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Why are most people trapped by fears and worries? Because they lack faith! But what is faith? Is it positive thinking? A certain feeling? One’s church affiliation? Is it confidence? Or hope? Or the simple belief that Jesus died for your sins? Or is it something far more?
Through the years, people have often told me, “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?”
Millions misunderstand this subject. Consider yourself. Do you have real faith? Is it sufficient for salvation? Can you know?
This Personal will explain how to have real, true faith. God’s Word holds plain answers!
The Bible states that “without faith it is impossible to please [God]…” (Heb. 11:6). This is an incredible statement—yet, it is in the Bible! Take it for exactly what it says. Just think! Anything a person does in attempting to be Christian means absolutely nothing if he lacks faith. For without faith, he has no hope—no possibility—of pleasing God. Any who are not pleasing God are Christians in vain. So having real faith is serious!
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? To know that “all things [will] work together for good” if you are serving God (Rom. 8:28)? To believe God will work out injustices you suffer? 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! You can develop real faith. However, God’s Word 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 in God’s Word!
This world is in trouble. Problems are escalating everywhere for a world 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—Jesus 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? Jesus was able to look forward, into our time, and know that conditions would exist allowing this to be true—almost!
An article titled “Know Your Bible? Many Christians Don’t” by reporter Wendy Griffith discussed the issue of people’s ignorance of the Bible. Here is what she wrote: “It’s clear that many Americans—including Christians don’t know their Bible.”
The study revealed:
What a shame! What a terrible indictment of the nation with more Bibles than any other on Earth. And it is the single-greatest reason so little genuine faith exists.
But Jesus said He would build His Church and He promised it would never be destroyed (Matt. 16:18). His Church—God’s Church—is where people do have faith according to the Bible definition. Therefore, the presence of God’s people on Earth will ensure that at least a few people will be found to have faith when Christ returns.
Notice Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, 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. Read Romans 8:9.
But what is faith? Surely God would not state that those lacking faith cannot please Him—and then withhold the correct definition of faith from all who seek to know it. Before examining what the Bible says about real faith, it is helpful to examine what people think it is.
There are several common ideas about faith. If you doubt this, merely ask a half-dozen people to explain it—to define it for you. Be prepared for a half-dozen ideas—probably all wrong—all of them different from what the Bible reveals.
I have known many people who have believed that faith is an intangible “feeling” that cannot be defined. It is often thought to be personal, mysterious and unique to each person—off limits for anyone to question. 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 does not say 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.
Other views of faith are that it is hope or confidence. Neither is true! But 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 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 [love].”
If faith and hope are the same, why are they listed separately? Why does God refer to them as “these three”? Counting love, shouldn’t He have said, “these two”? Obviously, 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: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (vs. 4-5).
If faith is a church—and there are well over 2,000 denominations in the United States alone—there cannot be just “one faith.” This idea makes the apostle Paul wrong. He should have said “thousands of faiths.”
Related to this, many also talk of either “people” or “a person of faith”—you have heard the term—merely because one is religious. This term has even come to encompass non-Christian religions.
Bear in mind you have just seen the Bible state there is only one kind of faith! We will soon explore whether the Bible precisely defines that one kind of faith or leaves individuals to guess its meaning.
The last and perhaps most common idea is that faith is any general belief that Jesus died for our sins. As with the idea that faith is a feeling, the extent of people’s personal belief in Jesus’ sacrifice becomes the deciding factor. 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 Jesus 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 Jesus died for him, he is not pleasing God and will not be saved! Believing in Jesus’ sacrifice is a direction—an avenue—of faith, but it is not what faith is!
It is now time for the most fundamental question in this article. 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 it 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 that are recognizable—and usually visible—to a jury. In other words, legal 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 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. Understand this! 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: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and 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 taught—this is why the Bible calls it “the doctrine of Christ.” By now, you realize faith is crucial for every Christian to understand. You need not be confused about it, though people around you may be. Eliminate all misunderstanding about faith.
When Jesus returns, perhaps He will find real faith in you!
For every doctrine of God, there are endless ideas that people conjure 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.
The balance of this article, and later Part 2, will explain the Bible’s true teaching about the doctrine of faith toward God.
Prepare to be surprised!
Almost everyone believes that faith involves feelings. But physical feelings merely come from the human senses and have nothing whatsoever to do with what God promises—or faith!
Human beings accept knowledge they have received through the five senses—seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting. These senses all involve physical information—physical knowledge. The mind receives and processes this information in order to draw conclusions about circumstances, things and events taking place around it. Faith is spiritual, not physical. It is confident assurance, which comes from the Spirit of God in the mind of a converted person.
So many today lack the strength—the power—to believe God will perform the promises contained in His Word. He seems far away, vague and ethereal to billions of human beings caught up in a materialistic world. The vast majority do not make time for God. There seems to be no room for prayer, Bible study, fasting and meditation. All these things draw us closer to God.
Most ignore them, and then wonder why they have no faith! This leaves them forced to rely solely on their five senses for guidance. Most people feel that anything derived from a source other than these is not to be trusted.
No one would ever wish to lose his physical sight. Certainly no one would consider driving a car if he were blind. Now, consider this verse: “…For we [Christians] walk by faith , not by sight…” (II Cor. 5:7).
Practicing true faith means learning to disregard what you see. Literally, sight does not count in relation to what God has promised to do or when He will do it. This verse reveals that Christians do not walk by what they see!
Think of this example in the following way. Just as you would never consider driving a car without sight, a Christian is not permitted to walk through life by sight! This is not a principle one learns overnight. The very concept of this kind of spiritual understanding is foreign—completely alien—to human thinking. Unlearning the wrong idea of faith requires a lifetime of practice.
