What Is Real Faith?

“Believe in the Lord Jesus,
and you will be saved”
Acts 16:31 (NIV)

“How, then, can they call on the one
they have not believed in?
And how can they believe in the one
of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear
without someone preaching to them?”
Romans 10:14 (NIV)

Mark Twain once said, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t true.” Mark Twain was not a Christian and he was strongly opposed to the Bible and the idea that Christ was God among other Christian doctrines. He ridiculed Christianity regularly in his writings.

The essence of the Christian message is the matter of believing in, into, on or upon Jesus. But what makes up biblical faith? Romans 10:14 has the answer. We need to reverse the order of the thoughts in this verse to define true faith.

1. Comprehension – First up is the fact we must hear the message. Comprehension is primary and this is why the Lord sends preachers and calls on His people to bear witness to the Good Shepherd. Knowledge is the first aspect to biblical faith.

2. Conviction – We must be persuaded that the message about Jesus being the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world is actually true. Tragically many people comprehend and are convinced that Jesus is the true Saviour. But they stop there. We are told that Satan’s demons not only know the Gospel message, they are persuaded the Gospel is true (James 2:19).

3. Commitment – The third part of biblical faith is an action in response to the first two parts. The genuine believer trusts in Jesus as their own Saviour, their own Shepherd, their own resurrected Lord. In his long life of preaching the late Billy Graham was powerful in calling sinners to commit themselves to the Lord Jesus. His weekly radio broadcast was called “The Hour of Decision”. Graham’s magazine was called “Decision Magazine”

All believers need to feed their faith on the Bible regularly. Hence Christians gather weekly to hear the Bible expounded. Believers also read their Bibles daily to hear from the Lord. Thus our faith is strengthened daily as we comprehend its teaching, are convicted of its truth, and commit ourselves to an obedient walk daily toward our eternal home. This is real faith. Sorry Mark Twain, Christians believe what IS true and follow its teaching daily.

Fear Facts Faith

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you”
Psalm 56:3 (NIV)

“I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself,
is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”
Isaiah 12 :2 (NIV)

“Then Jesus told him, 
‘Because you have seen me, you have believed;
blessed are those who have not seen
and yet have believed.’”
John 20:29 (NIV)

The sequence of the words in the title of today’s devotional is very important. Trials produce fear, then biblical facts are introduced, and finally faith takes over. This is the usual order of events in the lives of most believers.

Fear comes when adversity strikes. There is no denying this fact. As we mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we can recall the chilling hand of fear gripping our hearts. Nothing like this had occurred in north America before. Questions flooded our minds. Who is behind this attack? Were there more attacks coming? What else is coming down the pipe? Each question compounded the fear flooding our minds.

For the believer, when fear invades our space, we need to look to the promises of Scripture and fill our minds and hearts with the wonderful statements from the loving heart of our heavenly Father. These promises, or facts, are freely given to the Lord’s people for our comfort and encouragement to rise above the negative issue and move confidently forward in life.

Faith is built on the solid rock of facts, not on the shifting sand of human opinion. For the first generation of believers most had seen the Lamb of God either before or after the cross and prior to the ascension. Thus, it was easier for them to have confidence, and faith, in the One Who gave Himself for us than for the ones who have never seen Him.

We need to memorize the precious promises of Scripture so we have them to feed our faith in times of trouble. Several parachurch organizations and some study Bibles have good Scripture memorization programs to help us hide God’s Word in our hearts.

May your fear be exposed to wonderful biblical facts (promises) and thus be turned to faith today.

The Right State Of Mind

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic,
love one another, be compassionate and humble”
1 Peter 3:8 (NIV)

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—
of whom I am the worst.”
1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV)

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
James 4:6 (NIV)

In the past couple of decades we have been witnessing some arrogant behaviour on the part of certain people who have risen from obscurity to national or international prominence. This has also come with significant wealth that the person did not have before. This offensive behaviour is often called “entitlement”. Such people think they are above the law. They believe they deserve special treatment.

This warped mindset has even been in Christianity from the time of Jesus on. In the Gospels we read of disciples who had their mother come to Jesus asking that her sons might sit at His right and left sides in His coming kingdom. The sons assured Jesus that they were able to meet any challenge that came their way (Matthew 20:20-22). Such arrogance in Christian leadership persists to this day.

In the Graeco-Roman world of Jesus’ time humility was not a virtue, rather it was seen as a weakness. Hence, when Peter urged his readers to be humble it was an unpopular thing to do.

There is no place in Christianity for proud people who regard themselves as more important than others. Everyone is made in the image of God and should be treated with appropriate respect.

