What is faith?
Faith in anyone or anything hinges on our experiences or belief that they are what they claim to be; trusting in abilities and qualifications. Everyone has faith in people whether they are mindful of it or not. We put our lives in the hands of pilots whose credentials we don’t even ask to see, before boarding a flight. The meteorologist tells us what they see on their radar and we prepare events based on their predictions. It’s almost impossible to live without faith. It’s the very core of our existence, getting things done, and expecting others to do their part.
And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”
2 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 3 “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 4 And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. 7 And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land ( 1 Kings 17).
Elijah was a man who stood before God, and did what God commanded him to do. He didn’t question God’s intentions. God did not set the scene for him to understand. Elijah’s deference to God gave him privileged access. He spoke with the credibility of one who stood before the Living God, and whose God was delighted to answer. He prayed that it would not rain and it didn’t. He put God’s reputation on the line by the things he prayed. Elijah’s faith boldly petitioned for things only God could do. Faith is confidence in peerless abilities.
God honored Elijah’s prayer and prepared a place for Elijah to be nourished before the famine. Elijah did all God asked him to do and received supernatural provision; he was fed by ravens bread and meat, every morning and evening. God proved to Elijah that before the heavens were shut, that He would be his sustenance. Elijah first had to go to the brook, as God commanded him. He did just that and the results; we are awe-struck, thousands of years after, reading about something singularly unheard of—ravens prepared a bountiful spread. Obedience is active faith—not a passive gesture. God is Faithful to the faithful. Our faithfulness is our obsequious response to what God has commanded. God summons nature to supply for those who love Him.
5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him (James 2)?
Those who think they have arrived, have full confidence in themselves and their achievements. Since they are self-contained they must assume full control. They don’t know what to do in uncertainty. But those who are completely dependent on God, empty themselves of their abilities to receive all that He offers. They see themselves as deficient apart from God. All their skills and achievements are deployed in concert with God’s Power. The poor of this world are those who live fully dependent on God and are wanting in the world’s criteria of well-endowed. Yet, they are richly furnished from the Kingdom.
“Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith (Habakkuk 2)”
The rich in faith are kept in divine provision. God is the full portion of those hunger and thirst for Him. To long for someone is to love them. Those who love God cling to His promises. We cannot love God until we have believed Him.
2 But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 5 Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness (Genesis 15).
Abraham asked God for an heir, but under the same breath he mentioned someone else’s child, as his last hope. Abraham meant to show God how desperate he was for a child. God in His favor, promised Abraham innumerable descendants, as the stars. Abraham was way past his salad days and Sarah’s clock had run out to conceive. He still believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. This righteousness had to be tested. Righteousness is a reward for obedience. Obedience is an earnest response to faith. God makes promises which are fulfilled by our obedience.
15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice. (Genesis 22)”
Abraham was commanded to go and sacrifice his promised son, Isaac. Abraham didn’t question God for giving him the heir he asked for and then commanding he make him a sacrifice. He believed God’s promise to make him a father to many descendants, and didn’t stumble at what God had spoken. Abraham put Isaac on an altar, because his faith quickened him to obey. Faith elevates the giver, far above the need. The Giver was more credible by dint of His own promise, than the promise itself. God was pleased with the faith that led to obedience, and it became Abraham’s righteousness. This established the promise to Abraham.
Faith must come first. Works are motivated by our trust. Works that are done to earn brownie points with God aren’t done based on trust, but faith in abilities that get God to act. God doesn’t need us to trust our good deed, but to believe in Him; to be concerned to do as He commands. When people believe that their actions negotiate with God for blessings, their own works become the basis of their faith. Those who were to be Abraham’s descendants are those who would take God at His Word; in their belief they do as He commands, while trusting in His abilities to do as He promised.
16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”). In the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness (Romans 4).”
