No Other Foundation
Book 2
Needful Truths for Children of Light

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Chapter Three
Faith


The Contents Of This Chapter


Faith

Niagara Falls is a well-known landmark on a great inland waterway known as the St. Lawrence Seaway. Millions have visited these magnificent waterfalls to see their beauty and grandeur. A few have gone there to defy the power of the water as it pours over the falls, creating turbulent whirlpools with mighty undertows in the river below. Most everyone who risks their life in these daring feats goes over the falls in some contraption. Too often, the water wins, and a life is lost.

One of the few who tempted the falls and won was Charles Blondin, a famous French tightrope walker. Instead of going over the falls in some contraption, he walked across the falls on a tightrope. Actually, he walked across several times: once blindfolded, once on stilts, once carrying one of his helpers, and once pushing a wheelbarrow. It is said that before each crossing Blondin asked the crowd if they were confident he could make it. Each time, the crowd gave voice to their confidence with wild cheering. Upon returning from his first wheelbarrow crossing, Blondin again approached the crowd. This time he asked if they thought he could push one of them safely across the falls. The crowd cheered loudly, proclaiming their confidence that he could do it. After quieting them down, Blondin then asked which one of them would step forward and get into the wheelbarrow. No one moved.

It is one thing to profess faith in something or someone. It is quite another to place faith in something or someone, and live accordingly.

At best, professed faith is intellectual agreement with what is obvious and the admission of possibility with what seems to be true. Therefore, professed faith is not faith, for it requires no personal trust or dependence on the object of faith. It involves no personal risk. It demands no commitment. It produces no behavior in agreement with what is claimed to be believed.

The onlookers at Niagara Falls publicly and enthusiastically professed faith in Blondin. Yet when he asked them to live according to their faith, it became obvious they trusted in something other than Blondin and his wheelbarrow. Though they professed faith in his ability to take someone across the Falls, no one trusted him enough to put their own life in his hands. No one stepped forward, and in so doing, acted according to the faith they claimed. Indeed, they acted as those who have no faith at all. Why? Because they didn’t have faith in Blondin. They were willing to intellectually agree with what was obvious and admit the possibility of what seemed to be true, but they were not willing to place their faith in him.

On that day at Niagara Falls, faith in Blondin would mean getting in the wheelbarrow and trusting him to safely transport you back and forth across the falls — in spite of all the potential risks to your well-being. It would require following every instruction and obeying every command, so as to do nothing other than exactly what Blondin said to do. And of course, during the trip’s most perilous moments you would cling all the more to his every word and be all the more diligent to do exactly as he said. Any deliberate movement contrary to his will, even if you deemed it necessary to protect your own well-being, would be an act of unbelief in Blondin. In other words, you would only have faith in Blondin if you willingly placed your life in his hands by getting in the wheelbarrow and following all his instructions as he took you back and forth across the Falls. Anything less would be professed faith, which is not faith at all but unbelief giving intellectual agreement to what is possible.

Therefore, to present as clear a picture as possible of faith, we will add the adjective complete (i.e., total, thorough, explicit, all-out, unconditional, unequivocal, undivided) to the word faith. Thus, faith will stand apart from professed faith, or partial faith, or unbelief.

However, any effort to clarify faith in a manner which asks us to live up to its definition is likely to be met with well-argued resistance — especially as faith relates to God and the Christian life. By nature, we are far more interested in our own well-being than the good of God and everyone else affected by our choices and behavior. Where faith in God seems to serve our interests, we are happy to trust. But let that faith require behavior which appears to promote the good of others at the risk of our own well-being and we are not so eager to get in that wheelbarrow. We may profess faith at this point, but we will not place faith in God and His ways.

Because of our self-interest, we are prone to claim that complete faith in God is impossible. And should someone hold up such a target for us to aim at, we argue that it is not only absurd, but unchristian to make such a demand. Yet we exercise complete faith in things and people every day. An example of complete faith is the faith we place in our favorite chair around the house. We plop down in our favorite chair without even the slightest hesitation at wondering if it will hold us up. And why the “no hesitation”? We have complete faith in our chair. True, this is a minor expression of faith compared to the life-affecting and even life-threatening situations we face when living for God and according to His ways. But it is, nevertheless, an exercise of complete faith, which means we are capable of such faith. With this in mind, let us move on.

What Faith Is

To understand what faith is, we must first understand what it isn’t. Faith is not a magical power. Faith is not mystically received or mysteriously activated. It is not a concept of what can be, nor an unattainable ideal of what ought to be. Faith is neither knowledge of certain facts nor an understanding of real or assumed truths. It is not a public acknowledgement that a certain fact or teaching is true. Faith is not a strong feeling, or a charged state of emotions, or an overpowering impulse. It is not a psychological ploy intended to trick the mind into producing some desired result. Faith is not a tool designed to work on God until He does what we want. It has no power to make us act contrary to our will, nor can it make God act contrary to His will. And finally, faith is not unique to Christianity.

