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PRACTICE FAITH

By William R. Cunningham
June 29, 2003

INTRODUCTION

We all have some type or level of faith. For example, we do what the doctor tells us or we do what our mechanic suggests. We listen and base our activities on the advice or suggestion of someone that we respect and whom we have faith in. In one way or another we all practice faith, which is the key to this lesson, namely the practice of faith.

We have learned to put our trust in certain people, institutions, and systems. However, the Bible teaches us to put our trust in God who transcends all of the aforementioned (Proverbs 3:5-6 for example). Now this doesn't mean that you trust no one or nothing. It simply means that ultimately your trust is in God that God will work all things together for your good (See Romans 8:28).

We are going to discuss the part of faith that is usually neglected in faith teaching. Faith is many times presented as though it is magic. For example, people are taught to believe that they receive and they will have what they believe. However, in actuality that is not true and we can all vouch for the fact that life doesn't work that way. As a matter of fact, the Bible tells us that inactivity or laziness will bring poverty or lack (See Proverbs 19:15). We are going to discuss the practice of faith, which means that your faith in something and especially God should compel you to activity.

WHAT IS FAITH?

The word faith is used at least five different ways in the Bible. They are:

  1. m wn (ay-moon) - This is used in Deuteronomy 32:20 when God said "..for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith," the word faith here refers to trustworthiness, truth, faithfulness, or established, steadiness. It is only used this one time in the entire Bible.
  2. m n h (em-oo-naw) - This is used in Habakkuk 2:4 when God said "...but the just shall live by his faith." The word faith here refers to firmness (as in uncompromising), secure, fidelity. It too is used only once in the entire Bible.
  3. elpis (el-pece') - This is used in Hebrews 10:23 when Paul said "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)." The word faith here is used to denote anticipation, expectation, confidence, and hope. It is also used only once in the entire Bible.
  4. pistis - This Greek word is used almost exclusively throughout the New Testament. It means persuasion, credence, moral conviction of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher, especially reliance upon Christ for salvation, the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself, assurance, belief, believe, and fidelity. You can find this word in Matthew 17:20, Mark 11:23, Acts 3:16, Romans 1:17, Hebrews 11:1, and Galatians 3:25 to name a few.
  5. oligopistos (ol-ig-op'-is-tos) - This is used to denote something that in incredulous or lacking confidence. This is not really the word faith, rather the term "of little faith" as used in Matthew 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, and Luke 12:28.

For all practical purposes, we can say that faith is defined according to the following scripture.

(Hebrews 11:1 NIV) "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

Our faith operates on the hope that we have. Hope is our goal or what we see in the unseen realm. Note that hope alone will not get you the answer to your prayers or the results that you are looking for. Hope is always in the future. Faith is present. Faith is always NOW.

What is faith? Faith is believing in a real sense (in the same way you believe things from your senses) that what God said will happen. Let's look at another example of this very important concept.

(Mark 11:22-24 KJV) "And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. {23} For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. {24} Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."

This scripture is used almost exclusively to teach people about confessions so that they will have what they say. Note however that humans have no power whatsoever to do anything apart from God. The very life that is in us is because of God. Jesus said,

(John 15:5 KJV) "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing."

Though Jesus was talking to his disciples, his words apply to us as well because the same power that the disciples have is available to us, if we are indeed his disciples as well. Now in Mark 11:22-24 we see that the power is NOT in our confession, though our confession is very important. The power is in God's ability and faithfulness. Jesus first said to "Have faith in God." Now some Bible teachers say that another translation of that phrase is to "have the faith of God." What is that though? Having the faith of God in no way preclude the fact that the power to act or to cause comes from God. God's faithfulness is revealed in the fact that he speaks and what he spoke happens. Our faith, which is founded on God's word and his faithfulness (trustworthiness), is revealed when we confess what is available to us to confess--from the word of God (spoken personally to us or written in the Bible).

Again we see that faith is relying upon and trusting God. This is true whether we speak of salvation, a new home, a new job, college money, bill money, deliverance, or a new suit. The fact is that we know in our heart that it is God who provided these things for us and it is God's power that ultimately causes these things to happen in our lives. Do not be fooled into thinking that your faith (as in your power or ability) does anything. Yes it is true that your faith was necessary for the thing to happen but it wasn't by your power. Your trust in God provided a pathway for the will of God to manifest in your life so to speak.

So in short, faith is to have confidence in God. It is to believe God, trust God, and to depend or rely upon God for your very life and the provisions for such. Within that faith is particular areas to which it is applies.

PRACTICED FAITH

Our trust in God manifests in many areas and at various times. For example, our faith in God will include trusting a medical doctor. You believe that God will take care of you physically and you therefore trust that he will be with the doctor as the doctor treats you in whatever capacity that is necessary. Ultimately you trust God for your well-being but specifically that trust translates into faith in the knowledge and ability of the doctor and the system by which he operates.

