Definition of Christian faith:
Belief and trust in Jesus. Having such confidence and trust in Jesus that we base our actions upon that trust and belief, without physical evidence as a basis. A spiritual knowing that the thing you hope for is established even before there is material evidence of that knowledge.
Definition from the Bible:
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Heb 11:1
What do we hope for?
We hope for the things that God desires. From study of the Bible and from hanging out with God (prayer, active listening), we learn his heart. We let our spiritual eyes, ears, and hearts be trained to understand God’s desires and to seek the same things.
Earth is not our permanent home, but it is our temporary dwelling place just as our bodies are. Yet, this earth will become the New Jerusalem and our bodies will be glorified, therefore neither is to be trivialized.
We are called to bring heaven on earth to this place. (Mt 6:10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.) We are called through the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit to bring the kingdom of God (God’s sovereign rule) here and now. (Rom 5:17 TEV All who receive God’s abundant grace and are freely put right with him will rule in life through Christ.) (Rom 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.)
What does faith do?
Faith brings God’s provision from the spiritual realm into the physical realm. (Mat 6:10
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven)
Faith brings salvation (Eph 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.), answers to prayer (Mt 21:22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer), and effective ministry (Mat 17:20b … For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.)
Faith causes us to know in our hearts before we can see with our eyes. (2 Cor. 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.”) Faith brings the victory that enables us to overcome the world. (1 Jn 5:4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.) Faith allows us to please God. (Heb 11:6 Without faith, it is impossible to please God.)
The Relationship Between Grace and Faith
(Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you are saved through faith–and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God.) It is God’s grace that saves us–God gives us the grace that we need to be saved. However, that grace comes through faith. Grace is the empowerment, gifting and resources from God for us to accomplish his purposes. Faith is the pipeline through which grace flows to us.
2 Categories of Faith.
Human faith–This faith is based upon the 5 senses. Based upon what we see, hear, smell, taste and feel, we decide whether something or someone is trustworthy. For instance, we decide if it is safe to fly on a plane or ride in a car based upon our physical senses.
Supernatural faith–This faith is a gift from God to every Christian. (Eph 2:8 printed above, Rom 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.)
Extraordinary faith is one of the gifts of the Spirit.
(1 Corinthians 12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit). This is an amazing trust of God to do as he has promised. It exceeds the faith found in most Christians.
Saving faith versus functional faith
We are each given a measure of faith when we become Christians as seen in Romans 12:3 (For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you),
When Jesus speaks of great faith, (Mat 8:10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith), he is speaking of functional faith. Also, when he mentions little faith (Mat 8:26 “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”), he once again speaks of functional faith.
We are all given faith that is the same stuff as Peter and Paul’s faith. It is a matter of how we exercise our faith that makes it more or less functional–greater or smaller.
How do we get saving faith?
(Rom 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.) People need to hear the gospel to believe. We hear the Word. The Holy Spirit empowers the words. God’s supernatural faith enters us.
How do we increase our functional faith?
Know that these steps are not to move us back from grace into works (achieving by our effort). These are privileges and not duties–sources of joy not burdens. They put us in the position to receive God’s help.
- Increase your understanding of the Word, and pray the Word. (2 Tim 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.)
- Feed your spirit godly food, not the junk food of the world. (Jn 4:34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.)
- Privately pray in tongues, if you have received that gift. It builds you up. (1 Cor 14:4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.) If you have not been given this gift yet, then ask the Holy Spirit for it as well as the other spiritual gifts. (1 Cor 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.) (1 Cor 14:18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.)
- Obey Holy Spirit promptings– put your faith into action. (Rom 2:13 For it is not those who hear the law that are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.) Give thanks. (1 Thes 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.)
- Develop a worshipful life. (Ps 100:1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. 2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.)
- Speak the Word. (Heb 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.)
- Seek purity. (Tim1:5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.)
- Move constantly deeper towards love. (1 Cor 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.)
- Tame your tongue with the help of the Holy Spirit. Our words build or destroy. They show what is in our hearts. (Eph 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.)
