Faith without Works is Dead

wait a minute … isn\’t pitch black?

Recently, the image to the right reminded of my heritage, as a Bible Thumping Baptist.

The image didn\’t set right with me, and it took a few moments to process why.  First, it called back to the legalism I was entrench.  Secondly, it touched that old spirit of division and elitism that so easily ensnares all of us through Denominational Doctrine.

It\’s been a while since I\’ve last read Genesis and Hebrews, so I headed back there to re-read the story of Noah.

And what do you think I found?  

Noah was saved by grace, through faith – not through obedience as many would like to believe.

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8)

By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith (Hebrews 11:7

But … Obedience!

So then, what do we do with obedience? 

Obedience from the heart is what matters, not obedience for the sake of obedience – and that\’s where my Bible Thumping Baptist heritage took me through \”learning the Bible.\”  They were all about being obedient to God.  Granted, there are many who can consume that doctrine and respond from the heart.  But since Christian denominations are rooted in Doctrine (which divides) rather than Relationship (which unites), I find it very unlikely that Mr. or Mrs. Average Christian actually gets it.  Rather, they find themselves right in the midst of living up to a standard through regular church attendance, singing in the choir, feeding the homeless and knocking on doors:

“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?”  Says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.  “When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?  “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me.  New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. (Isaiah 1:11-13)

The modern church doesn\’t need a relationship with God in order to function: they just need charismatic leadership, money and enough nicely designed programs to keep people entertained in their pursuit of pleasing God and measuring up through obedience.  So it\’s not the style of music that drives people away from God, it\’s doctrine without relationship enabled through good works programs.

Paul addressed this problem at Corinth.  He learned early on to not attempt to \”wow\” people with his dexterity of doctrine, but to bring them into an encounter (an experience) with God:

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God … and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.  (1 Corinthians 4:19-20)

Conclusion

It wasn\’t obedience that built the Ark, it was the works of faith, based in a relationship with God.

But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? (James 2:20)

Faith and Experience

Fruitful faith has a target or object upon which it is founded. It varies, but it could be reason, experience or a person, among other things. It\’s why we get our word faithful from faith: a faithful person has demonstrated two things: they have the ability to produce (you believe they can do a thing) and they will produce (you trust that they will do as they say). Faith placed in a faithful person always carries an expectation of experience. Such faith is well founded or well grounded because the person has demonstrated themselves to be reliable.

Therefore, faith is not demonstrated by how you feel, it\’s not demonstrated by the beliefs you hold, neither the doctrines you keep

Faith is demonstrated by what is produced: the outcome, the experience.  Faith \”is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.\”  What happens when the thing not seen and hoped for, shows up?  Faith moves out of the way and gives place to the experience.

Therefore, believing a doctrine for the sake of belief only, is worthless. That is not faith because such belief produces no work, no experience. James summed it up by suggesting that the demons have a proper belief too, but it is to them, worthless.

“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.\” 

You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 

But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” (James 2:18-19)

Therefore, the conviction of the thing unseen must always bring fruit.  You can know if your faith was well place by observing the fruit.  As a matter of fact, you can determine the efficacy of a work or ministry by the same standard – \”you shall know them by their fruit\” (Matthew 7:20)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Hebrews 11:1)

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)

Grace, Faith and Yielding

I\’ve said before that grace is that thing which makes us into something we cannot become on our own.  But I think people just don\’t get it.  There\’s more to it than just sitting back on our laurels and soaking it up, and that\’s where I believe people generally error.

I have been misunderstood to be making grace into something it\’s not.  And I can\’t say that I blame them, since I seemingly suggest that we think about it in non-traditional ways.  But a traditionalist I am not, so if you\’re looking for run of the mill traditional thought on this subject, then you might as well move along now, because you\’re not getting it from me.
Sovereignty
So, lets start with sovereignty.  What is it and what is the opposite of sovereignty?  Lets start with the converse, the opposite of sovereignty: what is that?  If you\’re thinking \”man\’s free will\” is the opposite of sovereignty, then you get the Gong (remember the Gong Show?) – in other words, \”no: man\’s free will is not the opposite of sovereignty.\”  Not convinced?  Well, then lets take a look at Meriam-Webster:
  1. Obsolete : supreme excellence or an example of it
  2. Supreme power especially over a body politic
    • freedom from external control : autonomy
    • controlling influence
  3. One that is sovereign; especially : an autonomous state 

The take-away from this definition is two fold: the first thing we notice is the concept of autonomy and freedom from external control.  The second thing is it\’s controlling influence.  In other words, you being sovereign, get to make your own autonomous, controlling and influential decisions free from external control and external considerations (that\’s free will, by the way).  See?  Man\’s free will is not the opposite of sovereignty, free will is sovereignty defined.  So, what is the opposite of sovereignty?

