Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 11:1; Romans 12:1-3
Before I get into the heart of the message, I want to share a story with you that we discussed this past week during bible study that I read recently. “There was a man who tied a tight rope across Niagara Falls. He then walked up to a group of people at the Falls and asked them the following question: “Do you believe I can walk across the falls on this tight rope?” The people thought he was crazy and told him “No, they did not believe he could.” The man then climbed on the rope, walked across and then turned around and walked back. When he returned, he asked the people, “Do you believe that I can walk across pushing this wheelbarrow?” Having seen him walk across alone, they did not believe he could do it with a wheelbarrow. They answered “No!” The man once again climbed upon the tight rope and walked across pushing the wheelbarrow. When he returned he asked the people this question: “Do you believe I can walk across this tight rope, pushing this wheelbarrow with a person in it?” having seen him do it twice, they all exclaimed excitedly “Yes!” as the believed he really could do it. The man then asked this question: “Which of you would like to volunteer to be in the wheelbarrow?” No one answered. I want you to think about this story. If you had witnessed the man doing what he had said he would do twice and you believed that he could in fact walk the tight rope while pushing someone in the wheelbarrow, would you volunteer to get into the wheelbarrow? This story exemplifies how we walk with Christ. We believe what the bible says and the testimony of others, we just do not believe it unquestioningly when it comes to us. Keep this story in mind as we continue through this series in the weeks to come.
This morning I am embarking on a new series I’ve titled “We Walk By Faith.” Our foundational Scripture for this series comes from 2 Corinthians 5:7 where Paul makes the following declaration: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” I will explain later the context of his statement. Throughout this series we will examine scriptural references in a context that might seem different from how you have read the Scriptures before as my desire is to give you something you can really “chew” on during your times of meditation. To begin this series, I want to start by explaining just what faith is and how it’s true definition might differ slightly from how we have thought about it in the past.
I. The Definition of Faith
Webster’s dictionary defines faith as “Unquestioning belief; complete trust or confidence; loyalty.” It also states that it is often associated with a relationship to God. The first thing I want to point out this morning is that faith exists on some level in everyone’s life. It is not a religious word or act; it is something that is imparted within us from the very beginning of our lives. Even though we often speak of faith within the Church walls or in relationship to Christ, faith in and of itself is not solely attached to a religious act or belief. Faith is something that exists in people who are religious as well as in people who are non-religious or outright atheists. It is a generic term that describes a very powerful action. Now before some of you blow a religious gasket please hear me out.
In our religious circles we talk about faith and the different levels people exhibit of faith. We talk about having faith and walking in faith. We talk about people of faith doing great things and people with little faith doing “small” things. We listen as people make statements about their faith or lack thereof and what they can do to increase their faith. We establish classes that focus on teaching people how to walk in faith. And yes, we preach and preach and preach on faith in an attempt to help our members strengthen their faith walk with Christ only to have them walk out the doors no further along that they were prior to ever hearing the morning message. All of these activities in some ways have been aligned to our understanding of faith and yet we have many Christians with very little faith that they can act on in a real time of need. Experiencing this demonstrates that somewhere there is a disconnect between our understanding of faith and what faith really is in practice?
If I were to ask you to give me the definition of faith, many of you would immediately go to Hebrews 11:1 which states the following: “Now faith is the assurance (or substance) of things hoped for, the conviction (or evidence) of things not seen.” As you quote this verse, please note that in Paul’s definition of faith there is not a reference that faith is strictly tied to religion or to a relationship with Christ. He does not mention Christ in his definition nor does he say anything about God. He says that faith is the assurance of things you’re hoping for – meaning that you have full confidence that you will receive what you are hoping for. He also states that it is the conviction of things not seen meaning that you have evidence that cannot be seen that you have received what you have hoped for. Paul’s definition does not tie itself to how we have used it religiously in the past and this is part of the reason why some people do not think they have much faith. When you compare Paul’s definition to that of the Webster’s dictionary, they both state the same thing just in a different way. Both speak of the process and outcome of what faith is and this process and outcome applies to more than just our faith in Christ. I believe if we can get people to understand that they walk in faith everyday in some areas of their lives and through those experiences, learn to apply that same faith that already have to a relationship with Christ. We call this transference – you take something you’ve learned in other situation and use it in another one. In this case, you take the faith you use in one area and apply that same faith to another area. For example, if you are very skilled at doing your current job because you learned the process of how to do it, you have a belief (faith) that you can do any other job that you may want if you take the time to learn it. Your belief is not based on the “skills” you currently have, but the “belief” that if you learned to do your current job you can, with the right training, learn to do the other job. Your faith (belief) therefore is in your ability to learn a new skill versus believing in a skill you already have mastered.
