We have seen that God has provided a marvellous salvation from all the consequences of man’s rebellion. This salvation is to be received through repentance and faith. God expects us to change our allegiance. We must now love Him and serve Him – not our old selfish and corrupt desires. He wants to set us free from every oppression. But as well as this change of allegiance or repentance we need to believe God and His promises with a living faith. In this lesson we will consider what it means to have faith in God.
What is Faith?
What Faith is not
Faith is not religion. Many times people say “We have our faith”. What they mean is this: “We have our religious ideas and doctrines, our traditions, our ways of doing things passed down through the generations. Don’t you try to change them.” This is not the Biblical idea of faith.
Faith is not mental assent. It is not agreeing with your mind, “Yes, that is true.” Many professing Christians believe mentally that the Bible is the Word of God, but this faith does not change the way they live. It is not a faith that can save. (James 2:14)
Even demons have that kind of faith. They know and believe that God exists (James 2:19) – and tremble. They have no loving confidence in God.
Faith is not a way to manipulate God. It is not a power by which we make God do what WE want when otherwise He would be unwilling to do that thing. It is not a kind of magic through which we make God into our servant!
Faith is not hope, nor positive desire. Hope is good, and relates to the future. Faith, however, takes the promise as done NOW. Many people have hope and are anxiously looking for results, but they lack the settled confidence and present assurance which faith has.
What Faith Is
In the general sense of the word, to have faith is to believe in something or someone, to fully trust, to be so confident that you base your actions on what you believe. To have faith is to be fully convinced of the truthfulness and reliability of that in which you believe.
Faith in God then, is having the kind of trust and confidence in God and in Christ that leads you to commit your whole soul to Him as Saviour (Justifier, Cleanser, Healer, Deliverer) and Lord (Master, King).
The NIV translation says, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV).
The NKJV of the Bible says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1).
Faith is a spiritual substance. When you have this spiritual substance in you, it communicates to you a certain inner knowing that the thing you are hoping for is certainly established, even before you see any material evidence that it has happened.
Faith is a spiritual force. Faith in God is a response to God’s Word which moves God to act. Jesus said in Mark 11:23, “For assuredly I say to you, whoever SAYS to this mountain, ‘Be removed and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but BELIEVES that those things he SAYS will be done, he will HAVE whatever he SAYS.” Words mixed with the real, pure faith can and will move mountains or any other problem that we face.
Faith in God must be from the heart. It is not merely intellectual. It is spiritual. “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:10)
Faith causes you to know in your heart before you see with your eyes. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2Cor 5.7)
Some say, “Seeing is believing.” Once you see the thing hoped for already existing in the natural order, you don’t need faith.
Hope is a condition for faith. Hope is “a positive unwavering expectation of good”. Hope is for the mind (1 Thessalonians 5:8; Hebrews 6:19), an anchor for the soul. It keeps us in the place where we can believe, but it is not in itself “faith”. Yet, without hope there are no “things hoped for”, and therefore there cannot be faith.
Through faith we can know we have the answer to our prayer before we see anything change in the natural order (1 John 5:14,15). Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Mk 11:24). God expects us, even commands us, to believe that our petitions are answered by GodAT THE MOMENT WE MAKE THEM. We must believe that the response is immediately sent WHEN we pray. Faith is like the confirmation slip in our hearts that the goods are on the way. We have that confirmation slip instantly from God. We sense it in our hearts. The manifestation of those goods, the answer received, comes later as long as we are patient and do not throw away our confidence. (Hebrews 10:35-39; Hebrews 6:12)
Faith is like a cheque. All you have to do is hold on to the cheque, go to the bank to present it and you can confidently expect the money to appear in your account after a certain time. If you throw the cheque away the money will not be put in your account. God is trustworthy and always has resources to back his promises.
Living faith always has corresponding actions. We talk what we really believe, and we act according to what we really believe. The heroes of faith like Abraham were considered men of faith because they acted on what God showed them. They acted on their faith. (Hebrews 11:17-38, James 2:21-23).
To live in faith means to do and say what you believe is right, without doubting.
Faith is a rest. It is compatible with inner peace. It is not “trying to believe”. To say that you are “trying to believe” God is to say that you don’t believe Him. The man who is “trying to believe” may be sincere, but he does not have faith in that area yet.
Why We Must Believe God
Why must we believe God? Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
“Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23) and God hates sin. When we don’t believe God, we treat Him like He is a liar. Remember that He is everywhere and sees all things. He is hurt when we act like He doesn’t exist, or that He will not do what He promised to do. Only when we have confidence in God and His Word can we please Him.
Lack of faith leads to lack of obedience. God’s commands can only really be fulfilled through faith. Without confidence in God’s promises a man will never really do what God says. Lack of obedience in God’s eyes is rebellion. Such lack of obedience dishonors God and surely deserves to be punished.
