As we learned in the last study, spiritual growth is an inward work of the Holy Spirit in the life of God’s people. God is not concerned with men conforming outwardly to some religious system of rules, but rather that they be transformed inwardly by the Holy Spirit into the image of His Son (Rom 8:29; Gal 4:19). This progressive work of transformation takes place as we learn more about God the Father and submit ourselves to His word. Although the Holy Spirit is responsible for producing these attitudes, we are also responsible for obediently submitting to the Spirit’s work within us (Eph 4:30-32; 1 Thes 5:19).
In this study we will be dealing with an attitude which is foundational to all others; that is Faith.
Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Faith is the door through which all men must pass in order to enter the Kingdom of God (Gal 3:22; John 3:15). Basically, it is trust in God.
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Faith in God is believing that God exists and that the revelation he has given of himself is true. It is then trusting Him based upon that revelation. The first and greatest example of faith happens the moment that one is saved. A Christian has, by definition exercised faith in God when he trusts Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord (Gal 3:26). He believes God exists; he believes the testimony God gave of His Son; and he trusts that God will save him through Christ. (1 John 5:10-13).
Not only does a man become a Christian through the exercise of faith (Eph 2:8-9), but he continually increases in his faith as he grows spiritually (2 Thess 1:3).
Galatians 3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Faith is Trusting God
As we have already seen, faith is believing that God exists; believing that He is who He has revealed Himself to be; and then trusting Him based upon that revelation.
At the moment of salvation, we exercise faith by trusting God to fulfill his promise of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. Following our conversion, we exercise faith as we learn more and more about God and develop an ever increasing trust in Him based upon our growing knowledge of who He is and what He has promised (Eph 1:15-17).
Since our faith in God depends upon our knowledge of who God is and what God has promised, how can we increase our faith?
The word of God is the source for knowledge of who God is and what God has promised. Are your current habits of scripture reading and study enough to lead to a vibrant faith?
In 2 Timothy Paul writes to Timothy from prison. He has experienced much affliction for the gospel’s sake and is aware that his death is imminent. It is under these circumstances that he wrote 2 Timothy 1:12:
2 Timothy 1:12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
Paul’s unashamed faith was firmly founded upon the fact that he knew God. It was because of this elder saints deep knowledge of God that he was persuaded that God would preserve him at the time of judgment. Deep faith comes from deep knowledge of who God is.
Many Christians find it difficult to trust God because they have a shallow understanding of who God is. After all, it is hard to trust someone that you do not know. As we read and obey the Bible, experience answers to prayer and trust God through our trials, we learn more and more about Him. The more we learn about him the easier it becomes to trust Him. The more we trust Him, the easier it is to exercise faith. This the cycle of growing faith.
Paul had experienced both triumphs and trials in his Christian life and through it all he learned to trust God by faith. In Philippians 4:12 Paul said “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
The Apostle Paul lived a life of faith. He knew the God of the scriptures and trusted him based upon his promises. God was faithful to Paul and continually proved himself reliable when Paul trusted Him by faith. In this way, Paul’s faith matured in a cycle of growth. That is, when he trusted God by faith, God proved himself faithful, which encouraged Paul to trust Him even more. In the very same way, our faith will grow when we first choose to trust God, based upon the promises of His word.
When Doubt Arises
For the Christian, all of God’s promises are culminated in the person of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:20 says:
For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
If we ever doubt God’s loving care for us, or his ability to help us, we need look no further than the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God proved His endless love for us by sending Jesus Christ to die for our sins. He proved His unlimited ability by raising Him Christ from the dead (Eph 1:19-20). His love reminds us that he is willing and his power reminds us that he is able, to answer whatever need we may have. God has provided more than ample reason to trust him by faith.
The Hall of Faith
Hebrews chapter 11 is commonly referred to as God’s Hall of Faith. The Lord provided this chapter in his Word to encourage us to live lives of faith. In it we find a record of the lives of faith lived by some of the great men and women of the Old Testament. Let’s explore some of them below.
Hebrews 11:8-10 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
Abraham did not know where he was going, yet he obeyed. He uprooted his family and travelled to a strange land all based upon his trust in God. He believed that God would fulfill the promise that He had made even though the circumstances around him did not reflect it.
Romans 4:16-24 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring–not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”–in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,
Like Abraham, we sometimes encounter life circumstances which seem to contradict God’s promises. At times it seems impossible that His promises are true or that he is faithful to fulfill them. Trusting God in these moments is the very essence of true faith. It is because Abraham trusted God when all else seemed hopeless, that we find his name in the hall of faith.
Hebrews 11:17-19 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
Abraham was able to see past his difficult circumstances and the apparent impossibility of his situation because he believed God’s promises. He was able to trust God and to remain strong in faith because he knew God. He knew God enough to be persuaded that He would (and could) keep the promises which He had made. Abraham offered Isaac knowing not only that God had promised him a seed, but that God was also able to raise him from the dead.
Faith is standing upon God’s promises and believing that He is not only able, but also faithful to fulfill them. It is more than simple head knowledge, it is living our lives in response to who God is, and what He has promised – even when our circumstances seem hopeless.
Hebrews 11:11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.
Sarah did not have the strength or ability to conceive. The reality of her situation was bleak. There was no logical reason to believe that she would ever have a child naturally. Yet, Sarah did have a child and through that child a multitude of descendants arose (v12). Sarah not only believed in God, but she believed God. She knew God was faithful and unchanging and based upon her knowledge of who God was, she trusted Him. Sarah trusted God’s promises even when her circumstances seemed to make them impossible.
In your own words, what is the difference between merely believing in God and believing God?
Hebrews 11:22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.
There was nothing occurring in Egypt at the time of Joseph’s words which would have lead him to believe that the children of Israel would ever escape that country. He based his hope entirely upon faith in the promise of God (Gen 50:24-25). He had such faith in God’s promise that he gave the children of Israel instruction as to how to deal with his bones when they were finally freed from Egyptian bondage (Ex 13:19). Faith is trusting God and His word, even in the face of hopeless circumstances.
Looking at the above examples we could say that Faith is resting in God’s promises on the basis of what we know about His character and ability. Like Abraham, Sarah, and Joseph we should not allow circumstances to affect our faith. Even when we don’t understand our circumstances, we can still understand our God. In order for us to truly exercise faith, we should seek to learn more about who God is and more about what he has promised.
Faith – Resting on His Promises
This is only a small sampling of the multitude of promises God has given to His people throughout scripture. Do you believe them? Even God’s most difficult promises become easy to believe when we become acquainted with who He is. The scripture teaches us about him, so that we can trust him by faith. No matter how unbelievable God’s promises might seem at first, they all become believable as we grow in our knowledge of who God is and what He is able to do.
God has chosen to reveal his character and promises to us in the word of God. For this reason, reading and studying the Bible is essential if we would increase our faith. The Bible says in Romans 10:17, So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Within the pages of the Bible we learn who God is, what he has promised, and we witness the lives of others who have trusted him by faith.
If you would like your faith to increase – read the word of God and allow your attitudes, actions and affections to change in response to what your learn about who God is and what He has promised.