5 Faith Characteristics
5 Faith Characteristics
Just what is faith? Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary has eight different definitions:
- Allegiance to duty or a person
- Fidelity to one’s promises
- Sincerity of intentions
- Belief and trust and loyalty to God
- Belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
- Firm belief in something for which there is no proof
- Complete trust in something that is believed especially with strong convictions
- A system of religious beliefs
While all these definitions are fine and good, we must remember that there are two types of faith, physical and spiritual. If one depended on factual knowledge or mental logic, faith in Christ would not make sense. There is more to faith than just head knowledge or some belief system. Let’s consider Abraham. If he relied on factual knowledge such as the comfort of his homeland in Mesopotamia or his and his wife’s advanced age, would he have stepped forward in a way that would have affected the generations that followed?
If you notice the last five definitions of faith listed above you will see various forms of the word “belief”. Just what is the meaning of belief? It is the mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in another; a mental acceptance and conviction in the truth, actuality or validity of something. The key word in this is “mental”. This would more or less be defined as a physical faith.
Physical faith isn’t as difficult as it seems. You practice it every day! When you sit in a chair do you first question whether it will hold you up? Probably not. When you get in your car and put the key in the ignition you expect it to crank every time. It doesn’t really take any effort to have a physical faith.
God, on the other hand, he expects more. He expects Christians to have spiritual faith. This where the rubber meets the road when it comes to living a life of holiness. Faith is possibly the single-most important element in the Christian life. Hebrews 11:6 states, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (NIV) I believe there are five steps to faith and yes, it works out as an anagram.
As Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “And without faith it is impossible to please God….” One sure-fire way to pleasing God is to follow Him in obedience. It’s difficult to follow someone without seeing the light at the end of the tunnel or seeing the final results. When I think of how Abraham packed up his family and tents and began traveling, I can’t help but wonder if he ever asked the Lord that irritating question kids always ask on a long trip: “Are we there yet?” Based on scriptures, Abraham obeyed without question and traveled in the direction the Lord told him to go, even though he never saw the fruition of God’s promises. Here is a story I read that also shows this kind of obedience.
A man was sleeping at night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Savior appeared. The Lord told the man he had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might.
Each night the man returned to his cabin sore, and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain. Seeing that the man was showing signs of discouragement, the Adversary decided to enter the picture by placing thoughts into the man's weary mind: "You have been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn't budged. Why kill yourself over this? You are never going to move it." Thus giving the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure, these thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man.
"Why kill myself over this?" he thought. "I'll just put in my time, giving just the minimum effort and that will be good enough." And that is what he planned to do until one day he decided to make it a matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Lord. "Lord," he said, "I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?"
The Lord responded compassionately, "My child, when I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to me, with your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinew and brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. Yet you haven't moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. This you have done. I, my friend, will now move the rock."
At times, when we hear a word from God, we tend to use our own intellect to decipher what He wants, when actually what God wants is just simple obedience and faith in Him. By all means, exercise the faith that moves mountains, but know that it is still God who moves the mountains. We won’t always see the big picture or even see the results of our obedience, but I can guarantee you will be blessed.
Now I know you are asking why abandon, it seems like such a harsh word. There is absolutely no way to completely follow Christ without abandoning yourself of the world’s desires. Galatians 5:24-25 says, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.” You have to give yourself completely over to Christ, abandon the ways of the world.
1 Timothy 6:11 teaches, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” If you are truly pursuing these six characteristics you won’t have time for any of the worldly desires. Every one of these listed takes practice. You don’t just wake up one morning and instantly are godly, loving, enduring, gentle or righteous. Only with God’s help can we achieve this. Remember, without faith it is impossible to please God…he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
In Hebrews 12, the writer tells us, “Therefore since we also have such a large crowd of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” Lay aside EVERY weight and sin, not just some of them. Keep our eyes on Jesus…He will help perfect our faith as we learn and grow in Him.
There is all sorts of work to be done. God wants us to obey and follow, sometimes blindly, to accomplish His work. How many times have you wanted to start a project, but the materials or other resources aren’t readily available? Maybe, no one else wants to help. It seems that maybe it’s just not worth the effort.
There once were two farmers, both with the same amount of land, planting the same kind of crops. The region they were in was in a drought, so both prayed to God for rain. Now the first farmer decided it wasn’t worth the effort unless he could see rain coming. The other, he began disking, plowing and planting the seeds. He did everything necessary to prepare his land for an abundant crop. I ask you, which farmer had faith? Of course, you would say the second farmer.
Peter, initially, showed the kind of faith necessary to serve Jesus. When he saw Jesus walking on the water, without thinking he stepped out and began walking on the sea himself. It wasn’t until he looked aside and saw the waves that he waivered and began to sink. Peter was rather impetuous, he always did things without thinking first. He was the first running into the tomb, not knowing what possible dangers could have been waiting for him there. In the garden he even drew his sword, without thinking, and lopped off a servant’s ear trying to protect Jesus when the soldiers arrived. There is really nothing to think about. God tells you to do something, get started; don’t think about it, just do it! Do it for Him! You will be blessed!
Matthew 9 tells the story of men who brought a paralyzed man to Jesus to be healed. They weren’t sure what would happen, but they stepped up and took him anyway. Jesus saw their faith and healed the man. All God asks is that we follow in obedience. He wants us to work, relying on the fact that He will provide what we need to accomplish His purpose in His time. Did you get that? He will provide what we need to accomplish His purpose in His time. In my opinion we need to work like He is never coming back, but live like He is returning tomorrow!
Trust is another aspect of faith. The Bible is full of God’s promises, but you need to study to find all of the promises that are there. But what does trust mean? It’s a definite attitude of soul and mind, a realization of our own need and of God’s sufficiency. It’s more than just saying, “Oh, I guess it will come out all right.” Trust is something positive. Trust brings peace, a calm in the soul of one who trusts. There is no fear in trust, otherwise, we are not fully trusting. The one who trusts is strong and has the strength of God.
But trust also implies obedience. Such is the case when God tested Abraham asking him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. God had promised that the seed of Isaac would be like the stars in the sky, how could he offer him up for a sacrifice? Abraham gathered everything he needed and he, Isaac and a couple of other servants proceeded to the location God would show him. Isaac was wondering why they didn’t have an animal for the sacrifice. Abraham said God would provide one, you know the rest of the story. I submit here that Abraham knew if God could raise someone from the dead, surely he would do the same for Isaac. That’s faith! God already knew Abraham’s heart and knew how much faith he had. He tested Abraham so Abraham could see how much faith he had in God. God already knows our hearts and how much faith and trust we have in Him. I believe we probably don’t know for ourselves just how much we trust God.
We honor God by trusting God. Fretting, worrying, being anxious and impatient,…our fallen human nature does these things, disobeying God’s Word. The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 56:3 what to do when we have such fears. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” Still keep trusting in God. It is the safest thing you have ever done and He will never fail you.
God knows all and sees all and being stored in His memory. When we abandon our worldly ways, truly follow Christ, take the initiative and work expecting God to provide and trust in His grace we will truly be honoring God. We should want to please God more than ever because he is the only perfect Father and ruler over us. Putting forth an honest effort to honor God is the wisest decision you can make every moment of your existence. Honestly practicing faith through obedience, giving yourself up entirely to Christ, stepping forward believing and trusting God’s will is a big step forward to honoring God.
God truly wants to bless us through eternity for what we do, but we can’t honor God unless we have God the Holy Spirit living inside us, helping us love the things God loves and to have changed hearts that love Him and love others. The only way to have the Holy Spirit inside of us is by believing in Jesus as our savior. Then, we can truly honor and glorify God through our faith!