The word faith primarily speaks of what we believe in. To believe in something or someone is to trust in, to rely on, to stake your life on a specific someone or something so as to live according to the object of your faith. This means all our repetitive or habitual thoughts, attitudes, choices, words, and deeds are the direct result of what we believe. In the same way, most of our reckless and rare thoughts, attitudes, choices, words, and deeds are the direct result of what we believe. Finally, this means that though we can be forced to act contrary to what we believe, we cannot be forced to believe in people or things we do not trust. Therefore, faith is a voluntary, deliberate choice to place trust in certain things and people with the result being that we live according to the object(s) of our faith.

With this understanding of faith it easy to see that faith is the connecting link between how we live and why we live that way. And because everyone, everywhere, everyday lives according to what they believe, we can tell what a person believes by observing how he lives. Indeed, our recurring thoughts, attitudes, choices, words, and deeds become a mirror image of the who and what we trust in.

This principle is not unique to faith in God, nor is it unique to the Christian way of life. It is a universal truth. If a husband says he trusts his wife with the family finances yet maintains tight control over her spending, he contradicts his professed faith by his behavior. In fact, his wife and anyone else who knows their situation will come to the conclusion he doesn’t trust her. And in spite of his denials to the contrary, observers will reach this conclusion by observing his repetitive behaviors related to his wife and the family finances. In other words, those who know him well know the truth, because behavior is the most accurate and compelling statement about what and in whom we put our faith.

Finally, we generally place faith in those things which we think will do the most to promote our interests and protect our well-being. This does not mean faith is an inherently selfish act. What it means is, faith is a principle of life intended to be used for our good. Just as faith in the right things and people is exceedingly wise, so distrust of certain things and people is equally wise. The right use of faith leads us to the right objects of faith so that we live the right kind of life. For this reason, faith in God and His ways is the right use of faith. And though it leads to a life of self-denial and service to others, the rewards for such faith are both bountiful and eternal. Therefore, faith is willful trust in someone or something to the extent that we live according to our faith while relying on the object of our faith to do for us according to our faith.

In summary, everyone lives by faith. Behavior mirrors faith. And we trust in people and things we think will promote and protect our interests. To this end, we need to be wise in the exercise of our faith. Therefore, the following is a fuller explanation of these truths about faith.

No. 1: Everyone Lives by Faith

Faith is not unique to Christianity. Everyone places faith in many people and things throughout their lives. Most often, we trust in more than one object and/or person at a time. Race, gender, age, family history, nationality, religious convictions, social and economic status, level of education, are all things that affect the objects of our faith. But such things never affect the fact that we live by faith.

To fly in an airplane, we must trust in the airplane itself, the pilots, the mechanics who service the plane, the radar system, and the tower crews who make it safe for the plane to take-off, follow a flight path, and land at its destination. If we are Christians, we add one more all-encompassing object of faith to the aforementioned array of objects — we add God. We trust in God, our supreme provider and protector, to bring us safely home. The point is this: whether Christian or non-Christian, we place faith in many objects, and often, more than one object at a time.

The objects of faith include God, God’s Word, our parents, a friend, a school teacher, a church minister or priest, our spouse, a co-worker, the company we work for, our job seniority, our savings and investments, the wisdom of those more experienced, the methods of those more successful, our own opinion of what is right or best for us, an insurance policy, our physical looks or strength, our intellect, a guarantee or warranty of some kind, a brand name, money, government, an idea, a philosophical view, science, medicine, technology, a doctor, a repair person, a self-help book, a light switch, a chair, a dead-bolt on the door — and this list can go on and on.

The strategic difference between Christians and non-Christians is not how many people and things each puts their faith in. The crucial difference is who and what they trust in, and the priority given to a specific object of faith or group of related objects.

For the Christian, God and the Scriptures are the dominant objects of faith. To this end, the Christian’s behavior reflects the transcendency of these objects of faith above all others.

For the non-Christians, self-rule (relying on one’s own judgment of what is best for self) and self-achievement (relying on one’s own ability to do or get done what needs doing to promote and protect one’s self-interest) are the primary objects of faith. And like the Christian, the non-Christian’s behavior exposes what he trusts in.

However, to trust God in the Christian way — to voluntarily and intentionally make God the foremost object of faith — we must be convinced that God exists, and that He rewards all who seek Him. On a practical level, this means being so convinced of God’s goodness and the reliability of God’s ways that we deliberately place our well-being in His hands and live according to His Word. The natural, the logical, and the only possible outcome of such faith is a supreme devotion to God and a life devoted to doing the will of God. (Note: Hebrews 11:6; Mark 12:29-31; Matthew 6:33; II Corinthians 5:14-15)

The non-Christian chooses self-rule and self-achievement as his foremost objects of faith because he is convinced no other thing or person, including God, is dependable enough to promote and protect his interests in a manner he deems necessary. This does not mean he completely distrusts all other objects of faith. Quite the contrary. He parcels out trust as freely as his supreme trust in self allows. However, the natural outcome of parceling trust according to the dictates of self-rule is a life dominated by self-centeredness. And though self-trust takes on various forms, even quasi-Christian forms, it can never take the form of godliness, Christian love, or a whole-life, life-long devotion to God and His will.