Grace
I submit to you, that grace is the opposite of sovereignty.  Whoa, hold on a minute: didn\’t God in His sovereignty fore ordain that we should be saved by grace?  How then is grace not sovereign?  Well, for starters, you\’re confusing God\’s autonomy in choosing the mechanism through which salvation is effected with the mechanism itself.  Did God choose to use grace?  Yes. Was that decision sovereign?  Yes, of course it was.  But is grace sovereignty defined?  No, it\’s not.  Consider the scripture  

 … {while} in our transgressions, {He} made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that {salvation} not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.. (Ephesians 2:5-10)

Wow, that sounds like a lot of sovereignty to me, doesn\’t it to you?  And you\’d be right – there is a lot of that  being expressed there.   But lets take take a look at something else:

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. (John 3:18-21)

Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. … But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. (Luke 8:11-15)

So, what\’s the point?  The point is faith: belief and trust is faith: \”for by grace you have been saved through faith\” and \”He who believes in Him is not judged.\”

Thus, the necessary rhetorical question is: can a person be saved who lacks faith?  Obviously, the answer is no.  Thus, salvation (which comes by grace) only happens in the presence of, or as scripture puts it \”through faith.\”  Therefore, salvation is not an act of sovereignty on Gods part, but an act of God in conjunction with the faith of the sinner.  Thus, sovereignty says \”I will do this thing outside of any consideration of you\”, whereas grace says \”I will do this thing only in conjunction with you.\”  Which is why repentance and reconciliation are required for salvation: repentance (my turning towards God) is the turning away from that which causes offence and reconciliation means to change mutually.  Both only occur through trust and belief (faith).

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  (2 Corinthians 5:18)

.. solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)

In the two verses above, we see our requirements of entering into that ministry of reconciliation through faith.

I understand that for some, this is a hard thing to grasp.  But we must separate what God does from how He chooses to do it:

So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?  (Galatians 3:5)

And the rhetorical answer is \”by hearing with faith.\”  And so it is with spiritual gifts: while they are freely given (charisma – grace gift), they are not exercised without our cooperation.  Which means we are not puppets of God.  We can choose to exercise our gifts and follow God, or we can choose to run away like Jonah.

Cooperation

In one sense, the only valid work we can do with God is cooperation.  In many cases our cooperation is just as simple as faith.  In other cases, it\’s yielding ourselves to Him.  In other instances, it\’s resisting the devil and drawing near to God.  All of these actions are examples of our cooperating with God.  Finding someone willing to cooperate with God is of paramount importance to Him:

I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.  (Ezekiel 22:30)

The passage above is a clear example of the results of sovereignty and grace.  One one hand, God was ready to destroy the land  (sovereignty), but on the other hand, He wanted to show mercy and save the land.  But what was lacking: \”a man among them who would … stand in the gap.\”  What was He looking for?   Fortitude, intercession, faith and cooperation: a space to express grace.

Consider also the seven years of plenty followed by the seven years of famine:

It is as I have spoken to Pharaoh: God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do.  Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt; and after them seven years of famine will come, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will ravage the land. So the abundance will be unknown in the land because of that subsequent famine; for it will be very severe. Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about.  Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance.  (Genesis 41:28-34)

God was acting in sovereignty, with providence and in grace in this example.  Through sovereignty and providence He provided the dream, the plenty and the famine.  Through grace he provided the interpretation, the produce and the ability to harvest the land.

