What is Faith?

I am teaching a Bible fellowship from my home on Sunday. Here are the notes from my teaching.

Eric Ludy: Do we know the power and grandeur of God in our day? Does our generation comprehend that the God of the Bible is without “shadow of turning” and that He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” There is a vast shortage of believers who simply believe with child like faith that God will do what He says He will do and is worthy of our trust and is always faithful to His Word. We have far more faith in the power of the enemy to defeat us than we do in the power of God to deliver us, change us, empower us, and demonstrate His mighty nature in and through us.

Romans 4:19-21 (KJV)- 19And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb:

 20He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

 21And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

Hebrews 11:6- Amplified: But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].

KJV: 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.

Biblically, faith is trust, confidence in, or assurance. God isolates faith, which means “trust,” or “confidence,” as the one of the single most important elements of relationship with Him . That makes sense because we all recognize the importance of trust in our relationships, and we evaluate their quality by how much trust is present. Trust implies something or someone to trust in. To have faith in God is to trust Him, and thus to have a relationship with Him. The more intimate and trusting that relationship, the more mutually satisfying it is for both parties. We cannot love God if we do not trust Him.

“Faith” can also be understood as “confident expectation.” It is looking to the future with confidence because God is a faithful provider of all that we need.

Trust, or faith, is not a power in itself; it requires an object—someone or something to trust in. God is the object of our faith, but to trust Him we must know something about Him, that is, His character and His promises. We cannot really trust anyone unless they express themselves in words, words that arrange themselves in the form of a promise, and one in which we have the confidence that they have the character and resources necessary to keep their promise. Think about it: the better we know God’s character, that is, His willingness to do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think (Eph. 3:20-KJV), and the more we know His ability, the more we trust Him and obey Him. When we obey Him, He never fails to prove Himself to us.

So if you feel you do not trust God, ask yourself why. You may find it is because you really do not know God. Remember that getting to know someone takes time. When Jesus was astounded with the disciples for their lack of faith (trust), he said to them, “…Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40b). The word we need to pay attention to is “still.” Jesus did not ask people to have faith in him when he first met them, but the disciples had been with him for months, and seen him do miracle after miracle. Jesus marveled that they had not built more trust in him during that time.

We build trust in God by building our relationship with God. Although some people have personal encounters with God, His Son, or an angel, it is more usual to meet God by having Him work in our hearts, by prayer, and by receiving revelation from Him. One of the most meaningful ways we meet God is in His Word. Reading, getting to understand, and applying the Bible is an important key in developing trust in God. Spending time daily with God in prayer and in talking with Him also builds trust. Likewise, obedience plays a huge role. Jesus said, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17).

God wants everyone to have a loving and faith-filled relationship with Him. He knows that if we do our part and enter into a relationship with Him, He will work in us and our faith will build. That is one reason why the Bible says to, “…seek ye first the kingdom of God…” (Matt. 6:33a-KJV). It is wrong to think that we should have great faith (trust) in God without being in a close relationship with Him. Our personal relationships do not work that way, nor will our relationship with God. As our heavenly Father, God is a very personal God. If we obey Him and do the work He has for us to do, spending time with Him in prayer, Bible study, meditation, as well as fellowship with other committed Christians, our faith will grow.

J. B. Lightfoot discusses the concept of faith in his commentary on Galatians. He notes that in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, the definition of the word for faith hovers between two meanings: trustfulness, the frame of mind which relies on another; and trustworthiness, the frame of mind which can be relied upon…They who have faith in God are steadfast and immovable in the path of duty. 

Hebrews 11 is the chapter of faith and has tremendous learning for the believer on what faith is and how to be strong in faith glorifying God.

The scope of the whole chapter is an exhortation to patient endurance in view of the promises. This exhortation is based upon the faithfulness of the Promisor and the examples of faith are shown in those who “lived by faith.” We as Christians are to LIVE by faith. The context is clear. Faith in God’s Word can alone enable us to wait with patience for the fulfillment of His promise.

Hebrews 10:35-38 (NLT):

 35 So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!

36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

37 “For in just a little while,
      the Coming One will come and not delay.

38 And my righteous ones will live by faith.
      But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.”

NIV-And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.

Luke 18:8b-However,when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

Luke 22:31 (NIV)

31“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you] as wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Ephesians 6:16

Amplified: Lift up over all the [covering] shield of saving faith, upon which you can quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked [one].   
NLT:  In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan.
Phillips: Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you.

Faith is the critical element in spiritual warfare so Satan does not sift your life like wheat and penetrate your heart with his flaming missles.