To summarize, we all live by faith. Christian faith is God-centered, and it produces Christ-like behavior. Non-Christian, worldly-wise faith is self-centered, and it produces selfish behavior. Christian faith may seem foolish for the moment, but those who live by it are wise forever. Non-Christian, worldly-wise faith may seem wise for the moment, but those who live by it are fools forever.

No. 2: Behavior Mirrors Faith

Just as the crowds loudly proclaimed their faith in Blondin before each of his trips across the Falls, so we profess faith in many things and numerous people, including God. Just as the crowds exposed the insincerity of their profession by refusing to get in the wheelbarrow, so we expose the true nature of our professions of faith by how we live day-to-day. And just as not getting in the wheelbarrow revealed who and what the crowds actually trusted in, so our behavior mirrors our faith.

In relation to faith, behavior tells all — especially repetitive, habitual, day-to-day behavior. It accurately reveals what we believe. It exposes in whom and in what we place our trust. It takes our professions of faith and either validates or refutes them. We can claim to believe in, to trust in, or to rely on whatever we wish. But of this we can be sure — our choices and behavior provide an accurate, detailed image of what we place our faith in. This truth ought not to surprise us.

The word hypocrisy is defined as: pretending to be what one is not, or pretending to believe what one does not believe. On what basis, then, do we decide that someone is a hypocrite? We observe his behavior, and then compare what we have observed with what he claims to be and professes to believe. Do we take all his behavior into account? We should, but the significant, tell-all behaviors are those things he knowingly and deliberately does in direct contradiction to what he claims to be and professes to believe. But why do we choose to give more credibility to his behavior than to his words? We know that his behavior, whether day-to-day or in some major circumstance, naturally reveals his true character. It is for this reason that the word hypocrite is most often used to label religious folk who claim to be Christians but do not live accordingly.

This relationship between faith and behavior ought to raise an important question. If our behavior accurately reveals what we believe, how is it that we are so easily seduced and deceived by our empty professions of faith? Why don’t we see our own hypocrisy?

Though the answer to this question can get complex, in its simplest form it is: we want to think better of ourselves, and we want others to think better of us than we are. So we profess to believe in, trust in, put faith in good and noble things, including God. Then, to maintain our inner sense of goodness and positive self-image, we treat our professions as proof of our goodness. And for the sake of our public image, we hope others will treat our professions as proof of our goodness, too.

Of course, if we’re the only one doing this, the truth-sayers around us will expose our charade. They will call us to personal integrity — to be honest with ourself about ourself. They will ask us to live up to the truth we know — to bring our behavior into conformity with our words. This possibility poses such a horrifying prospect that we avoid truth-sayers as if they are the pariahs of life. Instead, we gravitate toward people and groups who are non-confrontive, affirming, and graciously tolerant so as to accept us as we are. We surround ourselves with people who are generally committed to bolstering our self-esteem rather than telling us the truth. In other words, we surround ourselves with people like ourselves so we can go on in our charade of thinking better of ourselves than we are.

But what happens when we can’t get away from a truth-sayer? We may try fighting back in hopes of forcing him to back off and let us go on in our charade. Or we may grow distant in hopes of making it easier to avoid what he says. Or we may block out the message of truth as if it and our sinful behavior were non-existent. Or we may listen for others, as if the message doesn’t apply to us yet, but is urgently needed by someone we know. Or we may find faults in the truth-sayer and use them as justifications for not listening to the truth conveyed to us about ourselves. Or we may show interest while hardening our heart against the truth he tells us.

Sadly, most of us, by choice, are self-deceived. We deliberately avoid facing the truth about ourselves. We work hard at thinking better of ourselves than we ought. And we tend to build our strongest relationships with self-deceived deceivers who, in condoning our self-deceit, make it safe for us to go on in our hypocrisy.

Therefore, very few take seriously this awesome truth about the connection between faith and behavior. And fewer still, it seems, carefully examine their behavior to discern what they believe (in whom and in what they whole-heartedly place their trust). Nevertheless, it is not what we claim to be or profess to believe, but how we act which accurately reveals in whom and in what we have placed our faith.

No. 3: Securing Good through Faith

Almost without exception, we put our faith in people and things that we think will provide what we need, protect us from harm, improve our future, promote our happiness, satisfy our desires, and give us security against the unwanted. Only a fool puts faith in things or people he knows are going to be detrimental to his well-being or the well-being of those dear to him. Therefore, it is natural to trust in someone or something we believe will make life better, for ourselves and those we hold dear.

The problem with this fact about faith is not the fact itself, it is us. Being prone to self-centeredness, we too often use faith to seek our own good without adequate consideration for how our self-seeking affects the good of others. It isn’t that self-interest is naturally or inherently bad. When exercised within the boundaries of a supreme love for God and a love for others equal to our love of self, self-interest takes on a rational, conscientious, and even virtuous nature. However, when exercised within the boundaries of self-centeredness, self-interest takes on an unethical, unjust, victimizing, sinful nature. Yet whether we use faith selfishly or selflessly, we are using it in the hopes of securing our good and the good of those we care about.