Living by the Spirit

Which brings me to yielding.  I\’ve often wondered how to reconcile being filled with the spirit (Ephesians 5:18), and walking in the spirit (Galatians 5:16) and dying to self (Matthew 16:24), and last but not least, being transformed by God (Philippians 1:6).  At times, they seem incompatible, and most certainly if you spend any time in the average church, you will get seemingly conflicting and incompatible ideas regarding all of them.  So I spent a lot of time considering spirit – what is it?  Well, God is spirit.  Jesus has given us the comforter, His Holy Spirit.  Jesus described spirit as wind.  I even determined that the effects of His Holy Spirit demonstrate the affections of God (that\’s a play on words, but it works out correctly).  I\’ve understood that the spirit behind the 10 Commandments is one of protection, concern and love – not of \”I\’m a Holy God and I get to make the rules, so do or die.\”

Unfortunately, I\’ve not come to any grand conclusions.  I\’ve had to be taken back a step, back to yielding.  It turns out that in the moment by moment decisions that we are presented with, yielding to one thing or the other is what it all boils down to: do I perform this thing, or that thing?  Do this or that?

In the end, we\’ve got to make a choice.  We will yield to the flesh, or we will yield to His Holy Spirit.  Is it that simple?  Apparently so, for God did say, \”Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.\” (James 4:7-8)  In order to submit, resist and draw, you must yield to His Holy Spirit and die to self: you must cooperate with God and in doing so, you receive grace to overcome.

Sometimes, yielding is not an easy choice.  But it is fundamental to living in the Spirit, dying to self, being filled with the Spirit and being transformed by God.  And it puts us in a position of living in Grace, as opposed to being fallen from grace.  For when we are fallen from grace, we are living in our own strength, making our own way and working to build ourselves up with our own hands.

Yielding to His Holy Spirit and living in grace is a much better option, don\’t you think?

From Faith into Knowledge and Experience

There are Christians who believe and teach that faith is the end all of our experience with God, that nothing exists beyond faith.

As a matter of fact, I cannot remember ever being in a church service wherein faith was presented as something that moved a person from point A to point B, rather it\’s just something to have and to hold for the purpose of \”pleasing God.\”

Furthermore, I don\’t recall hearing that faith moves into or becomes something else. I have always heard faith being something you possess, a thing that you keep and maintain, but never as something which changes or goes away. Rather it is presented as once you\’ve got this elusive, all needed ethereal faith, then you just need to maintain it: keep the faith, as they say.

In a previous post, I discussed natural faith vs. Biblical or God given faith. I provided an example of natural faith which, contrary to popular belief and custom, is used routinely and relied upon daily. In regards to faith, God has imbued man in the natural with that which he must exercise in Spiritual. In either case the results – though differing – are the same.

The Scientific Method
The scientific method requires that we postulate either an outcome or the reason for an outcome (observation vs. idea), and then set about proving or disproving our postulate. This postulate is known as the hypothesis (defined here and here), and the mechanism of proving or disproving it is known as the scientific method.

For example, man observed water in its various forms in rivers, lakes and oceans as a liquid and a solid. So, he set about to discover for himself exactly how water exists in nature and then, lo and behold, discovered exactly what the scriptures had already told us.

But lets break this down just a bit more. Clearly man had knowledge of water in several states (liquid and solid), and a at least one other variation known as the condensate (i.e., clouds). The question was, how do we get from water to condensate and back to water? That was the invisible, missing link.

So, he said to himself, \”Self, I believe that water evaporates from a source, becomes a gas, travels through the air, condenses into a cloud, and then falls back to earth as rain.\” As a matter of fact, he believed it so firmly that he set about to prove it.

In this process of discovering for himself the nature of water, what exactly happened? Man made an observation, created a hypothesis and proved himself right. Or, we could also say that he accumulated a system of beliefs (based in observations) regarding a subject domain (water), created a hypotheses regarding that subject domain, and implemented a method to discover if his system of beliefs were correct.

When man went from a simple hypotheses into observing his hypotheses proven, he went from trust and belief into knowledge and experience.  Interestingly enough, the scientific method is inextricably tied to man, through and by his observations.  It could be argued (and very well, I might add) that man\’s scientific proofs, and their underlying theories, are based solely upon man\’s trust and belief in himself to first properly conjecture, and secondly, to properly observe a given phenomena.  It\’s why we have a thing called \”peer review.\”  Peer review is the vetting, the process of other people reviewing anothers\’ findings in order to determine if the other person has postulated and observed correctly.