You are in a war zone. You were born into the kingdom of darkness. What is going on in your life? I guarantee you we have a lot of wounded saints because in battle they have let down their shield of faith and received the flaming missiles of the evil one. You must make up your mind to trust and obey His word.

Romans 10:17-So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Our faith rests on the faithfulness of God’s promise. Everything depends on the fact that God has spoken and what He says is true. If we have not heard the Word of God, there is no place or room for faith. God spoke, Abraham heard it and Abraham believed God. He is the father of all those who believe. It is not a question of do we believe? The real question is WHAT do we believe? Or rather WHOM do we believe? When we give to ear to man, we can never be certain that what he says is true. But when we give ear to God, we can set our hearts knowing that God is true in what He says and He is faithful in what He promises. Simply the definition of faith is hearing God and believing what He says.

Isaiah 1:1 Hear O heavens, And give ear, O earth: For Yahweh has spoken.

God has spoken! What are you going to do about it? Believe it and obey it or turn your heart from it and reject it. Faith or unbelief? Trust or Doubt?

Romans 4:19-21 (REV)

And without being weak in faith, he considered his own body as already having become dead (he being about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb,

Yet, looking to the promise of God, he was not divided in his mind by unbelief, but he grew strong in his faith, as he gave glory to God,

Being fully convinced that what He had promised, He was also able to do.

One cannot read the Four Gospels without noticing the huge role that faith (trust) plays in people receiving from God. For example, when the centurion’s servant was healed, Jesus commented that he had not seen such great faith in all of Israel (Luke 7:9). When the woman with the issue of blood was healed, Jesus told her, “…Daughter, your faith has healed you…” (Luke 8:48b). Before Jesus healed Jairus’ daughter, he said to Jairus, “…Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed” (Luke 8:50). Upon healing a leper, Jesus said to him, “…Rise and go; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19).

Records such as these could be multiplied, but the point should be clear: in many of the healings and miracles that Jesus did, he pointed to the faith of the person as that which healed them. We know from the scope of Scripture that it was not faith that healed the person, it was God who healed the person, but the person’s faith accessed the healing power of God and caused it to work in the person’s life. Thus in a very real sense, the faith can be said to have healed the person.

There must be degrees or depth of faith as Jesus Christ said of the centurion that he did not find so great faith in all of Israel but other times reproved people for having little faith. Faith can be built, developed, deepened and it can grow.

How great is your faith?

Little faith (oligopistos from olígos = little + pístis = faith, firm persuasion, conviction) means having but little faith and so incredulous or lacking confidence in God and His Word of Truth. Faith here is not just mental assent but a firm conviction to the truth, a surrender to the truth and a conduct emanating from that surrender. In sum, faith shows itself genuine by a changed life.

Worrying shows that one has “little faith” in what God can do and that He is able to meet all of our needs.

This expression “little faith” is used four times in Matthew, once in Luke (Luke 12:28), as an encouragement to growth in faith as well as a gentle reproof.

And He said to them, “Why are you timid, you men of little faith?” Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and it became perfectly calm. (Mt 8:26)

And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt 14:31)

“But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread?” (Mt 16:8)

The perfect cure for worry is trust in God.  Faith is total confidence in the provision of God.

The great saint George Mueller (Click for example of Mueller’s amazing faith) once said that: ”The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety”.

George Mueller (1805-1898) is an example of the life of a man of faith, the likes of which this world has seldom seen. He took Jesus’ words to heart and lived by His Lord’s assurance that His heavenly Father would provide all of his basic necessities. The following is from a biography on his life:

Three weeks after their marriage, they decided to depend upon God alone to provide their needs as already indicated. They carried it to the extent that they would not give definite answers to inquiries as to whether or not they were in need of money at any particular moment. At the time of need, there would always seem to be funds available from some source, both in regards to their private income, and to the funds for his vast projects soon to be discussed. No matter how pressing was the need, George simply renewed his prayers, and either money or food always came in time to save the situation… A well known story about Mueller indicates the kind of life that he lived.

One morning the plates and cups and bowls on the table were  empty. There was no food in the larder, and no money to buy  food. The children were standing waiting for their morning meal, when Mueller said, “Children, you know we must be in time for school.” Lifting his hand he said, “Dear Father, we thank Thee for what Thou art going to give us to eat.” There was a knock on the door. The baker stood there, and said, “Mr. Mueller, I couldn’t sleep last night. Somehow I felt you didn’t have bread for breakfast and the Lord wanted me to send you some. So I got up at 2 a.m. and baked some fresh bread, and have brought it.” Mueller thanked the man. No sooner had this transpired when there was a second knock at the door. It was the milkman. He announced that his milk cart had broken down right in front of the Orphanage, and he would like to give the children his cans of fresh milk so he could empty his wagon and repair it. No wonder, years later, when Mueller was to travel the world as an evangelist, he would be heralded as “the man who gets things from God!”

