belief with trust; we are to believe in Christ—not just about Him. Faith provides the "substance" and “essence” of our relationship with our Lord, it looks to our future, and it is our hope. Faith is a two way street; we receive it from God, and respond it back as trust. It would be like a lake which has a source and an outlet. If we only have an outlet we would dry up. If we just have a source we become like the Dead Sea, lifeless and void.
Faith is the Instrument and not the Cause; Christ is the Cause (Gal 2:15-16; 3:24; Heb. 9:11-15; 10:1-4)
Because we have confidence in God and in His plan and purpose for our lives, we can then act on faith. Faith is based on the faithfulness of our Lord, and not of our goodness, just as animal sacrifice in the O.T. was a means of forgiveness and surrendered attitude because of a loss of something precious, but not the cause of the Jew’s salvation. The reformers called this “meritorious ground for our justification,” explaining that faith is the soil that the seed of justification is planted into. Christ was that soil, too. As we give our lives to Christ in faith, He, in turn, gives us His righteousness. Faith will generate real, impacting Christianity so we can become a committed disciple and build His Church. If you want to understand faith, you must be willing to understand our Lord. Your faith is as only as good as the object into which you place it. If it is in money or power, it will be weak and lifeless. If it is in false teachings or personal ideas, it will be dead. Faith must be in our living God by way of His working in you!
The Theological Meaning of Saving Faith (Acts 13:38-39; Rom.1:17; 3:31- 5:21; 2 Cor. 5:13-21; Gal. 2:15- 5:1; Phil. 3:4-14; 1 John 1:9)
In Protestant, Reformed, and Evangelical Theology, faith comes to a person by what is called “Justification by Faith Alone.” This was the rallying cry of the Reformation. This was the main point that caused Luther and Calvin to challenge the Catholic Church and its teachings. This is also the cornerstone of protestant theology that Christ, through His work, gave us a “pardon.” This pardon is from the penalty of death because of sin, and there is nothing we could ever do to earn this pardon. It is purely by His acceptance of us that we are saved (Eph. 2:8-9). There is nothing that we can add to it, such as good works or clean living. Justification means that, much like a blanket, God's righteousness is covering us from His wrath and punishment! It is like getting a speeding ticket, going to court, and having the judge declare you innocent, even though you were speeding. To God, you are clean, covered by “Atonement,” which is Christ’s righteous covering over our sinful being; this is what Christ has done for you. This creates our reconciliation to God; as we were in perfect relationship to Him before the Fall, we now are, again, in harmony.
God has a righteous basis for our justification, through the sacrifice of His Son for our sins. Grace was not cheap for God. Christ paid a great debt by pleasing God's wrath, both in metaphysical pain and the human pain of the crucifixion (Lev. 16; Psalm 103:12). Our independence is a slap in His face, and He can do nothing in us until it is removed (John 3:5)! Let us pray to be cleansed by the atoning death of our Savior, who bore our punishment and lived out the Law on our behalf.
Some Jews take issue with this, saying it is unbiblical—that God cannot overrule His own Law, sighting Duet. 25:1 and Prov. 17:15. However, they do not realize that Jesus Himself is the righteous One and He lived a perfect life in our place, as a designated hitter in baseball.
The Catholic Church taught that justification was a process, achieved through the Sacraments and church, and that faith, as well as works, contributed to it. The Reformers said this act was done at once at our acceptance of His gift of Grace. The Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation was even “selling indulgences,” granting people a spot in Heaven for money, regardless of faith or even the Church. They did this to pay for the cathedrals they were building—and you thought bingo was bad! Although Catholic apologists say this was never an “official act” of the church, nevertheless, history clearly states this was a wide problem.
Fate & Philosophy vs. Faith & Doctrine (Romans 11:10-10; 11:11-36; 1 John 4:7-21)!
Fate is looking at what must be, what has been decreed by whoever is in charge, whether it is your boss or God’s sovereignty. But, doctrine is what God has revealed for us to understand, not because it must be, but because this is what is best for us and on our behalf! Furthermore, since it is the best, then it obviously should and must be the best for us. Philosophy tells us that faith is blind; however, doctrine has eyes of love. Philosophy only looks to itself; doctrine looks to God. Philosophy has no compassion or liberty or impacting application to create freedom, faith, or to glorify God. Fate is without care, love, or understanding. Doctrine shows us our faith; it is the care and the love and the kindness that abounds because He first loved us! Faith and predestination are also the voluntary choices of the sanctified Christian, because God is working and foreordained it. This is not contradiction, as it transcends normal thinking.
