"Now faith is the essence of things being hoped, the evidence of things not having been seen. For by this the elders obtained witness. By faith we understand the ages to have been framed by the Word of God, so that the things seen should not come into being out of things that appear. By faith Abel offered a greater sacrifice to God than Cain, by which he obtained witness to be righteous, God testifying over his gifts; and through it, having died, he yet speaks. By faith "Enoch" was translated so as not to see death, and "was not found, because God translated him." For before his translation, he had obtained witness to have been pleasing to God. Gen. 5:24 But without faith it is impossible to please God. For it is right that the one drawing near to God should believe that He is, and that He becomes a rewarder to the ones seeking Him out. Being divinely warned by God about the things not yet having been seen, moved with fear, by faith Noah prepared an ark for the salvation of his house; through which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness according to faith. Having been called out by faith, Abraham obeyed to go forth to a place which he was going to receive for an inheritance; and he went out not understanding where he went. By faith he resided as a foreigner in a land of promise, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the joint-heirs of the same promise; for he looked forward to a city having the foundations of which the builder and maker is God. Also by faith Sarah herself received power for conceiving seed even beyond the time of age, and gave birth; since she deemed the One having promised to be faithful. Because of this came into being from one man, they who were generated, and these of one having died, seed even "as the stars of the heaven" in multitude and countless "as sand by the seaside." Gen. 22:17 These all died by way of faith, not having received the promises, but seeing them from afar, and being persuaded, and having embraced and confessed that they are aliens and tenants on the earth. For those saying such things make clear that they seek a fatherland." (Hebrews 11:1-14 LITV)
George Koukl, President of Stand To Reason, an apologetics ministry sent out the November issue of STR to my email this morning. We have all heard the expression, "Just take a leap of faith….." Koukl feels we should remove that expression from our vocabulary and with good reason. Faith has lost its true definition.
Often, too often in my experience, this is used as an impus to have faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. "Just believe, make that leap and find yourself standing on solid ground despite what you think you see…….after all, what do you have to lose?" There is no intentional harm in this approach, making Christianity and faith a 'product' to sell as if we are some cosmic sales force in competition with other companies selling the same thing, if in different packaging. But harmful it is, as evidenced by the increasing number of 'disillusioned' Christians. The denomination rifts in the Christian community (often mislabeled as the Christian faith, in my opinion) come from different perspectives on belief, not faith, but they call it faith. The religious movements of the emergent, the post-modern, new age, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and other world religions use this word to define their dogmas. Faith has become individualistic in its application and definition and has been watered down as much as the Gospel and Scriptures have in modern times.
"Faith" commonly is referred to as 'the affirmation of belief" (Latin affirmare; to assert), declaring that something is true. This can be a positive or negative thing….a positive judgment that God exists, without evidence to the contrary or negative in the same context, whereas God does not exist because of any evidence to the contrary. In religion, it has further meaning, from loyalty to a movement or religious group, acceptance of the religious creed espoused or an identifier… i.e. Islamic faith, Christian faith….
The Hebrew root word, aman, means firm, something that is supported or secure. The word emunah, derived from aman, means firmness (as in someone who is firm in their actions). Emunah cannot be translated into 'faith'….as one website I researched for this meaning puts it. "To have faith in God is not knowing that God exists or knowing that He will act, rather it is that the one with emunah will act with firmness toward God's will." Many of the universalist movement, New Age and emergent 'religions' follow Soren Kierkegaard's definition of faith, the "sincerity grounded in belief accepted without any reason….belief on the basis of believing"…in something. Others, like William Sloane Coffin define faith as 'not acceptance without proof, but trust without reservation.' Implicit faith is belief beyond evidence or logical arguments and so is viewed as impossible by many theologians of any religious movement…..a faith that is "the belief that God exists but accepted without any supportive arguments or evidence."
Out of the Hebrew root aman, the Indo-European word omen was developed, meaning 'to believe as true.' This developed through the language translations from aman to amon (Egyptian god Amon-Ra, the sun god) and into the English word Omen. The belief was that there were invisible guardians around the 'faithful' who foretold future events. The Hebrew aman loses its scriptural meaning and becomes omen, the act of simply believing something is true…..'A leap of faith'. It is this expression that has permeated the church language and caused much disconcertment among the 'faithful.'
According to Merriam-Webster, faith is from the Middle English word feith, Anglo-French feid, fei and the Latin fides (similar to Latin word fidere which means to trust)….at least from the 13th century on. It is the "allegiance to duty or person, belief and trust in and loyalty to God or something that is believed especially with strong conviction."
