Faith . . . that word gets tossed around all over the place today. We say we have faith in this or faith in that, or that we have faith in God, but do we really know what we are talking about when it comes to faith?
Dictionary.com defines faith as follows:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Click here to read the rest of the chapter.)
Until “the rubber meets the road,” it’s easy to say we have faith in something or someone, like God, but it’s in the midst of the really tough times that come to all of us at some point that we really find out where we have placed our faith and in what or whom we really believe in. And it usually boils down to either believing in ourselves and our own resources, or believing in someone else (as in God).
It’s easy to say we believe in God when everything in going along fine and nothing out of the ordinary is happening in our lives. However, it’s not nearly as easy when the bottom suddenly falls out and we lose our bearings and possibly a whole lot more. It is at that point that we either scramble to find our own way out of our situation–usually through our own connections and our own resources if we have them or have access to them–or we start learning that we have far less control then we ever imagined, and we either start learning to trust in a God we’ve always claimed we believed in, or we start sinking in an ocean of unbelief and/or despair when God doesn’t come through for us in the way and/or in the timing that we wanted Him to do it in.
The bottom fell out of my life when I lost my job in Houston in April 2009 that has left me unemployed now into my seventh year. Like many others around me at that time who had lost their jobs, I attended job networking groups where sometimes as many as 500+ unemployed people were looking for work and in attendance at the peak of the unemployment period caused by (1) the housing bubble that burst wide open in 2008 as well and (2) the biggest Wall Street crash in the history of the U.S. that occurred on September 29, 2008 (ironically, it was also my first day of work at that ill fated job in Houston that I lost seven months later). And the repercussions hit all areas of life in America with unemployment rates topping out at 12% or higher across many cities and states. Over the next several years many of those folks eventually found jobs, but there were still many who did not. I am one of those folks.
During these past six plus years since I lost that job in Houston I have been on my own journey through the alleys and side roads of faith. Like many others who lost their jobs at that time, I had the faith to believe that God could provide another job for me fairly soon (after all, I was my only means of financial support) and for the first couple of years I watched as one by one many of those unemployed folks that I was around in networking groups found jobs, but it didn’t happen for me. And when the last networking group I attended in 2011 disbanded and I still didn’t have a job, it was at that point that I was beginning to realize that perhaps that might not be the direction God wanted me to go in, and that I would, in fact, end up being tested beyond my own understanding and experiences and gain a mere fraction of a glimpse into what God meant in Isaiah 55:8-9 when He stated:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
It’s not that I stopped looking for work (I didn’t), but as the years passed nothing seemed to work out no matter what I did to try and find work. And it was at that point that I started to become aware of a much bigger world going on out there in America and around the world besides the everyday world of work and daily life habits and routines that most of us get caught up in.
During these past several years since I lost that job in 2009, God has taken me through each day, week, month, and year, step by step–and now I’m well into my seventh year. And every day, the first thing before I even get out of bed, I have to keep laying my own desires on His altar every morning and let Him guide me through each and every day. And it’s been an adventure to say the least and probably one not many would pick (I’m not sure if I had known back in April 2009 what I would be going through during these past several years that I would have picked it, either). But in looking back over these years and all I have learned and experienced along the way, I wouldn’t trade it for anything today. And the adventure continues . . . .
I feel very fortunate that I was raised from the time I came out of my mother’s womb to believe in Jesus Christ and in God by my mother (see blog post titled, “Incomparable,” published on July 25, 2012), who instilled in me at that very young age to trust Him in everything no matter what (which I did at the ripe old age of ten). My mother’s life, and even her death brought on by diabetes, wasn’t easy, but despite many setbacks in her life her utmost faith in God was always there. She wasn’t perfect (after all, nobody is), but her faith was unshakable. That is her legacy and my heritage. Unfortunately, in the years since her death (1983) the church has shifted towards the culture and the culture’s model of success (among other things) has become part of the Christian model of success–with all of it’s showmanship, prestige, glitter, and materialism. You won’t find stories like my mother’s story in the pages of many Christian books nowadays as the model of Christian success, yet it is the very people just like my mother who make up the “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews 12. I wish we could get back to the days when it wasn’t all about “Celebrity” Christians and how to have or get all we want or can get in this life. The true Gospel of Jesus Christ has never been about any of that stuff.
I have no idea what the younger generation believes in today (besides the obvious–technology and social media). I keep reading where, more and more, the Millennials among us often choose “none” as their religious preference (see Pew Research article titled, “Millennials increasingly are driving growth of ‘nones’” at this link). And I’ve been in enough churches over the past several decades to see how “Hollywood” in appearance and entertainment that the church has become. We even have Christian theme parks now, too. No wonder we are losing the younger generation. And I wonder how many people we’ve lost in the older generations, too, over the years. I honestly can’t imagine not believing in anything or anyone other then self or technology or our own resources (or God on a very superficial level that doesn’t penetrate what we do in our lives on a daily basis), but I guess there are many people who do just that. So what happens to them when the bottom falls out of their lives? It happens to all of us at some point in time (even though most who haven’t already experienced it might not think so or are convinced it will never happen to them). Where do they go if they don’t believe in anything except technology and social media and what they can do with it?
