This Thing Called Faith
Faith is foundational on our Spirit-Led Transformation journeys. Without it, we have no transformation. Without it we cannot be Spirit-led. So what just what is faith and how do we know if we are really living our lives based on faith?
I’m a words person, so let’s see what the dictionary says faith is. First definition is “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” Second definition says it is a strong belief in God.
Hebrews 11:1-2 has long been the go-to verse to explain faith. In NIV is says, “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.” But we read that and say what does that mean?
To help us understand better, let’s read this scripture the Amplified Bible, which has a way of explaining things better.
It says, “Faith is the assurance, title deed, confirmation, of things hoped for or divinely guaranteed, and the evidence of things not seen or the conviction of their reality. Faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses. For by this kind of faith the men (and women) of old gained divine approval.”
Remember the dictionary definition of faith we see that faith in God, or complete confidence in Him, comes from our foundational knowledge that we can trust Him to lead us.
In other words, we must have complete assurance that God is leading us and the eventual outcome of where He is leading us is for our good and His glory (as it says in Romans 8:28). We have the title deed to whatever the outcome is that God wants to happen. We have the title deed to whatever God has already put in our hands!
Several years ago we reached a milestone on our financial journey and paid off our house. We now have the title deed to our home. It is ours. Whatever God is telling you and me, if we have faith then we have the title deed to that. It is ours. It’s not just guaranteed by a financial institution, it is divinely guaranteed by the God of the Universe, who just happens to be our Daddy.
The next part is harder to understand because it is in the future. “Faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses.” God already sees it. He has called what we can’t see as if it has already happened because He stands outside of time and can see the whole picture of our lives.
Our faith in God has to help us comprehend as a fact what we cannot actually see, touch or feel right now. We cannot experience it by our physical senses right this moment but we trust God and have faith that what He has said will come true. This goes back to 2 Cor. 5:7 where Paul tells us, “We walk by faith not by what we see.” Friends, it wouldn’t be faith if we could see it!
In the Bible, especially Hebrews 11, it lists men and women of faith who have gone before us and gained God’s approval because of how they lived lives of faith. They are examples for us of how to walk in faith even when we cannot see the future. We, like they did, have a divine promise, which is our guarantee of what will happen when we put feet or action to our faith.
In Romans 4, Paul seems to go off on a tangent about Abraham, whom he calls our forefather according to the flesh or humanly speaking. For this series, I was originally going to skip over this passage, but God kept calling me back it because faith is a foundational pillar on any Spirit-Led Transformation journey.
However, my big question with Abraham’s story was why does God call Abraham a man of faith when he failed so many times? As I read his story, I saw that every time Abraham failed, he recognized his failure. Whoever he had wronged forgave him and so did God. He is not our forefather of faith because he was perfect. He is the forefather of faith because at critical junctures in his life, he listened to God and followed Him.
To understand why Paul is talking about Abraham we need to begin in Romans 3:22 NIV. “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. “
In continues in Romans 3:27-28 NIV:, “Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”
In these verses Paul is trying to get those who are still following Jewish laws and sacrifices for their salvation to understand that faith is the foundation for salvation, not the law. Although the law is good, it is no longer how God counts salvation. We are not saved by what we do, but if we have faith, it will move us to appropriate actions without following a set of elongated rules.
Paul explains in Romans 4:14, 16-17 NIV: “If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless.
“So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, ‘I have made you the father of many nations.’ This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.”
How did Abraham’s life show He believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing? I see three times his life revealed this belief.
First, Abraham left his homeland to go to a place God would show him. In doing that God promised to give the land to his descendants. This was when Abraham had no children at all.
Hebrews 11:8-9 NIV says, “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents.”
His actions revealed that he believed God could create new things out of nothing. My friends, that’s faith!
The second time God brought the dead back to life for Abraham was when He opened Sarah’s womb at age 90, way past child-bearing age. Abraham was 100 years old!
In Romans 3:18-20 NIV Paul explains, ”Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, ‘That’s how many descendants you will have!’ And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.”
Now we understand why they both laughed when God told them Sarah would have a baby. (See Genesis 17:17, 18:11-15). I would have too!
When the baby was born, Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age,” (Gen. 21:6-7 NIV). They named the baby Isaac which means “he laughs.”
The third time was when God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his son of promise from God. Yet, Abraham trusted what God had said and by faith believed that somehow even if he had to go through with sacrificing his own son, God would bring him back to life.
We see this clearly in Hebrews 11: 17-19 NLT: “It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, ‘Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.’ Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.”
Ok I have to say it again, Friends, that’s faith. I really don’t think I have that level of faith to even begin the process to sacrifice either one of my children.
Lest we think Abraham was godlike, we need to remember the two times he passed his wife off as his sister and in trying to protect himself stepped right into a few messes. He lied about her partly out of fear because she was so beautiful and was afraid someone would kill him for her. In truth it was a part lie because she was his half-sister to whom he was married, which is the part he failed to mention. At the time it was a legal union and wasn’t forbidden in scripture until much later.
God got him out of both situations by sending plagues on Pharoh who had taken her to be his wife (Gen. 12:14-20) and revealing the truth in a dream to Abimelech, who also wanted to marry her (Gen. 20:3). In the first instance, he was lucky to be escorted out of the country with his wife and possessions. In the second, we see clearly that he was sorry and paid restitution to Abimelech.
Another decision that wasn’t Abraham’s finest moment was listening to Sarah who told him to sleep with her maid Hagar in order to have a child because Sarah felt she couldn’t get pregnant. It’s clear from scripture that Abraham did this willingly. It likely made sense to him because God had promised to make his descendants as numerous as the stars, (Gen. 15:5).
