Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Living By Faith

There is a lot of misconception of what it is to live by faith today and much of it has crept into the local church.  It seems two forms of this are either that faith is something we muster up to get out of God what we want and so become minigods going around doing our will instead of conforming to his or by it some mean that they just hope real hard that something is true.  It is basically to believe in something that you aren’t really convinced of, kind of like self-hypnosis.  It’s like believing in God and Hell and Love and Grace and Heaven helps you get through the day, so that is what you say to yourself.  It can be summed up by the expression, “A leap of faith in the dark”. 
The problem with this is that it not the faith of the Bible, so it is not a saving faith and thus it cannot aid us in serving God.  Heb 11:3  says, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” and then in Rom 10:17  “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  A couple of key things the Bible teaches about the kind of faith that pleases God (and without faith it is impossible to please God, the Bible says) is that it believes by the evidence of creation and the work of the Holy Spirit that there is a God who created all things and thus he is able to do whatever he wants and keep any promises he makes and therefore every word of His Word can be counted on.  Thus living by faith is to believe God and live in the reality that everything he says is true.
Now the ramifications of this could be preached on for years, but I want to try and apply this in one area.  To exercise faith means that when something happens that you do not understand or really causes grief or pain or some kind of suffering, we think about what God says about such a circumstance and think and act accordingly.  Because even though our body is telling us this hurts, God has told us that something better awaits and faith believe him, not our wisdom.  Now at the outset this means that how much of his revelation we know will to a great decree determine how much faith we can exercise.  It is one thing to know that we are to rejoice always but very difficult to do this without knowing something of the providential care of God and his sovereign rule over all things and of his promise that all things are working together for our good. 
Perhaps this is worked out commonly when someone is going through a difficult trial or temptation and they know they are not doing well spiritually and so they pray that God will somehow give them the strength to overcome or get through this trial.  But if they are not faithful to learn the truths in God’s Word by studying and faithful to the preaching and teaching at church then they have no right to expect God to magically grant peace, courage, strength, godliness, calmness or whatever else they might need because such things are fruits of the Holy Spirit as he drives home the truths of God’s Word to our hearts.  God isn’t glorified by us robotically not falling prey to temptation.  He wants us to by faith and love for him willingly say no to all that dishonors God.
There is an interesting example of how the knowledge of truth causes our faith to grow in Job 34:9; 35:2-3, 6-8.  Elihu tells Job that saying that there is no profit in serving God is just not true.  Job and his three friends have been trying to get through Job’s trials with the faulty theology that when we do good, God will do us good and when we do bad, God will whip us.  But he reminds them that when they do good they haven’t given God anything he didn’t already have let alone make him their debtor to reward them.  And similarly when they do evil, it has no real affect on God since he always has been and always will be completely happy.  All their good and bad works really only affect other people.  So this idea that Job must be suffering because of some big sin misses the point of his whole existence.
Deu 8:2-6 supplies the answer, “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.  And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.  Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.  Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you.  So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.”
God sends us through various circumstances both pleasant and difficult to give us the opportunity to grow in our understanding of him (which is benefit enough in its own right) and to give us an opportunity to glorify him in the process.  Just as we train our children up by discipline which includes spankings, teaching, the giving of responsibilities, exercise, etc. so God does the same with us.  The failure to know God’s Word in these areas means one cannot live by faith in knowing that God has a purpose for this and that he is well worth the effort.  Enduring afflictions by hunkering down and enduring while miserable and discontent is not living and conquering by faith but living by human strength and wisdom.  Such “faith” offers no comfort to the saint nor does it glorify our great God.  The more God reveals himself to us the more we trust in him and live in the reality of who he is.

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