David Kinnaman, from www.Americanbible.org, analyzed how the four adult generations; Mosaics (18-25), Busters (26-44), Boomers (45-63) and Elders (64 and up) in America approach and use the Bible, the sacred text of the Christian community of believers. "About half of American adults have fairly traditional approaches and uses for the Bible." The Barna Group reports of Kinnaman's findings, "However, the youngest adults (Mosaics) are less likely to see the Bible as sacred, consider it less accurate in the principles it teaches, understand it more as universally like all other sacred texts belonging to other faith groups, are more skeptical about its origin, and engage the Bible less."
"…..since we are no longer willing to embrace the ancient faith," Chuck Colson says, "many looked for solace or explanation in other ancient faiths, or at least new-age versions of these faiths."
It is imperative that we reclaim the true definition and understanding of faith…..evidenced by the decay of the 'faithful' mosaics, modern faith, from the 'faithful elders', traditional faith, as evidenced through the generations of Boomers and Busters. We have failed to teach our children in the way they should go, convoluted and warped the definition of faith and allowed the message of the Gospel to become a mystical and improbable document of textual disagreement. As a result, our mosaics are chaotic, distressed and without peace, trying to sustain a belief that cannot exist long-term in this world. The only way to restore that peace in through the true development of faith, as evidenced by Isaiah 26:3 "The LORD gives perfect peace to those whose faith is firm." A faith that is not mere "assent to a proposition or affirmation, or the acceptance of a fact, opinion, or assertion as real or true, without immediate personal knowledge; reliance upon word or testimony; partial or full assurance without positive knowledge or absolute certainty, persuasion, conviction, or confidence." That is mere belief.
"What's going on here is the idea that we live in a random and unintelligible universe, and that's more terrifying than the cataclysms predicted for the year 2012. So we grasp at straws or over-interpret obscure texts, or we despair." Colson states regarding faith "But there is a third alternative—real faith. Christians know that God is working out His purposes in history, and that faith removes all anxieties."
Irene Alexandrou, President of the Hellenic Society Paideia of South Florida, notes that if one was asked, "What is faith?" the predictable response would be, "Faith is belief." When asked then what belief is, the response would be "Belief is faith." "Since neither word is defined from another source," Alexandrou argues, "the result is non-definition."
It is important to understand what faith is, because faith is "everything" in our life and the incorrect application of its definition has brought the church and its future into peril; from a human perspective, not from a Godly one.
"Test yourselves and find out if you really are true to your faith. If you pass the test, you will discover that Christ is living in you. But if Christ isn't living in you, you have failed." 2 Corinthians 13:5
According to the Bible, faith is not obedience to the Mosaic Law, but rather the method by which God teaches us faith. Paul says in Galatians 3:24, "In fact, the Law was our teacher. It was supposed to teach us until we had faith and were acceptable to God." That Law wasn't based on faith, but only was the method by which those who obey its commands can obtain life. As complete and utter obedience to the Law is impossible, its promised return is nullified. Only through conscious action in obedience and repeated application of the Law can we develop faith.
Faith, in the Christian application, cannot exist without logical or material proof, but we often define it as this "confident belief in the truth, value or trustworthiness of a person, and idea or a thing; a belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence; loyalty or allegiance to a person or thing."
Alexandrou looks at the Greek root that Koukl uses in his article on faith…. pistis (noun) and carries it further by looking at the Greek verb for believe (pistevo). The Greek noun means persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself; assurance, belief, believe, faith. The word, believe means: to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing); by implication, to entrust (especially one's spiritual well-being to Christ), believe, commit (to trust), put in trust with.
So, what is faith?
Whatever it is………Koukl points out an interesting fact in each biblical account of its existence…..faith existed before a miracle or healing took place. Faith, not belief, is the necessary ingredient for us, as followers of Christ, to 'do greater than this.' Faith, far from the definition it carries now, is the foundation of the Christian community.
"Faith is not about wishing, but about confidence, and the facts make the difference." Koukl says. "You get a hold of the facts, you study, you learn – even a little – and you'll realize you're not just wishing on a star about eternal things. You'll realize Christianity is really true. And that changes everything."
Faith is a 'title deed', the assurance of "good things to come combined with the elements of hope, confidence, and trust" backed by a confidence in the 'earnest money' guarantee of Jesus Christ in its inheritance. "The patriarchs were asked to trust God without much supporting evidence, and by the courage and confidence of their faith, they still speak encouragement to us" (Interpreter's Commentary). How? Read the Hebrew 'hall of faith'. Perceiving the deep meaning of sacrifice, walking with God to His pleasure, mocking of contemporaries to obey, giving up securities of family/home/religion and risking everything at the word of God or trusting in a situation that is humanly impossible….these are the lessons that the Patriarchs left us to ponder regarding what faith is. Faith is not a concept or definition that can only be applied to the Christian belief system, at least in what the definitions commonly used in today's society say it is…..but it is a concept that can only bear fruit in the Christian community.
