If I were to ask you what faith is, what would come to mind? Growing up, I was always taught faith is, “believing in that which you can’t see.” Now that might seem like a good definition, but it is lacking something important. Paul tells the believers of Corinth, in II Corinthians 5:7, “We live by faith, not by sight.” As Christians, we are called to live by faith. The best definition that I can give of faith is a belief in something or someone that inspires you to action in accordance with that belief. Today, I want to go back to the source of what it is that we put our faith in; what action that faith calls us to; and how we can better live in obedience to that faith.
I. The Source of our Faith
Our faith comes from the promise of God, that through Jesus death on the cross and His resurrection, we also can obtain eternal life and redemption from our sins. One of the strongest beliefs of the Christians is that God will do what He has promised. So the source of our faith comes directly from this promise. Now that we have a firm understanding of the source, it is always good to see if that source is trustworthy. Well, let’s take a look at history.
In Genesis 15, God promises Abraham that he will have a son with Sarah. He also promises that his descendants will be given the land of Canaan, and that for a time of about 400 years, his descendants would be slaves (Genesis 15:12-16). Well, what we know from history is that Sarah has a son named Isaac. He has sons as well, and Abraham’s descendants end up in Egypt at the end of Genesis because of Joseph. In Exodus 1:8-14, we see that, true to His word, the Egyptians are now enslaving the descendants of Abraham. 430 years later, after many plagues and much suffering, the Egyptians release the Israelites and, after 40 years of wandering due to a lack of trust in the Lord, they proceed to take the land that God has promised to Abraham.
So, from this story, we can see that in the past, God fulfilled every one of his promises to Abraham. Now the reason I use Abraham as this example is because Paul tells us, in the book of Romans, that Abraham is the Father of all those who have faith in God. This is for two reasons:
Now let us look at another example. Let’s go to King David. David was a man of faith. During his lifetime, he fought for God’s honor and sought the Lord’s favor. After capturing Jerusalem and defeating the Philistines, David realizes that, while he has been living in a palace, the Lord is still living in a large tent called the tabernacle. Because of this zeal for the Lord, God makes a promise to David in I Samuel 7:11-16. Because of David’s faith and his obedience to that faith, God establishes that his kingdom will never end and that one of his offspring will build the house where God’s name will be found. Was this promise fulfilled? Was David’s faith well-placed? The answer is, “Yes”! Because, just as in the case of Abraham, God kept his promise to David and Jesus, a descendent of David, is now enthroned for eternity.
So now we have verified that God keeps his promises. That brings us to the question, “What is the source of our faith?” Our faith is in the cross and resurrection. Our faith in the cross was because it was by the cross that Jesus was offered as a sin offering for all. Our faith in the resurrection was because by the resurrection we are shown that death is not supreme! Jesus has conquered death and the promise of God, to us, is that everyone has the ability to access this gift! For if God was faithful then, he doesn’t change like shifting shadows. He will provide for us that which he has promised.
II. Living by Faith
And that brings me to my next question today. What does it mean to live by faith? Does it mean just coming to church every Sunday? Does it mean paying lip-service to the one, true Lord and Creator of the universe? Does it just mean that we believe God and do nothing? NO! If we are to live by faith, it is to be in our actions. Abraham was a man who acted on faith. David’s faith was so strong that he fought a giant probably close to three times his height to defend the Lord’s honor! Faith is a verb, not an adjective or a noun. In The States, we have the saying that actions speak louder than words. That’s the truth! That’s what the word of God teaches! Paul even expresses the fact in Romans 4:25. It was because of this faith that Jesus had to be sacrificed for our sins, and what’s more, raised to life again so that we could have justification.
But, I get ahead of myself. The first thing you have to do is believe in God’s promise. Before you can act on faith, you have to know what it is you are putting your faith into. If your belief is misplaced, then it can have severe repercussions. If the Nazi party hadn’t put their faith in Adolph Hitler and his promise of a superior race, many of the atrocities that occurred during World War II might have never taken place. Likewise, if the diplomats of our countries didn’t maintain their ideals to see that the relationships between countries remain in good standing, we would have had many more wars than have already taken place. Faith inspires action and our faith is the promise of God based on the teachings of Jesus and his actions. If Jesus had just come and taught the people, but had done nothing to help them, do you think anyone would have listened to him very long? If that were the case, then Christianity wouldn’t even exist today! Jesus didn’t just teach the people, he healed them both physically and spiritually. He cared for their needs. If they needed food, he provided food. If they were sick, he healed their bodies so they might gain that which was greater – an eternity with the Father in heaven. Jesus trusted in God’s promise that he would not stay dead, but rise again as ruler over life and death! This is where our faith comes from! From the actions of one man, Jesus Christ! His teachings are the path of our faith and if we believe what he says then we will be obedient to that teaching and follow his words.
So what are some things that Jesus taught? For this sort of thing we can see what a faith- based life is like. Turn with me to Matthew 5. Now Jesus’ disciples are all gathered around, with great multitudes behind them. And Jesus starts to teach them by giving them a list of those who are blessed. We’ll read verses 1-12 now. That’s why I say, “Don’t forget the reason why you have your faith in the first place. The goal of why you believe is important. But that’s not all. Jesus gives us an idea behind the heart of faith, as well. I will just be using a summarization, but the call of Christ is to go above and beyond what the world would do. If the world expects us to retaliate, we are asked to forgive. If the world wants to take what has been given us and persecute us, then we will let them have the things of this world that will fall apart someday and keep our eyes focused on the crown of glory that Jesus has placed before us. We are to keep a pure mind and discipline ourselves not to lust after others. This is a very difficult one, especially for guys. I didn’t realize how sheltered I was back home until I came to Strasbourg and saw all the commercials with exposed skin. This was something completely new for me and I have had to train myself and discipline my mind to not look at such pictures. It isn’t easy and I find that the best way to avoid the temptations is to read my Bible while on the tram. I have to fill my head with the thought of the goal at the end if I want to make it through the 45 minutes to get to the center of town. And that is the same advice that Paul gives us in Philippians 4:8-9. “……” Our goal is to focus on what is pure, noble, excellent and worthy of praise. When we fill our minds with the things of God, the things of the world have less of a place to occupy and it is a big step in living by faith.
As we conclude our time together, I would like for you to take this time to examine your life. Are you truly trying
to live by faith? Are there areas where you need help in believing the promise of God? Are you keeping your eye on
the goal? Gayle recently reminded me of a good illustration from soccer. If you don’t focus on where you want the
ball to go, more often than not, you will miss your shot. Today, let us make a promise to each other to set our focus
on the prize that Christ has made available to us – the gift of grace and eternal life with him in his kingdom.