For the sake of developing this point, let us label the two differing focuses of faith. Faith directed toward seeking the good of all, including self, will be labeled God-focused faith. Faith directed toward seeking the good of self, without adequate, loving regard for the good of others, will be labeled self-focused faith.

Self-focused faith is driven by a commitment to self-good which supersedes all other commitments. God says we are born sinners. Even if one disputes this, it seems obvious that we are born self-centered. Good observation also makes it clear that we spend our early childhood fine tuning self-centeredness. Beyond the fact that we are born sinners, children lack the ability to reason and conceptualize. They are not mentally equipped to think and reason so as to understand the principles used to determine right from wrong. Children know what is right and wrong because their parents tell them. They do what is right because of the threat of punishment or hope of reward — especially the reward of parental approval. But children do not understand why right is right and wrong is wrong so as to apply that reasoning to all situations. As children then, the focus of our thinking is self-good, self-need, and self-want. Because of this, we spend our early years developing self-centeredness.

But why, after acquiring the ability to reason and conceptualize, do so many of us remain committed to self-centeredness as our primary approach to life? Why is our primary exercise of faith, even as adults, self-focused faith? Why, even though we profess to trust in God, believe in His Word, and trust in Christ for salvation from hell, do we repeatedly and willfully do things that we know are contrary to the will and Word of God?

There are two primary reasons why, as adults, we choose self-focused faith over God-focused faith. First, experience forcefully convinces us that there aren’t many people who can be trusted to faithfully love us, care about us, respect us, protect us, and seek our good in everything they do which affects us. Too often, we have been hurt or let down by the important people in our life. Important people include parents, siblings, best friends, extended family members, respected teachers, a spouse, a cherished social group, an employer or supervisor, a highly regarded minister, and government officials. These are people who, by the very nature of their position in our life, are expected to faithfully seek our good. When these people hurt us or fail us in some traumatic or minor though repetitive way, we lose trust in them. Indeed, the more often or the more traumatically we have been hurt by them, the greater our distrust of them and anyone else who holds a similar position of importance in our life.

Then, the greater our distrust, the more convinced we are of the need to look out for our own good our own way, including admittedly selfish ways when necessary. It isn’t that we don’t want to live according to the principle of love or obey God’s Word. It’s that we’ve tried this noble approach and we’ve been taken advantage of, ripped off, treated as a doormat, abused, misused, neglected, and rejected. So self-focused faith becomes our preferred means of looking out for self when those around us are uncaring, inconsiderate, irresponsible, and self-centered.

Second, based on our disappointing experiences with frail human beings, we tend to develop an underlying sense that God (that all-powerful being who could have protected us from being hurt) has failed us in some way. Add to this our frequent disappointments with life in general and our observations of the difficult times others endure, and we conclude that God is not completely, perfectly, or always trustworthy. So we decide it is not always in our best interest to unequivocally place our well-being in His hands and do everything He says. What this means is that we do not believe God can be depended on to guard or advance our good in every situation. Therefore, we do not trust God and His Word to always do what is best for us. Sometimes? Yes. Often? Probably. But always? No!

Believing that God (the all-knowing, all-powerful supreme being) and His Word cannot be trusted to always do what is in our best interest, we place our trust in the only one left whom we deem worthy of our complete trust. We place our trust in self. With self as our most trusted provider, protector, and authority on how to live, self-focused faith becomes our natural choice for fulfilling the awesome responsibility of self-care.

In this condition, we may place some of our trust in God, but we will not trust Him completely. In other words, we will not trust God to the extent that we will live up to what we know is right. We will do some of what we know God says to do, but we will just as deliberately ignore some of what we know God says to do. Why? Because we are convinced that in these areas God’s way will not give us the provision or protection we think we need. With self the only one we fully trust, our trust in God will always remain within the boundaries of our ability to insure our own well-being in any situation. In other words, self will be trusted, above all else, to carry out the responsibility of self-care. This is the ultimate in self-focused faith.

God-focused faith is driven by a commitment to the good of God and everyone else affected in any way by our choices and behavior. To even attempt such faith on a whole-life, life-long basis requires complete trust in the goodness of God and the reliability of God’s Word. It requires confidence in God’s eagerness, faithfulness, and ability to provide for us and protect us as we devote ourselves to serving Him and caring for the needs of others. It requires reliance on God’s wisdom to instruct us how to navigate the risky waters of Christian living. It requires confident expectation that what God commands us to do, He equips, empowers, and enables us to do. It requires thoughtfully and voluntarily placing our well-being in His hands and proceeding to live according to what we know He has said about how we should live. It results in making God the final authority on how we should live and the ultimate caretaker of our well-being.

God-focused faith often results in risking everything, even our life, for the sake of God and the good of others. This does not mean Christians should categorically give everything away, as if having nothing means having greater faith. It does not mean Christians should carelessly put themselves and their families at risk, as if self-imposed suffering proves they have greater love. What it does mean is that we have chosen to depend on God for our provision and protection so that we willingly go wherever living for God takes us. We willingly pay whatever loving others as ourselves costs us. And we willingly forsake or sacrifice whatever we must to advance God’s influence and increase the number of His children. Such is the nature of God-focused faith.