Consider the following scripture

Hebrews 11:1-2 (NIV) Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

I used the NIV because I think the wording is more readily consistent with the meaning or interpretation of the verse. Consider the same verse from the Amplified Bible.

"Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title-deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality-faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses."

I think the Amplified Bible's rendering of this verse brings the meaning out even more. Consider an example. Suppose someone asked you to do something that is within your realm of experience and knowledge. Well you would have great faith in being able to do the job because you are good at that particular thing. Your faith actually lies in the realm of the seen. Your abilities and knowledge are evidence that you can do the job. This is faith by sight so to speak.

Now true faith is the same as above but less the necessity for sight. There are many people that had the faith to accomplish something but had no idea whatsoever how they were going to do it. The task was well beyond their knowledge or experience and yet they pulled it off. I can vouch for this myself. In a senseless case like this (no pun intended), the evidence is your faith. For whatever reason, you are confident of success and therefore move forward.

There are two key points to that last statement. First, faith in God does not need confirmation of the senses, just confirmation of His word or your hope in his mercy. Secondly, the confirmation that you needed is provided by your faith in God, which implies that you know his word and are familiar with his interaction with you. The latter statement implies that you are familiar with God interacting with you in your life. You recognize his involvement in your activities (See Proverbs 3:5-6).

Naaman's Faith

Now ultimately your faith in God will involve activity. You can't say that you have faith in God and do nothing. Faith requires some sort of activity, even if a regiment of prayer and fasting is all that you can do. Let's look at an example of this. Look at 2 Kings 5:1-15.

Naaman was a commander in the army and therefore an "important person." He was told about Elisha through his wife who heard about him through the servant girl. Naaman told the King and the king sent him to the King of Israel. Now Naaman must have believed that the prophet could heal him of his leprosy else why would he have gone in the first place.

Elisha the prophet sent word to Naaman to go and bathe seven times in the Jordan River. It appears that his pride or ego got the best of him and he refused to bathe in the dirty Jordan River. Consider Naaman's response.

2 Kings 5:10-12 (NKJV) And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean." But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, "Indeed, I said to myself, 'He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.' Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?" So he turned and went away in a rage.

Remember that he was an important person in society so to speak (See verse 1). However, his servant convinced him to do what Elisha said and he did and was subsequently healed. Though Naaman believed that Elisha could heal him, he thought that it would be accomplished a particular way. In this case, Naaman thought that his healing would be more sensational than what he was told.

We sometimes hold faith to be a magic act. We think that God will do a certain thing to provide for us or deliver us. Sometimes these can cause us to miss what God has for us because we weren't paying attention when he did provide another way. It is important that our activity and expectation in faith be open and that we be aware of God moving in our lives. This brings us back to the principle revealed in Proverbs 3:5-6.

The Woman's Faith

Now consider another great example of practiced faith. Look at Mark 5:24-29, 34. The following is an outline of this woman's situation.

  1. The women had a hemorrhage or the like for twelve years
  2. The woman had suffered a great deal before she got to Jesus
  3. The woman had exhausted all of her resources in search of healing
  4. The women evidently heard about Jesus and sought him to be healed.
  5. The woman believed that Jesus could heal her.
  6. The woman believed that if she could just touch his garment that she would be healed. Remember that there was a large crowd around her so getting to him would have been very difficult and getting is undivided attention was seemingly unlikely as well.
  7. She touched Jesus and was healed as she believed would happen.
  8. Jesus felt virtue (power) going out of him. This implies that the woman pulled something from Jesus by her faith. Also consider that Jesus was healing people so it was his will to heal. This also implies some type of power that is involved with healing

    Jesus said that the woman's faith made her well and that she should go and be healed. Note also that her faith was something that she decided and then acted on. It was the will of Jesus to heal the sick and we can say that Jesus was looking for those with faith. Therefore, this woman pulled from that somehow.

We tend to focus on the seemingly sensational aspect of this incident. We tend to focus on the fact that Jesus said that the woman's faith made her whole. However, what was the key to the woman's faith. Of course she believed in her healing and sought to realize it. First she tried the doctors and then she tried Jesus. Ultimately she simply wanted the bleeding to stop and she put her confidence in those things that she thought would help her.

Also consider what her faith caused. It caused her to become active. She sought medical attention but it was unable to cure her. She obviously found out about Jesus' ability to heal and subsequently sought after him. She put in her mind that if she could just touch his garment (probably because of the crowd and thinking that she would not be able to get to him for a session so to speak) then she would be healed.

This woman went through a great deal to finally get healed after twelve years. She suffered greatly and she spent all that she had. How far will you go in with your faith in God? There was nothing sensational about this woman's healing, though it was miraculous. She simply put her faith to work and it produced what she hoped for. Now let's look at another illustration.

The Men on the Roof

Consider Mark 2:1-12. Here we see the results of the faith that some had for another. Jesus responded not to the faith of the sick person but to the faith of those who were trying to get him healed. As a matter of fact, the scripture says nothing about the sick person was a paralytic. What we notice here is that the faith of the people that were carrying the paralytic resulted in the paralytic's healing.

Also notice that these men used drastic measures to get to Jesus. Like the women with the issue of blood, they needed to get to Jesus through a large crowd. The only way that these men thought that this was possible was to bring him in through the roof, which they. In any case, Jesus healed the man but notice that Jesus first said, "Your sins are forgiven." This implies that this man's sickness was due directly to sin in his life. No more information is given to that effect.

Not only can your faith and the corresponding action be beneficial to you, it could also prove to be a lifesaver to someone else. Faith without corresponding action is meaningless. All aspects of faith require some sort of activity on our part. Consider the following scriptural example.

James 2:18 (NKJV) But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

Faith in Action

Faith requires action because without it faith is dead (or meaningless). For example, being of the Christian faith manifests righteous acts. A Christian does Christian-like things because he or she is a Christian. His faith is evident in the things that he does. Her faith is clearly seen by the way she lives. Your faith in God in all aspects of life will also be clearly seen by what you do.

Goals and Passions

What are you passionate about? What things would you like to accomplish? What dream do you have? Well to acquire all of these within the realm of the Kingdom of God requires faith because we can do nothing by our own power. Your faith in God requires that you do something else you attempt to use God as your genie in a bottle or personal servant. One pastor used the term, "cosmic bell hop."

My Personal Example

If you truly believe in something then it will manifest itself in activity. If you believe that God will bless you a certain way or that you will be delivered by God then it will show. You will begin to do things that are conducive to your goals. Let me give you an example. I have a dream of a ministry that will change the way people think about church, God, and Christianity. The vision that I have in me is based on what God has put into me and I believe the very purpose for my life.

Pursuing the Truth Ministries is but one facet of the vision that God has given me. However, I cannot do this ministry alone. Pursuing the Truth Ministries could not have gone any further than the Internet ministry if it had not been for others. I believe that God is behind all that is happening with Pursuing the Truth Ministries. My wife and I traveled a long and trying road to get where we are right now and the job is just beginning. Some ministry leaders and pastors that we have come into contact with did not and probably still do not understand that path that we are on. They are perhaps stuck in the institutional mode of thinking and therefore cannot see outside of the gates of their own kingdoms.

God told me what to do in His kingdom and I began to do it. He had been preparing me long before I knew what was happening. I had no idea what was going on when I was being interviewed to pastor my first church. God had everything ready. Still I could not do it alone. However, my faith in God compelled me forward as I studied more and learned more about ministry. I studied aspects of philosophy, human psychology and behavior, and various biblical principles. I examined the history and purpose of the church and the history of Christianity. I did a lot of work and I still am doing a lot of work because I believe that God is doing a work through me and through Pursuing the Truth Ministries. I believe that God is taking us to a place that will give him glory by shining the truth before everyone eyes. However, this faith that I have, that we have, compels us to work.

There would be no Pursuing the Truth Ministries if I had not acted on what God placed in me. We have to work and work we have done and will continue to do. The staff works hard and I work hard. God has even molded my circumstance where I can give a lot more time to ministry. My faith and our faith manifested itself into a plethora of activity.

Your Faith

What do you want to do? What to you have faith for and faith in? Ultimately you should have faith in God and within that you will have confidence in various people. Now what are you doing about the faith that you have? Are you sitting around thinking that all things will work together for good or are you working so that all things would work together for good? If you are working than it is unlikely that things will work together. Sometimes the only work that you can do is to pray. Whatever it may be, it is important that you find yourself practicing your faith instead of just confessing faith.

Take time today to examine yourself. Ask yourself what you want to do. Ask yourself what God has called you to do and then begin to do it. It might mean that you have to get more education, sure up your prayer life, starting reading and studying your Bible, cut some activities, or whatever. Don't make any more excuses as to why you can't do something. Don't think of any reasons why it won't work. Get up off your lazy bottom and move forward with your dream and calling. Act on the faith that you have. Remember that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). What is your hope? What are your goals? Well with faith of God you can do it.

Philippians 4:13 (NKJV) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Do you believe that? Do you really believe in God? Perhaps you need to develop your faith or for some, get some. In any case, start today and live the abundant life that God has called you to. Practice your faith with all diligence. Amen.

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