Barnes comments that

And this is as true in other things as in religion. It is impossible for a child to please his father unless he has confidence in him. It is impossible for a wife to please her husband, or a husband a wife, unless they have confidence in each other. If there is distrust and jealousy on either part, there is discord and misery. We cannot be pleased with a professed friend unless he has such confidence in us as to believe our declarations and promises. The same thing is true of God. He cannot be pleased with the man who has no confidence in him; who doubts the truth of his declarations and promises; who does not believe that his ways are right, or that he is qualified for universal empire. The requirement of faith or confidence in God is not arbitrary; it is just what we require of our children, and partners in life, and friends, as the indispensable condition of our being pleased with them.

1. Our number one aim in life should be to please God.

If you love someone, you aim to please him or her. The foremost commandment is that we should love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). It is impossible to obey that commandment without seeking to please God. Note two things in this regard:

A. Pleasing God begins on the heart (or thought) level.

We can fake out people by being nice on the surface, while in our hearts we don’t care about them. But God knows our every thought, and so we can’t fake Him out! Even if we fulfill a list of religious duties or live outwardly moral lives, God examines the thoughts and intentions of our hearts (Heb 4:12, 13note). So if you want to please God, you must judge all sin on the thought level and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (Mark 7:20, 21, 22, 23; 2Co 10:5). Do not be like the Pharisees who honored Him with their lips, while their hearts are far from Him (Mark 7:6). This is essential: Aim to please God with your thought life and your emotional life!

B. Pleasing God requires consistently drawing near to Him and seeking Him.

Verse 6 mentions the one “who comes to God.” Comes to translates the same word that is translated draw near in He 4:16 where we are exhorted to “draw near to the throne of grace.” In He 7:25note, the author says that Jesus “is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him.” In He 10:1, he states that the Old Testament sacrifices could never “make perfect those who draw near.” In He 10:22note, he exhorts us to “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience.” So in He 11:6, it should be translated, “he who draws near to God.” It means drawing near to God in worship and prayer. We should cleave to God like glue absolutely fastened to His heart.

Hebrews 11:6 also mentions “those who seek Him.” The KJV translates it, “diligently seek,” but scholars are divided about whether it has this intensive sense. It is parallel here to drawing near to God. The Hebrew word that is often translated seek originally meant to beat a path under foot. The idea was that if you sought your neighbor often, you would beat a path through the grass to his door. 

We should seek God so often that we beat a path to Him! 

Drawing near to God and seeking Him are deliberate, intentional activities. You do not accidentally draw near to the Holy One. No one ever seeks God apart from God’s calling that person (Ro 3:111Cor. 1:26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31). But once God has called you to salvation and you have responded in faith to His call, you must exert deliberate effort and intention to seek the Lord. Make it your priority and aim in life!

Note also that we are to seek God Himself, not just the rewards that He can give us. Knowing the living God is our reward. The Lord promised Abraham, 

Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your very great reward (Ge 15:1, NASB, margin). 

2. Faith is essential to please God.

Two words underscore this in He 11:6: impossible and must. Faith is not just something nice, if you care to practice it. It is impossible to please God without faith. You must believe that God is and the He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

We know this on a human level. If someone does not believe you or questions your integrity, you are not pleased with that person. In effect, they’re calling you a liar. If you have spoken the truth, to have someone call you a liar is not pleasing.

How much more does it displease the God of truth, Who cannot lie (Titus 1:2), when we call Him a liar by doubting His word! What could be more insulting? What could be more arrogant than to imply that we know more than God does? When we do not trust Him, we are in effect saying, “God, You’re wrong and I’m right!” How impudent! So, if we want to please God, we must learn what faith means, and live by faith on a daily basis. The author mentions two aspects of God-pleasing faith:

Faith is a daily walk that extends over a lifetime.

Enoch’s life also illustrates this point. Genesis 5 does not mention faith in connection with Enoch, but it does say twice that he walked with God. The LXX translators, seeking to make the language less anthropomorphic (F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews [Eerdmans], p. 287), render that phrase, 

“Enoch was well-pleasing to God.” 