In summary, it is natural to trust in someone or something we believe will make life better for ourselves (and those we hold dear). The wise place their trust, as completely as they know how, in God and His Word. Then they use this God-focused faith to help them love God supremely and live up to what they know is right in loving others as themselves. The foolish conclude that no one other than themselves is worthy of complete trust. They then use self-focused faith to promote and protect their interests in an effort to achieve a happy, satisfying, secure life.

Essentials of God-Focused Faith

For the Christian, faith is exercised according to Christian truth concerning God, right and wrong, and how to live as a child of God. Those who exercise faith according to these truths are obvious — they bear a significant likeness to Jesus Christ. The fact that God-focused faith produces such a radically different life from that of self-focused faith implies that what God-focused faith can do, self-focused faith cannot do; and what self-focused faith will do, God-focused faith won’t do. To understand what this means, consider the following five essentials of God-focused faith.

No. 1: Accurate Knowledge

All faith is built on knowledge, whether real or imagined, fact or fiction, true or false, provable or assumed, rational or irrational. Where we lack knowledge, we cannot exercise faith. What we do not know, or know about, we cannot trust in. To be activated, faith must have some knowledge of what it is trusting in. To be rational, and to produce its intended results, God-focused faith must be built on accurate knowledge, especially when it comes to God’s character and His Word.

Accuracy is important. We cannot exercise a rational and practical faith where we hold an inaccurate understanding of the truth. Any amount of inaccuracy produces an equal amount of irrational thinking as to who and what we are trusting in. This, in turn, produces an equal amount of irrational and therefore impractical efforts at living the Christian life. We do not have to look far to see that many have drawn back from serious efforts at living the Christian life because an inaccurate knowledge of God and His Word led them to trust in what wasn’t, resulting in futile and frustrating attempts to do what can’t be done. In other words, they tried to live a Christianity that, in the end, made little to no sense.

An example of this is the common, though inaccurate teaching on forgiveness. (Forgiveness is too often taught as a fix for one’s own thinking rather than a vital step in the process of two parties restoring and healing their broken relationship.) The Christian wife is asked by a well-meaning preacher to forgive her husband for verbally, and occasionally physically, abusing her and the children. So, the well-meaning wife tries to forgive her husband. In other words, she tries to think positively of him and treat him as if they share a relationship of mutual love and trust. However, her husband has neither asked for forgiveness, nor stopped abusing her and the children. Finding that forgiveness has done nothing but make it easier for her husband to act abusively, she feels God’s perfect way makes no sense (it doesn’t work). To make the home situation safer for her and the children, she backs away from what she perceives is serious Christianity and settles for what she knows is a lesser, but more sensible level. And so, we see how her inaccurate understanding of forgiveness leads to an irrational faith in what isn’t; which leads to a futile attempt to do what cannot be done; which leads to intentionally choosing a lesser level of Christian living.

Not only does inaccurate knowledge of God and His Word lead to irrational and often impossible efforts at living the Christian life, it produces perverted or low views of God. Such views boomerang on us by eventually undermining and eroding our faith in God.

When God does not live up to our expectations — expectations we think are reasonable — we will not want to trust Him completely. Yet when our expectations are based on inaccurate knowledge, our distrust is the result of accepting falsehood as truth. When we think God’s commands are too strict, oppressive, unrealistic, dictatorial, or egotistic, we will not want to obey Him. Yet when our view of His commands is based on inaccurate knowledge of His purposes or the difference between good and evil, our disobedience is the result of accepting fiction as fact. Truly, knowledge that is unworthy of God’s character and His Word generates a faith and subsequent life-style that is unworthy of a Christian. Therefore, when we find ourselves suspicious of God’s ability to bring about our good and His Word’s reliability to tell us the best way to live, we are wise to look for the inaccurate knowledge which is promoting such irrational thinking.

Do not take lightly the importance of accurate knowledge concerning anything you intend to put your faith in. Inaccuracy does not run parallel to accuracy, it angles away. The longer you follow inaccuracy, the farther you get from the truth. The farther you get from the truth, the more irrational you become in your choices and behavior. For this reason, an accurate understanding of God and His Word is vital to God-focused faith and its intended result — Christ-like living.

One word of warning is needed here. It is important that we not confuse accuracy with amount. More knowledge is good, but the amount of knowledge is never proportional to accuracy. Accuracy stands alone, whether we have a lot of knowledge or a little. Therefore, an accurate knowledge of God’s character and an accurate understanding of God’s Word — be they ever so small — is essential to a proper and worthy exercise of God-focused faith.

No. 2: Historical Knowledge

It is often said that Christian faith is blind faith. What is meant by this is that Christian faith requires trusting in what cannot be seen and believing in what cannot be measured or proven in and of itself. In other words, it means trusting beyond the mind’s capacity to find a rational reason to trust — resulting in behavior which, too often, has no rational explanation. However, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Yet in our sin dominated, self-indulging, immediate gratification, power- and possession-hungry world, God-focused faith sometimes seems like blind faith. And why is this? Because God-focused faith is largely a trust now/results later experience.

