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As a longtime economic powerhouse, America is no longer the same nation. Since the subprime mortgage crisis first erupted, we have seen the collapse of banks, mortgage lenders and other financial institutions. From large corporations to small businesses, employers are now facing tough decisions to stay afloat—including downsizing jobs. The days of “easy credit” are over, and the U.S. taxpayer may see increased taxes, no matter who is elected to the Oval Office.
On September 29, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 777 points—the greatest single-day point drop in U.S. stock market history. Meanwhile, congressional lawmakers scrambled to pass a $700 billion bank rescue plan to keep the nation from suffering a financial meltdown.
When passage of the bailout plan stalled, the president of Princeton Financial Group in Princeton, N.J., stated, “Blind faith doesn’t work this time after Monday’s disappointment. People are cautious and they lack confidence that a bailout plan will be a one-stop solution. It won’t be” (Reuters).
Both confidence and fear drive stock markets. Due to this latest crisis, people fear losing their homes—their businesses—jobs—and they fear what may lie next in America’s, and the world’s, economic future. Where there is fear, there is a lack of confidence—of real faith!
Through the years, people have often asked, “Mr. Pack, I lack faith. I do not feel the presence of God or His power in my life. How can I have more faith?”
What about you? Do you lack faith to know that God is with you? To overcome sin and guilt? To be healed of disease? To believe all things in His Word? Do you lack faith that “all things [will] work together for good” if you love God (Rom. 8:28)? To believe God will work out injustices you have received? To believe God will provide for you? To believe that you can endure severe trials and persecution? Or that God will deliver you from them? Do you lack faith to see the soon-coming kingdom of God more clearly and that you can be in it?
The Bible says that you need not lack faith in any of these areas! You can develop real faith. However, the Bible says that most people, in the age preceding Christ’s Return, will not have sufficient faith to confidently claim any of these or other promises from God’s Word!
This world is in trouble. Problems are escalating everywhere on a planet cut off from God. The Return of Christ is imminent. This event will only occur after certain catastrophic events have taken place. Wars, famines, disease epidemics, religious confusion, economic upheaval and catastrophic weather will have first rocked civilization to its foundation.
When speaking of our time—the last generation before His Return—Christ asked, “When the Son of Man comes, shall He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Think of the incredible implications of this question! Is it possible that true faith could be completely gone from earth at Christ’s Second Coming? Christ was able to look forward, into our time, and know that conditions would exist allowing this to be true—almost!
An article entitled “A Famine of the Word of God,” by reporter Wendy Griffith, discusses the issue of people’s ignorance of the Bible. Here is what she wrote:
“It is clear that many Americans do not know their Bible, and a recent George Barna study backs up that notion.
“Barna’s research showed that 60 percent of Americans cannot name half of the Ten Commandments and 63 percent can’t name the four gospels of the New Testament. Eighty-one percent believe that ‘God helps those who help themselves’ is a direct quote from the Bible…”
What a shame! What a terrible indictment of the most blessed nation on earth. And it is the single greatest reason why so little genuine faith is to be found.
But Christ said that He would build His Church and He promised that it would never be destroyed (Matt. 16:18). His Church—God’s true Church—is where people do have true faith according to the Bible definition. Therefore, the presence of God’s true people on earth will ensure that at least a few people will be found to have faith when Christ returns. (Read our booklet Where Is God’s Church?)
Notice Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” We must establish another important point relating to the life of all true Christians. Real faith comes from the Spirit of God—it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. No one can have it—or even be a true Christian—without God’s Spirit.
But what is faith? Surely God would not state that those lacking faith cannot possibly please Him—and then withhold the real definition of faith from all who seek to know it. Before examining what the Bible says about real faith, one must examine what people think it is.
There are several common ideas about faith. If you doubt this, then merely ask a half-dozen people to explain it—to precisely define it for you. Be prepared for just as many different ideas—probably all of them wrong.
I have known many people who believed that faith is an intangible “feeling” that cannot be defined. It is often thought to be personal, mysterious and unique to each person. This feeling usually has no definition, structure, or clear purpose and, inevitably, is whatever people want or need it to be. In other words, for almost every person, there is a different description and definition of faith. It is strange how many people view faith this way, yet the Bible has never said anything of the sort.
Others believe that faith is some kind of “positive thinking.” It is as though as long as people take an optimistic view and remain upbeat about events and circumstances, they are demonstrating faith. The Bible nowhere describes faith with the words positive or optimistic—though these are certainly good qualities of mind.
Other views of faith are that it is hope or confidence. Neither is true! Hebrews 10:35 does say that confidence is important. Notice: “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which has great recompense of reward.” While this passage reveals that confidence is vital for Christians, confidence alone is not faith. Regarding faith being hope, I Corinthians 13:13 states, “And now abides faith, hope, charity [love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity [love].” If faith and hope are the same thing, why are they listed separately? Why does God refer to them as “these three”? When mentioned with love, shouldn’t He have said, “these two”? Obviously then, faith is different from hope.
