Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Measure of Our Faith

If asked, any of us in Christ would say we have faith.  But do we really know what faith is?  It seems like many people believe that faith is a concept or a feeling.  And many others think that the measure of our faith is how much we get from God.  We all say we have it, but not so many understand what faith does.  Faith is not just something we have, but it is something that we express.  Not only is it something we express, but our faith is measured by that expression.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. Hebrews 11:1-2 NKJV
Faith is so much more than a concept or a feeling.  Faith involves tangible expression.  We believe God sent his son to die for our sins and that belief results in our faith.  And once we have that faith, it is expressed in our works for God.  Those works for God become evidence to the world of how real God is.  The expression of our faith is evidence to the world of our unseen God. 
By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.  Hebrews 11:3 NKJV
As I shared last week in my post about Young Earth, we take by faith that God created the heavens and the earth.  In fact, creation itself is an expression of faith.  God made what we see and feel out of things not able to be seen or felt.  People may mock and ridicule our belief in creation, but we, in faith, stand firm knowing the truth of God is superior to the wisdom of man.  Faith is measured in our steadfastness in our beliefs despite the world's best efforts to discredit them. 
By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.  Hebrews 11:4 NKJV
We learn here that what made Abel's sacrifice worthy was that he gave it in faith.  We learn in Genesis that Cain's sacrifice was rejected due to sin.  Abel's sacrifice was an expression of his faith and love for God.  Cain's was an expression of self-righteousness hoping to please God with his works.  When we do for God, it must be an expression of our faith and love for God.  Giving or doing unto God for our own self-righteousness will be rejected.  Faith is the motivation behind our accepted works for God. 
By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "and was not found, because God had taken him"; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But 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 diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:5-6 NKJV
Faith is the means by which we please God and it is our faith that is rewarded by God.  In fact, faith is the means by which we obtain our salvation.  We are saved by grace through faith.  In the ministry of Jesus, faith was rewarded by healing those who came to Jesus.  In Enoch's time, his faith was rewarded by not having to experience death.  In our lives, our faith is rewarded by the indwelling and works of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the down payment of our promise of salvation.  Our faith is rewarded in answered prayers and a deeper and deeper relationship with our God. 
By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.  Hebrews 11:7 NKJV
Noah, believing in God, believed God's word regarding the flood.  Noah had no concept of what rain even was (it had never rained on earth until Noah), but by His word he built an enormous ark.  I can imagine the ridicule he received building such a large boat on dry land and I can imagine the mocking as he started to fill it with animals.  He persevered and, by faith, he was saved from the coming judgment.  Noah's faith was expressed in his obedience to God and he was saved.  We put our faith in God that there is a coming judgment (despite the world's sin and arrogance that it will never come) and by faith we accepted God's invitation to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior to be saved from that coming judgment. 
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Hebrews 11:8-10 NKJV
Abraham obeyed God out of faith, going to a new and unfamiliar place on a promise that would seem unbelievable by anyone's standards.  He lived in the land that was to become Israel as a foreigner and in tents, resting on the promise that the land was promised to his descendants.  Our faith is also expressed in not only our obedience to God but also in holding onto that faith even when that obedience does not seem to be immediately rewarded.  Many times God will ask us to do something we do not understand with results that seem to not be quite what we would have expected. But another measure of our faith is in our obedience, even when that obedience takes us to places not known with results not apparent. 
By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.  Hebrews 11:11-12 NKJV
We all know that Sarah had a little bump in the road for her faith, but we also know that she repented and learned to truly put that faith in God.  Sarah's faith was expressed in that she believed in the impossible.  She, being very old and very infertile, that God can make her the matriarch of a great nation. Our faith in God is expressed in that we believe that nothing is impossible with God.  We believe that God can do all things. 

Hebrews 11 goes on to share the acts done in faith by many other great saints of God.  I will share all those mentioned in Hebrews 11 individually as time goes on as it is important for us to know about these great men and women of God. 

What we can see, though, is that faith is measured in works.
But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?  James 2:18-20 NKJV
Faith without works is dead.  That is not to say that works play a part in our salvation as our salvation is by grace through faith.  What James is saying is that works are a sign of our faith.  As we have seen from Hebrews 11, faith was expressed in works.  If we say we have faith in Jesus for our salvation, that same faith should be expressed in works to God.  Works are the expression of that faith in Jesus we already have.  Works result from our salvation, not salvation from our works. 
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect. James 2:21-22 NKJV
Now James provides a real example of what he was speaking about.  God promised Abraham that, through Isaac, a great nation would be born.  Abraham believed that promise and so in faith he offered his son for sacrifice when directed to by God.  Abraham had faith that God, if necessary, would even raise Isaac from the dead to keep His promise.  Abraham's faith was expressed in his work to offer Isaac up knowing God would keep His promise.  His works worked together with his faith as his works were an expression of his faith.  And by those works, faith was made perfect.  In other words, by his works, his faith was proven. 

And if works are the measure by which our faith is evaluated and we know that faith produces works, how does your faith measure up?  Do you live righteously because God has told you that you are dead to sin?  Do you only trust in the sacrifice of Jesus only as means to your salvation or do you seek to add anything to that fee gift?  Do you obey God's direction for your life regardless for where that might lead knowing the promise of God to provide for you wherever He leads you?   Do you believe in the power of God and that He performs miracles even today so that no matter what you are going through in life, God can work it for good?  Are you generous in what God has provided for you, having faith in the promise that God will supply your needs?  Do you hold fast to the Word of God despite what the world around you may say?  All in all, how alive is your faith?  If someone were to measure your faith by your works and how you live your life for God, how would that faith measure?  These are all questions we should be asking ourselves. 

From time to time, God will test the faith of all of us. Many will pass and be strengthened and many will fail and be humbled.  God tests us not so that He knows how strong our faith is, but so that we know.  God knew Abraham would obey and offer up Isaac and when Abraham obeyed, Abraham was encouraged in his faith.  God knew that Peter would deny Jesus when tested and when Peter failed, he was humbled.  Abraham was encouraged and believed all the more.  Peter was humbled and saw that his pride was greater than his faith and was able to repent and be restored.  Even when we fail God's tests of faith, it is for our ultimate good and growth.  Sometimes we need a pat on the back and sometimes we need to be humbled.    If God tested you today, how would your faith measure up?  Would you offer up your very own child if God asked having faith that God will not allow you to lose that child or would you deny Jesus at the slightest bit of persecution ashamed of your own faith in God?
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:3-9 NKJV

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