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FAITH – MAN'S FORMULA OR GOD'S GIFT?

By Mark Anderson

‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’. [1]

Faith is one of those biblical truths which has been exploited and taken to extremism. Sincere believers have believed that somehow all they need to do is choose a scripture relevant to their circumstances, believe it and confess it constantly to see answered prayer. They work hard at it.  It is simply a matter of gritting one’s teeth, placing one’s hands over the ears, controlling the thought-life and drowning out all negativity by loud praise and positive confession. Is this what faith is reduced to?

Faith is an important subject because without it it is impossible to please God [2].  So what is faith in God? There are many definitions, but one which I feel encapsulates the essence of faith is the following:

Faith is a secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of His will. 

It is one thing to believe in God. But is such a belief evidenced by fully trusting and embracing His will for our lives? As believers we exercise faith daily. We pray to a God whom we cannot see and we believe that He hears and answers our prayers. 

‘he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him’ [3].

Central to our understanding of faith in God is the truth that faith is a gift from God. We cannot create faith nor can we muster it up by our own efforts or man-made techniques. It is a gift from God and when one is offered a gift, there must be either a decision to accept or reject it. 

‘So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’ [4].

The context for the above is the preaching of the Gospel. Many hear the Gospel over and over again, but there comes a time when they hear it with their heart and their eyes become open to their sin and need for salvation. At that moment faith is imparted to believe on Christ. The principle of faith as described in Romans 10:17 is also applicable to any situation in life where one needs to trust God for a ‘breakthrough’. Faith simply comes whenever God speaks or reveals Himself. Scripture speaks of people having great faith and little faith; it speaks of being ‘strong in faith’ and being ‘weak in faith’. Such terms do not refer to how much or how little faith a person possesses. Faith cannot be measured in terms of quantity. When we read of such terms, they are describing how a person responds to a promise from God – how they respond to God’s word. 

When God speaks to you dear reader; when He gives direction to your life, when He gives you a promise; how you and I respond at such times determines whether we are a people of great faith, little faith, strong faith or weak faith. Upon receiving a promise from God, or being aware of His leading; if one accepts it wholeheartedly as being from God and acts upon it, then one could be said to be strong in faith or having great faith. By contrast, if one is tossed to and fro between what God is saying and the worry of circumstances; if one believes God one minute, but isn’t so sure the next, then such an individual could be said to have little faith or be weak in faith. In essence it is actually doubt. When God speaks and one chooses to ignore Him and not accept what He is saying, that is tantamount to unbelief.

Allow me to offer another scenario. If one hasn’t received direction from God; if God hasn’t spoken and yet one chooses to act upon initiative – that is presumption. Suppose I should decide to sell my home and move to China to become a missionary with the attitude, that if Hudson Taylor could do it, then so can I. That is presumption and one is presumptuous if one acts without having heard from God first. 

Abraham is known as the ‘Father of faith’ and we can learn some lessons on faith from him. God brought Abraham (or Abram as he was known then) out of his tent one night and had him look up into the sky and gaze at the stars. As Abraham gazed at the starry host, God made him a promise. He promised Abraham that He would make of him, a great nation, and his descendants would be like the stars. Abram was one hundred years old and his wife Sarah was ninety. In Romans 4: 19-21 Paul writes:

‘And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform’.

Verse 19 states that Abraham ‘considered not his own body now dead’. In otherwords, he faced up to the facts. This is an important truth about biblical faith. FAITH FACES THE FACTS!  It does not deny reality. Extremism can lead people to ignore reality and maintain a positive confession contrary to reality, but faith faces the facts. However, FAITH IN GOD CAN CHANGE THE FACTS! Verse 20 tells us that Abraham ‘staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief’.  He didn’t waver at what God had promised, ‘but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform’.  Abraham was fully persuaded that what God had promised, He was able to perform, and it was Abraham’s response to a promise from God which deemed him to be strong in faith.  As mentioned earlier, faith is about how one responds to a promise from God. 

Many years after Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah, God tested Abraham. He asked Abraham to sacrifice his son to Him. Abraham set off towards Mount Moriah with Isaac and some household servants. As they came near the mountain, Abraham instructed his servants to wait. In this defining moment in Abraham’s life, Abraham made three statements of faith. He declared: ‘we will come again [5], we will worship [6] and God will provide [7]. No ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ or ‘maybes’, it is ‘will’. Abraham built an altar; Isaac surrendered himself to his father’s request; Abraham clutched a knife; raised his hands; was about to plunge the knife into his son, when suddenly God stopped him. Against this backdrop, the writer to Hebrews states the following:

'By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure’. [8]

Abraham reasoned that if God allowed him to kill Isaac, He would raise him from the dead. How did Abraham’s reasoning arrive at this conclusion? I think he may have reasoned as follows:

“God, you made me a promise. You said that You would give me and my wife a son in our old age, and through him You would make of me, a great multitude. God You keep Your promises.  Isaac is central to Your promise. You need him to fulfill Your promise. Lord, he has no children. He doesn’t even have a wife; and so Lord if you allow me to go through with this. If you allow me to kill my son, You will raise him back to life to fulfill Your promise and to uphold the integrity of Your word”.

Faith is a wonderful gift, but WE MUST NEVER PUT FAITH IN FAITH. That is akin to looking at a telescope as opposed to looking through a telescope. Instead we must put faith in the God of Abraham, the God who created the universe.

What is God saying to you, dear reader? What promise has He given you? What door has He opened to you? Whatever the situation, He is looking for a faith response. Believe Him and trust Him.


[1] Heb. 11:1.

[2] Heb. 11:6.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Rom. 10.17.

[5] Gen. 22:5.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.,8.

[8] Heb.11:17-19.





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