Faith: the beginning and the end of the Christian faith

“If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6).

For over 60 years I’ve been trying to live this Christian life.  For over 50 years, I’ve been trying to proclaim it.  And I think I’ve figured something out.

Drum roll please.

It’s all about faith.

From the first to the last and throughout everything in between, it all comes down to a strong belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and staying close to Him.

First–defining our terms.

“Now, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  What faith is not is what the little kid said, believing in things you know aren’t so.  Faith is being assured that something is true based on evidence–even when you would like more evidence. Faith is taking a stand for something you are confident is true based on the things you know  but about which you continue to have questions.

The Lord Jesus said, “You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).  Think of faith in that way: “I believe in God; I have confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ.”  I believe that the Lord Jesus is all He says He is and will do everything He promises.

To believe in Jesus is to believe in God.  Jesus said, “He who receives me receives Him who sent me” (Matthew 10:40).  (Note: the opposite is not true.  Not everyone claiming to believe in God has confidence in Jesus.  I suppose every religion on earth speaks of God.  But only one says, “The way to God is by Jesus Christ.”)

Faith is all about Jesus.

We must believe in Jesus Christ.  His is the “only name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  He is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and “no one comes to the Father except through Him” (John 14:1-6).

Faith means, however, that we do not have all the proofs we might like,  all our questions answered, or every piece of evidence we need.  But based on the evidence we have, we declare for Jesus Christ and go forward. This is how faith works.

Faith is the system He set up.

Here are ten bold, clear, solid statements from Scripture on the subject of faith.  Combined, they wrap up the subject and assure us that this is the way ordained by Heaven.

1) “Then he (Abraham) believed God and it was reckoned (counted) to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

This simple declaration is as big as they come. In refuting those who wanted to require conversion to Judaism as a part of our salvation, the Apostle Paul quotes this three times in Romans 4 and once in Galatians 3:6. He points out Abraham had done nothing, had not been circumcised, had not kept the Law, had not joined my church or been baptized or nothing! when this statement was made. It’s also quoted in James 2:23 as a counter-balance to those who want to strip works from any importance whatsoever.

2) “The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).

God’s plan from the first is that His righteous people would live for Him by faith (confidence in Him!), not by fears or feelings, not by works of righteousness or by a thousand substitutes.  This brief statement is quoted by Paul in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11.  Many centuries later, God was to use Paul’s insights on this verse to spark the Reformation in the mind and heart of Martin Luther.

3) “Why did you fear? Where is your faith?” (Mark 4:40)

Faith and fear are opposites.  Fear deadens and paralyzes; faith enlivens and liberates.  This saying was a rebuke from our Lord after the disciples awakened Him during a frightening storm.

Many a church should be asked why they are fearing, where is their faith.  Many a paralyzed Christian should be made to face the question. We should constantly ask it of ourselves.

4) “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). 

This distraught father wanted nothing more than his son’s healing but nothing less than that. If he would believe, Jesus said, everything is possible.  His answer–the only one of our “great statements of faith” not from our Lord Himself or an epistle–perfectly sums up where most of us are.  We are a mixture of faith and doubt.  And that’s all right, incidentally.

We read of people like Stephen who was “full of faith” (Acts 6:5) and wish we could be like that. Few of us are.  However, as we express our faith and give Him our doubts–and do so day after day, year after year–eventually we discover that our ever-growing faith has crowded out all the doubts. And that is a wonderful feeling.

5) “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven'” (Mark 2:5).

Is faith something visible? It is to the Lord. I imagine what He sees is the same thing everyone else does–the works that faith produces.  And for that we drop back into the Epistle of James. “Faith without works is dead.”

My works are not necessary in order for me to be saved; however they testify that I am saved.

6)”When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)

When the Lord Jesus returns to earth–as Scripture promises repeatedly!–will He find anyone at all still living by faith and believing in Him? Still worshiping by faith, working by faith, going out into distant lands by faith, building by faith, witnessing and praying and giving and forgiving, all by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?  Everything inside me wants to say, “Here’s one, Lord! I will!”  God grant.

7) “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). 

Sure, we’d like to have everything “by sight” and not have to do anything by faith. But the person who sits waiting until all questions are answered, all evidence is gathered, all his family is on board, all the money is in the bank and the GPS is clear as to his route and destination before rising to his feet and following Jesus Christ, that person will never move a muscle. He will come by faith–that is, he will have good evidence but not all he would like–or he will not come at all.

The question is whether we can do this by faith.  Can we bring our lives to Jesus in full trust even when we have no clue what He will do with us or where He will send us? Answer: Only if we trust Him. And that is faith.

8) “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

To walk by sight means all our questions are answered, all the evidence is in. It requires no faith to believe this chair will hold me or this laptop will connect me with the internet.  I’m sitting here, I’m connected. Faith has no part of this; it’s all of sight.