“The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). We must live by faith in order to be considered by God “right” and “correct”. Otherwise we stand condemned.
Those who don’t believe God inevitably believe in something else. Either religious tradition, or their understanding of science, or what the women’s magazine says, or what their next door neighbour tells them, the education system, the mass-media or a combination of all these things. God is not impressed. “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” (Romans 1:22) In fact, those who don’t fully believing God end up believing the devil somewhere along the track. It is very possible to believe what the devil says without even believing that he exists! Satan is speaking through so many philosophies and religions without openly declaring himself. Not too many actually know they are trusting the words of satan and his demons.
God is therefore righteous in expecting us to believe in Him and what He says. Who is better qualified to tell us the truth and help us to find answers for life and eternity?
Benefits of Faith.
The Bible teaches us that genuine faith is “more precious than gold that perishes” (1 Peter 1:7). Indeed such faith is going to be “tested by fire”. You can expect difficulties and persecutions in your life of faith, as well as blessings. Therefore to encourage you to hold onto and develop your faith, we will consider some of the benefits of faith.
1. Faith brings salvation. (Ephesians 2:8,9). Whosever believes in Him has eternal life. (John 3:16), and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24). The just shall live by faith. (Romans 1:17)
2. Faith brings answers to prayer. “And whatever things you ask in prayer, really believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22). Since God tells us to pray for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11), faith is therefore a key to our material provision.
3. Faith brings all the benefits of salvation into our lives (Ephesians 2:8,9). This includes healing, prosperity, peace, love, joy (1 Peter 1:8),deliverance from demons and the curse, sanctification of the mind and emotions (the salvation of the soul) and any other benefit which theword of God promises to us.
4. Faith is a spiritual force through which our ministry for Christ becomes effective. (Mark 11:23; Matthew 17:19,20). Faith is a major key to ministry success. It brings to you what you need for your ministry, and by imparting it to others through your life and your ministry of God’s Word, you enable them to receive the blessings of God’s grace mentioned above.
5. In particular, faith is the major key for an effective healing and deliverance ministry. Jesus Christ “the same yesterday, today and forever” lives in the Christian (Hebrews 13:8, Galatians 2:20), and through the Christian wants to reveal the power of salvation to men in a way they can see and feel. In this way, our evangelism concerning the Kingdom of God will not be in talk, but in power (1 Corinthians 4:20).
How to Develop Faith
We see how important faith is. Yet some people despair here, thinking that they don’t have faith. Yet faith comes (Romans 10:17), it can grow and develop. If you are not full of faith today, that doesn’t mean you will be that way all your life. You can choose to be a person of faith!
Here are some keys to developing faith.
1. Listen to the Word of God as much as possible. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Constant attention to the Word of God produces faith, especially if we attend to it with an open heart and mind. The book of Proverbs encourages us to constantly keep the Word in our hearts and to keep our attention on it (Proverbs 4:20-22). Health is one of the benefits promised.
What we listen to affects what we believe. If we listen to the TV more than to the Word, we will believe the lies of the world more than we will believe what God says. Constant attention to lies produces deception. Eventually the mind will accept something if that thing is heard often enough and persuasively enough. That is why we should keep hearing the Word of God, through preaching, Christian tapes, confession of the Word, daily fellowship with godly Christians. This will cause us eventually to believe the truth from our hearts.
2. Realise that every believer has been given a measure of faith by God. (Romans 12:3). We just have to use and develop what God has given. We must put it into action.
3. Pray in tongues and be full of the Spirit (Jude 20). We will look at this later. If you have been baptised in the Spirit as the disciples were in the book of Acts, you should pray and praise in tongues often because through this you “edify yourself” (1 Corinthians 14:4) and “build yourself up in your most holy faith”. Praying in tongues is a key to being full of the Spirit. Since faith is a fruit of the Spirit, all things things are related together.
4. Obey God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It is as you walk that you gain strength. God will not reveal greater things to you until you are faithful in the things He is showing you NOW. Therefore obedience to the Spirit and what He is showing you through the Word or through your conscience is important in the development of your faith. You cannot have living faith without taking some practical steps of obedience. Act on what God is saying!
5. Give thanks. Give thanks for the results before you see. Don’t complain – that shows you doubt God’s love and God’s answer to your situation. Give thanks in all situations (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
6. Develop a life of praise and worship. Praise drives the powers of darkness away and brings the throne of God into your circumstances. Praising God is an act of faith and helps your faith to grow. It is commanded (Hebrews 13:15). Worship is admiring God through the Spirit. If you can perceive who is God, His power, faithfulness and love your trust and faith in Him will grow.
7. Spend as much time as you can with people of faith. The spirit of faith on them will touch your life also (Proverbs 13:20).
