Saturday, June 13, 2009

Faith - A Definition and its Application


Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

The World's Definition of Faith
According to the world, faith is an ethereal, empty, mustered up belief of wishing in the impossible or improvable. It has been defined as belief in something that does not rest in logical truth. Many times the definition involves a belief in a given religion, dogma or denomination associated with various sects of Christian or non-Christian systems of belief.

A Proper Definition of Faith
Faith is a confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing. Some of the synonyms for faith are confidence, trust, reliance, conviction, belief, and assurance. Faith means to believe in, be devoted to and to trust in somebody or something.

There are three necessary axioms of faith:

The Axioms of Faith
  1. The Faith Object - The thing in which a given belief system is built around. 
  2. The Belief System - A set of axioms related to and about the faith object. 
  3. The Works - Actions that are performed as a result of both the Faith Object and the Belief System surrounding the Faith Object. 
An Example of Faith
Any good astronomer believes, and will tell you, that earths' moon may be found at a specific set of coordinates at a given time.  Why? The moon has been found to be a very reliable object, to the point that the astronomer has, through observation, constructed a system of beliefs that has culminated in a number of varied algorithms and/or procedures designed to locate the moon at any given time or place. 

Without the reliability of the moon, and without a strong system of beliefs based upon the behavior of the moon, the NASA moon landings would have never been possible. Because in order to land on the moon, you must first believe that the moon exists, and secondly, you must know where the moon will be at any given time.

Without the establishment of these two fundamental requirements (the establishment of an object, and trust and belief regarding said object), it is impossible to interact with anything. Therefore we understand that every one lives their life, at one point or another, based in some form of faith – a trust and belief in something or someone.

Whether or not our faith objects and belief systems are proper does not negate the fact that we live our daily lives based upon our trust and belief in regards to numerous people, places and things.  Many people would say that they live their lives based upon facts, but this argument is incorrect.  Consider the fact that there are possibly hundreds or thousands of incarcerated prisoners who are actually innocent of the crimes they were charged. Obviously, the fact is that they are in jail. But they're not in jail because of the facts surrounding the crime they never committed - they're in jail because of what a jury believed and trusted regarding those facts. In actually, the jury believed a lie, and convicted an innocent person.  In the end, they demonstrated works based in their faith by convicting the person.  And in providing a conviction, they moved from trust and belief into and demonstrable experience: which is the end result of all faith: experience.

Biblical Faith
Biblical faith is not that different from ordinary or natural faith. The biblical faith object is God. First and foremost the primary Christian faith object is Jehovah God, not the Bible - although we trust and believe the Bible, thus exhibiting faith towards the written word of God.

However, what the Bible provides is truth in regards to our faith object (God). Even though one must believe the Bible and one must trust the Bible, and hence demonstrate faith towards the Bible, the Bible is not our primary faith object - God is our primary faith object.

Jesus, speaking to the scribes and pharisees had this to say of our tendency to put our faith in the Bible, instead of God:
You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; (yet) it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." (John 5:38-40)
Clearly, Jesus Himself made a distinction between placing trust in the Word of God for salvation, rather than trust in Himself. He states the truth: it is in the scriptures we find the truthful testimony regarding Jesus Christ. He also states the contrary indication: they searched the scriptures because they believed that in them solely and exclusively, they had eternal life. Clearly they were wrong, as Jesus said that while the scriptures testified of Him, the Christ, they were unwilling to come to the One, the Christ of salvation, Jesus Himself - the author of salvation.

If it is impossible to make a distinction between the faith in the word of God and faith in God, then Jesus would have congratulated the Scribes and Pharisees for their diligent study of His word and thereby receiving salvation. Clearly, this is not what Jesus said.

Even so, we cannot separate God's word from God Himself - for it teaches us the truth about Him, and it keeps us from sin - "Thy word I have hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee" (Psalm 119:11).  The point I'm trying make is that we must make sure that our ultimate faith object is God. To assume that you can believe in God but not believe His word is preposterous. But to make God's word an higher authority than God himself is an error. Remember: the point of God's word is to lead us into a relationship with God. It is God's tool to bring us to Himself.

Faith Depends upon it's Object
The author of Hebrews said
Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6, NASB)
and Habakkuk said
Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4, KJV)
Neil Anderson said that “the issue of faith is not that we believe … it's what we believe or who we believe in that determines whether or not faith will be rewarded.” The question remains then, faith in what? Again, we find the author of Hebrews addressing our faith object:
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:7-8)
It wasn't just any “words” that were spoken to them, rather the author was referring to God's words – those words which God Himself uttered through His judges, prophets and servants. Therefore, the object here is God - “those ... who spoke the word of God to you … “. They could trust the words they heard because of the author of those words. They did not trust the words because they were written in a book that many before them had revered, but they trusted Him who spake them because they knew that God was trustworthy.