The Bible contains a clear definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Simply put, the biblical definition of faith is “trusting in something you cannot explicitly prove.”
This definition of faith contains two aspects: intellectual assent and trust. Intellectual assent is believing something to be true. Trust is actually relying on the fact that the something is true. A chair is often used to help illustrate this. Intellectual assent is recognizing that a chair is a chair and agreeing that it is designed to support a person who sits on it. Trust is actually sitting in the chair.
Understanding these two aspects of faith is crucial. Many people believe certain facts about Jesus Christ. Many people will intellectually agree with the facts the Bible declares about Jesus. But knowing those facts to be true is not what the Bible means by “faith.” The biblical definition of faith requires intellectual assent to the facts and trust in the facts.
Believing that Jesus is God incarnate who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and was resurrected is not enough. Even the demons believe in God and in those facts (cf. James 2:19). We must personally and fully rely on the death of Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. We must “sit in the chair” of the salvation that Jesus Christ has provided. This is saving faith. The faith God requires of us for salvation is belief in what the Bible says about who Jesus is and what He accomplished and fully trusting in Jesus for that salvation (Acts 16:31). Biblical faith is always accompanied by repentance of sin (Matthew 21:32; Mark 1:15).
The biblical definition of faith does not apply only to salvation. It is equally applicable to the rest of the Christian life. We are to believe what the Bible says, and we are to obey it. We are to believe the promises of God, and we are to live accordingly. We are to agree with the truth of God’s Word, and we are to allow ourselves to be transformed by it (Romans 12:2).
Why is this definition of faith so important? Why must trust accompany agreeing with facts? Because “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Without faith, we cannot be saved (John 3:16). Without faith, the Christian life cannot be what God intends it to be (John 10:10). (Quote source here.)
The other day I was in a bookstore and noticed a new book by Nancy Pearcey, who is Professor of Apologetics, Scholar in Residence, and Director of the Francis Schaeffer Center for Worldview and Culture at Houston Baptist University. The book is titled, “Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes” (2015). I had mentioned a previous book authored by her titled, “Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity” (2004, 2005) in two previous blog posts written in February 2015, “So Goes The Culture” (February 19, 2015) and “Idols of the Heart” (February 24, 2015). Written on the inside front cover (and the Amazon.com page) of her latest book, “Finding Truth,” is the following statement:
Don’t Think, Just Believe?
That’s the mantra in many circles today–whether the church, the classroom, the campus, or the voting booth.
Time for a Reality Check
Nancy Pearcey, bestselling and critically acclaimed author, offers fresh tools to break free from presumed certainties and test them against reality. In Finding Truth, she explains five powerful principles that penetrate to the core of any worldview–secular or religious–to uncover its deepest motivations and weigh its claims.
A former agnostic, Pearcey demonstrates that a robust Christian worldview matches reality–that it is not only true but attractive, granting higher dignity to the human person than any alternative.
Finding Truth displays Pearcey’s well-earned reputation for clear and cogent writing. She brings themes to life with personal stories and real-world examples. The book includes a study guide shaped by questions from readers, from teens to college professors. It is ideal for individual or group study. (Quote source here).
Pearcey’s new book, “Finding Truth,” is about that search for truth–for a genuine faith in Jesus Christ from all of the confusion and competing worldviews that are so much a part of our world today. This book is a good starting point for anyone–young, old, and anyone in between–in gaining an understanding of these competing worldviews as compared with genuine Christianity. One of the reviewers of the book wrote the following endorsement:
“. . .When a third of young people are leaving church because of intellectual doubts, Pearcey shows how biblical truth is more convincing then competing worldviews, and also more appealing. The gospel is the highest love for human beings. The gospel is the key that fits the lock of the universe.” ~Kelly Monroe Kullberg, founder of The Veritas Forum, Founder and President of The America Conservancy.
Being “Christian” is not something we are automatically just by attending church on Sunday morning or being a part of Christian groups, anymore than it is connected to the culture at large when we say America is a Christian nation (which, in reality, it is not anymore). We don’t automatically become a Christian just because our parents were Christian, or we run around with other people who say they are Christians, or because we believe a set of Christian principles. We become a Christian when, as John 3:16-18 states:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus Christ] that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Being a Christian is about a living and vital relationship with Jesus Christ that transforms a person’s life from the inside out. Without that transformation, it is just a term we bounce around like everyone else who claims to be Christian yet there is no outward sign that it is even true. Anybody can act nice and look nice and learn the vocabulary that Christians use, but that doesn’t mean squat if there has been no transformation, no true belief in Jesus Christ as the One and Only Son of God and that it affects us at the very core of our being, and changes us, too.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
Through the power of Jesus Christ . . .
You, too, can be transformed . . . .
YouTube Video: “From the Inside Out” sung by Phillips, Craig & Dean: