On our trek last week, we explored part one of our three-part series on wandering in the wilderness by faith. If you miss any of our Wisdom Notes please visit our blog to read past newsletters.
This week we will focus on living by faith, so that we invest our time with purpose. This is part two.
Living by Faith
How important is faith? In Hebrews 10:37-38 we learn that “…in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.”
“My righteous ones will live by faith” is both a statement of fact about the basis of a Christian’s life and a command. It is so important that this same phrase is repeated once in the Old Testament and three times in the New (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11). In each case, the context is somewhat different, but its importance to a Christian’s salvation is not lost.
The concept is not difficult to understand. Paul further clarifies it in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we live by believing and not by seeing.” A simple definition of “faith” in Webster’s New World Dictionary is “complete trust, confidence, or reliance.” At the end of the definitions, “belief” is listed as a synonym. “Belief” means “faith, esp. Religious faith; trust or confidence.” The dictionary definitions show that the two words are virtually synonymous. However, in the Bible and in the practical application a very wide difference separates merely believing and living by faith.
The practical application of faith is more than simply acknowledging the reality of God. Living by faith involves qualities that are better expressed by the word “trust.” This kind of faith produces loyalty or faithfulness expressed in the Christian’s life by works of obedience.
Do you think for a moment that the Israelites in the wilderness disbelieved that God existed? A few may have argued that the miracles they had experienced from the arrival of Moses in Egypt until they died in the wilderness were nothing more than natural phenomena. There are always some doubters and scoffers of that sort as is mentioned in 2 Peter 3:3, “Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires.”
The vast majority of Israelites could not deny to themselves God’s mighty acts on their behalf. They had heard the voice of God at Mount Sinai, had seen the wind from God part the Red Sea, and had escaped death on Passover while the Egyptian firstborn had died. But when God required a higher level of obedience to follow His cloud across the wilderness and depend on Him to supply their every need, the record shows they did not trust Him. Their loyalty dissolved, and they rebelled! They did not have it within them to live by faith.
Living by faith is an outward manifestation of an inward belief that everyone will see. Romans 13:13 put it this way, “Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see.” And Ephesians 4:1 reads, “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.” Furthermore, 2 Corinthians 10:3 reminds, “For we live by believing and not by seeing.”
The Israelites of the Exodus definitely lived according to the flesh, fulfilling the desires of their bodies and minds. Somewhere along the way, they lost the vision of entering the promised homeland. They forgot about settling on their own property and living free under the government and laws of God. Yes, that older generation literally lived in following the pillar of fire and cloud as it moved toward the Promised Land, but their manner of life under the bright fire and cloud corresponded to living in darkness. So, they never made it to Canaan.
The Right Kind of Faith
We can tell whether we have the right kind of faith. Hebrews 11:1 provides a definition, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” This confidence and assurance are the very bedrock of the Christian faith.
Paul is saying that, for Christians, faith underlies what is seen externally in the conduct of their lives. Underneath a building is its foundation, and in most buildings, the foundation is rarely seen. If it is seen at all, usually only a small portion is visible, but it is there. If no foundation exists, the building soon becomes crooked and warped. In most cases, it will collapse and be completely unusable. We understand that underlying the conduct of a Christian’s life is not merely believing that God is, but a constant and abiding trust in Him.
How much of what you do is really motivated by an implicit trust in God’s Word? This is how we can tell whether we are living by faith. We must be honest in our evaluation, though. We find it very easy to shade the truth through self-deception. We justify disobedience by rationalizing around God’s clear commands or examples, saying that our circumstance is special because . . . (fill in the blank). Remember when we rationalize we are telling ourselves rational lies that we choose to believe as truth.
The great examples of faith that are listed in Hebrews 11 were not perfect people by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, many of them had significant flaws in their lives. But in their cases, faith undergirded how they lived even when the going really got rough.
We like to think of ourselves as rising to the occasion when a time of great crisis arises. We all hope to emulate what the examples of faith did. But as great as they were, Jesus specifies what living real faith is in John 15:13-14, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.You are my friends if you do what I command.” Our obedience to God through loving Him and others is one sign of living by faith.
Matthew 22:37-40 also sums up a life lived by faith, “Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Jesus made it very clear that if we are His friends, we will show it in our obedience to His commands. But before we can obey, we must trust Him. If we trust in Christ, he is more than a friend, we are a close family. Matthew 12:50 says, “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”
Many in the nation of Israel did not trust God by faith and obey Him because they still considered themselves slaves, and not family.
As we finish part two this week, we explored living by faith and having the right kind of faith. Faith is required for all aspects of life even to the smallest of actions like having faith that the chair you sit in will not collapse. We must learn to live by faith, not by sight. We have the entire revelation of God’s Word in the Bible, yet many times we struggle with faith and obedience as well.
On next week’s trek, we will explore choosing to live by faith. Encourage your friends and family to join us each week in our Wisdom Notes, and then come along for our daily podcast.