On the contrary, the person who's primary faith object is the Bible views God with suspicion and distrust. He or she uses the Bible to remind God of what He said he would do, for without this reminder God is (to them) untrustworthy to act on their behalf with benevolence, faithfulness or love.

But the person that trusts God, who's faith object is God, will also remind God of His word and His promises, but in the knowledge that God will act upon His promises. This person also does this from a point of humility and trust in God. Nehemiah is an example of a person who's faith object was God, and yet in his relationship to God, reminded the Lord of His promises: 
… they said to me, "The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire." When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. I said, "I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and loving kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father's house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, 'if you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.' (Nehemia 1:3-9)
Faith is Dependent upon your Knowledge of your Faith Object
If you are like most people, you believe the moon circles the earth. You believe that on most nights, and some days, you can see the moon in the sky. But unless you are among a very few people with the right skills and/or equipment, you cannot tell me the exact coordinates of the moon over the earth at any given point in time. Why is that? Because your knowledge of the moon is limited. You may have enough faith in the laws of physics to believe that the moon will remain in the sky for as long as you live, baring some unforeseen external force. And you may have enough faith in the moon and these laws to believe that you can find the moon in almost any night sky. But that is as far as your knowledge takes you.

Our faith in God is no different. We will go with God only as far as our faith allows us to go, and our faith reflects the quality of our knowledge and belief in God. Consider again Hebrews 13:7-9: 
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.
The author suggests that we should “consider the result of their conduct”, that we should “imitate their faith”, that we should not be “carried away by varied and strange teachings” and that it is good to be “strengthened by grace”. Our conduct, good or bad, reflects both our quality of faith and the quality of our belief system.

Imitating the faith of another person and not being carried away by strange teaching both have the inverse effect of strengthening your belief system, and therefore growing your faith.

Being "strengthened by grace" means that we die to our selfishness, our pride and our desires and allow God to make us into that which we cannot become of our own accord.

In Victory Over the Darkness (pp.110, 111), Neil Anderson says:
The only limit to your faith is your knowledge and understanding of God, which grows every time you read your Bible, memorize a Scripture verse, participate in a Bible study or meditate on His Word … I doubt there is a Christian alive who has lived up to his or her faith potential based on what he or she already knows to be true.
The Apostle James said that we must
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when {we} encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of {our} faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that {we} may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-3, NASB)
When God tests our faith, He is working on our behalf by showing us the quality of our belief in Him and the deepness or shallowness of our trust in Him.

Faith is an Action Word
Why do you look up in to the night sky to see the stars and the moon? Because you know and believe they are there. Your belief produces and results in an action. Why does (or did) the Captain of a ship use the sextant to guide his way across the ocean? Because he believes and knows that the stars are trustworthy in their positions in the sky, and he believes in the result of a properly implemented sextant. In the same way, faith without action is not faith – it is dead and empty, it is powerless, wishful thinking:
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Therefore, everything you do is a product of what you have chosen to believe. If you believe that jumping into a body of water is likely to result in your death, then you have a fear of water – and your not a swimmer. If you believe that climbing to top of a tower could result in your death, then you stay on the ground – you have a fear of heights. If an escalator is nothing but a machine with the power to rip you into shreds, then you take the stairs – you have a fear of escalators. And the list could go on and on.

Do you share your Faith with those around you? If not, do you actually have any faith to share?

The Gift of Faith
Everyone has been given a measure of faith:
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith (Romans 12:3)
But the spiritual Gift of faith, as defined in 1 Corinthians 12:7,9
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. … to another faith by the same Spirit ...
is different from the common, “measure of faith” given by God to all, as a part of their nature of being made in the "image of God."

This spiritual gift of faith differs in that while many of us struggle to have faith, to grow our faith and to exercise our faith, those with this gift simply know that God will act in circumstances that seem impossible. This gift of faith enables one to trust and believe God in extraordinary circumstances, or for extraordinary works on the behalf of yourself and/or others.

