WALKING BY FAITH
Pastor Vernon Giesbrecht
Faith – In defining what it is, one has to be careful about how the word is used. People who have successfully come out on the other side of a difficult experience may say: ”I just had faith.” Or, when your favorite sports team ekes out a win in a crucial game, you might say: “I had faith they would win.” Or when a child has gone missing and is finally found, the parents may say: “We just had faith she’d be rescued. “ With each example, there is obviously some determination, perhaps skill, and “luck” (if I may use the word) involved. What is essentially meant by faith is more like a “tenacious hope” against significant odds.
Faith, in the biblical sense is more assuring because it has a trustworthy object or person. The words “faith,” “belief,” and “trust” all have basically the same meaning. Nelson’s Bible Dictionary defines faith as a belief in or confident attitude toward God, involving commitment to His will for one’s life. Nelson also says “belief” is to place one’s trust in God’s truth. … The word “belief” in Greek is pistis, which means confidence or trust.
Perhaps one of the most difficult stories in the Bible is a clear study in what faith is and does. Hebrews 11, known as the “Hall of Faith” chapter, references Abraham twice as an example of one who had implicit faith in God. He believed God’s promise that his descendants would be like the stars of heaven. And so, following God’s direction, he left his home in Ur of the Chaldees not really knowing where he was going. As a man of faith, but not perfect, he doubted God’s promise, and fathered a son by his mistress. Finally, in their old age, Abraham and Sara received the promised son, Isaac, through whom “all the nations of the earth would be blessed”. Then, these verses recap the challenging story recorded in Genesis 22.
“17 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.”
This made absolutely no sense after what God had covenanted with Abraham. When we put ourselves in Abrahams place, it not only didn’t make sense, but it also horrifies us to think of killing our child. We can imagine the emotions Abraham felt. “God, ask anything of me, but not this!” However, he immediately prepared for the trip to the mountains of Moriah, taking Isaac with him. Paul D. Tripp comments: “We know that grace had visited and transformed the heart of this man, or he would not have been able to react as he did.” Abraham did not know why God asked him to do this, and what God would do. Yet, he trusted that God, all knowing, all powerful, entirely faithful, would be true to His promise and, perhaps, even raise Isaac from the dead. This, as is hinted in the passage, pre-figured what God was prepared to do in sending His Son to die a sacrificial death for sin.
The classic Biblical definition for faith is in Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Abraham was fully assured that God’s promises would be fulfilled; how, he did not know. God gave him the grace to believe. And, there are times when we need His grace to help our unbelief. We are like Thomas, who needed tangible proof of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus’ response was: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” He was referring to us and to all who over the centuries have trusted in Him.
Was faith difficult for Abraham? Was it difficult for Moses at times? For King David? For the prophets? Yes, but they all received the grace to fully trust a God who is always faithful to His promises, especially, as the Hebrews chapter assures us, God’s final reward is a better place in heaven for us. The trials and temptations we experience here are often tests of our faith in an ever faithful God.
“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.” Hebrews 11:6
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” James 1:5, 6
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2: 8, 9
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26
“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” Deuteronomy 7:9