God used both Ishmael, the son of the servant, and Isaac, Sarah’s son to accomplish that promise. But God made it clear that Isaac was the son of promise. When Isaac was about to be weaned, Abraham prepared a celebration. During the party, Sarah saw 13-year-old Ishmael making fun of Isaac and demanded that Abraham send Ishmael and his mother away.
Scripture tells us that this upset Abraham because Ishmael was also his son. Then in Gen. 21:12 God tells Abraham to do what Sarah says because “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” He added that he would also make a nation out of Ishmael’s descendants. So Abraham sent them away.
The promise Abraham was given was a promise only Isaac inherited. In Gen. 26:4 NIV, after Abraham’s death, God tells Isaac, “I will cause your descendants to become as numerous as the stars of the sky, and I will give them all these lands. Through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed. I will do this because Abraham listened to Me and obeyed all my requirements, commands, decrees and instructions.”
Did you get that last part? It’s really why God called Abraham the forefather of faith. It’s because “because Abraham listened to Me and obeyed all my requirements, commands, decrees and instructions.” It’s not because of the times he messed up. It’s because his actions revealed that at critical times in his life, when God showed him what to do, he trusted God and did what He said.
The first part of the book of Romans is really about the struggle between those who still wanted a law book to follow and those who understood that Jesus was teaching a deeper truth—the spiritual truth of living by faith, living in God’s grace.
As people we tend to want a rule book, but then we don’t follow it! We say, “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” This seems easier than trusting God to lead us. I remember when I was in my 20s I would say to God, just tell me what to do like you did Noah in giving him the exact dimensions of the arc. I think I failed to understand the extreme ridicule he went through spending years building a huge boat. He was the laughing stock of the neighborhood, until the floods came!
Faith is not a difficult concept to grasp. We have faith that when we go to work that we will get a paycheck, right? There have been a few times when we were newly married that my husband was working at small businesses and his paychecks started bouncing.
That will cause you to lose faith in your boss really quick. We think when we do xyz, we are promised a certain result. For instance, if I follow the latest, greatest diet to a tee, I will lose x amount of weight. This might work, but nine times out of 10 it doesn’t work like promised because we are all different.
When I was into diets, I would always blame myself because I never could follow the diet perfectly. When I did I might lose some weight. The issue was when I stopped following the diet and went back to normal eating, I gained it all back plus more.
Why? I hadn’t learned anything. I was following someone else’s rules. I had no intention of making those any part of my ongoing lifestyle.
This is the same thing with the law. God doesn’t want us to just follow a set of rules. He wants us to follow Him. And that’s so much more difficult than following the rules. At least then we think we know why we failed. When we are following God it seems more difficult to discern what to do. Maybe that’s because our faith is in the rules, rather than in God.
Faith in God has to be the main ingredient in any Spirit-Led Transformation. What that means is we trust God no matter what He says. Our faith, then, will always result in Spirit-Led action. Any other action is useless.
James 2:21-24, 26 NIV adds, “Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone … As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
Fear many times keeps us from stepping out in faith. What if I didn’t hear from God right? What if that wasn’t even God? But Abraham gives me hope. He definitely didn’t get it right all the time. Maybe Ishmael wasn’t in God’s plan, but somehow that act did not get counted against Abraham.
What God saw were all the times Abraham’s faith moved him forward on his own Spirit-Led Transformation journey.
Romans 4:20-24 NLT says it this way: “Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever He promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.
“And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in Him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.”
The important thing about Abraham’s life is that he showed God he had faith when he did something God told him to do. Like when he left home headed to who knows where or when he trusted God to give him a heir of promise or when he raised the knife to sacrifice that same beloved gift from God.
His faith led to action. Now any of these actions without direction from God would not have the same result. We can’t go out and copy Abraham’s actions and be counted as faithful. That was Abraham’s journey.
Ours may seem even more difficult than his. How can we see a way to pay the insurmountable amount of debt we have? How can we restore the broken relationship in our marriage, with our children, with our friends? How can we lose the mountain of weight that has attached itself to our bodies?
FAITH in what God asks you to do is always the answer. But that FAITH must be backed by whatever action God is telling you to take. It might be to wait for the promise, like it was with Abraham. I hope you don’t have to wait until you are 100, but hey he lived to be 175 so there’s that, too. It’s all relative, my friend.
I feel like I really started living by faith around 2009, when I was 56. It took me lots of years to lose 250 pounds. First I had to totally surrender to God and trust Him for the next step on my journey. I had to get His lifestyle change plan for me and do what He said to implement it. I made a lot of mistakes on my journey and as such I am well-equipped to steer others away from my same mistakes.
One of the most beautiful and spiritual part of any transformation journey is learning how to have faith Jesus Christ, and to be led by the Holy Spirit in each step we take. Then the grace, mercy, favor and glory of God will surround us as we walk in tandem with Him.
Is it easy? I mean some of the things Abraham did look easy. Who knows, maybe he was glad to get away from his mother and father and go somewhere that he had inkling of. However it definitely wasn’t easy waiting for the promised son. And I don’t think for a minute it was easy preparing to sacrifice his promised son.
Yet, through it all, He trusted God. I like to think it all started with that first step out the door of his homeland, going to a place God said He’d show him. That’s faith.
Let me ask you, what would it look like for you to have that kind of faith on your Spirit-Led Transformation journey? What would it take to do whatever God is whispering in your heart to do?
It’s time. He’s calling you. Will you have the faith to take the next step?
Father God, I lift your children to You today. Give them clear directions. Remind them of Your promises and help them take that next step on their journey whatever that may be. Make it clear to them. Give them faith to take action.
As always the action steps and challenges for this lesson will be in the Spirit-Led Transformation course along with the video and transcript. This course is only available in Overcomers Academy.
Go to: teresashieldsparker.com/overcomers/ to join.