Still others believe that one’s faith is the equivalent of the church denomination or affiliation they attend. This description of faith is seriously flawed and unscriptural. Notice Ephesians 4:4-5: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism…” If faith is a church denomination, and there are well over 2,000 different churches in the United States alone, then there cannot be just “one faith.” Of course, this idea would also make the apostle Paul wrong. He should have written that there are “thousands of faiths.”
Bear in mind that you have just seen in your Bible that there is only one kind of faith! We will soon explore whether the Bible precisely defines that one kind of faith or leaves it up to individuals to guess its meaning.
The last and perhaps most common idea is that faith is any general belief that Jesus died for your sins. As with the idea that faith is a feeling, the extent of people’s “personal” belief in the sacrifice of Christ becomes the deciding factor in how each professing Christian chooses to define it. Certainly we will see that the true definition of faith does include this important belief. There is no doubt that if someone does not believe the most basic understanding that Christ died for his or her sins, this person does not have saving faith. Remember, without faith it is impossible to please God, and if someone doubts Christ died for his sins, he certainly is not pleasing God and will not be saved! Believing that Christ died for your sins is a direction—an avenue—of faith, but not what faith is!
It is now time for the most fundamental question here: Does the Bible give an exact definition of faith? Since it says there is one faith, does it, in fact, give one definition of that faith? Is there a place where the Bible says, “Faith is…” and a precise definition follows? If so, where is it, and what does it say?
Hebrews 11 has often been called the “faith” chapter. It describes many of God’s greatest servants and how their faith enabled them to perform great acts and miracles, or to endure severe trials. This long chapter is very inspiring, and all who want to have real faith should periodically read it. It contains the word faith two dozen times. Verse 2 says, “For by it [faith] the elders [these Bible figures] obtained a good report.”
How could they have obtained a “good report” unless they understood faith? Now for God’s definition in verse 1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Did you notice that faith involves “evidence” of things “not seen”? The marginal rendering of “substance” is “assurance.” Faith involves an assurance “of things hoped for.” But, if something is hoped for, that something has not yet been received. Therefore, where faith is involved, there is an assurance that it will be received!
But how can evidence be related to something that is not seen? Do we not rather think of evidence as involving things that are seen?
In a courtroom, evidence is what can be proven. It involves facts visible to a jury. In other words, evidence only involves things that can be seen or demonstrated. How then can faith involve evidence that is invisible—not seen?
Faith involves evidence in the following way. Real faith, in any promise made by God, is actually the evidence. It is the belief that is the evidence. If God promises to do something, it is impossible for Him to lie (Heb. 6:18). Your evidence that He will perform it is the very unwavering faith that you hold. Do you understand this? Remember, Hebrews 11:1 said, “faith is…the evidence.” If you have true Christian faith, you do not need to search for the evidence—you already possess it!
We have read the biblical definition of faith, but faith is also a doctrine. Notice: “The principles of the doctrine of Christ…of faith toward God…” (Heb. 6:1). Faith is always exercised toward God, but it is Christ who makes this possible.
Faith is something Christ teaches—this is why the Bible calls it “the doctrine of Christ.” By now, you realize that faith is important for all Christians to understand. You need not be confused about it, though people around you may be. We must eliminate the misunderstanding and deception about faith.
Perhaps when Christ returns, He will find real faith in you!
For every doctrine of God, there are endless ideas that people conjure up about it. The Bible explains what God says and thinks about His doctrines. If a doctrine comes from and belongs to God, we ought to examine what HE says about it. You should never be concerned with the opinions of people.
Every time you demonstrate faith in God, it involves a specific promise. A promise can involve healing, answers to prayer, receiving blessings (Jms. 1:4-8), deliverance in a trial, guidance in a difficult decision and, most importantly, receiving salvation. In every instance, faith involves claiming a specific promise made by God. We will see the importance of searching His Word to find those promises.
Consider! Paul recorded, “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Eph. 6:16). Now notice: “Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him. Add you not unto His words, lest He reprove you, and you be found a liar” (Prov. 30:5-6).
When put together, these two verses show that God, through faith, becomes a SHIELD to all who trust in exactly what the Bible says. To doubt His Word, or to alter it in any way, is to call God a LIAR! That is serious! Understand. When God makes a promise, He keeps it. Human beings may break their promises, but God does not. If He tells you that He will do something for you, if you meet certain conditions, He will perform His promise. You have faith as an assurance that He will. So, browbeating yourself into faith is silly. It suggests that you doubt God will do His part after you have done yours. Faith is relaxed. It is calm. It is sure. Where most people might have great doubt, the person led by faith is confident that God is guiding the final outcome of matters.
When you claim a promise, expect it to be carried out by God. Do not try to figure out when or how He will do it. I have learned two things about answered prayer. First, God always answers my prayers, if I seek His Will, but second, He almost never answers them in the way that I expect. This is why walking by faith cannot include sight. “Looking” for God to answer prayer a certain way or in a certain timeframe is a waste of energy. Besides, it is far more important that God answers our prayers and fulfills His promises, than HOW He does it! And He always knows the best time and way to do it anyway.
To learn more about faith—where it comes from and how to obtain it—read our booklet What Is Real Faith?