Providence in Scripture means that God is in total control, and thus, we can trust our Lord completely, whatever unfolds before us. Providence fuels our faith; it does not obstruct it! The ultimate love of God is that He laid down His life for His enemies!
Faith Produces Hope (Luke 12:15-21; John 16:33; Acts 14:22; 1 Cor. 4:8-13; 2 Cor. 4:7-18; 5:6-8; Rom. 15:13; Phil. 1:21-24; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 4:7-8; Heb. 6:18-19)
Hope is eternal love. It is our forward outlook to be in Christ forever. This produces joy and strengthens our faith which Hebrews 11:1 tells us is "the substance of things hoped for." Hope is our future with Christ in glory, in Heaven. The opposite of hope is despair and hopelessness. This is the rotten trait that keeps people oppressed, and stagnates, rendering them unable to grow and succeed in life and in faith. It only sees the problems and circumstances and not the Light of Christ. When we keep our focus on our circumstances, we will see little or no hope. We can only attain hope by being in Christ, and having our eyes focused upon Him. Christ is to be our anchor, our hope.
Hope calls us to patience and confidence for service in all aspects of life, from the great times to the bad. It keeps us fixed on Christ in times of adversity, so that we can endure suffering, and continue in His call (Rom. 5:1-5; 8:18, 25). Hope must be our focus—to us, and to others. It must never be phony or oppressed (1 John 3:3; 4:18)! Hope is the effect of faith, which grows our spiritual maturity and character through our obedience and trust in our Lord (Heb. 6:18.) If you have no hope, then you have no vision, no purpose, no trust, and no faith in the One who loves you. Hope allows you to live with the perspective of eternity, so you are not bogged down in your dire circumstances.
Faith Produces Faithfulness (Psalm 119: 89-90; Matt. 17:19; 25:21; Rom. 1:17; 5:1-2; 1 Cor. 12:9; Gal. 5:22-23; Heb. 11:1; 1 Thess. 5:24)
Faithfulness is the “gluing” fruit that will preserve our faith and the other characters of the Spirit, and identify God's will so we can be dependable and trusting to God and others. It is the one fruit that we give to God, whereas the others, such as love or humility, are a result of the Spirit working in us! Faithfulness is authenticity, the power and motivation for Christian living. Because God is trustworthy with us, we can be faith-worthy in Him!
When we are not exercising our faith, we will be consumed with doubt and distrust—the opposite of God’s call and plan for us. We will lose our trust and hope that God is in control! When we do this, we will lose or miss out on seeing God come through with His promises.
Faithfulness is very difficult to have or hold on to, especially when applying it to our church, work, and relationships. We tend to lose our patience with God thinking He is just a blessing machine; and, when we do not get what we want, we leave Him because of our uncertainty. Yet, Faithfulness is the fruit that we give to God so He can change us—inside and out! It is the ability to take what Christ has done in us and, with loyalty and trust, be a blessing to others. Faithfulness goes against modern psychology and the thinking of society, as it requires us to move beyond ourselves. Psychology tells us to be egocentric, putting the “me” first, and rearranging the world to suit our needs, which creates self-destruction and broken relationships. We have to keep the goal of faithfulness in our minds always, as it will allow God to work deeper, and us to respond to His call! God has bigger things at stake that He wants you for, much more than the petty complaints we voice or the things we ask of Him!
Remember, God does not want our complaints; thus, He will not give us an answer for them. Rather, He wants our obedience so He can use us more and in better ways!
Faith Produces Optimism (Proverbs 4:23; Luke 21:18; John 16:33; Romans 8:25; 28; 15:13; Colossians 3:1-4)
Optimism combines hope and faithfulness into synergy (the combination supercharges and become more than just the sum of its parts) to be positive for Christ. It is a heartfelt confidence that everything will come out for the best, as Paul proclaimed, no matter what happens. It will help us to think the best of and be positive with people and in all situations, even if we are proven wrong.
When we are not exercising optimism, we will be pessimistic, give off cynicism to our family and friends, and operate all of our relations with distrust, doubt, and sarcasm. These are the opposites of God’s call to faith! These bad characteristics will help us see and dwell on the fact that the glass is half-empty, not that it is half-full! We will only recognize the negative, and look for the worst in people and situations. There are times when we need to be careful and cautious, but constant negativity will get us nowhere.