The spiritual gift of faith Defined
The motivation behind this gift, as is the motivation behind all of the spiritual gifts of God, is based in and flows from love . This gift enables the recipient to understand and see what God wants to do and is willing to do in a given situation or circumstance. By virtue of this knowledge, this gift provides the peace of God for the given need or situation; it provides a supernatural ability to trust God to accomplish a given task.  These types of people are ... 
  • Are visionaries who dream big dreams, pray big prayers, and attempt big things for God. 
  • Are optimistic, hopeful, persevering, change-oriented, and future-focused 
  • Are convincing about the truth of Scripture because they themselves are so convinced of the truth and power of God and his Word. 
A Contemporary Example
George Mueller was an excellent example of this gift. Early in his ministry he resolved to never ask anyone for money, but present his needs directly to the Lord. Mueller learned that English prisons held 6,000 children, simply because they had no other place to live. By 1845 he had 130 orphans housed in four rented buildings, and although he had only £5, wanted to build another building capable of holding 300. Using only prayer, he had the funds in just over 6 months, and when the building was finished and the children moved in, he had £776 left over; and he had not asked for one penny! Before he died in 1898 he built four other orphanages the same way, for a total cost of $575,000, while his own personal assets amounted to only $300. Mueller said:
"Seven million five hundred thousand dollars have been sent to me in answer to prayer. We have needed as much as two hundred thousand dollars in one year, and it has all come when needed. No man can ever say I asked him for a penny. We have no committees, no collectors, no voting, and no endowments. All has come in answer to believing prayer." If I should say that during the fifty-five years and nine months that I have been a Christian that I have had 30,000 prayers answered in the same hour or day that the requests were made, I would state nothing more or less than an honest truth in the sight of God.” ( A Personal Interview with George Mueller, Charles R. Parsons, 1897)
Are you a faith filled person?  Consider the following questions:
  • Do you view obstacles as opportunities, do you trust God for the impossible?
  • Are you likely to boast about the power of God and what you have seen him do?
  • Are motivated by new ministries because you see them as an opportunity for God to do great things?
  • Do you find yourself feeling opposed to anyone who expresses that something cannot be done or accomplished?
  • Do you find other believers coming to you for hope when they face a seemingly overwhelming trial or task?
  • Do you have an effective prayer ministry, with many wonderful answers to prayers that were impossible from the human point of view?

All of these things have at their root a spiritual unction which is motivated from belief and trust the the ultimate faith object, God Himself.

4 comments:

Tidbits of Torah said...

You state: Even though one must believe the Bible and one must trust the Bible, the Bible is not our faith object.

As a religious Orthodox Jew, I would have to disagree with you. Torah is emes/truth - it reflects who G-d is and teaches us that one must cling to Torah commandments. When one clings to Torah - they are clinging to the Almighty.

David hamelech (the king) over and over again in his Psalms - teaches us to cling to Torah to cling to
G-d as you can see in Tehillim/Psalms 119

www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt26b9.htm

Do visit my page - Shalom

David Means said...

"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Psalms 119:11)

What David is conveying is 'not instead of'. What he's saying is this: I'm using your words to know you; I want to know you so well that I don't sin against you.

To cling to the spirit of the Torah is to know G-d, The spirit of the Torah shows us who G-d is. The end result of hiding G-d's word in our heart is to bring us into a closer relationship with G-d.

You are a living, breathing human being on the other end of this computer. The words you posted on this blog are your thoughts, but they are not "you". If I lose myself solely in your words, I lose my chance to have a relationship with you. But, your words are important because they tell me about you. I can trust your words and believe your words, and in doing so I demonstrate faith in you, that you are speaking your heart to me.

Your words are an extension of you. To separate your words from you and make them solely the object of my faith is where I go wrong. That's what I'm talking about.


The danger is this: that we concentrate so much on G-d's words that we forget the G-d who spoke them. The danger is that we worship the word of G-d, instead of G-d himself.

It is good and proper to believe in and trust in the word of G-d. In doing so, we demonstrate faith in His word. But that faith must have a higher object, a higher calling - that faith must ultimately be in G-d. G-d must be our ultimate and final faith object.

Thank you for responding. I appreciate the opportunity to (hopefully) clarify my thoughts.

Shalom!


"Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith." Habakkuk 2:4

DrZockoll said...

Well spoken, David.

My Bible is my guide and my source of comfort in the respect that it opens the door for me to see the living God and to learn of His salvation road. I read of Jesus and the reading shows me my true Faith Object.

Brad Zockoll
http://drzockoll.blogspot.com/

David Means said...

Thank you, Brad. I hope it's clear and understandable. Every time I read it, I find something else to edit!

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