Think about this. Christians must frequently endure difficult situations while waiting as God works in the situation, or in spite of the situation, to bring about what is best or needful for all involved. Sometimes the waiting includes exhaustion, frustration, disappointment, impoverishment, persecution, imprisonment, or loss of health. And sometimes, God’s provision and protection comes in the form of release from this life (physical death) rather than release from the difficult situation. Therefore, God-focused faith requires faithful dependence on God’s promises, even when we do not see their fulfillment within hours or days or months of when we ask for their fulfillment. God-focused faith requires faithful obedience to God’s commands, even though such obedience may leave us, for a time, susceptible to unjust harm at the hands of willful sinners. For these reasons, trustful waiting for God to finish what He’s doing, or for His Word to work as promised, seems like blind faith to those who want God to act immediately.

In addition, theologians and preachers seem to reinforce the idea of Christian faith being blind faith. They do this by explaining Hebrews 11:1 as if it were the grand definition of faith — a definition which defines faith as blind faith.

“Faith is the substance (assurance, guarantee) of things hoped for, the evidence (convincing proof) of things not seen.”

Certainly, this scripture can be interpreted as a definition of blind faith, but only if asked to stand apart from its context. When interpreted within the context of Hebrews, chapters 10-12, this statement becomes a powerful statement about faith now/results later trust in a known God with an impeccable character and a perfect record of faithfulness to His word.

Therefore, those who trust in God in the face of the unknown, trust Him on the basis of what they already know about Him. The history of God provides enough knowledge to provide an unshakable basis for faith when faced with the unknown. Even though we don’t always know where our trust in God will lead us (i.e., Abraham leaving his father’s land for an unknown place), or what awaits us (i.e., Daniel, as he was being tossed in the lions’ den), we are not exercising blind faith. Such unknowns, be they good or bad, do not change the fact that our faith is in a known God with a known history of trustworthiness.

The Apostle Paul said, “Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Neither affliction, nor distress, nor persecution, nor hunger, nor the lack of housing or clothes, nor danger, nor war — none of these is proof that God has stopped being our premier provider and protector. In fact, by God’s doing, we overwhelmingly come through all difficulties, victorious.” (Note: Romans 8:35-39)

How do we know nothing can separate us from God’s love? How do we know He will bring us victoriously through everything and anything? God’s history.

Having been created as rational, thinking beings, we have the ability to research, observe, test, categorize, compile, and draw conclusions. Therefore, we can look into history and learn about God’s character, His purposes in creation and salvation, His ways of dealing with mankind, His commandments, and His coming judgment as it relates to those who love and obey Him and to those who reject Him.

For this reason, Jesus likened faith in God to child-like faith. Children face the unknown secure in believing their parents are both able and eager to care for them, whatever comes. When a child questions his parents’ ability to keep him safe in the face of, what is to the child, an unknown, the parents reach into history and assure the child their reputation is reason enough for the child to trust them now. Should the child persist in distrust, the parents will feel hurt that their good record is not enough to bring forth trust from their child. But more than that, the child will miss out on the good his parents could have done for him, had he trusted them.

Therefore, God-focused faith is not blind faith. It is rational faith, reasonable faith, thoughtful faith, and intentional faith. In the face of the unknown, it is trusting in God’s established patterns of provision, protection, wisdom, and promise keeping. This faith in the known enables us to face the unknown, secure in the confidence that God is our provider and protector. This faith in the known motivates us to live God-honoring, Christ-like, community-centered, love-controlled lives in spite of the risks involved.

No. 3: Bible Knowledge

Common to all human experience is the fact that we trust what someone says to the degree we trust the person himself. We distrust the sincerity of people’s promises and the wisdom of their advice to the same measure we distrust their dependability and sincere concern for our well-being. Let a father offer the best, most sensible advice to his teenage son, and let it be advice that goes against what the son wants. The son will reject it before his father finishes speaking if the son lacks whole-hearted trust in his father’s genuinely unselfish concern for his well-being (no prideful, narrow-minded, power-hungry, or other self-serving motives). The point is, it is unnatural for us to believe in, or rely on, what someone says if we do not trust the person himself.

Therefore, the correlation between trust in God (His character and reputation) and obedience to God’s Word (His handbook on how to live) is not unique. We live as God says to live to the same measure we trust His unselfish concern for our well-being, His ability to provide for our needs, and His power to protect us from harm. In other words, we need unwavering trust in God’s character, unshakable trust in His power, and undaunted trust in His promises to whole-heartedly, boldly, and faithfully live according to His Word.

