What is faith? Jesus talked about it a lot. It’s mentioned over 400 times in the Bible. But the book of Hebrews is very helpful in understanding the essential matter of faith.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going…. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[b] considered him faithful who had made the promise.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.
There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning;[e] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Select verses from Hebrews 11:1-40, NIV)
So let me remind you what faith is not. It is not keeping your fingers crossed and being uncertain of the outcome. It is not just a dream or distant wish that maybe something will happen or come about. Voltaire once said that, “Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe." - Voltaire. Faith is to be sure—-certain and confident of the outcome. And that, friends, is pleasing to God. He wants us to be confident of who He is, what He has promised, what He is able to do, and how He will bring the things we are faithful for about.
Do you pray in faith? Well, in the first place are you praying about things that you can be certain will happen? If not, your praying for wishes and dreams—it’s not faith.
Believing that God is sovereign and able to do what He wants. Do you believe this?
Doing what God requires of us because we know that it pleases Him. Do you please Him?
Being obedient to Him because you are 100% certain that He cannot lie, break His promise, or forsake you. Are you sure of His promises? Do you trust Him?
Faith is trusting that things will turn out like He says it will. God loves for us to trust Him! And I understand that as a father and a friend. When people tell me, “I trust you”, it’s affirming and draws me closer to that person. When someone I love tells that they have faith in my word, or what I say that I will do, I am frankly all the more motivated to keep my word and do what I say! I like being trusted and I like to be known of as man that does what he says!
And when God’s people act in faith, walls fall down, small armies defeat vastly superior ones, dead sons and daughters are brought back to life….extraordinary things happen to a nation, a family, or one of God’s own children.
The Bible is clear: The great things that the heroes of faith accomplished was by faith in God. It was not that they were strong, gifted, at the right place, or lucky. They believed God….and did impossible things.
But there’s the other side of the coin. Although some believed and trusted God and had complete faith, they were at times tortured, jailed, chained up, and even murdered. Many who had faith that exceeds all of ours, were jeered, laughed at, cast out of their home towns. They did not receive an easy life or one free from sorrows—but God was pleased with their faith—-the world was not worthy of them. God knew it and gave them this supernatural ability to persevere even ifit meant walking around naked, sleeping in holes in ground and being bereft of human contact for years!
The word here is “commended”, that is, “formally praised”….by God. Imagine! Obeying God, knowing you are doing His will, enduring suffering or abandonment by the world, and yet being formally praised by God! I am sure of two things: First, when a man believes and is certain, that God will one day say, “Well done—I am so proud of you”, that that man becomes a menace to hell and all that stand against love, purity and nobility. And second, I am sure that if the Holy Spirit whispers those same words to you, in the flesh, why you are diligently living by faith, you will be able to move mountains and change the course of history.
So remember, faith is trusting and believing—but not seeing—at least not immediately. It’s the assurance, in your heart and prayers, that God’s plans cannot be thwarted, that He will win the battle, and that He will keep all His promises to you and the rest of us who live by faith.
If you have no faith, nothing will ever give you the peace and purpose you pine for. You’ve got to step out and make the move. There is ample evidence to compel a man to believe in God and have faith, but there is enough evil and brokenness in the world to cause others to wonder. "In faith, there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't." - (Blaise Pascal). Do you want to believe? Do you want to have faith? For you and me today, (and to restate the purpose of this church) faith means relying completely on who Jesus is and what he has done to be made right with God.
And to be honest, if you live a life of faith you are the minority of mankind. If you are living and placing your trust in God, rather than in the many idols that surround us, you’re a part of the elect few. It’s easier to simply drift down the same stream most of the world ambles down. Chesterton once quipped that , ”A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” Which are you?
What does faith in God mean to me? Knowledge attended by a certainty that excludes doubt about who God is, what Jesus accomplished on the cross, and what He has promised to those that love Him. Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Have you had a personal encounter with Him and surrendered to Him yet? I believe in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirt within my life and I have faith in Him—just like I believe that the sun will set this afternoon and rise tomorrow morning. But I don’t believe in the sun just because I see it, and I don’t believe in Jesus Christ just because of what I have heard about Him, I believe in the rising and setting of the sun “because, by it I see everything else.” (C.S. Lewis). Friends, by seeing what He has done in my life…how He has answered my prayers….how His Spirit has spoken to me and directed me….I can see everything else about Him is true, and I can pray with faith. Can you?
Let me close with pointing this out: Jesus identified only two people who He said had great faith; a Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5–13)and a Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21–28).
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
You want to know what fatih is? Believing in what Jesus said and says today! Having total confidence that He can do immeasurably more than you can imagine! It’s coming to Him in prayer believing that He is able to bring about a miracle in your life or the life of another!
Neither of these people were Jews.
Neither was praying for himself or herself.
Both were praying for someone they loved to be restored.
Both asked Jesus with great humility of heart for Him to do something miraculous.
Do you have faith to pray to God for a miracle today?