8. Speak the WORD. By saying with your mouth you exercise your faith, you hear the Word and you build it into your life. God’s Word is anointed and has power when it is spoken to change the spiritual atmosphere (Joshua 1:8; Romans 10:10). Confession of God’s Word (saying the same thing as God’s word) brings you into the place where the Lord will move to fulfil it (Hebrews 3:1). The angels hearken to the voice of God’s Word (Psalms 103:20)
9. Seek holiness, purity of heart. “Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14). It is with the heart that man believes (Romans 10:10). To the extent that the heart has uncleanness, unforgiveness and other bad conditions within, the man will lose the spiritual perception of the Lord which enables his heart to believe. Purity and faith feed each other.
10. Remember that faith works by love (Galatians 5:6). The centurion (Matthew 8:5-13) and the woman of Canaan (Matthew 15:21-28) were both motivated by their love for another in coming to Jesus. And both were described as having great faith. Let us believe God for others to be blessed, in a spirit of love, and as we give of our selves God will give blessings to us also (Luke 6:37). This is related to the idea of “seed-faith”. Express your faith by planting a seed in terms of some form of giving. God will release a multiplied harvest in return if we endure and do not faint (Hebrews 10:36).
Confession and the Power of Words
“With the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).Confessing Christ as your Living Lord and Saviour with your mouth releases God’s salvation into your life. Since salvation includes many benefits and blessings our right mouth confession is a major key to receiving what God has provided for us by his grace.
We should realise that “Death and life is in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21). The power of the tongue is in the power of the words we speak. All our words have an effect on the spiritual atmosphere around us, either for good or bad. It is through words that covenants and promises are established. It is through words that our faith or our fears are expressed. Bad words open the door for bad spirits to work. Good words open the door for God and His angels to work.
Angels heed the VOICE of God’s Word (Psalms 103:20). Words are spiritual seeds. Words of life produce life. Words of faith produce faith. Words of love produce love. Words of hope produce hope, and so on. Words of death attract spirits of death, words of doubt attract doubt, words of fear attract spirits of fear, and so on. Therefore we must guard carefully what we SAY. The Bible has much to say on this subject, especially in the Book of Proverbs (e.g. Proverbs 10:19, 20, 31, 32; 12:18, 22; 14:23, 33; 15:1, 4, 28). Jesus said, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it on the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. ” (Matthew 12:36,37). Paul said, “And WHATEVER you do, IN WORD or deed, do ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)
Confession (Gk: homologeo) means literally “to say the same thing”. To confess the Word of God then means to say the same thing as God’s Word says. When you say it, it tends to produce faith because in saying it you must also hear it from your own mouth, and hearing the Word causes faith to come (Romans 10:17). In saying the Word yourself, you identify YOURSELF with the truth of God’s Word. It is one thing to hear someone else say something, another to say that thing yourself. The more you say God’s Word, the more you will believe it, and the more you believe it, the more you will say it.
“A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.” (Proverbs 18:20, see Proverbs 12:14). This means that we feed on the words we speak. What we say comes back to affect our own heart and our own spiritual condition. That is another reason why confessing the Word and not negative things will greatly help our faith.
At times it is difficult to speak consistently with what the Bible says because our minds are not sufficiently renewed. We still have doubt in our souls. We must reprogram our subconscious minds to accept God’s principles and God’s promises without doubt (Romans 12:2). Meditation, repeated pondering, listening to good preaching, confession of the Scripture, as well as informed study will help here. The Word must enter deeply into us. This will change the way we are, the way we speak, the way we respond to difficulties and challenges. If it does not we have been too superficial in our treatment of the Word. We have substituted the mental knowledge and recognition of the words for real meditation and confession.
God talks in faith. God “gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:17). Through faith-filled words, God created the universe (Hebrews 11:3). As sons of God we are called to be imitators of God, filled with God’s Spirit (Eph 5:1,18). When we are in Christ and we have the promise of God, we have the right to speak about something God has promised as if it existed even before our natural senses are conscious of it. It is our faith that gives substance to this confession of things not seen. For example, if we have believed God for a car, we can talk about our car before we see it. We should realise that God has already “given us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3) and all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3). But the effective receiving depends on our faith. Faith is confident of the faithfulness of God in His declared promises and talks and acts so, even before the natural eye sees.
Acting in Faith
Real faith has corresponding actions. Looking at Hebrews 11:4-37 we see that all those who are commended for their faith did something as well. It is possible to have actions, even religious actions, without real faith – but these actions are dead works. Without faith you can’t please God. (Hebrews 11:6).
Sometimes confusion arises in this matter of faith and works. There is a radical difference between works or actions that spring from real faith, and works which spring from SELF in an effort to earn God’s approval. The former cannot be separated from real faith. The latter are as filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6), and are wrong because the man occupied with them cannot understand or accept God’s free grace – that it is by GRACE, by CHRIST that we are saved, and not by our own works.
