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  • Pastor Matthew Chester

"Real Faith"

Hebrews 11:1 -

· What Is Real Faith? - Faith in God is one of the fundamental teachings of Scripture. Christians are told that “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).

However, Faith has been attacked and ridiculed for centuries. Mark Twain remarked, “faith is believing in what ain’t so.” Atheist H. L. Mencken said that “faith is an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.”

Karl Marx termed faith in religion “…the opium of the people.” One prominent American businessman has stated that religious faith “is for losers.”

Misconceptions still exist today about real faith. One dictionary definition states that faith is “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof”—which, as we will see is just the opposite of the truth.

Faith has been defined as an “unquestioning belief” in God, having a strong conviction, deep trust, reliance upon, or loyalty to Him and His will.

The biblical definition of real faith is found in the book of Hebrews. The Scriptures plainly state that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not [yet] seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Substance means assurance, realization, something like a title or deed to a house or piece of property. Evidence entails proof. The author of Hebrews states “By faith, we understand that the worlds were formed by the word [command] of God so that the things that are seen [the creation] were not made of things that are visible”

We will grow in faith as we exercise faith—as we trust God—and actually follow His instructions. As our faithfulness to God increases we will become more staunch, firm, determined, resolute in our belief in God. Martin Luther’s definition, “…faith is a living unshakable confidence,” is a paraphrase of the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:58.

· The Foundation of Real Faith - Our choice today of where to place our faith is almost endless. However, the Bible offers specific warnings about where not to place our faith.

Nearly 3000 years ago Solomon wrote, “He who trusts in his own heart is a foolProverbs 28:26. The Bible warns repeatedly about trusting in other gods besides the true God Exodus 20:1–6.

We are told when David numbered the fighting men of Israel—trusting in his own military strength—he sinned and did a very foolish thing 2 Samuel 24:1–11.

Jeremiah warned about trusting in the lying words of false teachers Jeremiah 7:4. Jesus cautioned about trusting in money and wealth Matthew 19:21–23.

In terms of positive instruction, the Scriptures urge us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5–7.

We must learn to trust in God’s Word—the Bible (Psalm 119:142,160; John 17:17). This involves studying, proving and learning to live by every word of God.

We must not only develop faith in Jesus Christ—that He was the Son of God who came to die for our sins—but also develop the faith of Jesus who trusted and obeyed His Father’s instruction to the point of saying “…not My will, but Yours, be done” Luke 22:42

· Why Do We Need Faith? - Although critics may scoff at the need for faith in God and His Word, the Bible reveals a dimension of knowledge that is clearly missing in our modern secular world.

From the Scriptures, we learn that we have all sinned (Romans 3:23). As a result of knowingly or unknowingly breaking the laws of God (the biblical definition of sin—1 John 3:4), we are subject to a penalty of death for all eternity.

However, by putting our faith or trust in the fact that Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins we can be forgiven of our sins. This is what it means to be justified by faith (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16).

A Christian lives by faith (Galatians 3:11).

The Bible reveals we are healed by faith (James 5:14–15), we will be saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8) and rewarded according to our faith (Hebrews 11:6).

Healing involves trusting God for what only He can do. Salvation will include receiving eternal life and becoming part of God’s family when Christ returns to judge mankind (1 Corinthians 15; Romans 8:14–17).

· Building Real Faith - The challenge facing each of us as Christians are, how do we build real faith? What is involved? “…the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith’” (Luke 17:5).

They knew they needed more faith and they asked for guidance. Peter later writes that we must give diligent effort to increase and add to our faith(2 Peter 1:5–11. But what must we do?

1. Ask God for more faith. Jesus instructed His disciples to ask, seek and to knock (Matthew 7:7–12). James offers the same advice (James 1:5). This is why the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith. We can do the same. Pray earnestly about this.

2. Prove what you believe. Follow Paul’s admonition (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and prove that God exists, that the Bible is His inspired word, where the true Church is and who are God’s true ministers. Prove what the Bible actually says, and hold fast to what you prove to be the truth.

3. Study what the Bible reveals about faith. Read and meditate on the examples of faith described in Hebrews 11. Read the original accounts in the Old Testament. Determine what lessons you can draw from these accounts. Learn and grow.

4. Stir up God’s Spirit. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. God gives His Spirit to those who repent and obey Him. Pray, study, meditate and fast regularly. Nourish and use God’s Spirit. Doubts will disappear as our faith grows (2 Timothy 1:6–7).

5. Live by faith. Put into practice what you read in the Scriptures. Trust God and His Word. If the Bible says to do it, then do it—don’t argue with the Scriptures. The American writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, “We live by faith or we do not live at all. Either we venture or we vegetate. If we venture, we do so by faith simply because we cannot know the end of anything at its beginning. We risk marriage or we stay single. We prepare for a profession by faith or we give up before we start. By faith we move mountains of opposition or we are stopped by molehills.”

6. Endure trials that will arise as you strive to live by every word of God. Enduring and overcoming the trials will help us build both faith and patience (James 1:2–4). It has been said, “If we desire to increase faith we must consent to its testing.” Remember that God has promised to get us through the trials (1 Corinthians 10:13) and the trials He allows are for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).

7. Don’t compromise or deny the true faith. The Bible warns repeatedly about false teachers who will undermine and overthrow the faith of others by promoting misleading doctrines and ideas.

Faith is important to God. Faithfulness is as important in our physical life as it is for our eternal life. As the apostle Paul saw the end of his life approaching he concluded, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7–8).

He knew—he had faith and total confidence—his reward awaited him. The God of this universe has big things in store for all mankind—especially for those who trust in Him.

Let’s make a diligent effort to grow in faith. Let’s hold on faithfully to the Truth God has revealed to His Church. Let’s strive to build an atmosphere of faith in the Living Church of God—so when Jesus Christ returns He will find real faith in those He has called.

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