Series: Faith in God
Last week we looked at the importance of faith. It’s crucial to our Christian lives because as James (1:7) tells us, without it, we should not “expect to receive anything from the Lord.” But with faith, as Jesus tells us (Mark 9:23) “all things are possible.” All that God has for us is made available to us by faith. This is how we receive from God.
Today we look at the kind of faith that receives from God, getting a bit more specific. There are actually three parts to faith. And if you want to receive from God, you need all three of these working in your life.
Let’s jump right in. First of all, you need –
1. A word from God
You need something from God concerning his will and his purpose to believe in. You need something to stand on; something to claim that comes from God, not from your own mind or what someone else thought up.
Jeremiah 23:16 speaks of “vain hopes” that are not based on God’s word, but the words of people who have not heard from God. And this is what our faith is if it’s not based on what God says – “vain hope.” Rather, as the Psalmist says to God, we are to “hope in your word” – Psalm 119:114.
What we need is a knowledge of God’s promises; an understanding of God’s word; and the ability to hear God’s voice by the Spirit speaking to us. This is what makes faith possible.
As we saw last week, Abraham had a promise from God for a son. He had something from God to stand on.
- In Genesis 12:2 the Lord said, “I will make you a great nation,” which means he has to have a child.
- God said in Genesis 12:7, “To your offspring I will give this land.”
- And in Genesis 17:16 God said more specifically, “I will give you a son by Sarah.”
As we see in this example, from “the man of faith” as Paul calls him (Galatians 3:9) our faith must be grounded in a word from God. Without this it’s fake faith; it’s simply presumption on our part, not faith. Without a word from God we will find ourselves vainly waiting on God to do something he never said he would do! We’ll talk more about this in a later message.
Second, you need –
2. Firm trust
I also call this “faith proper,” because this is what Scripture usually means when it talks about faith.
Hebrews 11:1 speaks of this. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” First of all, we have “things hoped for” and “things not seen.” These refer to what we are looking for God to do, based on his word to us. What we are hoping for but can’t see yet.
The firm trust is referred to by the word “assurance”, or it can also be translated “confidence.” And also by the word “conviction” which can be translated “certainty.” So, firm trust means being sure of God’s word to us. Being certain in our hearts that what God has said to us, God can and will do.
Abraham trusted in God’s promise to him. After hearing that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars, it says, “he believed the Lord” – Genesis 15:6. That is, he trusted in God and God’s promise to him.
As Paul says, “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” – Romans 4:20-21. He had nothing to go on in the natural; they were both too old to have children. But he had “an assurance of things hoped for” – a promise from God; and a “conviction of things not seen” – that God would give him a son.
He trusted that what God told him would come to pass; that his circumstances wouldn’t remain the same. He was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” – which is an excellent definition of firm trust. We too need to be fully convinced that God is able to do what he promises us.
Finally, we need –
3. Appropriate action
– which flows from our certainty in God’s promise. Paul calls this the “obedience of faith” – Romans 1:5. This has to do with our actions of obedience to God in light of the promises that God gives us.
Abraham is an example. He acted on his faith in a way appropriate to the promise given to him. He left his family and home behind. He moved to Canaan. He waited for a son.
You can see his certainty in the way he acted. He would’ve never done these things if it weren’t for the promise and his firm trust in God and God’s promise. In the same way, when we are truly convinced of God’s word to us, it will show up in our actions.
As Jesus said, a “tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44). What is within us, in our heart, whether faith or unbelief – is made known in our words and actions, what comes out of us. There is a correspondence between what is inside us and what comes out of us; the fruit of our lives.
A sure sign that we don’t really trust God is that we will hesitate to act on God’s promises. And conversely, when we have true faith, we are willing to act on that.
Putting these three parts together faith is trusting in and acting on God’s word to us. We hear God’s word, we fully trust God in our hearts, and this flows out into how we live our lives.
So this is –
The kind of faith that receives from God
We need, not just one part or two parts, but all three.
- You need a word from God as a foundation.
- You need firm trust in this word from God.
- You need appropriate actions that flow out of this certainty and make your faith complete.
You need all three to receive from God.
And, in fact, all three of these are a part of the Greek word for faith:
1. This word can be translated as “the faith,” referring to what we believe , or God’s word to us. Jude 3 says, “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to you.” (Other examples: Galatians 1:23; 3:23, 25; 1 Timothy 4:1, 6; 6:21)
2. Or it can be translated as “faith” meaning firm trust, which is the most common meaning. Just to give one example, in Mark 11:22 Jesus says, “Have faith in God” that is, trust in God and God’s promises.
3. Or this word can be translated as “faithfulness.” For instance, in Galatians 5:22, “faithfulness” is one of the fruits of the Spirit. It refers to our actions of faith. (Other examples: Matthew 23:23; Romans 3:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:4)
(The context determines whether it means on specific part of faith or all of them).
These are all a part of faith, and we need them all if we want to receive from God.
This, then, brings us to –
When we have all three parts of faith working in our lives, the result is that we receive what God has for us. God comes through on his word to us; God acts on our behalf!
God is always faithful on his end. As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:24 – “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” He will do what he says he will do.
Abraham had faith and so he received the promise of a son. Isaac was born to him 25 years after the promise was originally given (Genesis 21). God came through for him. And God will come through for us as well.
Let me emphasize again, as I said last week –
Our faith is key
We have looked at four things today:
- God gives us a word
- We trust in God’s word to us
- We act in faith
- God acts to fulfill his promise
Notice that God begins the process, and God ends it. But we have a crucial role in the middle connecting the beginning and the end. Our faith is the bridge between what God promises and what God does. (God has chosen for it to be this way)
Faith is what gets us from the promise to the reality. Before God acts to fulfill his promise we must trust and we must act on our faith (#2 and #3). God wants to see us trust and act first.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Our faith isn’t anything in itself. It’s just like the completion of a circuit so that the electricity can flow through it. It’s the electricity, or power of God that’s the big deal. God flows through our faith and then works his will in this world, bringing promise into reality.
This is what I think: God has tons of blessings, and he wants to pour them out. God want to use us in amazing ways. But we only receive a small amount. We are limited by our lack of vision and so that’s all we get. We need faith so that we can receive all that God wants to give us.
As we end, let me share with you a –
A call to faith
We are studying and praying about how God wants to use each one of us to lead people closer to Christ; that they might know him and walk in his ways. Whether that is planting seeds or harvesting, or whatever.
God’s will for us is to “make disciples of all peoples.” And this comes with the promise that Jesus is “with us always to the end of the age” to help us do this – Matthew 28:19-20. This is our foundation; a word from God for us.
And so we need to choose to have firm trust in God that he can and will use us. We don’t look at the outward circumstances – “I’m too shy,” or “I don’t know what to say,” or “I’m not good at this,” or “I don’t know many people.” We trust that God can use us. We know that God spoke to Balaam through a donkey, so I’m pretty sure he can use me and you!
And we need to act when God opens doors for us to share with others. When the door opens, we should be courageous to speak, or serve or listen or bless – or whatever is called for in the situation, to help the person toward Christ.
Do you have this kind of faith? This is the faith that brings God’s promises into reality. This is the faith that makes all things possible. And this is the faith that I am calling you to, so that God might use you to touch people’s lives.