Lesson 7 -- third quarter 2004
July 18, 2004
© Copyright 2004, Christian Light Publications
What is faith?
We could begin answering the question here by saying that faith is a system of belief. Though that would make for a good beginning, it certainly wouldn't be enough. Otherwise, the Israelites could have parked at the edge of the Jordan River for thirteen generations, proclaiming their unflagging persuasion that what God said was true: A path would open through the river as soon as the feet of the priests touched the water. So there has to be another element to faith.
Let's amend our definition -- Faith is a system of belief that leads to actions consistent with those beliefs. Satisfied with that? I have to tell you that I am not. It just seems something is still lacking. Otherwise, the people could have left their tents pitched (and their stuff in their tents) while they curiously waited for word on whether or not the priests got more than the soles of their feet wet. In other words, the people could have said, "We believe a path will be made through the river, and we will walk through that path...once it appears." So there has to be yet another element to faith.
Time for another amendment -- Faith is a system of belief that, unhampered by the lack of tangible evidence and human reasoning, leads to actions consistent with those beliefs. That certainly isn't very smooth reading and it probably lacks another element or two. Even so, it has enough meat to make for some profitable chewing. So let's chew.
Faith is belief. That may seem redundant. But it isn't, because this kind of belief is a conviction, a certainty. You see, I can say, "I believe tomorrow it will rain" and not have any certainty or conviction as I do when I say, "I believe Jesus rose from the dead." When Joshua said the river would open up, he was absolutely convinced.
Faith is not shackled by the physically and humanly obvious. We humans get hung up on the obvious. Faith could be defined as "Seeing as God sees." Faith goes by what is obvious and tangible to God! Listen to this definition from Hebrews 11:1 -- "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." A thing hoped for is generally intangible, but faith gives it substance. In other words, it sees something as accomplished...even before it is tangibly so.
Faith acts. To put it another way, faith works. If it doesn't, it isn't -- because "faith without works is dead" (James 2:26). Those who try to be Christians with a works-free faith are fighting a losing battle!
Attaining to faith
How do we get faith and grow in it? Without a doubt, God has a part in the process; but then, so do we. The apostles once said to the Lord, "Increase our faith" (Luke 17:5), and a sick child's father at another time cried out, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24). Faith is a gift from God, granted to those who ask with the intention of doing their part.
Furthermore, Romans 10:17 establishes exposure to God's Word as a producer of faith -- "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
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