Faith is an inevitable part of the human experience. We exercise it regardless if we realize it or not. Whether or not it is well placed is another matter.
An unbeliever has faith in the supposition that he is accountable to no authority above himself and only needs to suffer in this life for wrong decisions. Many today have faith in the beliefs of Darwin and his followers. Myriads of religions pay homage to supposed deities worshiped by their ancestors. Many professing Christians trust that religious rituals, affiliation with a church or following certain prescribed customs will win them Divine favour.
My grandfather, who was born in the nineteenth century and died before my birth, apparently did not believe in the existence of germs. However, his lack of faith did nothing to eliminate the reality of the multitude of invisible microbes that shared his environment. Truth is reality. Faith is only good if it is based on reality. Misplaced belief can be deadly.
So what monopoly do Christians have on the truth? How can they claim that their Scripture is the Word of God – superior to all the other writings of world religions? What assurance do they have that their faith is properly placed? What proves that their God is the true God while other gods are impostors? These questions are real ones which circumstances can force any of us to face. In such times the venue of our faith is proven,
If the way to discover truth were to study all religions and philosophies and decide with our minds which one is right, no one would ever find it. The futility of such an exercise could well cause us to embrace the popular belief that all religions lead to the same destiny.
The Bible tells us that true faith does not originate in ourselves, but rather is born on God’s initiative. John 6:44 – “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” Romans 2:4 – “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” The recognition of truth begins with Divine intervention. It is not the result of our own independent searching and reasoning. “Ye shall be like gods and know good from evil” is still believed by man but remains a lie from the serpent.
There is a serious misconception in the minds of Christians about what makes up the essence of faith. Faith is presented as giving mental assent to biblical teaching and doctrine. It supposedly grows, according to this view, as we become more and more biblically fluent. “We know what we believe because the Bible says so” is the catch phrase of such a mode of thought. The view presents a dangerous half-truth.
Knowledge of the Bible is of crucial importance. Jesus said in Matthew 22:29 -” Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” However, the Bible reveals that faith not only begins in a relationship but continues in the same. As we have before observed, faith begins when the Spirit of God communes with our spirit and points us to Christ. From this starting point it grows and becomes established in our consciousness as we experience the involvement of Christ in our lives. This does not only occur by reading about Him in the Bible. As we pray receiving direct answers to our requests, as we seek His counsel in the day to day decisions of life and get explicit direction from Him, as He prompts us to deal with carnality in our lifestyle and we respond in obedience, as we find freedom from sinful past habits through His power, as He directs us as to how to serve in His kingdom, as He empowers us to do His work in ways we could never accomplish in our own strength, and as we receive and exercise the supernatural gifts of the Spirit for the building up of His people – these and many more not only confirm His reality but also develop an eternal friendship which surpasses every other bond. This is true faith! Faith, lacking intimacy with the One in Whom it is placed, is sterile and powerless!
This truth is reflected over and over in the stories of the Bible. Deborah and Barak likely both knew of the past dealings of God with the Israelites. Both of them had equal access to the law of God given to Moses. Yet the faith of one put the other to shame. What made the difference?
Deborah intimately knew the God Who had worked in the past and given the Law. Her spirit was in communion with Him and she knew when He spoke to her. Her confidence was not blind presumption but rather a direct awareness of His will in the present circumstance. God and Deborah worked together as a team.
Barak in contrast had the head knowledge but lacked the intimacy. The result left him fearful and hesitant. Judges 4:9 – “And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.”
Barak was not devoid of faith – his name is mentioned in Hebrews 11 along with the other heroes of the past. However, his deficient trust was disappointing enough to God that God created a historic drama as a rebuke. The story of the battle in which he played a leading part, inspired a Hebrew musical “production” written and directed by the gifted Deborah. It names Barak in a favourable light but pays special attention to Jael, the woman who took from him the glory of killing the enemy captain, Sisera. Barak may have felt mixed emotions as he listened to the celebratory performance!
Barak is the epitome of the church today. We know God’s historic works; we may be familiar with His Word – at least to a degree – but our experience of walking with Him is so minimal that it leaves us weak and vulnerable.
Joshua is a prime example of how this experience is gained and how it results in a life of confidence and victory. There is no doubt by his life that he made himself familiar with the Law and lived by its decrees. He witnessed God’s works. Yet this knowledge alone did not satisfy his heart. He committed Himself to get to know God personally like his mentor, Moses, knew God. Exodus 33:11 – “And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.”
While others were content to enjoy the freedom from the bondage of Egypt and go about their business, Joshua’s passion was to remain in the Presence of the Deliverer. That is what set him apart from his peers. When the time of crisis came after the spies had seen the menacing giants of Canaan, he along with Caleb, boldly announced his confidence in the God Whose Presence he had sought. Being part of a tiny minority amidst the cries of the multitude did not shake his trust. As Paul in Second Timothy 1:12, Joshua rested in the One in Whom he believed. “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
So continue the Bible narratives. Those who exercised a strong, working faith not only knew history and the law – their secure belief rested in the integrity of the God with Whom they had grown familiar. The heroes of Hebrews 11 were marked not by their knowledge of doctrine but rather by their unshaken trust in a faithful God which drove them to an unquestioning following of the Same.
Hebrews 11:6 well sums up how to develop a faith that pleases God, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” This speaks of our initial response to the wooing of the Spirit as well as the continued urgency of passionately pursuing His intimacy. God will take delight in completing the work of love which He has begun in our hearts.
As our trust in God matures, resulting in obedience, the Bible will take on new meaning and its doctrine will be fleshed out in daily life. John 7:17 – “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”
I write this with the prayer that we will find a faith that will withstand the challenges of a godless society and shine as gold when it passes through the fires of persecution. What we believe needs to be molded by the Spirit of the One Whom we have learned to know! Experiencing His continued Presence and faithfulness day after day will create in us an unshakable confidence in both God and His Word.