If we can grasp hold of the fact that faith is a universal concept and not just a religious one and that we all walk in faith in different areas of our lives whether we are Christians or not, we can learn to apply our natural faith in a spiritual way. To help clarify this, consider the following “non-religious” examples of how we walk in faith on a daily basis.
- Friend: How many of you have a friend that you trust? You have grown to know this individual and what to expect from them. You have gone through some difficult times with them and they have stood by you. They have in fact earned your trust, confidence and loyalty and you know this is someone that you can depend on. What this describes is faith. You have faith in your friend that was built through time spent with them.
- Process: Some of you work on jobs where you had to learn different ways of doing things. For example, when I was a medic, I learned from a surgeon how to put stitches in so that there would be minimal scarring. The process that I learned I used throughout my time as a medic because I witnessed the results of that process. So even though there were other ways of doing the same thing, I used the method that I trusted most. In other words, I used the method I had “faith” in.
- Relationships: What is the term that is used when a boy/girl or husband/wife messes around with another person? The term we use is “unfaithful.” The one person had been “unfaithful” to the other person. This term is used by religious and non-religious people alike. When you look up the definition of unfaithful in means that you lost your loyalty to someone. Again, this is not a religious term per se.
When we consider the definition of faith as being an “unquestioning belief; complete confidence and/or trust” then we can easily see how we are exercising faith in our lives right at this moment. Let’s try this exercise: raise your hand if you have complete confidence in someone or some process right now? The fact that you raised your hand proves that you have faith at least in some areas of your life. It might be in a person, a process or even a pet, but there is something in that relationship that has caused you to have trust.
I know that I have covered a lot as it pertains to the definition of faith, but I want to leave you with this thought before I move forward. You have some faith, even if it is not being applied to your walk with Christ, you have some faith. If you believe in yourself and your ability to do anything, you have some faith. If you believe in or completely trust someone else, you have some faith. For us to grasp the understanding from this series, I will ask that you initially separate your current understanding of faith from a religious perspective and approach it from a natural perspective. If you first recognize that you have some faith, I will show you how you can take that which you already have and begin applying it to other areas of your life, especially in your relationship with Christ. For this series I ask that you think about faith as having “unquestioning belief, complete trust and confidence in anything and anyone including yourself.” Now let’s quickly examine where this faith came from.
II. The Measure of Faith
As I’ve stated before, our faith is not limited to just our relationship to Christ, but is applied to many areas of our life. Where did this faith come from and is it the same faith that should lead us into a relationship with Christ? The faith that you have came from God and yes it should lead us into a firm relationship with Christ if we are exposed to Him. Let me explain. Please turn to Romans 12:1-3. In these verses Paul makes the following statement: “Therefore I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
You were implanted with faith from the beginning. This faith is a natural faith. As a small baby you had faith. You understood early that you could trust your mother or guardian to some extent to take care of you. Even if you had a bad experience, that bad experience did not take away the fact that you had within you the ability to believe in and have confidence in someone else. As you grew older, you faith either remained constant, declined or grew. In either case it was based on how you responded to the situations around you. We all know people who have experienced harsh situations during their childhood that caused them to struggle with the concept of having faith in anyone but themselves. The fact that they are willing to have faith in themselves tells us that the faith, even though diminished as it relates to other people, is not totally absent. We all have faith but it is not always targeted towards the same things. Because we cannot see God and we assign to Him a lot of things He is not responsible for, sometimes it is hard to walk blindly with Him. We listen to what others say about Him but because our experiences may be different, it can be difficult to balance what we have heard from others with what we see in our own lives. That being the case, we must start where we are. We must start with the understanding that yes we all have some faith and now it is time to do something with it. If you faith is in someone you trust absolutely, how did it get there? You did not start out trusting that person that way so what happened? What was the process you went through to have faith in that person, process or thing? Is it possible for you to take your natural faith which you already have and use it to strengthen your relationship with Christ? I believe the answer to this question is an astounding “yes”! Again, our faith is universal and we must choose how we want to exercise it.
