Faith Toward God
Have faith in God.—Mark 11:22
On this side of the veil, when we but dimly see God and his wondrous plan and that through a mirror dimly, faith becomes the greatest commodity we can offer to God.
The scriptures unequivocally declare that without faith it is impossible to please God. This principle has been the one requisite in all God s dealings with his people from the beginning of man’s experience on the earth. Adam was required to have sufficient faith in his maker to implicitly obey him, but he failed to exercise his faith. Abraham, the father of the faithful, because he believed God, left his home and dwelt in tents the remainder of his life. So great was his faith in the goodness and righteousness of God that at God s request he was willing to sacrifice his most beloved son.
Moses, through faith, left wealth and fame and fortune to cast his lot with a slave people. And, the list continues of those who pleased God only because of their great faith in him and, through their faith, obtained a good report.So it has been with the entire church down through the age. They too, like the ancients are required through faith to sacrifice everything, even life itself to obtain that future better country, that is, a heavenly, city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God the new Jerusalem of which they will be pillars in the great antitypical temple.
Faith Is Substantial
Although often baffling to many, faith is not an ambiguous, undefined feeling of well being or happy euphoria. If this were the case, when the first winds of strife and trouble assailed us we would feel that our faith had deserted us. Faith is something substantial, something real, something that grows and increases as Paul expresses in Romans 1:17: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith,” and 2 Thessalonians 1:3, “that your faith groweth exceedingly.”
In Paul s great discourse on the living examples of faith he defines faith as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. This implies knowledge and understanding because something that has substance is tangible and real and requires evidence or proof that is based on logical and reasonable premises. How could we have faith in God if we did not have sufficient proof that he is good and can be trusted to carry out all that he promises?
God does not ask man to merely believe on an emotional basis. This is evident from the fact that mankind has been endowed with great reasoning abilities and is capable of deducing from the known the unknown. God always appeals to man through his sense of reason and does not ask him to suspend belief in the impossible and unfathomable. (Isa. 1:18) To become acquainted with his character and plans God has given man his two harmonious books nature and revelation. Chiefest of these books is that of revelation the Bible. In the Bible’s pages are contained the logic and evidence of his justice, love, wisdom and power and his reasonable loving plan for all. This is our basis of our faith and love toward him.
Faith Requires a Basis
Many possess the necessary proper heart condition that is a prerequisite to faith; but, as the Apostle Paul informs us, there must first be a basis for faith and that this is acquired through an external source, “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). One example is shown in the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39) whom Philip found reading from the book of Isaiah. When Philip asked him if he understood the particular passages he was reading he answered, “How can I, except some man should guide me?” Following Philip s explanation that Jesus sacrifice was the propitiation for the sins of the world, it did not take him long to see what his course should be. The eunuch now understood from the scriptures some of God s plan of salvation and he now possessed a basis for his faith. This prompted him to arise and immediately be baptized.
Faith: A First Principle
In Hebrews 6:1 faith is listed as one several first principle doctrines of Christ. Here faith toward, or in God is one of the qualifications to a relationship with the great creator of the universe. Faith must grow so that it becomes to us a shield, a protection against the wily darts of the adversary. As Paul admonished the Hebrew brethren to leave these first foundation principles and to go on to perfection, to that perfection of character that will be united with a perfect, divine spiritual body on the other side of the veil; so must we today, otherwise an immature faith foundation will not see us through the trials that will test to the ultimate every Christian s true mettle.
Paul realized that these brethren had not progressed beyond the basic doctrines that he had originally planted in them. In fact, they were continually laying again this oundation, disputing various points and making no progress toward building the necessary superstructure that was necessary to make them more than conquerors. Paul, with great love toward these brethren, explained to them in the next several verses what the outcome would be if they remained in this infant stage of faith and belief and did not press onward to adulthood and maturity in Christ.
This constant questioning whether their faith was sure and that God would carry out his promises, left them in a constant state of unrest or unbelief. Continually attempting to rebuild the foundation of their faith, it left them an open prey to being convinced to the contrary. Paul argues that persisting in this dangerous path of doubt and fear could ultimately lead them to the utter ruin of their faith and the destruction of their life in Christ. (Hebrews 4:1) Paul also warned Titus of this dangerous course in Titus 1:9-11.
