Christianity 201

May 29, 2016

Building Faith

img 052916•••by Russell Young

What is faith?  It is well worth the believer’s time and effort to come to some understanding of what “faith” really means.  Because it is usually left undefined and unclear, people apply meaning according to their own imaginations.  Strong’s Greek Dictionary identifies faith as “persuasion.” (#4102) This understanding gives a practical and realistic meaning to the term.  From experience we can understand that the more one is persuaded about the truth of something, the greater his conviction to accept and honour that truth.  A person’s persuasions about the spiritual world form his faith.

Faith is not something that just appears; it must be derived from some source.  Children develop faith, or not, in their parents to protect and provide for them depending on their experiences.  They tend to idolize their parents and take on their convictions/persuasions as their own; it is from their parents that a child’s faith journey takes root.  Because of the nature of the relationship of a child to a parent Jesus said that you must have the faith of a child- in this case Christ is to the object of one’s faith.  Faith in a parent’s convictions may not last, however.  As children mature they begin to see the world in a broader perspective and note the weaknesses in their parents and set their own.

However it is done, the starting point to spiritual faith in God comes with the recognition that God exists.  Although the truth of God’s existence is very clear to the believer, it should not be accepted that children accept His reality as fact.  They may continue to voice faith in His presence while harbouring doubt in their minds.  When full conviction of God’s reality exists, the new believer must learn of his nature and of his expectations.  These also form his spiritual faith.  It is not unusual even for adults to harbour great doubt about God’s nature and yet play along with the understandings of others-comfort can be found in the uniform persuasions of many.  Those who truly have faith will demonstrate it through commitment to honouring God in all aspects of their being- especially in their practices.  The writer of Hebrews has made it clear that belief is revealed through obedience. “And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest, if not to those who disobeyed?  So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” (3:18-19)  True faith is revealed more in the believer’s behaviours that in his pronouncements.

Spiritual faith is personal and must be built if it is to have any value and strength.  Jehovah led the Israelites out of Egypt and took them on a circuitous route to build and to test their faith.  “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter.  For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’” (Exodus 13:17, NIV) The LORD was aware of the faith reality of the Israelites and introduced circumstances to improve it.  As the Egyptian army chased them, he led them into a very vulnerable situation, then through Moses commanded them to turn, face their pursuers, and to watch.  Moses said, “Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14, NIV) From this experience they came to learn some things about their God and, at least for the moment, their faith grew.

Building faith in God is not easy and those who would like the pleasant, easy Christian experience will never enjoy strong faith nor the comfort that comes through it.  The believer must first recognize his own inability to resolve issues and learn to rely fully upon God.  It is human nature for people to want to maintain control of their lives, but faith-building requires the opposite-weakness, humility, and dependence upon the graciousness of God.  As God proves His faithfulness, the believer’s faith increases.

Peter stated that trials build faith.  “Now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  (1 Peter 1:6-7, NIV) The faith-building process can be painful.

The affluence of North America has eroded faith in God.  An abundance of personal resources –talent, finances, education, and family support — is highly valued.  Often once these resources are assured the development of faith is engaged.  The greater the believer’s resources, however, the more difficult it is for him to become vulnerable so that his faith can be strengthened.  Unfortunately, those in the body who do not have talents, wealth, education, or a strong family are often less valued even though these are the children that are most apt to honour the Lord through the exercise of humility and dependence-faith in Him. “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:31, NIV)

James wrote: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1: 2-4, NIV) Faith is built on the evidences and appreciation of God’s love and the manifestation of His work in one’s life.  It is built on weakness and an appreciation of one’s helplessness.

 

April 28, 2015

Is Your Faith Safe or Dangerous?

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Today’s thoughts are from David McGee who writes at Cross the Bridge which is carried on his own website as well as at Lightsource.com   Click the title below to read at source.

Take Hold of Faith

Acts 7:1-15

Stephen’s Address: The Call of Abraham

Then the high priest said, “Are these things so?” And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell. And God gave him no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on. But even when Abraham had no child, He promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his descendants after him. But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years. ‘And the nation to whom they will be in bondage I will judge,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and serve Me in this place.’ Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham begot Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot the twelve patriarchs.”

The Patriarchs in Egypt

“And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him and delivered him out of all his troubles, and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. Now a famine and great trouble came over all the land of Egypt and Canaan, and our fathers found no sustenance. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first. And the second time Joseph was made known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to the Pharaoh. Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob and all his relatives to him, seventy-five people. So Jacob went down to Egypt; and he died, he and our fathers.”
NKJV

These verses in Acts chapter seven speak of men who were possessors of faith: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Many of us have made professions of faith, but our idea of faith is an interesting one. In order to appear that we are not ‘going overboard’ with our faith, many of us try to live under the umbrella of ‘safe’ Christianity. We want just enough Christianity that it doesn’t make the neighbors worry about us. We assume that a small dose of religion can give us the peace and contentment we so desperately need in this crazy world. There is a problem with this type of thinking. Jesus, the one we are to be following said, “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30 partial NKJV). In another place He says, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-17 NKJV)

How would you describe your faith?

  1. a radical, on fire, life changing faith
  2. a reserved, quiet faith that does not interrupt your busy life
  3. a life unchanged except perhaps for your Sunday mornings

There is only one true kind of faith, and that is ‘a‘. Jesus died for us, so that He could turn our lives radically right side up. So often we try to live a life of ‘b‘ and ‘c‘, but desire the benefits of ‘a‘. Stop trying to keep God at arms length. Embrace Him and watch Him change your life. Take those small steps toward a big radical faith. God will be with you and will enlarge your steps beneath you.

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow – What a ride!'” ~ I wanted to share this quote with you.

Life Lesson: We should be possessors of faith not just professors of faith.

Dear God,
You are anything but ordinary and boring. Help me to live a passionate life for You. I have lived for myself and found a life with no meaning. I want to live for You. Help me to step out with boldness to serve You. I know I can trust You to strengthen me and give me the things I need to serve You. When I enter into heaven, I want to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Help me to radically live for You now so that I may hear You say that then. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Living to tell what He died to say,
Pastor David McGee
Cross the Bridge
crossthebridge.com