The future–both tomorrow and after death–this is the ultimate faith sphere.  We have a hundred statements from our Lord about death and what follows–the judgment, heaven and hell, rewards, etc.–all of which require faith from we who read them. The best evidence of their reality is our Lord’s own resurrection, but we have nothing that resembles scientific proof.  The question is whether this is enough for us? It is only for people of faith.

We smile at the naive among us who claim they do nothing without hard scientific factual basis. They do, of course.  All the time.  Every person you know lives by faith if they drive on a highway, fly in an airliner, eat in a restaurant, or check into a hospital.

9) “For by grace are you saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God–not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

No one is saved by his good works. Only faith in Jesus Christ is acceptable.  How clear is that!

Someone is always asking, “Aren’t works important?” You bet they are, but not as a means to salvation.  Works are evidence that we are saved.  In fact, the very next verse spells that out:  “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus to bring forth good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”

10) “You foolish Galatians! ….Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?….After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1ff.)

We should give thanks that early believers were falling into some of the same traps as moderns, because it caused Paul to address the issues The Galatians were saying, as many have done since, “Oh, sure, we are saved by faith in Jesus. But after that, we have to earn it. We have to work our way to Heaven. It’s our works that will make us holy.”  Wrong, Paul says. Dead wrong.

It’s all of faith, from beginning to end.

There! All the great “faith texts,” right? Not even close!

I’ve barely touched on the Epistle of James or Hebrews 11, the great faith chapter which is a mother lode of insights about godly living. Nor have we mentioned the many times our Lord said to someone, “Your faith has saved you” or “made you whole.”

The story that follows is a repeat, for regular readers of this website. But it’s so choice, we include it for others seeing it for the first time.

Max Lucado tells of Lt. John Blanchard, who was stationed at the Pensacola Naval Base during World War 2.  On a Sunday afternoon, he visited the base library and checked out several books, one of which was a small volume of poetry. He lay on his bunk reading it and quickly made two discoveries. First, the poetry was not very good. Second, the previous owner of the book had written in the margin with comments far more interesting than the poems.  Blanchard found the beautiful flowing script in green ink fascinating. In the front the owner had penned her name: Miss Hollis Maydell, New York City.

A few days later, Blanchard managed to find an address  and wrote Miss Hollis Maydell. Soon, a letter came from her.  He wrote her back, she wrote him.

Before long it became obvious Lt. Blanchard and Miss Maydell were connecting on several levels. He sent her a photo.

She thanked him and said, “I think appearances are over-rated.” She would not be sending a photo of herself.

Blanchard was shipped overseas during which time they continued exchanging letters. It became clear that something very special was developing between this young Naval pilot and the woman in New York.

After a year, Blanchard was returning to the States on furlough.  They agreed to meet at 7 o’clock under the clock in Grand Central Station.  She would recognize him by his photograph.  He would know her by a red rose in her lapel.

As the clock struck seven, Blanchard was getting nervous.  This could be a life-changing moment. He kept searching the crowd, looking for a woman with a red rose.

Then he noticed a strikingly lovely blonde in a flowing green dress walking toward him. His heart skipped a beat.  Then, he noticed. She was not wearing a red rose.

However, coming up behind her someone was.

The woman with the rose on her lapel was perhaps fifty years old. She was pleasingly plump and beginning to turn grey. She wore a cloth coat and flat shoes.

Blanchard’s heart dropped.  At that moment the blonde walked by.

“Going my way, sailor?” she said.

For a split second, Blanchard was tempted to follow her.  But, even as he was realizing things may not be quite the way he had figured, he knew he would keep this date and honor his friend.

Stepping up to the woman with the rose, he saluted.

“Lieutenant John Blanchard at your service! Miss Maydell, I would be honored if you would have dinner with me tonight!”

The woman said, “I don’t know what this is all about, son. But the blonde lady in the green dress pinned this rose on my lapel, and said if you invited me to dinner, to tell you she would be waiting for you at the restaurant across the street.  That this was some kind of test.”

Max Lucado says, “Anyone would have loved the Lord Jesus Christ in all the glory and majesty of Heaven. So, He lays it all aside, He empties Himself, and comes to earth as a baby, the son of a poor Jewish carpenter.  He goes about preaching the kingdom of God and is crucified on a Roman cross.”

“We should think of it as some kind of a test.”

Will we respond by faith or not?

Will we believe in Him by faith? Will we worship Him, love Him, obey and serve, give and forgive, go or stay, fight or retreat, be bold or be quiet, all from our devotion to the Man of Galille?

At some time in the future every eye shall behold Him and everyone shall know Him for who He is.  That will be a time of “sight,” when faith is no longer required.

When that happens, at that moment, every knee shall bend, every human will hit the ground in humility and in worship,and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

But only the people of faith will rise to their feet to be welcomed into Glory.

 

 

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