Faith involves, according to spirithome.com, belief (the mental action, condition or habit of placing trust or confidence in another/truth/validity of something); certainty (knowledge, based on demonstrable evidence or 'proof'); confidence (strong ground for assurance); conviction (strongly-held belief/idea on spiritual/moral matters often developed through life experiences, hard thinking or mediation); credibility (something or someone showing itself to be worthy of belief); credit (trustworthiness of source); dependence (reliance-confident and trustful commitment-upon a higher ranked or esteemed source without which a task would be nearly, if not fully, impossible to perform); Trust (a depth and sense of assurance based on strong evidence or character, ability, or truth shown by someone or something over time and/or situations. It is a confident conviction based on experiences, mediation and credible evidence that develops a growing dependence in the proven creditability of trusting in Jesus Christ because without the truth of His sacrifice the reliance upon which our eternal inheritance is placed becomes fearfully un-assured. Faith is indicated by persistent action, devotion and direction of belief (existing ideas, knowledge and understanding) by which one fosters a relationship with God that is only able to be developed because of the firm and supported confidence in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This 'justifying faith' makes us right before God because of Jesus' act upon the Cross.
In a nutshell……….….faith is (as spirithome.com puts it) "a sense of being safe or being free of fear, enough so your focus can be on other matters because that matter is taken care of. It becomes easier to simply enjoy life." Faith is trust given to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob based on experience, tested beliefs and evidential proof.
Faith can be applied, as earlier stated, in a multitude of ways and its meaning is intentionally changed with each application. Therefore Faith isn't solely a Christian concept, but the concept as applied by its traditional, historical and factual use means that only the Christian application of Faith is one that bears results as faith is developed to lead us to a continuous and conscious relationship with God Himself. This 'close encounter of the third kind' (direct contact) gives us new experiences and proof to mediate upon as God is invited through faith's growth as we 'live by faith', having observable 'undeniable, sometimes illogical, but always impactful' trust because of this relationship in our lives that reflects God's glory to family, friends and other individuals that we come across in our travels. Martin Buber, author of Two Types of Faith, discusses this 'modern' definition of faith (i.e. leap of faith) and true faith as based on the traditional definition: "One can believe that God is and live in his back; he who trusts him lives in his face."
But faith is not trust with the demand for action, it is action based on active trust (faith).
"All of them pleased God because of their faith! But still they died without being given what had been promised (Heb 11:39)"
God didn't ask any of the Patriarchs of the Christian history to blindly put their trust in Him, take blind leaps into the unknown or follow wishful thinking, what many denominations and religious movements demand we do……God intentionally provided demonstrated proof of His power and then asked for their faith in the endeavor He had set aside for them. So that His glory would be demonstrated and attested to, in a way that cannot be attributed to any action by an individual, community or congregation but only to the God of all creation…..the great I AM.
There are 382 verses with the word faith in them. Exhortations to develop it, expectations for it, stories of it in action and stories of actions resulting from it. It isn't as temporary as belief, corrupted by humanity or the actions of this world nor is it something that we will ever stop growing. It is the blood vessels, capillaries and veins of the body of Christ…….who's blood sustain and give us life. Without faith, Christ's blood is worthless. Without Christ's blood, faith is worthless. Faith is our connection and our avenues to a living, breathing and acceptable body of Christ to the Heavenly Father.
Faith untested is merely belief. Belief cannot obtain this commutation of the sentence of our sinful nature and yet our Creeds, our Affirmations and even our Constitution read….."We believe……" Faith is the tested, experienced and applied application of our developed beliefs……if we confirm the Creeds, Affirmations and even a man-made document like the Constitution, our lives will be evidenced of their faithful execution…..and if they do, we should change the beginning to reflect that…."In faith, we declare…." Man cannot create faith and the beliefs of false religions, corrupted religious movements and alternate interpretations that claim the definition of faith fall upon the fires of God's Truth to be burned. Faith will make you walk into that fire; confident even if you are to be burned…it will glorify God by the very act of deliberately moving into the flames. Or God will stop you. As He did with Abraham, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, David and the Twelve Apostles….the examples go on and on, over and over through the Old Testament into the New Testament…..through the four Gospel accounts and Paul's Epistles back through Isaiah's prophecies and Noah's obedience. Faith was tested through the trust and obedience in God.
Far beyond our wishful thinking, beliefs or demands…..a life lived in faith prevents us from moving outside God's will and application in this world because of our trust in that relationship. Sometimes God will call us to do what appears foolish things….and yet when we faithfully follow Him….things happen…….