Those who believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, believe in the God who has numbered them among the children of the promise, way before Moses gave the law. We believe that in the Lord Jesus Christ we have been given the right to be called children of God, apart from our works. Think about that; God foreknew us before Isaac came to be. The works of the law which no one can do in entirety, expose our inability to meet God’s standards. The Lord Jesus did the works for us by living in complete obedience even to His death, as an acceptable sacrifice. He was the “Isaac” that confirmed the promise, which Isaac was not allowed to mediate by his death. The Lord Jesus did away with the flesh of sin, represented by the circumcision of Abraham and his house ( the sign of the covenant God made with Abraham); so that we should also put off our sinful nature, and live in obedience because we have believed God.
Abraham didn’t consider his body or Sarah’s womb dead through unbelief. We are dead to sin, but alive in Christ. We give God even more Glory, knowing that as sinners we were cut off from the household of God. But just as God gave life to Abraham and Sarah’s bodies, He has given us The Spirit of His Son Jesus, Who rose from the dead. We are heirs of Abraham because we have believed in the God Who Gives us life and gives it more abundantly, while we were still dead in our sins—without a right standing with God. If God has given us so much, why withhold blessings by disobedience? We either believe Him or not. God is a covenant keeper—always keeps His part of the deal. Faith makes us generous givers to God, because He has already given His best.
4 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 (Hebrews 11).
Our offerings are our testimony of our faith in God. We give to Him what we believe He deserves. Offerings can be tangible like tithes, supplying for the needy or they can also be spiritual like praise, prayer and thanksgiving. The attitude by which we give these offerings is a witness of our hearts toward God. By faith Abel gave the best of the first animal offerings. His offering was accepted as his righteousness. Though Cain killed him, Abel still lives in the presence of God.
6 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; 7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them. (Numbers 14)”
God commanded Moses to send out a leader from each tribe of Israel to search out the land of Canaan, which He promised to give them. God wanted them to come back and give a good report about the good land, so that they could encourage the Israelites (Numbers 13). They returned with large fruit, confirming that it was a land flowing with milk and honey. Under the same breath, they were dismayed and demoralized the Israelites by telling them that the inhabitants of the land were invincible giants. Only Caleb and Joshua, believed God had already secured the land for them. They saw the unseen; victory over the inhabitants whose protection God had already removed, because God had already gone before them.
Fear is lack of faith. Fear equates God’s abilities with our circumstances and casts aspersions on His power. Joshua and Caleb’s faith was unshaken. They were straining at the leash to go into the land that God had already spied out for them, and given them. Faith in God is wind at our backs that gives momentum that others may not understand. We believe what they can’t see. We act on what God sees. There’s no stopping those who have this kind of faith, because God is their strength. Faith does not depend on others’ excitement or or lack thereof. Our faith is not driven by other people’s fears either. Faith is the key to untrammeled blessings.
12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. 13 And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
14 So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. 17 So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? 18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well (Luke 17).”
There are actions that follow faith as we saw earlier; obedience, boldness, and worship. Ten lepers were healed, but only one returned to glorify God. The one who returned was not a Jew, but a Samaritan. While the nine got cleansed, only one was made whole. We would say that they all believed they would be healed, because they all cried out to the Lord to have mercy on them. They also all got up to show themselves to the priests, before it was evident they were cleansed. Yes, they did have faith to be cleansed of leprosy, but not enough to be made whole physically and spiritually.
Faith is far-reaching beyond physical deliverance. Glorifying God for His Goodness makes us complete. Those who don’t return with thanksgiving to give God glory, settle for less than He is willing to give them. Only the foreigner returned because he was not entitled; he felt unworthy as one not born of Israel. We are unworthy because God doesn’t owe us anything. Faith is an act of giving God the honor He deserves. The Samaritan leper was made whole and honored above the rest, by Christ. He didn’t go to show himself to the priests; until he first bowed before One greater than the priests. He was justified without the law that required him to show himself to the priests with an offering: The Lord said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” We too are the blessed heirs of Abraham. Our faith defines the God we believe, by living in obedience to Him.
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcision by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law (Romans 3).