What is Faith?
What is Faith?
I studied law at university and practised as a barrister for a number of years. I was involved in many criminal trials where the judge told the jury that they had to reach a verdict – but they could not find the defendant guilty unless they were ‘satisfied so that they felt sure’. Every such verdict was an act of faith. The jury was not there at the time the crime was committed. They had to believe the evidence.
Faith and ‘being sure’ are not opposed. The writer of Hebrews says, ‘Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see’ (Hebrews 11:1). St Augustine wrote, ‘God does not expect us to submit our faith to him without reason, but the very limits of our reason make faith a necessity.’
Faith is the way to true satisfactionProverbs 27:15-22
‘I can’t get no satisfaction,’ sang Mick Jagger in 1965. The Rolling Stones’ song echoes the cry of the human heart; we try and we try and we try, but human eyes are ‘never satisfied’ (v.20). Where is satisfaction to be found?
This passage contains a wealth of practical wisdom. It warns against being quarrelsome (vv.15–16). It points out how friendship can improve your effectiveness: ‘As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend’ (v.17, NLT).
Faith means serving the Lord – looking after your master: ‘Those who tend a fig-tree will eat its fruit, and those who look after their masters will be honoured’ (v.18).
The writer goes on, ‘Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes’ (v.20) ‘Hell has a voracious appetite, and lust just never quits’ (v.20, MSG). True satisfaction comes through faith in Jesus, who said, ‘I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10).
The writer then makes an interesting point about the importance of how we deal with compliments: ‘The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but people are tested by the praise they receive’ (Proverbs 27:21). The person of faith recognises that God is always the primary cause of any success we have. He created you, and gives you the gifts and opportunities that come your way.
When people praise you, don’t let it go to your head. When they criticise you, don’t let it get to your heart (see v.19).
Lord, help me to live a life of faith, looking to you as my Lord, giving you all the glory and serving you each day.
Faith is trust in GodHebrews 11:1-16
‘The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd’ (vv.1–2, MSG).
What does this faith look like in practice?
- Faith leads to understanding
‘By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible’ (v.3). St Augustine pointed out, ‘Faith is the first step to understanding; understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.’
- Faith pleases God
Enoch pleased God. As a result, he ‘skipped death completely’ (v.5, MSG). The writer goes on to explain, ‘It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And 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’ (v.6, MSG).
- Faith leads to intimacy with God
‘By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and acted on what he was told... As a result, Noah became intimate with God’ (v.7, MSG).
- Faith means saying ‘Yes’ to God
‘By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going’ (v.8, MSG). True faith commits us to obedience.
Abraham left Ur of the Chaldeans at the height of its prosperity (2006–1950 BC). He heard God’s call and ‘obeyed and went’ (v.8). He did not ‘know where he was going’ (v.8). But he knew with whom he was going. His faith brought blessing to him, his family, his nation and to you and me.
He trusted God even when the evidence pointed in the opposite direction. Abraham’s one great disappointment was that his wife couldn’t have children to continue the long family line (Genesis 11). We read that Abraham’s family was ‘as good as dead’ (Hebrews 11:12).
Abraham believed God (see Romans 4). It was not that he never had any doubts. In fact, he got fed up with waiting and tried to fulfil God’s promises by human means. Thankfully, God does not judge us on the basis of our lapses, failures or mess-ups. He saw Abraham’s settled attitude of faith (Romans 4:3, 18).
- Faith sees beyond this life
Abraham took a long-term view. We live in an ‘instant’ culture. Everything is about instant satisfaction. Abraham was in it for the long haul. He was ‘a stranger in a foreign country’ (Hebrews 11:9). He lived in tents. Yet he knew where God had called him.
He did not look back to what he had left behind through his step of faith. Rather, ‘he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God’ (v.10).
Abel’s faith also had a lasting impact: ‘… by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead’ (v.4).
The writer concludes: ‘Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing... You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them’ (vv.13,16, MSG).
Lord, I want to please you today. I earnestly seek you.
Faith means staying faithfulEzekiel 22:23-23:49
What are you to do if you live in a society that turns its back on God? How do you remain faithful to God when all around you people are faithless? Do you give up and join them? Do you judge and condemn them? Or is there another way for the people of God?
The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel again. God’s concern was typical: ‘Extortion is rife, robbery is epidemic, the poor and needy are abused, outsiders are kicked around at will, with no access to justice’ (22:29, MSG).
He describes the sin of Jerusalem and Samaria as being like those of two prostitutes who become ‘more and more promiscuous’ (23:19); ‘Crazy with lust’ (v.12, MSG).
The nature of sin and addiction means that because it does not satisfy, the practices become more and more extreme. People were meant to love God and be faithful to him. Instead we have lusted after the wrong things.
It is surprising to see such shocking and explicit language in the Bible, but God uses these disgusting images to help the people to grasp the full reality of their sin, and how much it pains him to see it.
The root of the problem is their unfaithfulness to the Lord. ‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Since you have forgotten me and thrust me behind your back, you must bear the consequences of your lewdness and prostitution’ (v.35).
Forgetting God is the opposite of faith. It leads to the terrible consequences described in this passage.
But Ezekiel remained faithful to God. He continues to proclaim God’s message. What God was looking for was someone to intercede for them, and to ‘stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land’ (v.30). This is the way of faithfulness for the people of God.
I am so grateful to the many people who have told me over the years that they pray for us regularly. We also have a 24-7 Prayer room at our church, and I am thrilled by the way in which it has galvanised people to pray and intercede.
Prayer really does make a difference. Intercession is one of the most important things you can do. Make prayer and intercession a high priority in your life.
Sexual craving, being at its root a craving for intimacy, can only be satisfied through our relationship with God. The Ezekiel passage is extraordinarily contemporary with the large number of people today with some form of sexual addiction. Prayer, believing that God 'rewards those who earnestly seek him' (Hebrews 11:6), is an important part of the answer.
Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Trust in him. Abide in him. Serve him with all your heart. Live a life of faith. Stay faithful to him and pray faithfully for others. This is the way of true satisfaction. Faith pleases God.
Lord, increase my faith.
‘A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.’
This theme seems to come up rather a lot. The verse is a reminder, just in case we are tempted!
Verse of the Day
‘… faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see’ (Hebrews 11:1).
Rolling Stones, '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction', (Decca Records, 1965), lyrics by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, published by ABKCO Music and Records Inc.
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.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.