"Everyone……….should then know for certain that God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ, even though you put him to death on a cross." (Acts 2:36 CEV)
"Faith must be tested and tried before it becomes real in your life………….. so that no matter what happens, the transforming power of God's providence transforms perfect faith into reality." Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost for His Highest. "The life of faith says, "Lord, You have said it, it appears to be irrational, but I'm going to step out boldly, trusting in Your Word."
We have allowed our belief, a fragile and temporary thing, to be our faith while our faith lies dormant and still in the seats of our worship centers, echoes hollow in the ears of our Mosaics and dies when our belief is burned in the trials and tribulations of this world. As Oswald Chambers said, "God frequently has to knock the bottom out of your experience as His saint to get you in direct contact with Himself. God wants you to understand that it is a life of faith, not a life of emotional enjoyment of His blessings."
A life of faith cannot be hidden…..its rosy glow is shown in the cheeks, its application in the flexing of the muscles and its vitality evidenced in the healthiness of the body in an environment that is hostile, bitterly cold and strength-sapping.
The misapplication of belief as faith shows itself in Kinnaman's Barna study…..the Mosaics are less likely to view the Bible as sacred and accurate. They believe that the universal 'truths' of other 'sacred texts' are as applicable as the Bible and the Barna studies show that the youngest generations are charting a new, unique course related to the Bible are less likely to engage in biblical reading and prayer. There is no faith in the origins of the Bible or its engagement to gain additional knowledge and experience to grow faith. Belief is shaky and can be changed through fear, peer pressure or dictation with force; faith as applied in the Christian community cannot be destroyed, only grown or allowed to grow feeble in the discontent of denial. Beliefs can be negative or positive, applied interchangeably in the motion of our lives where faith can only be applied in a forward application…...applied in a positive manner…as we stand against the winds of discontent, disillusionment and persecution.
Belief is that first wind in the race towards the prize; faith is the enduring and refreshing second wind that powers us towards the finish line.
"Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, who keep the commandments of God and hold on to the faithfulness of Jesus. (Revelation 14:12 ISV)"
The past year has been a trying one and I have often reflected in the tempest of the storm whether or not if I had the chance to go back to the beginning of it and have a 're-do' if I would. If I could know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would not go through what I have gone through, if I wouldn't experience those heartbreaking times, those humbling moments or those difficult trials; would I go back? Belief would lead me back to that gate without hesitation, for it is a transitory thing that would entice me to entertain the thought that I would be closer to God without those things. Faith would stop me, for the trust and love that have grown in the darkest of the nights, in the furriest of storms and the most trying of famine……for God has shown by experience, by evidentiary proof and meditation that He is trustworthy, creditable and able.
I know, with the experiences of the past year that I would have to pass on that return to the past, for the sake of changing the trials of the future. It is in the trials that my faith has been tested, my beliefs withered and died or strengthened into a brick in the foundation of my faith and that God is more real, more able and more merciful that any other time in my life.
It is my faith that sees the works of God in the lives of others, for the supplication of the saints. It is my faith that allows me to pray for my enemies, love my detractors and push on to the goal……reaching for those who challenge me, those who would malign me and those who have been a source of hurt or an object of my own humanity to be hurt and help them along towards greater and higher relationship with God. It is my faith that can look honestly at the 'rejected son' of my earthly father without fear and believe in the 'beloved son' that God declares me to be and move in a manner that speaks of this inheritance of 'blessed agape love' that God promises to all who have faith.
It is my faith that allows me, in the midst of want, to live a life abundant……enjoying the labor for God while His provisions come to me in the experience of living faithfully. It is my faith that draws me to peace in the midst of worry, mercy in the humanness of being right, love in the world born to hate and in grace despite its lack of being extended to me.
Do you have a faith that is the heart of endurance, the very essence of 'things hoped for' that is grounded in the 'evidence of things unseen?' Or is it the wishful thinking of acquiescence to a belief that cannot bear the weight of this world? Do you live a life of faith abundantly; not in material or financial things, but in the enjoyment of being a child of the Most High?
And are you replicating it in the lives of your children, your spouse or your friends?
Faith without voice and action is belief without structure. Belief is a choice of men about man's opinion, that modern proverbial "leap of faith."
Faith is a foundation from which life flows.
Let's do away with the mis-definition of faith and live a real faith as the Bible defines…………………….
"Those who trust in the Lord will never be disappointed……………..If we were to lean upon men, we would surely be disappointed, but in leaning upon the living God, we are beyond disappointment and beyond being forsaken for any reason." The Autobiography of George Muller.
Test your 'faith' and see if Christ resides in you…….for only where there is faith is Christ.
My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers
The Autobiography of George Muller