Prayer, study, fasting and meditation are spiritual activities. God is Spirit and Christ explained, regarding Christians, “…they that worship Him [the Father] must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
Of course, people who do not know the truth of all the other doctrines of God, though they may know the truth about faith, cannot possibly worship Him in truth. They may try to worship God in spirit, but it is impossible to worship Him in truth if they are doing it in ignorance of crucial Bible truths. However, for our purposes here, at least all who read this Personal will no longer be unaware of the truth about the doctrine of faith—and how it relates to worshipping God.
Many wonder why they are never healed—or why their prayers are not answered. They wonder why they are not blessed or are not receiving deliverance from God when needed. They lack faith, which comes from the Spirit of God. If they had faith, they would have evidence—assurance—confidence—that they would be healed, blessed, delivered or receive answers to their prayers! They would know these things were coming—in advance of their arrival.
We have already seen that faith is a fruit of God’s Spirit. Obviously, Jesus had perfect faith. Filled with God’s Spirit, and possessing it from conception, He was the most converted Person who ever lived. It gave Him tremendous understanding of the importance of the power of God’s Spirit. This is why He said, “I can of Mine own self do nothing…” (John 5:30)!
He knew “…the Father that dwells in Me [as He said], He does the works” (John 14:10).
It was through the power of God’s Spirit in Him that Jesus accomplished everything that He did. He understood completely that it was only the presence of the Spirit of God in Him that allowed Him to perform miracles. He perfectly exercised the fruit of faith present in Him because of the Holy Spirit. No doubt, God gave Him the additional gift of faith (I Cor. 12:1, 7-9) that He would need to endure all that He was to face through His sacrifice as Savior of the world. I Corinthians 12:8-10 also lists faith as one of the nine special gifts of God’s Spirit, which are given to some.
All the apostles, evangelists and others (including even deacons) performed mighty miracles after Christ’s Resurrection and the start of the New Testament Church. The Bible records this. Through the power of real faith, ordinary people can do amazing things!
But can you have the same kind of faith that Christ had—or that the apostles had? Do Christians today have a different kind of faith?
What kind of faith does God expect of you? Most people think they must “work up” faith through human effort. They see it as something from within that they can will themselves to possess. This is terribly wrong and the Bible plainly says so. Realize that you can have the exact same faith that Christ possessed. You not only can—you must!
Notice: “Knowing that a man is not justified…but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ…” (Gal. 2:16).
This is an extremely important verse. It differentiates two vital points. First, it states that “we believe[d] in Jesus Christ”—this is something we do. Second, it is the faith of Christ—Christ’s actual faith in us—that justifies us (makes us righteous).
Most people never get this understanding straight. Faith starts with human belief, but must move to the faith of Christ, which enters a person at the moment of baptism and conversion with the receiving of God’s Spirit.
The Bible describes a certain temporary human faith that many have. In the New Testament, when Jesus healed people, none of them were converted. Yet He sometimes told them, “…your faith has made you whole…” (Matt. 9:22) or “…according to your faith be it unto you” (vs. 29).
These people lacked God’s Spirit—it had not yet been given at Pentecost when the New Testament Church began—but they did have a temporary human faith that allowed Jesus to heal them.
It is this growth from human faith to the faith of Christ that Paul referred to when he said, “…the righteousness of God [is] revealed from [human] faith to faith [of Christ in us]…” (Rom. 1:17).
If there was not human faith and the faith of Christ in us, how else could people go from one kind of faith to another? If a person is in one room, that person cannot go to a different room and still be in the same room. Do you see this? It is the same with faith. Human faith is like a small room, which true Christians must leave to enter the great room of Christ’s faith working in them.
Human faith wavers continually and goes up and down according to how one feels at any given moment in time. It is much like a roller coaster. When events seem positive or look good, human faith is up. When things look bad and the outcome of a matter appears gloomy, human faith usually disappears fast.
God’s faith is permanent and does not waver. He requires that all who come to Him in prayer, with requests, not waver. Notice James 1:6-8: “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
Every time you demonstrate faith in God, it involves a specific promise. A promise can involve healing, answers to prayer, receiving blessings, deliverance in a trial, guidance in a difficult decision, and—most important—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, [take] the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked [or it means the wicked one, the devil]” (Eph. 6:16).
Now notice: “Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him [that have faith in Him]. Add you not unto His words, lest He reprove you, and you be found a liar” (Prov. 30:5-6).
Put together, these two verses show that faith becomes a shield to all who trust in exactly what God 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 you doubt God will do His part after you have done yours. No wonder a lack of faith—calling Him a liar—makes it impossible to please Him. In fact, God says such people are liars.
Faith is relaxed. It is calm. It is sure. Where most people might have great doubt, a person led by true—real—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 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 time frame, 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 or when! And He always knows the best time and way to do it, anyway.
No promise of God can be claimed unless you have learned what the promise is. God promises some things and does not promise others. So the only way to know whether He has made a particular promise is to study His Word.
In any matter, always ask, “What does the Bible say?”
Paul wrote, “…prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2).
Proving involves study. Study involves effort, work. Then knowledge of God’s promises brings confidence to those who pray about them. God is eager to bless people, but He cannot do this if people are ignorant of what He is willing to do. Paul also wrote, “Be you not unwise, but [understand] what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).
Let’s face it. It is terribly “unwise” for people to live in ignorance of God’s promises. Why? Because they cut themselves off from so much that He is willing to do for them! Therefore, you do not have to wonder about God’s will. His Word tells you His will on every single important aspect of life. (Take time to read II Timothy 3:14-17.)
But Bible study is not the only condition regarding faith. Much more will be covered in Part 2 in the next issue of The Real Truth.