Faith is the foundation and rock on which we stand. Hope is the confidence and expectation that God's promises will be fulfilled. Optimism combines the two so our faith turns into conviction and enthusiasm, and our hope and faith turn into certainty! So, when we are filled with His Spirit and are true to the Word, we can put His call into action with passion. We will be motivated to seek training to hone our knowledge and prepare us for our call to better glorify our Lord. We will be filled with passion so we can stand longer in service for our Lord, even in times of stress and persecution. We will be motivated to seek justice and be fair. Real Optimism will help us sink our roots in the awareness and knowledge of who we are in Christ, and the power of His grace. Optimism is not just a wish, an academic thought, positive or hopeful thinking, nor is it just the confidence that everything will turn out all right. Rather, it is real and tangible.
With Optimism, we will be able to keep our faith on track and see what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us. Then, we will be able to overcome any setbacks, disappointments, or suffering we may face, as the goal of being His child will outweigh all else. We will have no fear for what happens to our body when our soul is secured (Phil. 3:20-21a). Eternity is our goal, and our life here is a training ground to learn—a mere rehearsal of what is to come. When we are positive and optimistic, we will keep our interest on what is true, and seek His promises. Because Optimism puts faith into action, we will be able to be more confident that God's promises are real, true, and will come to us. That way, we can have a good attitude, be filled with zeal, and keep our heart with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23) even when times are harsh (Hebrews 10:24-25, 1 Peter 3:15).
Faith Produces Confidence (Proverbs 3:25-27; 14:26-27; Job. 13:15; Philippians 4:13; Heb 4: 14-16)
Confidence enables us to rely on the Lord for all things in our life. It keeps our faith focused and rooted on the object, which is Christ as Lord, and knows the obstacles of our feelings, circumstances, or issues. We can push forward in the direction that we are called because He is governing and He is sovereign. As we look to Him with trust, and not to others or ourselves, we have the God of the universe in us. Nothing is greater than that! We can live our lives in holiness and Christian character, and react to all the situations we encounter with the focus on who we are in Christ, as He is our confidence. Confidence also makes us realize we are not responsible for the results—only for the faith and obedience.
When we are not exercising confidence, our faith weakens and may fail. We will be overwhelmed with doubt, uncertainty, and disbelief. We will soon distrust people, our capabilities, and God’s call. This is the opposite of God’s call for faith! This will cause us to seek our limited thinking, placing confidence in feeble, temporary abilities, and things that do not last and have little importance. Self-confidence will elevate us as godlike, becoming our principle authority and reason for life instead of Christ! Confidence will skew into pride. Pride is not a synonym; rather, it is a heinous mutation. We will lack confidence to serve the Lord, and engage in fear because our faith is limited to the situation, and not in Christ (Matt. 8:26). Our real confidence is in who we are in Him. This is our motivation in all of our life’s pursuits—from relationships to decisions, how we are treated, how we respond to others, and how we exercise our faith.
A Christian is to balance confidence and esteem by the temperance of the other characters. Pride and arrogance are the very worst things a Christian can exhibit in the sight of God! Our confidence is to be sure and righteous—without pride. Pride elevates the “me,” whereas, Christian confidence elevates Christ and allows Him to empower us! Bad things become bad when we lack the confidence in Christ to endure and learn from them. Things get worse when we lack the faith and mental composure to deal with a crisis. It is our holding on to His holy love and grace that builds our strength and confidence, and gives us perseverance and more faith. Our Lord gives us the ability and strength to reach beyond our grasp!
Faith Produces Boldness (Genesis 6; 1 Kings 18; Proverbs 28:1; Isaiah 7:9; Daniel 3,6; 2 Corinthians 5:6-8; 7:16; Ephesians 6:13-14; Hebrews 13:6)
Being bold means our willingness to take our faith, venture out with it, and do the right thing at the right time, regardless of the barriers or fears we may encounter (1 John 7:17-19). This enables us to speak the truth, and perform a task without fear of the consequences or results because it is the right and Biblical thing to do. It is realizing that God is in control. He is there within us, beside us, and He will take care of us. Therefore, we do not need to fear what others can do; rather, we are to concentrate on our character and call, and do it with passion and conviction.