If you find yourself sensing that someone is inferior to you because of education, social status or other measure, it needs to be resisted firmly.

I once visited one of poorest countries in the world. As I witnessed the remarkably contented spirits of the very poor believers, I was rebuked and learned a lot about being content with what I had. After all, I had so much more in material goods than those wonderful believers even dreamed of possessing.

So, a most appropriate admonition comes from Peter,

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand,
that he may lift you up in due time…”
1Peter 5:6 (NIV).

Never forget our Lord’s description of Himself when He said,

“I am gentle and humble in heart”
(Matthew 11:29)

It is enough that the disciple be like their Master.

Travelling Companions

“…Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.”
Luke 24:15 (NIV)

Rare is the hermit who delights to always be alone and shuns any company whatsoever. Almost all of us are wired for company. We enjoy being with people for the most part, and occasionally welcome brief times of solitude.

There is a generally recognized principle that we become like those we associate with. Hence we agree with parental concern about their children socializing with particular people who are known for deviant behaviour. We want only good role models to be friends for our family members.

An old expression goes something like: Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are. It is very true that subtle though powerful influences from our friends are able to shape our thinking and behaviour.

The two disciples referred to in the context of our verse today had been dealt a severe blow when Jesus was publicly executed contrary to their expectations. They had hoped for a deliverer who would throw off the Roman occupational forces and re-establish Israel as an independent nation.

But their Deliverer was executed and so their hopes were dashed. Some of their women amazed them by saying they had seen a resurrected Christ but they were too upset to believe them.  Wonderfully, Jesus draws alongside the two heartbroken disciples and walked with them. It is not clearly explained just how it happened but they were prevented from recognizing Jesus.

Soon enough Jesus would reverse their sorrow and turn it into pure joy as He first explained to them what the Bible had prophesied about His first coming and the death He had to suffer for the sins of His people. He went on to point out that the resurrection was also spoken about in the Old Testament so they should not have been devastated by the events of the past three days.

Finally, after some possible hours, Jesus’ identity was revealed to them and they were full of excitement. This small scene in the lives of these two disciples is an illustration of what happens when a person is brought to faith in Jesus. God reveals the work of Jesus to the person through the Scriptures and opens their eyes to see the truth about Him.

All of us are on a journey through this life. We may have our lives torn apart as these disciples did when Jesus was arrested, tried and finally crucified. Everything may seem hopeless and we may feel that life cannot be put back together again. We need to have Jesus come alongside us and explain His mission to us.

Jesus came to rescue us from our own messed up lives. He came to give us abundant life. We all need to have Jesus as our travelling companion in life. Will you receive Him today and turn from your own way to follow His? Jesus invites those weary of life and its issues to walk with Him and He will give them grace to deal with whatever grief they have. (Matthew 11:27-30)

A Way Out?

“God is faithful…when you are tempted,
he will also provide a way out so that
you can stand up under it.”
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

I was asked by the doctor, when he ordered up an MRI for me, if I was claustrophobic. I scoffed at the suggestion and assured him that I would be fine. I recalled a previous time when I had an MRI and everything went well. It was like a walk in the park. This would be no different.

I went happily on my way to the appointment for the MRI blissfully unaware of what was in store for me. The technician was pleasant and explained everything to me. He also asked about claustrophobia. I assured him I was fine. He had me lie down on the table and put a device in my hand and told me to push the button if I wanted out of the machine.

He was able to insert my body as far as my waist when all of a sudden I panicked and pushed the button. I was overwhelmed with fear and found the confinement intolerable. I could not go on with the scan and made profuse apologies to the technician.

I left the hospital humiliated at my inability to proceed with the needed diagnostic work. What would the prescribing doctor think after I had assured him that I could have the procedure done without discomfort? I was in considerable distress at my inability to do what I had previously done readily. There was no way for me to “stand up under” my dilemma medically speaking.

Our verse today speaks about tough times of temptation without naming specifics. Any issue that you may have therefore can fit into this verse we have for today. Whatever you are working with in your personal situation allow the verse to speak to it.

You will notice that in our verse the writer does not say that God will remove the problem, rather that He will provide you with what is needed to endure the problem. It certainly is great when the problem is taken away and often it is—thank God. But some of us have to “hang in there” with the issue on the long term.

In such a situation we are given the grace to endure. The miraculous help is God-sent to lift us up when the problem seems to crush us down.

Bring this problem of yours to God and also this verse and ask for the promised “way out” so that you can endure it. He is faithful and will certainly make the escape so you endure with victory. Come to Him today and keep on praying until the blessed and needed help arrives to keep on in life. Never, never quit. The gracious Lord will provide for His own.