For Christians, faith is an absolute belief in God through His Son, Jesus Christ. As Hebrews 11:1-2 (MSG) states: “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.” And the rest of Hebrews 11 tells us how faith was an integral part of the lives of our ancestors: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, all of the people who passed through the Red Sea, Rahab (a prostitute), and many, many more (see vv. 32-38). And, in Hebrews 11:6, we are told that “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.”
So how do we acquire this kind of faith? Romans 10:17 states, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” The word of God, of course, is the Bible. And why should we trust the Bible? Hebrews 4:12-13 gives us the answer: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” I like how the Message Bible states it: “God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.”
It is a sad state of affairs today that so many people in America own a copy of the Bible (and many people own many copies of various translations and paraphrases) yet it sits on a shelf, or perhaps a coffee table if we have an ornate family Bible, unused and unread, or it is taken to church on Sunday morning only to resume it’s place on a bookshelf once we get back home for the rest of the week. The Bible is “living and active” and it “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” It shows us the way to live our lives–lives that are pleasing to God–and yet we ignore it day after day and go our own way. And even if we do read it, even occasionally, we don’t pay attention to what it has to say. We may hear what it has to say but we do not do what it says.
James 1:22-25 states, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.”
I ran across an excellent reading this morning by Dr. Charles Swindoll titled, “Simple Faith,” and I want to share it with you:
When it came to clear communication, Jesus was a master. Children and adults alike had no difficulty understanding His words or following His reasoning.
This was never truer than when He sat down on a hillside with a group of His followers and talked about what really mattered. His hillside chat was an informal, reasonable, thoughtful, and unpretentious presentation.
People were fed up with the manipulation, the pride, and especially the hypocrisy of their religious leaders. Man-made systems of complicated requirements and backbreaking demands shut the people behind invisible bars, shackled in chain of guilt. They could not measure up. Many were losing heart. But who dared say so?
Then out of the blue came Jesus with His message of liberating grace, encouragement to the weary, hope for the sinful. Best of all, everything He said was based on pristine truth–God’s truth–instead of rigid religious regulations. He talked of faith in terms anyone could understand. No wonder the people found Him amazing! No wonder the scribes and Pharisees found Him unbearable! Hypocrisy despises authenticity. When truth unmasks wrong, those who are exposed get very nervous.
So what does Jesus want? What was He getting at?
He was simply saying that He wanted His followers to be people of simple faith, modeled in grace, based on truth. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else.
Jesus put it straight: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them” (Matt. 6:1). In other words, stop acting one way before others when you are really not that way at all.
Following His passionate reproach against hypocrisy, Jesus also warned the people against judging each other. “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:4).
Jesus was encouraging tolerance. Be tolerant of those who live different lifestyles. Be tolerant of those who don’t look like you, who don’t care about the things you care about, whose fine points of theology differ from yours, whose worship style is different. Be tolerant of the young if you are older . . . be tolerant of the aging if you are young.
Jesus’ words that day on the hillside were powerful. When He finished speaking, nobody moved. Small wonder. His words were like spikes nailing them in place.
People of faith mean what they say and do what they hear.
They do not substitute words of action or pious discussion for personal involvement.
Faith starts with a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you don’t know Him, you can get to know Him by starting with the Gospel of John. If you are already a Christian and want to learn how to exercise your faith, the book of James is an excellent place to start. And if you are looking for resources on the internet you can take a look at these websites: Bible.org; BibleStudyTools.com; my Favorite Links page; or my Where to Look for Encouragement page.
Faith, indeed, “comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). So pick up your Bible and get started. But don’t put it off . . .
YouTube video: “Faithful God” written and sung by Shannon Wexelberg on her CD “Faithful God”:
Photo credit here