Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com
What is Christian faith? Is faith the same as simply believing? Why is it that some Christians seem to have more faith than others? What does it really mean to have faith in God?
In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, Christian faith is defined as the, “substance (guaranty) of things hoped for, the evidence (convincing proof) of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). The very definition teaches us about the importance of faith: it is the very substance of our Christian life! Without substance there is only emptiness and hollowness. Our faith also provides proof of things not seen, which I assume to include God, and all that belongs to the unseen, and the spiritual! Here are some of the lessons we can learn about faith from this chapter:
Lesson one: Faith by itself is meaningless apart from its object. One can believe or have faith, and be completely misguided, and many lives are ruined by misguided beliefs. We have heard of a woman who sincerely believed that she was the prophet described in Revelation 11, who was supposed to die and then after three days be raised from the dead. The last we heard was that she was going to Israel to fulfill the prophecy (leaving her family behind), and several women from the same church were accompanying her to support her. We pray for their safety.
The object of Christian faith is God and His Word. Christian faith or Biblical faith is anchored on who God is and His word. As such our faith is only as great as our knowledge of the object of our faith. If we have little knowledge of God and His Word, we will have little faith. That is why anyone who attempts to live life beyond what one knows to be true of God and His Word is simply being presumptuous. The Bible says, “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). So, if we want our faith to grow, we need to spend time getting to know Him and His Word.
Every year, when I write down my goals for the year, I always try to write something new to learn. Last year, it was beading. So, after buying the tools and beads, I asked a friend to teach me how to do it. I also went to bead stores and attended some of the classes they offered their customers. I bought magazines about beading, and perused much of the free information and designs from the internet. We normally spend the time, money and effort acquiring the know-how for whatever piques our interest.
I wonder why so few Christians are willing to spend money, time and effort learning and studying God’s Word. I personally believe that all serious Christians, who want to have a ministry, need to take at least basic Bible courses from a Bible school or seminary, such as New Testament and Old Testament Surveys, and Hermeneutics (Principles of Biblical Interpretation). I am not minimizing or discrediting the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, who helps us understand His Word and guides us to do His will. However, taking such courses will definitely help make your personal Bible reading/study so much more meaningful and productive. One need not complete a degree. It is possible to take Bible courses for just for “audit,” rather than for, “credit” towards a degree. You may take Bible courses through the Newman Bible Academy.
Lesson two: Faith pleases God because it glorifies Him. Faith is like telling God: I know you and I am confident in You and your Word. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6). When we express our faith in God, what we are doing is that we are standing aside, and allowing God to bedazzle us and those who are watching, with His power and supernatural abilities. We give God the opportunity to be glorified, and this pleases Him.
Lesson three: God rewards those who live their lives according to their faith in Him. It provides Him an opportunity to go ahead and prove who He is – His power, His trustworthiness, His truth, etc. In Hebrews 11:6 we read: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Enoch did not see death; Abraham became a father in spite of his age and his wife being barren, and in v. 33 women received back their dead.
Lesson four: Because of the confidence faith brings, any believer has the potential of living a life characterized by the supernatural, the extraordinary, and abundant life God meant for His children to live. Jesus told His disciples in John 14:12, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” And that is what the rest of Hebrews 11 described. I call Hebrews 11 the Hall of Faith because when you read it, it is like walking along a hall in a museum that displays pictures of the men and women in Biblical history who have accomplished extraordinary feats because they knew their God and took Him and His Word seriously.
In verses 32 to 34 of Heb 11, after extolling the men and women of faith, the writer says, “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.”
Doesn’t this describe examples of people who did “greater works,” that He promised in John 14:12? This same promise is for believers of all times. My husband and I have not shut mouths of lions and, but we are amazed at how God is allowing this website to reach thousands of people from over 150 countries! This is a ministry that we have never dreamed of in our wildest imagination!
Lesson five: Real faith teaches us how to pray. I noticed that people get stuck with praying for little things. I learned that you get what you ask for when you pray! When we go to God with little cups that is all He is going to fill. We need to go to Him with huge drums, and vats, which He can fill as easily as the cups we’ve been bringing to Him. Go ahead, dream big dreams, and ask God to use you in big ways - in ways, you can never imagine. God will certainly be more than pleased to honor your faith!
Lesson six: Faith is best demonstrated by how well we OBEY Him and how we PRAY. Again, going back to Hebrews 11:8, the writer wrote of how, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” I imagine myself in his shoes, and know that I would insist He tells me where I am going before I start packing!!
One who completely places his faith in God and His Word gives God their absolute allegiance demonstrated through their immediate and unquestioning obedience. Further along in Hebrews the writer wrote about Abraham’s willingness to kill and sacrifice his son when God asked him without as much as asking, “Why?” - which I certainly would!
Elizabeth Elliot, the wife of Jim Elliot, who was killed in Ecuador while trying to reach an unreached tribe with the Gospel, when referring to this story in one of her talks, noted that right after God told Abraham what he wanted him to do said: "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." The very next verse simply says: “Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac” (Genesis 22: 2, 3).
Ms. Elliott says there was no mention of Abraham “struggling.” She said that often, struggle is just another word for delayed obedience. Abraham knew His God, and his faith in His God is so absolute and unshakeable, that he had long before decided that he will give Him his unquestioning allegiance and obedience at all times. So when His God and Lord told him to sacrifice his only son to Him, the response was immediate. That is why when God calls us to do something or help somebody, rather than struggling, we should trust Him completely (that He knows what is best), and do whatever it is that God has been telling us to do.
Sometimes God requires us to do something beyond our comfort zone, or that might result in great discomfort. Going back to Hebrews 11: 36 to 40, the writer went on to describe men and women of faith: “Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.”
The ultimate reward of living a life of faith and obedience is going to be given us in the end when we get to spend eternity with God in heaven. In light of eternity, all these difficulties and sufferings are indeed, “momentary and light afflictions” (2 Corinthians 7:14).
This also brings us back to the definition of faith we discussed in the beginning: that it is the evidence of things not seen. Why else would all these believers be willing to be fed to the lions, to be sawed in two and put to the death by the sword, if they were not fully convinced that God is powerful to raise them from the dead, give them glorified bodies and allow them to live in heaven with Him for all eternity? Their very suffering also provided the proof of God: that He was right there with them while they were being tortured for their faith! Faith indeed is “the substance of things hope for and evidence of things not seen…” (Hebrews 11:1).
The Christian life is a supernatural life, and such can only be lived by faith, “but my righteous one will live by faith…” (Hebrews 10:38). The church needs to do all that she can to grow in her knowledge of God and His Word, so we can continue to grow in faith, and lives characterized by the supernatural, which please God.
What God has promised, He will accomplish--if, with His help, we are willing to set aside our fears, trust Him, and by faith take some new steps. - Gary J. Oliver
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