Faith hears the word of God, the voice of God and acts in obedience with a trusting heart. God often speaks to us through our consciences by His Spirit, pressing us towards a particular kind of action which is based on God’s Word. Real faith yields to God’s suggestion and does it.
Jesus told the blind man to go to the pool to wash. The blind man, by acting in obedience to Jesus’ words BEFORE he received healing, demonstrated the kind of faith which God required of him in that situation, and he was healed. (John 9:7). If he had not obeyed, he would not have been healed.
God told Abraham to offer his son Isaac up as a sacrifice. Abraham’s obedience in this matter demonstrated the reality of his faith. (James 2:20-24). Even justifying faith is not passive. It does not rest in sin. Justifying faith works with repentance to open the door for the receiving of God’s great salvation.
Overcoming the Enemies of faith
In closing this lesson we will consider some of the main enemies of faith and how they can be overcome.
1. Ignorance. You cannot believe a promise until you hear it or find it. Much unbelief rises out of the fact that people just don’t know what the Bible says. The cure for this is study, meditation and consideration of the Word.
2. Unbelief. This is the sinful choice to not believe God. It is usually motivated by pride, rebellion and ignorance. The cure for this is therefore to humble oneself, change one’s mind, choose to believe. Fasting puts done the flesh and is often very effective in destroying the power of unbelief, because it aids in humbling ourselves and in removing fleshly distractions to the voice of God. If done correctly it can help us to focus on God and will make the spiritual things more intense to us, thereby destroying unbelief.
3. Fear. Negative fear is a negative emotion based on the real expectation of bad things to come. It is rooted in anxiety and a lack of trust in God’s fatherly protection and love. Perfect love casts out fear. (1Jn 4:18). God is perfect love. Therefore by seeking God, His presence and the fullness of His Spirit we will be set free from fear. When we are conscious of God’s power it is very easy to be courageous and bold. We expect success when we are consciously full of God and know that we are doing what He is telling us to do. To overcome fear we must look to God and not to natural considerations which could cause our failure if God were not with us. Peter, looking to the wind and the waves, was overcome by a fear which paralysed his faith and caused him to sink. He needed to keep looking to Jesus. God says, “Fear not, FOR I AM WITH YOU.” (Is. 43:5). God gives us a reason not to fear, and a commandment. To fear anyone or anything except the Lord is a sin. We can overcome this sin by being full of God and looking to Him. Also we must forgive all men if we want to be delivered from this form of torment. (Mt 18:34, I Jn 4:18)
4. Doubt. Doubt is an enemy to faith because it speaks with a voice that challenges the truth or the reliability of what we should be believing. To overcome doubt we must fill ourselves with the Word of God, meditating deeply and repetitively on it. Doubt is the evidence of an unconsecrated heart and mind. It is the evidence of lack of devotion to God’s Word. Doubt, like fear, torments. We must forgive others and give our whole hearts to God. We must stop listening to the voice of demons or the voice of our own carnal mind trained from early days to resist God. This is a decision. It helps to hear the testimonies of others to overcome doubt. However, doubt will never be fully overcome until we treat the Bible as God’s voice TO US.
5. Discouragement. Sometimes we feel discouraged because of physical or emotional weakness or tiredness. We may be disappointed by the behaviour of other Christians. We may be discouraged by the persecution of others, even of our families. Perhaps we have waited for what may or may not be God’s promise to us, and we grow impatient. Many Christians at some time in their life become disappointed with God. Satan uses discouragement to weaken and if possible destroy our faith. To overcome discouragement we must make a decision to be strong (Hebrews 12:12; Ephesians 6:10) in the Lord. We must want to be strong and stop making excuses for our weakness and failure. We must consider God’s faithfulness to us in the past, even through difficulties (Hebrews 10:32-34). We must rededicate ourselves to God’s Word, to thankfulness, to prayer and to the voice of the Spirit. We need to learn to obey the Spirit in small things. Sometimes even great men of God like Elijah were discouraged. At one time, even after a great victory, he ran away from Jezebel, the witch. God restored Elijah through the ministry of angels, through his voice, and by getting him occupied in new missions for God full of the promise of hope.
5. The Love of Praise. When you are more interested in what people – even Christian people – think of you, more than what God thinks of you, according to Jesus, you won’t be able to truly believe in Him. Why? Because God’s priorities and man’s are different. Jesus said, “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44)
To overcome this, you must cultivate a personal relationship with God through prayer and obedience. You must allow your old nature to be weakened as you say yes to God and no to these desires for seeking praise and recognition.
God is calling all of us to put our faith in action in many ways. Many of the following lessons relate to practical areas which as a Christian we must put into practice. True faith will lead us to church commitment, topray, to be baptised in water and in the Holy Spirit and to tell others about Christ.