Truly, the written Word of God, made clear through the illuminating work of God’s Holy Spirit within us, is a vast source of knowledge on which to build God-focused faith. Through God’s empowerment, the Bible becomes a teacher to whom we can go for instruction; a reprover of wrong choices and behavior; a corrector of attitudes, interests, commitments, and direction; and a trainer who will get us into godly shape. From the story of creation to John’s vision of heaven coming down to inhabit a purified earth, the Bible gives us all the information necessary to live a Christ-like life through the exercise of God-focused faith. (Note: II Timothy 3:16-17)

To have access to a Bible means we have access to the kind of knowledge which breeds great faith. To know less than we ought, based on the availability of a Bible and our level of maturity, means our lack of faith-building knowledge is due to inexcusable laziness, carelessness, or procrastination. Therefore, to trust God less than we can (determined by the availability of His written Word and what we know or could know because of it), means our distrust in those areas is inexcusably deliberate.

God’s Word is a deep well of knowledge for all to draw from. This knowledge is vital to an ongoing, expanding, maturing, whole-life, life-long exercise of God-focused faith. To neglect it is to invite disaster. To draw from its depths is to build great faith leading to true life, now and forevermore.

No. 4: Reasonableness and Reality

For faith to be exercised in a rational and practical way it must be placed in that which is reasonable and built on that which is real. This is especially important in relation to God-focused faith. Trusting in anything other than that which is reasonable and real adds unwanted problems, difficulties, and hardship to our lives.

Placing faith in the unreasonable primarily happens when we act according to our selfish interests rather than wisdom. The gambler who believes he is skilled enough to beat the house odds, and then gambles until he is in debt, is a classic example of trusting in the unreasonable. The employee who sets aside “laying up treasure in heaven” to seek financial security in the workplace, especially in an age when businesses are bought by profit hungry conglomerates or downsized for profitability, is a common example of faith in the unreasonable. The Christian who believes God’s great concern is to save sinners from the penalty of sin so that he feels safe in continuing to do what he knows is wrong in certain areas, is the ultimate example of faith in the unreasonable.

Sadly, modern day preaching seems laden with exhortations to place faith in the unreasonable. In this day of “seeker” churches, mega-churches, and dying denominations, preachers woo adherents by teaching they can trust in Christ for salvation from the penalty of sin while saying nothing critical about the practice of known sin. They claim faith for salvation from hell is essential, while making it seem that the faith which produces love of God and man is an option. (Note: Titus 2:11-14; I John 3:6-10; 4:7-8). In an effort to make the American dream the Christian dream, preachers teach their flocks how to exercise faith in God’s promises for wealth, while failing to teach that the accumulation of possessions and the hoarding of finances is equal to worshipping idols (Note: Luke 16:19-31; I Timothy 6:8-10,17-19; Colossians 3:5). Wanting to restore the miraculous grandeur of the early Church, preachers teach faith in the healing work of God without making it clear that an insincere, or lackadaisical, or neglected pursuit of godliness is often a relational cause of sickness (Note: I Corinthians 11:27-32; James 5:14-16). And sadly, the call to trust in the unreasonable or unreal doesn’t stop with these examples. Religious leaders call their followers to put faith in icons and other paraphernalia to gain riches, healing, protection from evil spirits, and other such things. Truly, faith in the unreasonable should be seen for what it is — the use of faith for personal gain.

In contrast to faith in the unreasonable, faith in the unreal is foolish faith. Everyone has moments when they wish that what is wasn’t, or what isn’t will be. But foolish people think that by believing long enough and hard enough, they can make what is disappear, or make what isn’t appear. To clarify this point, consider this promise made by Jesus. “Listen carefully. All things that you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received them, and they shall be yours.” (Note: Mark 11:24)

This promise, with its two important words, all things, can only be rightly used when understood within the framework of reality. At first reading it may seem that Jesus is telling us we can ask God for anything we want. It seems the only condition is that we believe it is already ours, and we will receive it. Yet we are wise enough to know such a promise would be unsafe, and ultimately destructive, in the hands of untaught, naive, or unscrupulous and selfish people.

Therefore, reality tells us this promise is not a blank check for getting anything we want so long as sufficient faith accompanies our request. Yet many who are involved in Christianity think that with sufficient faith they can move God to give them a trouble-free life with perfect health, increasing wealth, a fantastic spouse, an ideal job with an exemplary boss, and magnificent weather on picnic days. Such faith is faith in the unreal. It is foolish faith which ignores the reality of God’s individual and universal purposes. It ignores our need to mature so we can love as God loves. It disregards the inherent personal costs of seeking the good of others. It forgets the fact that godly living always results in some suffering as evil resists being overcome by good. (Note: I Peter 1:6-9; James 1:2-4; Philippians 2:3-8; II Timothy 3:12; Matthew 5:10-12)

The ultimate example of faith in the unreal is faith in faith. It is believing that faith is the most powerful force in the universe. It is believing that even God becomes an instrument in our hands to do our bidding when we exercise sufficient faith. How foolish. No matter how much faith we have, or what we put our faith in, God will never act contrary to His character, or against our good. He will never spoil us, or give us what will harm us. Therefore, to exercise God-focused faith in a rational and practical way we must put our trust in the reasonable and the real.

