Learning to Live by Faith

       Everyone lives by faith; it’s a fact of life. We trust in things and people in order to live from day to day. We trust in chairs to support us, cars to transport us, employers to pay us, telephones for communication, and so on. Over time we learn that some things and some people prove more reliable than others. Unfortunately, everything and everyone in this world eventually fails, as everything wears out and winds down. The only exception is God and His Word (Deut 31:8; Matt 24:35).

       When Moses was nearing death, he gave Joshua instructions about leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, and he said “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deut.31:8). It’s easy to be afraid when you’ve had someone fail you over and over again. However, God never fails His people and His faithfulness is a repeated theme throughout Scripture (Deut 4:31; Josh 1:5; 1 Ch 28:20; Zeph 3:5; 2 Th 3:3). As the believer studies the Bible, he learns that God has perfect integrity and always keeps His promises. The believer only benefits from his study of Scripture when he learns to trust in God and to take Him at His Word. It’s only by faith that we receive the blessings God offers. 

       The Christian received salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (John 3:16; 20:31; Acts 4:12; 16:31; Eph 2:8-9). The faith that trusted Christ as savior in order to receive salvation is the same faith that trusts the divine promises, claiming them for self and living in confident expectation that God will do what He said. The word faith is used three ways in Scripture:

  1. Faith, as a noun (πίστις pistis), refers to the ability to trust, or to a thing or person that is regarded as reliable or trustworthy. Some people have faith (Matt 9:2, 22), others have no faith (Mark 4:39-40), little faith (Matt 17:19-20), or great faith (Matt 15:28). Abraham grew strong in faith and trusted God (Rom 4:19-21). The word is also used of Scripture itself as a body of reliable teaching (Gal 1:23; cf., Acts 6:7).
  2. Faith, as a verb (πιστεύω pisteuo), means to believe, trust, or have confidence in something or someone. It is used of faith in God (Rom 4:3; Heb 11:6), Jesus (Acts 16:31; 1 Pet 1:8), and Scripture (John 2:22).
  3. Faith, as an adjective (πιστός pistos), describes someone as being characteristically trustworthy, faithful, or reliable. The word is used both of man (1 Cor 4:17; Col 1:7), and God (2 Tim 2:13; Rev 1:5).

The Cross       Faith demands an object as it must have something or someone upon which to rest. To receive salvation, the unbeliever is told to “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31a). For the unbeliever, faith in Christ is exercised with a view to receiving a benefit, and that benefit is eternal life (John 3:16). To be clear, faith does not save; God saves! Faith is merely the means by which the unsaved person receives salvation, as God alone does the saving. Though we may exercise faith and receive a benefit, the object always gets the credit, and in the case of our salvation, God alone gets the glory.  

       Faith is never blind, but is an intelligent act of the will by the believer who hears and understands God’s Word, as “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17; cf. Rom 14:23; Heb 4:2; Jam 1:22). As he learns to live by faith, the growing Christian will submit to God (Rom 12:1), claim promises (Rom 8:28; 1 Cor 10:13; 1 John 1:9), give his cares to God (1 Pet 5:6-7), overcome fear (Deut 31:6-8; Isa 41:10-13), love others (1 Th 4:9), rejoice always (1 Th 5:16), pray continually (1 Th 5:17), be thankful (1 Th 5:18), and live with a relaxed mental attitude (Isa 26:3; Phil 4:11). Faith will be tested (1 Pet 1:6-7), faith is the only thing that pleases God (Heb 11:6), and faith should be exercised daily in the Christian’s life as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).

       Until Christ returns, we remain in this world and to some degree must trust in people and things to live from day to day; however, we should realize that people fail (Jer 17:5), money fails (Psa 62:10), governments fail (Psa 146:3), and even the creation fails us because it behaves in an unpredictable manner; just ask any meteorologist. Though we rely in a small way in the things and people of this world, ultimately, we should be looking to the Lord Himself, knowing that He alone never fails us and that His promises are always true and reliable (2 Cor 1:20; 2 Pet 1:2-4).    

       Satan will strive to get the believer to rely on anything and everything other than God and His Word. If the believer falls into Satan’s trap, he will experience anger, frustration, worry, anxiety, depression, and eventually a deep rooted sense of despair and apathy. Where God and His Word are absent, in that place darkness can settle. Occasionally the believer may look away from the Lord and become fixed on another person or the darkness in this world and find himself full of anxiety; however, relapse does not have to lead to collapse, as the believer can turn back to God and live by faith in the Lord. God wants us to have joy (Neh 8:10), peace (Isa 26:3), love (1 John 4:16-17), contentment (Phil 4:11-13), and every other attitude that brings an abundant life (John 10:10). Only through faith can we know the blessings that belong to every Christian. This takes time, study, and willingness to trust God at His Word. Without faith, we cannot win. With faith, we cannot fail.

       When the believer is living by faith in God on a regular basis it produces stability in his soul.  Over time, God’s Word becomes more real to him than his feelings or ever changing circumstances. God’s Word is stable and always true, whereas our feelings and circumstances constantly change. God’s Word provides us a true estimation of the world as it really is, and His Word gives us a basis for stability in our thinking as well as the choices we make on a daily basis. 

Bible       The Bible gives us truth that is certain, though our feelings and circumstances are unstable. We may feel good and be completely in sin, or we may feel bad and be completely in God’s will. Jesus was always in the will of God, though there were times He felt grieved and distressed. The Scripture declares that Jesus was, “despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa 53:3). And just hours before His crucifixion, Jesus “began to be grieved and distressed” (Matt 26:37), telling a few of His disciples, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death” (Matt 26:38). Even during His time of human rejection and sorrow, Jesus was sustained by the Holy Spirit (Heb 9:14). Jesus was always spiritual, even when He was experiencing emotional anguish. Emotions are wonderful, and in many ways complement our spiritual life (Acts 20:36-38; Eph 5:18-20). However, we do well to subordinate our emotions to the truths of Scripture, for God calls us to live by faith in Him and His Word, not by our feelings (Rom 10:17; Heb 11:6). 

       The believer who is advancing spiritually may fail occasionally in various situations as emotions overrun his soul. This happens to all of us, and I can think of a few godly men who failed during times of pressure and then later returned to the Lord (Elijah and Peter come to mind, see1 Ki 19:1-18 & Mark 14:66-72; John 21:15-17). Biblically, the Lord extends grace and calls the believer back into fellowship with Him and to resume his spiritual walk toward spiritual maturity (1 John 1:9; 1 Pet 2:2; 2 Pet 3:18). 

       God has done so much for us as Christians to save us and bless us. The Lord now calls us to walk with Him and to grow spiritually day after day by devoting ourselves to the continual study of Scripture (2 Tim 2:15; 3:14-16; 1 Pet 2:2; 3 Pet 3:18), submitting ourselves to Him on a regular basis (Rom 12:1-2), and living by faith in His Word (Rom 10:17; 2 Cor 5:7; Heb 11:6). This is a lifelong journey we take that starts the day we are born again as Christians and ends only when we leave this world and enter into the presence of God. During the time we are in the world, we will face many struggles and distractions that will seek to impede our spiritual walk and pull us away from God and His Word, but it is our responsibility to stay the course with His help, and always walk in the light of His truth. 

Dr. Steven R. Cook

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