Since it is impossible to please God without faith, it follows that Enoch walked by faith. His 300-year walk of faith obtained God’s testimony that he was pleasing to Him. To walk with God means that our lives are in step with God, yielded in obedience to Him, headed in the direction He chooses. Walking also implies intimacy and fellowship. Walking with a friend is a time to talk, to get to know one another, and to share the things that are happening in your lives. Walking with God is a daily process of growing more intimate with Him as you share everything in your life with Him and learn more of His ways.

Of course, you have to do your own walking. Someone else can’t do it for you. Just as a physical exercise program requires discipline, so spiritual walking requires discipline (1Ti 4:7). You have to take the initiative, the time, and the effort that is required to walk with God. If you don’t make frequent appointments to get alone with Him, it won’t happen. If you don’t make an effort to read His Word and apply it to your life, you’re not walking with Him. If you are not memorizing His promises and applying them to the various situations you face, you’re not walking by faith. If you have trusted in Christ as Savior, but you have grown lazy and aren’t walking with Him, then get up and get back on the path. Faith is a daily dependence on God, step by step, that continues over a lifetime.

Lit. “unto them that seek him out”. Those who seek Him out are continuously (present tense) diligently seeking Him.

Seek- (ekzeteo from ek = out or to intensify the meaning + zeteo = to seek) means to seek out, to look for, to search diligently for anything lost. This verb implies that the seeker exerts considerable effort and care in learning something.

What are you cleaving unto? What are you seeking? Whom and in what do you have faith in? (Phil 2:21-For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ).

Richard Murray in “The Eye of the Tiger: Stalking the Presence of God” says:

God has the spiritual eye of the tiger on you. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” 2 Chr 16:9. God stalks you daily. He is ravenous to consume you with His lovingkindness and tender mercies. You are His obsession. God wants you. He wants more of you. He wants all of you. He wants you now. God wants to teach you to hear His voice continually, use His strength constantly and experience His love fully. God wants you to know Him better and better as your Lord (Rom. 10:8-10), your Father (Gal. 4:6), your Friend (Jn. 15:15), your teacher, your guide, your protector, your God, your advisor. Do you have the spiritual eye of the tiger for God? The spiritual eye of the tiger will transform you into a holy warrior who walks in bottomless hunger for God and limitless strength in God.  May your strength in God be surpassed only by your hunger for God. May your eye of the tiger for God grow to equal His eye of the tiger for you.

God touches us with His presence; we respond in awe and stand at continual alert to receive more of the Lord; God then interacts with us more deeply according to our increased readiness; we again respond in awe and further sanctify our hearts to receive even more from God; God then penetrates us more intimately; we again respond with stronger consecrated awe; God again counters with an increased touch; God’s righteous action; our righteous reaction; God gives us all His presence we can handle; we rejoice in it and prepare our hearts for greater encounters.

To know God intimately is to be awestruck. To be awestruck is to overflow with esteem, admiration, wonder, amazement, veneration and worship. This is by no means a one time experience. Your life is one continuous concert before the Lord and love of your life. Love Me Tender (words and music by Vera Matson-Elvis Presley) was Elvis’ greatest love ballad. God sings the message of this song daily over you as He seeks to fully indwell you at all times:

Love me tender,

love me sweet,

never let me go.

You have made my life complete, and I love you so.

Love me tender,

love me true,

all my dreams fulfilled.

For my darlin’ I love you, and I always will.

Love me tender, love me long, take me to your heart.

For it’s there that I belong. 

Who else is more worthy of our faith and trust in? 

Gal 5:6 (Amp)6For [if we are] in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love.

Love is the battery or energy source of faith.

Eph 1 (Amp) 17[For I always pray to] the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, that He may grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation [of insight into mysteries and secrets] in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him,

    18By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones),

    19And [so that you can know and understand] what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe, as demonstrated in the working of His mighty strength,

    20Which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His [own] right hand in the heavenly [places],

    21Far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named [above every title that can be conferred], not only in this age and in this world, but also in the age and the world which are to come.

    22And He has put all things under His feet and has appointed Him the universal and supreme Head of the church [a headship exercised throughout the church],(A)

    23Which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all [for in that body lives the full measure of Him Who makes everything complete, and Who fills everything everywhere with Himself].

Paul’s pray is that we may know and understand intimately what is the unlimited, immeasurable and surpassing power of His power that is in and for us who believe. Faith is the awesome child like trust that God has spoken, we have heard it and we choose to believe it. There is a confident expectation and patient endurance that God will bring His Word to pass and that He is worthy to be believed.

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