When we are not exercising boldness, we will become Christian cowards. This means we will be held back from what God has called us to do, miss His opportunities and our growth. We will be engulfed by fear, cynicism, negativity, discouragement, and pessimism. These negative traits create a negative attitude that is infectious to others. It causes people not to take the chance to go forward with what God is calling them to. The exercise of faith and the pursuit of relationships require risk and the willingness to be hurt, as people will hurt and betray us; only Christ remains true. This fear seriously hampers our faith. Thus, the person and/or church remains ensnared in fear, allowing obstacles to stop them so that the work our Lord has for them remains undone. Remember, God heals us and helps us move on; there is no reason to be held back by our fears.
Boldness comes from the confidence we have in Christ—who He is, and what He can do. This attitude directly affects how we respond to any given situation. When we have confidence in our Lord, we can venture beyond our limits, abilities, and comfort zones to engage in the simple things of life—from talking to a stranger in a kind, encouraging way, or sharing the Gospel with a friend, to the big stretches, such as, church planting, teaching with truth and conviction, or going overseas to a strange and foreign land as a missionary. I can do all things, Paul said, not because he was this great and powerful man, but because he knew His God, and what He could do! We will not fear what others can do to us, just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego demonstrated. They knew God could save them. They just did not know if He would save them. But, whatever God did, they trusted Him for it, even if the furnace took their lives away. So, they could walk into that furnace with confidence, whatever the results might be (Daniel 3:8-30). God chose to do a miracle. And, even if He had not, how we respond is more important than any miracle we may receive.
Our boldness does not stand alone. If it did, then it would be pride—the most heinous sin we could commit! Boldness has to be tempered by the other characters and fruits from our Lord, so it is synergistic and powerful because of whom He is, not for what we can accomplish! If meekness (strength under control), and gentleness are not accompanying our boldness, we will have “bully-ness” and not boldness. You will have a force of personality—not the Spirit of the Lord (1 Peter 4:7-5:8). Boldness works together with cautiousness; they balance each other out by helping us exhibit wisdom and passion for a better and godly approach to life.
Faith Produces Perseverance (Psalm 37:24; Romans 8:30-39; 1 Corinthians 16:13; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Colossians 2:7; Hebrews 2:1; 12:1-3; James 1:4; 25; 1 Peter 4:16; 5:8-9)
The dictionary definition of perseverance is, “To persist in an idea, purpose, or task despite obstacles” (Webster). In the Christian context, perseverance is to continue in a state of grace to the end for our eternal reward. It is literally fixing our eyes upon Jesus—period! In diversity, the call for the Christian is to keep on track, knowing He will take care of us because we belong to Christ. Whatever we face and go through, our Lord is there and we are in His arms. And, when we realize this fact, we can persevere through anything because our Lord, King, and Creator of the universe is there, carrying us through.
It is essential for the pastor and capable leader to be focused on the goal ahead and be able to carry the task and self through the tough times. Too many leaders get frustrated when things do not go as “they” planned or in their perceived way, and they either give up or neglect their responsibility. Their eyes leave Jesus and just focus inward on themselves.
Too many pastors feel they have to answer all of the “whys” in life, like the “whys” of suffering. It is not so much how we answer the question on the reason for suffering, but how we live out our lives and walk with Christ. Too many people are stuck in the questions of it and never learn to trust and rely on our Lord, or learn to deal with it as a learning experience so to be better prepared as a servant of the Lord. Suffering is a natural aspect of the human experience, as we inherited a sinful nature that corrupted all of God’s creation, including us. Suffering does not diminish our faith; in fact, it will strengthen it. When we accept Christ, we take on His righteousness as a covering; but the sinful nature is still there, and we must confront and fight against it all of our Christian life. As we battle on, we grow, and each instance becomes easier to handle as we grow in righteousness and sanctification. This is our spiritual growth, and the faithful and cheerful Christian is the one who perseveres, regardless of the circumstance.
Since suffering is a natural aspect of life, we need to realize this and guard ourselves from it, whether it is physical, mental, emotional, financial, or spiritual. The Bible tells us many times to expect it and to be persistent when faced with adversity. Faith is the key to make this happen; it is faith that allows the work of our Lord in us. Christ will give us the comfort and strength to press on; our reward is yet to come and our adventure in this life is very short compared to the eternity to come. So, we need to make the best of it as life deals us the curves; we are not to be overcome with frustration, but overcome with joy through the life we have in Christ.
When things do not go our way, we need to make sure we are going His way (John 3:30; Gla. 2:20-21; Philp. 3:10)!
© 1994, 2004 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org
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Long but informative. Very Good.