What is Faith?
In it\’s simplest definition, faith is trusting and believing.  Therefore, when man observed water and proved it\’s circulatory path, it is just as valid to say that man went from faith into knowledge and experience as it is to say that man went from hypothesis into proof.
What exactly are we saying? When trust and belief is well placed and well formed, it always results in a knowledge that proves and substantiates the belief. We no longer just believe that water turns into vapor and condensates into clouds, we have empirical evidence resulting in knowledge that it behaves in this manner.

Faith works exactly the same way. Faith is trusting and believing, and faith brings experience and knowledge.

Seeking the Experience: The Spirit of Religiosity says it\’s a no-no
There are Christians who will tell you that seeking an experience with God, other than the mental ascension which you can acquire through faith based in doctrine (doctrine as derived from the knowledge of reading scripture) is wrong. What are they saying? Head knowledge good. Mustered up belief good. Actually expecting to have your cancer or migraines cured because of what Jesus commanded us in the Gospel according to Mark? Uhm … no: don\’t go there.

On one point I must agree: seeking the experience for the sake of partaking in the experience can be wrong.  In example, when one has no desire for relationship with God nor the creation and nurturing of Godly Life.

An Example of Experiential Faith
So then, why did Moses raise his staff and his hand at the Red Sea? Well, because God told him to: 

But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. (Exodus 14:16)

Did Moses believe God? Apparently so. What was the result of that belief? Works, experience and knowledge were the result. What exactly did Moses do? In my view, he thrust out his staff with his right hand in an upward and outward motion parallel with his body. His left hand went forward over the waters, perpendicular first to the left, then to the right in a parting motion.

That is probably not what you had in mind, but it does reflect exactly what God said to do: \”… lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it.\” Have you ever understood before now that God told Moses to \”divide\” the sea? That\’s not exactly how it happened in the movie, is it?

So, when did Moses stop believing God would part the Red Sea?

Ah, I can hear the wheels in your thoughts spinning! \”Moses never stopped believing God would part the Red Sea!\” Are you sure? \”Yes\”, you\’re probably thinking.   As a matter of fact, not only do I disagree, I assert that you\’ve believed a lie. I maintain that at a given point, Moses stopped believing God would part the sea. Hear me out and keep reading.

Are you a parent? (if not, imagine that you have a 3 year old running about).

When did you stop believing your child would be born?  Seriously: in the midst of the labor, when did you stop believing that your child would be born? Do you still believe your child will be born?

Once the labor was over and your child was in your arms, you stopped believing your child would be born: at about that point, you moved from faith into knowledge and experience. You knew that your child had been born. And as our curtain climbing, crumb-grabbing rug rats continue to evade even our simplest logic of normalcy and move into child hood, teenage years and adult hood, we no longer believe that our child will be born, we continue in the knowledge of the ever changing ramifications of that simple act of our child being born.

I submit to you that once Moses believed God and stepped into the works of his faith, he stopped believing and entered into knowledge of the sea parting from left to right and forward to the other side, just as God said it would.

Semantics you say? Hardly. Are you telling me that you sill believe your child will be born, after the fact?

Did God part the sea? Yes and no. Of course, God provided the power for the works. But He also told Moses to \”divide it.\” So, not only did Moses have to believe God, to take him at His word, Moses had to provide the works in order to prove God, to provide for an experience of the nature of God.

In doing exactly what God told him to do, Moses moved from belief into knowledge, just as you moved from belief of your child being born into the knowledge that your child has been born. So, once Moses moved into the works of proving God, Moses stopped believing the sea would part and moved into the knowledge of seeing that it was parted before him.

Attacks against Experiential Faith
This tidy argument of rejecting an experience with God falls squarely into the plan of Satan: for if he can convince you that experiences with God are wrong and should not be sought, then he has short-circuited your faith journey. And by damaging your faith journey he effectively prohibits your ability to abide in Christ.

Biblical Faith Produces Knowledge
Biblical faith, that which is given by God, always produces an experience based in the faith which came beforehand. It\’s the law. If faith does not produce knowledge, then it was not Biblical faith. Scripture clearly says this about faith:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1

What happens when the \”thing not seen,\” the \”thing hoped for\” shows up? You no longer have faith: you have knowledge.

