What is Faith?


Peninsula Community Church

What is Faith? 

September 8, 2016

Hebrews 11:1-2 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews has been called the hall of fame of faith. It has gained this title because of the focus it gives to those who have given themselves to God regardless of the issues they may have faced in life. When you visit a hall of fame there are those who are enshrined there because they have contributed to a certain field of study, a field of science, or they were successful in a particular sport or profession. In the case before us today, we find those enshrined here because of their faithfulness and their trust in the one true God.

By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit this chapter has been included in the Biblical text to remind us that we can also make it through until the end even when we face great odds and problems beyond our control. Last week, we noted that we have people watching our lives. We have those in our daily lives that we encounter and who see us every day. We also have a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in death. It is this great cloud of witnesses that the writer of Hebrews is talking about. This is the hall of fame of faith. They are watching us and they are cheering us on in our exploits and our accomplishments for God. They are cheering us on when we fall short and we need special encouragement. How does this occur? It happens because we are challenged by their testimonies and their persistence to follow God whatever the cost.

I propose to you today that the thing that set them apart was their faith in Christ. The faith they possessed sustained and kept them through many different difficulties, adventures, and at time the unknown. You see none of these men were supermen in themselves. Each of them had faults and failures that could have negatively impacted them as a person and as one who was called by God. They were regular human beings who lived regular lives but each one was called with a supernatural calling for a supernatural task. You see they were ordinary men used for the extraordinary by an extraordinary God. The emphasis was on God and not them themselves. Their role was to exhibit faith and obedience to the call of God in their lives. They took the admonishment of Paul in Romans 1:16-17 seriously. “The righteous shall live by faith.”

But the question for us today is to understand why their faith was so important to them. Their faith was critical because it was the sustaining factor in their life. You see to have faith is to have complete trust or confidence in someone or something. As believers, our faith is in the one powerful amazing loving God we serve. You see it is not so much about faith itself as it is the person in or object of our faith. In fact, it is my belief that we can have more faith in faith than we do the one in which our faith is based. We become so concerned about the nuances of faith that we tend to focus on the act of believing itself so much that we forget that our faith is based in and focused on Christ and all that He has done. To understand faith the writer of Hebrews has attempted to clarify the role and purpose of faith in our life.

He begins by focusing us on what faith is. He says, faith is the substance of things hoped for. In other words, our complete trust and confidence in Christ becomes the foundational truth and basis of all that is to come. Faith is both forward looking but it is based in the evidence of what has been done in the past. There is a trust that is built and a security that is fashioned from a truth that the one in whom we place our trust and faith will guide us and keep us. He will not forsake us. Therefore, I can trust Him and have faith for the future.

We must recognize that faith is not about feeling good about ourselves nor is it an ideal that is subjected to our emotions and our erratic ways of thinking. It is based in truth. The fact is Christ died, He rose, and He is sitting at the right hand of the Father. He has promised us that He will be with us and we can take that to the bank. This is the problem with faith too often, however. We can teach faith as if it is some arbitrary concept floating in the heavens. Real faith authentic faith  is based on the reality and the truth that God is alive and that He is in control. Without Him there is no faith for the future. This is the value of trusting Christ.

It is for that reason that Paul made this incredible statement in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Secondly, faith is the evidence of things not seen. How is faith the evidence of things not seen? It is in the relationship of knowing God and His ability to be faithful himself that causes us to trust in what we do not see and what we have been promised. This evidence moves me to do my part and then trust God for the rest. I trust Him, so I honor Him with my time and my faith. Rick Warren has noted the 80/20 rule of faith. If we do the 80% of what is clear he will show us the 20% that is unclear. The problem too often is that we focus on the 20% . We therefore become overly concerned with the 20% and we neglect the 80% we know.

We all have dreams and hopes. We want to see these things fulfilled and come to pass. My dream and vision is that this church will grow and become an influential part of this community. As we look round the room we see many empty seats and people who are missing. What Rick Warren is saying is that I can focus on what I do not see happening to the degree that I am stymied and frozen to do nothing when God is actually doing so much around us. Our faith is not based in what we might see but what we envision as each of us do our part to fulfill the 80% and then let God take care of the 20%.

That is why the writer of Hebrews states that without faith it is impossible to please God. The reality for us today is that we need to understand that our faith only resonates in us when we know God. In knowing God, we know His will and His purposes. Because we trust Him, we can be obedient to Him and thus we can please Him. Do you catch the concept here? To please God we need faith. To have faith we need to know God. Our faith, therefore, is built when we know Him and His ways. So therefore it behoves us to know God.

True faith is more than just a belief in something. It is to know something. Now you might ask how can you say that when we are asked to believe by faith that God created the heavens and the earth. We can do this because we trust God. We know that His word is truth because we have seen it in action. We know that nature itself shows us how all of creation was formed by someone greater than ourselves (Romans 1:19-20). Because the truth of God has been borne out in my life and yours then I can proceed to trust God with the things that I don’t see, feel, touch, or taste. Because of the truth of God is acknowledged, I can then go into the unknown with great faith and hope.

So this begs the question? How is faith built? Faith is built on the word of God (Romans 10:8-11). It is built on our testimonies (Revelations 12:11). It is built on what we have seen God do in us and through us. He has, He is and He will continue to deliver us (1 Corinthians  1:10). It is based on what we know to be true about God. Sometimes we can make faith mystical but it really isn’t at all. It is founded in something and that something is Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.

Even in saving faith or the act of faith that leads us to Christ there is still a foundational principle of truth about God. Paul made this statement in Romans 10:8-11. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. We hear the Word which is truth. The Word by way of the Holy Spirit acts upon our life to receive the truth it presents. The Holy Spirit brings us to the place of understanding and then we acknowledge God and His work in us. That becomes the process of salvation and it is the process of faith. Notice the great salvation passage in Romans. Believe in your hearty and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you shall be saved.

So what is faith? To summarize, faith is trust, assurance and confidence in God and in the work of Jesus Christ. Living faith is not just believing that God exists. It is demonstrated by one’s service and obedience to God. God will increase our faith if we fervently ask Him for it and seek to draw closer to Him in prayer and the reading of His Word.

That is why we gather today around the communion table. The Lord’s Table serves to remind us of what Christ did for us. It reminds us of what Christ is doing in us now. But it is also a promise of what is to come. It is what we pin our faith to. It is the hope of a greater day. That is where we focus our faith and where we place our hope. He did and we can. He is and we can be. He is to come and we will be with Him.

As we prepare our hearts would you listen to this song by Jeremy Camp about our faith. I would ask those who will be serving today to come forward at this time. As you receive the elements would you hold them until everyone has been served and then we will take them together after we pray.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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