Before I close this message out this morning, I want to examine three examples of individuals who demonstrated faith prior to their having a relationship with Christ. Their natural faith led them to Christ and their belief in Christ led them to receiving their petition of Him. Their need caused them to seek out help and it was their belief that Christ could change their situation that caused them to seek out Christ specifically. As you will see they unquestioning believed that Jesus could fix their problem. What is most interesting is that they were not of the house of Israel to whom Jesus was sent. Please turn to Mark the 7th Chapter.
Syrophoenician Woman: The 7th chapter of Mark tells one of my favorite faith stories. It was about the Syrophoenician woman who came to Jesus seeking His help for her daughter. This woman was a Gentile – definitely not one of the chosen people – and yet she came to Jesus for help. She did not ask Him once and then stop, she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. Let’s pick this story up at verse twenty-seven. “And He was saying to her, ‘Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered and said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.’ And He said to her, ‘Because of this answer go, the demon has gone out of your daughter.” Now consider the faith the woman possessed. Many of us would have stopped asking when we did not get an answer after the first request. But we really would have lost it when He gave the analogy of casting the children’s bread to the dogs. We would have gotten all huffy and would have temporarily forgotten that our daughter needed help. We would have given Jesus an ear full beginning with “How dare You compare me to a dog! Just Who do You think You are?” The battle would have been on at that point. Turn to Luke the 7th chapter.
Centurion’s Servant: Luke the 7th chapter reveals a story about a centurion. He was a soldier who was possibly a member of Herod’s forces. He had a slave who was sick and he turned to Jesus. He sent a servant to Jesus to make the request on behalf of His servant. When Jesus got close to his house, he asked that Jesus not come in because he was not worthy. Let’s pick this up at verse seven. “For this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one “Go!” and he goes, and to another, “Come!” and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this!” and he does it. Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” This soldier believed in Jesus to the point that he recognized Jesus as having the authority to just speak the word. He never expected Jesus to come to his house, he expected him to just speak the word. Jesus was marveled at the man and stated that He had not found such great faith in Israel – the ones who supposedly had the relationship with God – His chosen people. Don’t you find this interesting? Here is a man who was not one of the chosen and yet exhibited more faith than they. Let’s examine one final reference from Luke the 8th chapter.
Woman Healed of Hemorrhage: Luke the 8th chapter tells the story of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. You may recall this story from a song by Sam Cooke titled “Touched The Hem of His Garment”. In this story the woman saw Jesus and made her way to Him. She had told herself that if she could just touch his garment, she would be made whole. There were a lot of people touching Jesus, but when she touched Him, He knew it. Jesus asked who had touched Him, looking for the woman. When she spoke up Jesus made this statement in verse forty-eight: “And He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Her faith had made her well. She unquestioning believed that if she touched the hem of His garment she would be made whole.
In each of these example the person sought out Jesus for help. Why did they turn to Jesus? Because they had heard about Him and the things He was doing. They had heard about Him healing the sick; raising the dead and casting our demons. Even though they did not know Him personally, they had heard enough that they believed unquestioning that the stories were true. Because they believed what they had heard about Him, they believed that only He could help them with their situation. This my friend is faith – an unquestioning belief. They already had faith for their natural lives, but here they chose to apply it to Christ. When they believed Him for their situation they were exercising a faith that was already within them. Remember, you already have faith because you already believe something about “someone or some thing.” What we will begin focusing on is how to take that which we have and begin growing it in our relationship with Christ.
Next week we will continue this series by examining how biblical faith comes. (We will also discuss this some parts of this during bible Study this week.
Posted on March 26, 2013