A perfect day for me is to be involved in a discussion with other serious Christians about the hard questions concerning our relationship with our Father in Heaven. I like nothing better than to spend hours in conversation examining what the Holy Spirit reveals in the Father's Word. And the harder the analysis, the more rewarding it is to hear what has been revealed to others, and then compare to my own relationship with God.
That's why I have been enjoying a new series (called Questions With God); half-hour round-table discussions filmed by Darren Wilson and including a group of various pastors, all who represent a cross culture of the modern Body of Christ. They don't shy away from those hard questions, and they are all walking in the power of God, exhibiting intimate relationships with Him, so they speak from experience -- and to my way of thinking, experience counts if you're going to have any relevance in talking about walking in power.
I must say that I found it fascinating during Questions with God, when it was mentioned that the word "faith" only appears twice in the Old Testament, while it appears 245 times in the New Testament. However, the various forms of "faithful", "faithfully" and "faithfulness" appear an additional 109 times throughout both the Old and New Testament. It is obvious Faith has always been important to God!
In the Old Testament, the connotation of "faith" is trustworthiness; to be established, lasting, continuing, certain. Using the King James version of the Bible, the word "faith" only appears in Deuteronomy 32:20 and Habakkuk 2:4. The Deuteronomy passage reads, And He said, I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a
very perverse generation, children in whom is no faith. The Habakkuk verse reads, Look at the proud one, his soul is not right within him. But the righteous will live by his faith [in the true God]. In both verses, we get the picture that faith is an established and continuing trustworthiness. The Israelites lacked faith in Deuteronomy, and the righteous lived by it in Habakkuk.
In the New Testament, Faith seems to be a belief system in respect to man's relationship with God, generally including the idea of trust and holy power, which is born of faith and becomes a concrete confidence that Jesus can be relied on in all matters of our earthly life and eternal salvation. HE is the one who is eternally trustworthy and we put our continued confidence in Him. I know that is a wordy explanation, but the idea of faith covers so much ground, that I just can't reduce it to a short definition.
So, are you beginning to see that Faith is difficult because it involves risk? Which automatically leads us humans to fear? Let's be honest; by all human standards it is risky to put our trust in a God we cannot see. There is the obvious risk factor of the unknown, and we are certainly not in control if we engage in this relationship. At the very core of our faith we must have TRUST in this God we can't see, and we must yield and surrender all control to Him.
If you think about it, our relationship with our Heavenly Father is a whole lot like any of our earthly relationships. The more we come to know someone, our experience with them either proves or disproves that they can be trusted, right? So can we agree that this ability to trust God comes through our history with Him and the intimacy that grows between us as we get to know Him more? And that intimacy is an expression of God's love working in us!
After listening to the round-table discussion in the video Why Is Faith So Difficult, I wanted to pursue a particular Scripture that was mentioned, namely Galatians 5:6, which one of the pastors said suggested that Christians might have more of a "love problem" than a "faith problem". If you will indulge me, I'd like to submit to you the entire passage of Galatians 5:1-6, in which Paul says ....
"Let me be clear, the Anointed One has set us free -- not partially, but completely and wonderfully free! We must always cherish this truth and stubbornly refuse to go back into the bondage of our past.
I, Paul, tell you: If you think there is benefit in circumcision and Jewish regulations, then you're acting as though Jesus, the Anointed One, is not enough. I say it again emphatically: If you let yourselves be circumcised you are obliged to fulfill every single one of the commandments and regulations of the Law!
If you want to be made holy by fulfilling the obligations of the Law, you have cut off more than your flesh -- you have cut yourselves off from the Anointed One and have fallen away from the revelation of grace!
But the Holy Spirit convinces us that we have received by faith the glorious righteousness of the Anointed One. When you're placed into the Anointed One and joined to Him, circumcision and religious obligations can benefit you nothing. All that matters now is living in the faith that is activated and brought to perfection by love."
So, here is what I see Paul saying: RELIGION WILL NOT RESULT IN FAITH. It tends to focus us on rules, rituals, and regulations, while taking our eyes off of seeing and experiencing God's grace in our life. And it is God's grace that gives us the ability to recognize and receive His love and develop that intimate relationship that grows into continuing and steadfast trust... the things hoped for, but not seen.
Can you see it? Faith is a choice -- the willful decision by any Believer to decide to trust Jesus [and God] above and beyond anything this world tries to tell or show us -- including our religious traditions. It is a matter of pressing into Them for that intimate relationship; developing a history together that proves Their trustworthiness in all matters. Faith then becomes a growing process; a continuous action on our part that is activated and made stronger through the power of God's love in our life. And I believe the Pastor rightfully diagnosed a potential problem in the faith lives of Christians -- we must recognize the power of God to love us into our faith. We must be open to an encounter with Him and the activating power of His love to move us into intimacy with Him, whereby we experience more of Him and learn to trust Him, which all adds up to FAITH. That requires surrender ... and trust ... and, sure, it's risky. But it is so worth it!
1 John 5:4 ..... And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.