Without a sound faith the Christian cannot hope to progress from faith to faith as Paul exhorts in Colossians 1:23, “. . . continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard.” It is every Christian s duty and responsibility to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope.
Here again Paul depicts faith as something tangible, substantial and not mere credulity, or a readiness on slight or uncertain evidence. Such ideas come from a misunderstanding of by those who in simplicity say that all one needs for salvation is to believe on the Lord Jesus. This idea is contrary to the scriptures.
Such a belief is often based on such scriptures as Acts 16:23-28. Paul and Silas, beaten and thrown into prison for casting a demon out of woman were found in stocks praying and singing hymns of praise to the heavenly Father. During the night a great earthquake loosed their bonds and they and the other prisoners could have gone free. Because of this the jailor, saw that Paul and Silas were truly men of God, and this prompted him to ask, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The jailor was truly convicted of sin by his own conscience, and saw his need for salvation. Paul and Silas answer to his request for salvation was, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
But most overlook 32nd verse, “And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.” Here was the substance, the basis, the evidence for their faith. Believing on the Lord Jesus here implied more than just saying that they would blindly believe a person that Paul and Silas professed to worship. Their faith would first need a reason to believe on Jesus whom Paul and Silas claimed was the only name under heaven by which they might be saved.
Jesus also refers to this foundation faith in Mark 11:22. Waking into Jerusalem a few days before his death Jesus saw a lone fig true that, although in season, had borne no fruit. He said to it, “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever.” The following morning they passed the same fig tree and Peter said, “Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.” Jesus seemingly inappropriate answer to this query was, “Have faith in God.”
The apostles were well familiar with the symbol of the fig tree from Jeremiah and other scriptures and they knew that it represented the national existence and privileges of Israel. Their long cherished hopes had been that Israel would be restored to its former glory and position. Their understanding of the scriptures had led them to believe that the time was at hand for such a revival of Israel s hopes and they saw in the person of Jesus the one through whom these hopes would be realized. Cursing the fig tree seemed contrary to their dreams. Were their hopes all wrong? As later revealed to Peter on the road to Emmaus, they had the incorrect understanding of the time, manner and means by which Israel and through them, all mankind would be restored (Luke 24:26).
Jesus was attempting to strengthen their faith because he knew that at his death it would be sorely tested and especially on this point In attempting to strengthen them for the days ahead he was in essence saying, Do not doubt what I have taught you, trust me and try to harmonize what I have taught you with what may not seem to be consistent with what you believe. Faith is the substance of things not seen and requires a firm belief so that what may seem contrary to what one firmly believes will lead one to search the scriptures and trust in God s word.
Jesus follows up this exhortation on faith by showing the power that faith can have when exercised that it could move mountains. Contrary to some today who believe that literal mountains are meant, they understood the common hyperbole, of removing mountains to mean the conquest of stupendous difficulties. A great teacher of that day was called by the Rabbis, an uprooter of mountains. He was urging them to retain faith in him and all that they had heard of him and seen him do ultimately he would remove all the seeming difficulties when he sent the holy Spirit.
Jesus told them, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Coupling these two events together he would have them know that their basic faiths in the promises of God to Israel were still sure and that he could restore life to the withered fig tree and the nation of Israel, and to all of mankind, but not necessarily according to their conceptions.
They had a basic faith in the scriptures and in Jesus ability to do all that God had promised, but basic faith is not matured faith, is not perfected faith. At one point the apostles asked Jesus, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). Were they expecting a miraculous increase in their ability to believe anything? No, they were asking for a greater understanding of God s word whereby their faith might be increased. They were asking for their faith to be rooted and grounded in the sure word so that whatever trials may be theirs they would have the strength and ability to overcome them.
It is faith that overcometh the world and for us it will be a strong faith that will overcome the difficult trials and tribulations associated with this Day of Temptation and, if it were possible, deceive the very elect. All faith not based on the reality of God’s word and plans and has not been woven into the heart as well as the head will fail because it will not be strong enough to endure this evil day. Will we be one that can persevere when we are called upon, like Paul, to die for our faith?