A picture of faith and grace.
We have blood pumping through our physical body. Grace is like the blood to our spiritual body. The life is in the blood. Nutrients, oxygen, cleansing, and much more come through the spiritual life-giving blood which flows from God’s Holy Spirit to our spirit. This blood brings power and all that we need to accomplish God’s purposes for us.
Faith is like the circulatory system through which the blood of grace is pumped to our spirit. It is the pipeline that allows the grace to bring life, growth, healing, nutrition and every resource to the spirit, soul and body to enable us to accomplish God’s purposes.
Our circulatory system gets stronger as we exercise it. As we put more demands on it, it becomes more able to meet those demands.
As we use our faith, in good times and in trials, we grow it functionally. We have the measure originally given to us, but we increase its functional ability by constantly and deliberately pushing it to new levels.
More on Grace
Grace is also the sheep-gate that we enter into the kingdom through. It is the narrow road that we travel to God’s heart. Grace is all of God’s gifting and bounty which he pours out upon us in love. It is our relationship with the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit) through the blood of Jesus which empowers us. It is the spiritual ground that we stand upon, food and drink for our spirits, and the spiritual air that we breathe.
Examples of Great Faith.
Study Hebrews 11 to see what great functional faith looks like. Notice that great faith is grown through suffering, trials and battles.
Faith, Grace, and Suffering
It is true that suffering can speed our maturation by growing our faith through exercise thereby bringing more grace (God’s empowerment and resources). While we need to embrace all that God has for us in times of trial and suffering, we must remember that much of our suffering comes from the evil one. (Some we bring on ourselves.)
While we embrace all that God has for us in the midst of the trials, we remember that we are in a war with the evil one who wants to kill, maim and destroy. Therefore, while joyfully accepting God’s blessings, love, and teachings in the midst of the trial, we fight back with all the weapons that God has given us against the enemy. This simultaneous embrace of all that God has for us and fighting Satan’s plans is possible through the Holy Spirit.
Many times God wants us to be released from the trial, but he has told us to use our authority to accomplish that release. It is crucial that we do not let our trial and suffering become our new identity. We can let the trial redefine who we are. That gives the victory in the battle to the evil one.
The Faith Walk–Exercising to Increase Our Functional Faith
As non-Christians, we start out bouncing around in the world, looking for love in all the wrong places. Finally, all Christians by faith enter through the sheep gate which is Jesus. This faith walk can be pictured as taking place in the tabernacle of the Israelites, through the progression of courts.
We come into the outer court through the sheep gate as an acquaintance of Jesus. At any point in our walk, we may wander around, get stuck or move forward. There is a narrow path which is grace, which leads towards the Holy of Holies. This path of grace is our relationship with Jesus, through which we are empowered for his purposes. In the outer court is the bronze altar–there we learn to bring ourselves as a living sacrifice to God and to die daily. Also in the outer court is the laver. This is where we get into the habit of washing daily in the Word and seeiing ourselves through God’s eyes in the reflection.
To the left and right of the path are ditches of legalism and licentiousness. We can fall into these and require help in moving into forward momentum again.
As we grow and learn, we can progress into the inner court. Here we become friends with God. God becomes less of a sugar daddy to us–we become more concerned about him as opposed to ourselves. The show bread is is made available to us–we begin to hear and see with our spiritual eyes. We become aware of who God is–we obey more quickly and completely.
The final destination is the Holy of Holies. This represents the heart of God–in the Holy of Holies we move to the relationship of lover. When we move to this point, we are feeling God’s pain, his desires, and his purposes. What he wants becomes more important than our temporary pleasures. This is the point where we begin acting to bring God’s kingdom to earth by our prayers, our words, and our actions. We use our authority to do what the Holy Spirit prompts us to do. This is where we start our reign with God, not for glory to ourselves but fully for his glory.
At any point on this path, there is freedom. We may go back through the sheep-gate for the purpose of ministering to wounded or lost sheep. We may go into the green pastures for rest or nurturing. This is not a regimented path. It is a living, relating path–the path of grace.