The Three Key Aspects of Faith
The Three Key Aspects of Faith
The islanders were cannibals. Nobody trusted anybody else. His life was in constant danger. He had come to tell them the good news about Jesus. He wanted to translate John’s Gospel into their language, but he discovered that there was no word in their language for ‘trust’, ‘belief’ or ‘faith’.
John Paton (1824–1907), a Scot, had travelled to the New Hebrides (a group of islands in the south-west Pacific) determined to tell the tribal people about Jesus, but he struggled to find the right word for ‘faith’. One day, when his indigenous servant came in, Paton raised both feet off the floor, sat back in his chair and asked, ‘What am I doing now?’ In reply, the servant used a word that means, ‘to lean your whole weight upon’. This became the expression that Paton used. Faith is leaning our whole weight upon Jesus.
1. Faith as trust when under attackPsalm 124:1-8
‘Faith is the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark,’ wrote Sir Rabindranath Tagore.
There are times in all of our lives when our faith is tested. We come under ‘attack’: ‘When everyone went against us’ (v.2, MSG) and there seems to be a ‘torrent’ (v.4) of ‘raging waters’ (v.5) – temptations, doubts, fears, and so on.
These things could overwhelm you, but for the fact that the Maker of heaven and earth is on your side (v.1). Faith means trusting that he won’t leave you defenceless. He frees you from the traps: ‘Their grip is broken; we’re free as a bird in flight’ (v.7, MSG).
David is one of the most tried and tested figures in the Bible. Like David, remain faithful to God. Trust in the Lord. He will protect you from raging torrents and from being ‘swallowed alive’ (v.3). Your ‘help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth’ (v.8).
2. Faith as choice, perseverance and expectancyHebrews 11:17-40
What does heroic faith look like? Moses was the supreme figure in Israel’s history. He rescued them from slavery. He gave them the Law. In today’s passage, the writer shows that Moses was pre-eminently a man of faith.
As we have seen, the word ‘faith’ carries a number of meanings. It describes our whole relationship with God – trusting in him, leaning our whole weight on Jesus, and having the courage to act on our belief. In the case of Moses, we see three key aspects of faith:
- Faith as a choice
Moses was ‘no ordinary child’ (v.23). He was brought up in the Egyptian royal household and received a first class education and training. He was also physically good looking (Exodus 2:2). So many people strive today, as they did then, for money, sex and power. Moses could have had them all in abundance.
Moses had another great advantage – the faith of his parents (Hebrews 11:23). Pharaoh’s daughter gave Moses’ mother the job of bringing him up. However, at the end of the day, Moses himself, like all of us, needed to make a choice.
He could have chosen ‘to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time’ (v.25). However, ‘he chose to be ill-treated along with the people of God’ (v.25). Moses chose to be identified with a group of people that those with an upbringing like his regarded with contempt – a slave nation, the people of God. By identifying with them he brought upon himself danger, scorn and suffering.
He made this choice because ‘he regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt’ (v.26). Compared to the pleasures of the world, which are fleeting, God offers you an everlasting reward.
Faith as choice is the faith that justifies. This initial act of faith can be summarised with the mnemonic:
Forsaking All I Take Him (FAITH)
- Faith as perseverance
Moses left Egypt twice. The first time he was fleeing as a criminal after killing an Egyptian. The second time, he left as leader of the people of God. In between, he persevered with courage and determination. He ‘persevered because he saw him who is invisible’ (v.27). His eyes were opened to the whole spiritual realm.
From the moment of choice to the moment of triumph, there were many battles. This is the pattern in the Bible. First comes the call, then the problems. Finally, there is the fulfilment. In between, you need to keep persevering and trusting.
This aspect of faith can be summarised in another mnemonic:
Feeling Afraid I Trust Him (FAITH)
This aspect of faith is one that is particularly stressed by the author of Hebrews. It is also probably what Paul has in mind when he lists faithfulness as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
- Faith as expectancy
When I interviewed Rick Warren at the HTB Leadership Conference, he asked rhetorically: ‘Why does God use me?’ And he gave the answer: ‘Because I expect him to use me.’ Joyce Meyer defines expectancy as ‘a joy-filled looking forward to receiving a desired result’.
Moses heard God. He did what God told him to do. He knew that God had the power to kill, but he believed he would pass over the Israelite homes that were sprinkled with blood (Hebrews 11:28). He believed in God’s power to perform signs and wonders, such as the crossing of the Red Sea (v.29).
Expectancy is that mysterious surge of confidence that God will perform a mighty work. In the first three Gospels, nearly two-thirds of the references to faith occur in relation to miracles. Faith here must be understood to be trusting in God’s power.
The writer goes on to give many other examples of faith in the Old Testament, including those ‘who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned into strength’ (vv.33–34). I particularly love the fact that God turns our weaknesses into strengths.
He concludes this sweep of history by saying something quite extraordinary: ‘God had a better plan for us’ (v.39, MSG). He is saying you are better off than Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samson, David, and all the others. ‘Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised’ (v.39, MSG). While they could only look forward to something better, you live in the age of the Spirit and have received this better and fuller revelation in Christ.
Lord, help me to trust you, to persevere and to have an expectant faith in you to perform healings and wonders.
3. Faith in times of tragedyEzekiel 24:1-25:17
‘Faith is not shelter against difficulties, but belief in the face of all contradictions’ wrote Paul Tournier.
Ezekiel’s faith is remarkable. His message is a very tough one. God is saying to his people that he has tried to cleanse them from their impurities, but they would not be clean and therefore his judgment is coming: ‘You will be judged according to your conduct and your actions’ (24:14). If we refuse to accept God’s forgiveness (which we now know is made possible through the cross of Christ), we will be judged on our own conduct and actions.
Ezekiel’s faith survives the tragic loss of his wife (‘the delight of [his] eyes’, v.16). God says he is going to take away Israel’s sanctuary – which is the delight of their eyes, the object of their affection (v.21). He is foretelling the terrible destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
He warns the other nations not to rejoice with malice in their hearts (25:6,15). God strongly disapproves of that feeling of secret glee (by which we can be tempted) when we see other people getting into trouble – it is the opposite of love.
When people hurt us we are not to take vengeance into our own hands. We need to trust in God who promised that, in the end, he will ensure that justice is done (vv.15–17).
In the midst of the darkness in this passage there is one ray of light. As the messenger arrives with news of Jerusalem’s destruction, Ezekiel’s enforced silence (see Ezekiel 3:24–27) comes to an end. This heralds a remarkable shift in his ministry. When his focus returns to the nation of Israel in chapter 33, the prophet of doom is transformed into a messenger of hope. The God of Justice will also be revealed as a God of grace and salvation.
Jesus has taken the judgment on himself. The blood of Jesus cleanses you from all sin. The Holy Spirit lives in you. Expect him to do great things through you – as you lean your whole weight on him.
Lord I bring to you today all my fears, anxieties and challenges that lie ahead. I put my trust in you. I lean my whole weight on you today.
‘By faith the prostitute Rahab...’
Faith can be found in the most unlikely places.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
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