(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
13th September 2007
Christians talk a lot about faith. But what do we mean by it? Take a look at these words:
The writer to the Hebrews (whoever he was) gives us a definition of faith here. Of course, more could be said about the nature of faith, but here are the essentials:
1. Faith is being sure of what we hope for
I've heard a lot of nonsense spoken about "having faith" for this or that answer to prayer. We have to be careful not to pretend before God to have faith as a way of bargaining with Him for what we want, "God, I've got faith for a new sports car, and you promise to give me what I ask for in faith, and I'm sure of what I hope for". This might be true, but more often, we're descending into something akin to witchcraft - saying a form of words over and over in the hope of impressing the One we're praying to.
But God CAN and DOES give us faith! Faith for various things. He's given me faith that I'll live with Him in Heaven for eternity (not bad, eh? - the sports car really isn't in the same league). He's given me faith that He'll still be there for me tomorrow. And sometimes, He does give me faith for here-and-now things. God does that sometimes and, when He does, we can pray for something knowing it's going to happen. But most of us don't experience that vary often.
And we can't fool God that we have faith for X or Y or Z when we haven't. He knows.
But it's important to remember that God will sometimes anwer prayers that are offered without much of this kind of faith. He doesn't need our faith - He doesn't need anything! And, sometimes, the best, most genuine, prayer of all, is "Lord, give me faith". And we wouldn't even offer that prayer, if we didn't believe that "he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him".
And when we pray with real, God-given faith, we get what we ask for. Faith is not something we can work up - it's a gift from God. It's a promise from Him that we will receive the thing He has given us the faith to believe Him for.
2. Faith is being certain of what we do not see
This is much the same idea. Faith is knowing that something will happen, even when we have no idea how it will happen - sometimes, without even knowing how it could possibly happen.
But, to repeat, faith is given to us by God, it's not something we can generate of ourselves.
3. Through the ages, God gives His approval to people of faith
Since it's God who gives us faith, some might think it's a bit unreasonabe for Him to commend those who have it and not those who don't. I have two things to say about that:
It's God who created us in the first place and it's God who helps us to achieve our potential. There's nothing we have that He hasn't given us. So whatever he commends us for, is His doing really.
Just as in days of old, God gives us faith so that He can take pleasure in us, so we can receive from Him the resources we need to live lives that honour Him.
4. Without faith it is impossible to please God
It's Impossible. No attempt at a good life, no charitable acts, no church attendance, will ever please God unless it's combined with faith. A life separate from God is not pleasing to God. We cannot please God without coming to Him, and we cannot come to Him without faith.
5. He exists
God is real. He exists. He is not a religious or philosophical construct. We did not imagine Him. He created us. He lives. He always did and He always will. The fundamental truth of the universe is this: God exists.
6. He rewards those who earnestly seek him
Are you comfortable with the idea that God rewards those who come to Him? I suggest you get comfortable with it, because it's true. And also because it's nice to be rewarded by God :-) There is treasure in heaven for those who will trust Him and serve Him. And there's reward on Earth, too (Mark 10v29-30).
7. Anyone who comes to him must believe this
This is simple piece of logic. You can't choose to approach anyone (or anything) that you don't think is there! And you wouldn't approach God if you didn't think He wanted to bless you.
Faith cannot exist of itself. Faith must be faith in someone or something. If a Christian "has faith", what he really has is faith in God, not just "faith". To put that another way, we can't really have faith that something will happen, but a Christian can have faith that God will make it happen. We talk about "the power of prayer" but, really, prayer has no power; it's God that has the power.