The experience provided by faith produces knowledge of God and the experience is always the effect of the faith given. Faith producing an experience is a cause and effect relationship: God gives us cause, reason and ability to believe Him and then provides a tangible experience of the faith He authored.

Practically speaking, I don\’t believe God heals, I know that He does (and I have seen the MRIs that prove it). I don\’t trust that God saves, I know that He does.

God\’s gift of faith always moves us into an experience resulting in knowledge. And once we have the knowledge He wanted to impart to us, we have a place of abiding and operating because we have knowledge of who God is.

Consider the first few verses of 2 Peter.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, … For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God said that we would have knowledge of salvation, that Jesus came to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins (Luke 1:77)

The only way to have knowledge of salvation is to execute (perform) the works of faith for that which is given through grace. You can go to church, hear the good news and believe that Jesus is the Christ, but until you act out on your faith, you will never experience salvation. You do not go to heaven for being good, and you don\’t go to hell for being bad. Goodness and badness are results of belief systems acting out. Life and death, on the other hand, are states of being. You are either alive to God or you are dead to God.

That\’s why the Atheist cannot comprehend the Christian: the Atheist is operating from a position of disbelief where as the born again Christian is operating from a position of knowledge. Darkness cannot comprehend light because darkness has no substance, no reality.

A Bit About Darkness and Light
Enter a room and turn out the light. What happens? It becomes dark. Have you ever stopped to consider that darkness is not a thing? Light, on the other hand, is a thing: it\’s a photon. Conversely, darkness is simply the absence of photons. Darkness, in a real sense, does not exist – it is not a tangible thing. Darkness is simply the terminology we use to describe the absence of photons. But we certainly treat darkness it as if it were a tangible object.

The absence of knowledge is like darkness. Knowledge exists, and so does ignorance. But ignorance is not a tangible thing, it can only be defined by that which is absent: knowledge.

However, belief and trust without knowledge is still faith: faith has substance, it is evidence and substance of things hoped for. When God gives faith, He is providing a tangible substance of things yet to be. When God proves Himself, faith is no longer needed for that given thing for knowledge has arrived. It is this knowledge of God that we call abiding, since abiding provides fruit, or knowledge of salvation:

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

You cannot observe a tree bearing fruit without the fruit being on the tree. Observation of the tree bearing fruit is knowledge of the fruit. Knowing in the dead of winter that your apple trees will bear fruit in the summer is well placed faith. That well placed faith will be proven out in knowledge when you pick the fruit in the harvest (assuming frost does not kill the buds and the bees do their jobs).

Therefore, it is impossible to please God apart from faith. Why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

The Experience of Salvation
Although you, as a Christian, know that salvation is a gift given by grace through faith, have you ever stopped to think that salvation has a tangible and quantifiable effect? It results in a change that provides not only an immediate experience, but a life long experience as well.

This is why scripture admonishes us to work out our salvation (Philpians. 2:12) and that we will know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:16). If you do not have the experience of salvation or observe the fruit of salvation in another, then you have reason for suspect. The result, the experience of salvation is quantifiable, it is something of which you have intimate knowledge.

An Example of Failure in Faith
On the other hand, Jesus told the disciples to feed the 5000, and they said \”with what, 200 denarii?\” Jesus set them up to respond and act in faith so that they could have an experience of feeding the multitude and thus move into knowledge of what the proper application of trust and belief can provide. Even though they failed the faith test, Jesus still fed the people, in order to provide knowledge that might grow their faith in the future.

The same thing happens today. When God provides faith that He will do something or does something unexpected, people may sometimes become fearful and reject His presence, just as the Gadarenes did. If God\’s presence in your life is offensive, then you run the risk of excusing Him to move on to someone or someplace else.

Conclusion
God has provided in the natural an example of how His gifts of faith function. He provides reason to believe, gives the substance and evidence of things not seen through faith and then follows it up with an experience reflecting the faith He provided. Through trusting and believing we learn to abide in Him through the partaking of his Divine nature. Seeking the experience provided by God through faith is natural and expected, but seeking an experience for the sake of the experience only is rejecting the One who wishes to prove Himself to you through faith and knowledge. We all have the capacity to believe and to exercise faith, to take His word and believe it, and as such, it is impossible to please God apart from faith. Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

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.