Faith That Pleases God
The Difference Between Wishful Thinking and Faithful Living
What kind of faith pleases God? What does our faith offer or demonstrate? Is it based on our human presumption or grounded in biblical conviction?
The great evangelist George Whitehead once asked a coal miner in Cornwall, England, what he believed, “Oh, I believe what my church believes. ”The evangelist then inquired, “And what does your church believe?” The coal miner answered, “Well my church believes what I believe.” Seeing that he was getting nowhere, the evangelist then asked, “What do you both believe?” The coal miner answered, “We both believe the same thing.”
Two Enemies of Believing Faith
There exists a vast difference between presumption and conviction; between wishful thinking and faithful living. Presumption is defined as taking something for granted without any real understanding. Whereas conviction is defined as being firmly convinced of the truth or the reality of something. In 2 Corinthians 13:5 the Apostle Paul exhorts the believer saying, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves.”
If the world has its ‘Hall of Fame’ ranging from athletes to musicians, likewise, heaven has its ‘Hall of Faith’ from Abel to Zechariah. In Hebrews 11 God showcases his pillars of faith. As you walk through its hallway, you see heroes and heroines of a bygone era—men and women from all walks of life but possessing one thing in common: they believed God!
Faith simply defined is “believing the promises of God and acting on them.” It is obeying the promise of God. It was once said, “To believe is to obey, to obey is to believe.” Faith and obedience are the two sides of the same coin. Faith is never passive, it is always active. Note the action verbs in Hebrews 11: Abel offered (v.4), Abraham obeyed (v.8), Moses refused (v.24), Rahab received (v.31), Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets conquered (vs. 32-33), and on and on. But faith without a commitment from God to do his part is not faith at all; again it is presumption. God had made some pretty fantastic promises to the people in Hebrews 11 and they in turn acted upon them. Without these promises from God, their actions are reduced to mere presumption. Vain speculation—“a chasing after the wind” (Eccl 1:14).
Let us imagine that you and I are flying in a small aircraft at 10,000 feet. I ask you, “Could God catch me if I jumped?” Without hesitation you answer, “Well, I’m not so sure.” Your lack of faith tells me that a demonstration is in order. So I say, “I believe God can.” And I jump. On my way down, I realize to my horror that although my statement is true that God can catch me; he never promised that he would. I die not because of a lack of faith but because of a lack of a promise. I was being presumptuous. Faith must have a reason or a basis for its existence.
Two Stages of Developing Faith
Before a person is willing to commit himself or herself to act on what God has promised, one thing must be certain: he or she must have conviction. This condition is clearly seen in the life of Moses. In Hebrews 11:23 it says, “By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”
Notice that faith as it relates to the life of Moses began with his mom and dad. Moses was a baby. He couldn’t act on the promises of God. It was his parent’s faith that saved the day. In verse 24 it says, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter…”Previously it was the faith of Moses’ parents. Now it is the faith of Moses. How did this happen? When did it become his faith? In verse 24 it says, “…when he was grown up.”
I imagine when Moses was growing up; he mimicked the faith of his godly parents with great enthusiasm. We have our son who at a very young age, told his friends that Jesus is in his heart. There’s our daughter who readily enjoyed saying grace before meals. And of course my youngest, when she was little, who loved to sing the Christian songs she learned in Sunday school. But there comes a time in each of our lives when it is no longer valid to base what we believe on the conviction held by our parents or other people we look up to. When we ‘grow up spiritually’ or ‘come to years,’ our beliefs must be based on our own convictions. Moses believed in the same God as his parents did but now his convictions are based on his own personal experiences with God.
Let’s look at verses 24-27: “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though he saw him who is invisible.”Moses was a man who moved on his own convictions. He believed what God said and acted on it.
When we enter into training, the person who is helping us largely determines what we do in the initial stages. The things that my children say and believe are basically dependent upon what they see and hear from their parents. We, during their growing up years, are the models. Because of their limited understanding of the meaning of words and phrases, children at times, mix them all up, parroting or copying whatever they’ve heard other people use.
The new Christian is likened to a little child or a babe in Christ. Often, new Christians will pray before meals or go to worship services not because of their own convictions, but because of what others have suggested they should do. This isn’t necessarily bad. Having come to Christ through the influence of another, it is only natural that we guide them into all truth. There comes a time when such reasons for doing things are no longer valid. He or she must eventually arrive at his or her own convictions. Knowing what to do and how to do it is important. But knowing what to do and how to do it must come after we have arrived at our own personal conviction that this is what God wants me to do.
Give a person all the methodology in the world. If this person lacks the conviction to back it up, eventually this person will not continue to do what he or she has learned so well, no matter how careful others have been in imparting the methods. The person who has methods without conviction is like a bouquet of cut flowers—this person is impressive to look at, but will not last!
And as to the older Christians, are we ‘growing up’ or ‘coming to years’ in the faith? Do our prayers sound the same? Are we constantly learning new songs? Have we put ourselves in a learning posture that will last us a lifetime? Have we become serious students of the word of God? Is our Christian life full of lame excuses? Have we put off or resigned ourselves into thinking that we’ve fallen and getting back on track will come around sometime soon? We should not presume that these things just happen automatically. We need to act responsively toward our Lord. God is committed to do His part; we ought to do ours. Remember that presumption is the enemy of conviction.
Back in the times of the early church, as it is today, there were many distorted teachings and heresies that would easily throw the immature Christian off course. Like sheep led to the slaughter, void of conviction, they are drawn away from the Christian faith only to embrace a teaching that tickles their ears or catches their fancy. They chase after every kind of teaching simply because it is in vogue.
Jim Jones was a pied piper of presumptuous souls. Jones spoke of human dignity to people who were oppressed. He opposed racial prejudice and proclaimed the value of every person. Followers flocked to the People’s Temple in San Francisco expecting to drink from its life-giving chalice. They never expected the cup to be eventually filled with a deadly dose of cyanide.
Ephesians 4:13-15 exhorts us all to “…come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”
Copyright 2009, Gicky Soriano. All rights reserved.
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