No. 5: An Expanding Circle of Application

God-focused faith ought to grow — not in strength, but in its application to more and more areas of life. For most of us, God-focused faith starts small — trusting in God for one or several specific things where we have come to see trust as necessary. Yet it is God’s intention, and it out to be our intention, that our God-focused faith grow to cover most, if not every area of life. We may think and talk as if this is growth in the strength of our faith. But it isn’t. It is growth in the application of our faith.

Many misunderstand this principle. They think faith (and especially God-focused faith) mingled with unbelief, or faith mingled with skepticism, or faith mingled with self-centered caution is weak faith needing to be strengthened. But this is not true. Anything less than faith, such as faith mingled with unbelief or skepticism or self-centered caution, is not faith. It may be a step in the direction of faith, but it is a step caught somewhere between unbelief and faith. Therefore, it is not yet faith. It isn’t even weak faith needing to be strengthened. It is indecision or inquiring unbelief trying to decide if it wants to go all the way to faith.

Acting on this misconception, the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith. He responded by telling two parables.

In his first parable, Jesus said that if they had faith like a mustard seed, they could tell a mulberry tree to uproot itself and plant itself in the sea, and it would be done. Because we tend to think in terms of weak faith/strong faith, Jesus’ example of telling a mulberry tree to uproot itself and plant itself in the sea sounds like he is talking about strong faith, exceptional faith, extraordinary faith — the kind of miracle-working faith we wish for but never seem to have. Yet this was not Jesus’ point. He was not using the mustard seed as an example of great, miracle-working faith, but rather plain or genuine faith. He was not telling the disciples how to have greater faith. He was telling them how to have faith, itself. To see the truth of this, read on.

The mustard seed is a tiny seed which grows into the largest of plants, so large in fact, it looks like a tree. But to go from a tiny seed to a huge plant, the mustard seed must put faith in what it knows. There is no room for indecision or inquiring unbelief. In other words, the mustard seed must exercise faith in God’s promise that if it lies in the dark, damp soil and dies, it will rise to a new and better life. It must confidently place faith in God’s provision and protection if it is to intentionally forfeit the only life it has to find new life as a mustard plant. It must choose to risk everything it has at the moment to become something it can never be in its seedling state. Truly, it must totally, thoroughly, explicitly, unconditionally, unequivocally trust the God of nature and every law of nature it knows in order to travel the path from tiny seed to huge plant. If that tiny seed, because of unbelief, does anything other than what it knows is the right thing to do, it will go off to obscurity and lose what life it has. Now, this is not great faith, or exceptional or extraordinary faith. It is simply faith — faith in God and in what is known to be true and right.

Having made his point, Jesus switched to a parable about slaves. He pointed to the disciples’ common assumption that slaves are to do servants work, and that masters naturally expect servants to do all that is required of them. Then Jesus asked this question. “Would you think your servants exceptionally good if they did what was asked of them?” With the obvious answer being no, Jesus concluded by saying: “Then you too are only doing what is expected of you when (because of your faith in God) you do all God commands you to do.” (Note: Luke 17:5-10)

Here again, Jesus is not talking about great faith, or exceptional or extraordinary faith. In fact, He makes it clear that living up to what we know the master (God) commands us to do is neither exceptional nor extraordinary. It is simply the ordinary, or at least ought to be the ordinary. Therefore, the faith required on our part to live up to what we know God is telling us to do is nothing more or less than ordinary, plain faith. Indeed, there is no faith of any kind which is greater than or can accomplish more than plain, ordinary, unadulterated trust in what we know to be true. Plain, ordinary faith is as great as faith can be.

Therefore, there is no greater God-focused faith than plain, ordinary God-focused faith. This is faith at its minimum and at its greatest. This is the faith that works miracles, beginning with the miracle of new birth.

Because faith produces behavior in keeping with the object of faith, we know we trust in God and rely on His Word when we are committed, and indeed make it our practice, to live up to what we know about God and His Word. Now it is true that this faith can grow to embrace more areas of life, and it will as we learn more about God and His Word. But it cannot grow stronger. Faith is faith, and anything else is either unbelief, indecision, or inquiring unbelief stepping toward faith.

Therefore, God-focused faith will and ought to grow in application. And because this growth in application takes time, just as any growth takes time, some Christians will appear to have greater faith than others. Yet it isn’t that they have more or stronger faith, it’s that they have a broader-based faith. Faith is faith — we either place our trust in someone or something or we remain undecided. In our undecided condition we may at times act as those who believe. Yet we will also, at times, act as those who do not believe. Why? Because we do not yet believe. We are still caught between unbelief and faith. We are still trying to decide if we want to go all the way to faith.

Finally, if you are struggling to trust God in an area of known sin, your problem is not weak faith. Your problem is unbelief getting in the way of faith. It is indecision about putting to death that part of yourself you know needs to die so new, Christ-like life can rise in its place. On the other hand, if some Christians are talking about faith in God in an area you’ve never heard about or understood, your problem is not lack of faith but lack of knowledge. Learn what you need to learn about God and His Word related to faith in that area. Then apply your God-focused faith to the area so that you begin to live accordingly — validating your faith by your deeds. In this way your faith will grow — not in strength, but in expansiveness of application.

The Power of God-Focused Faith to Save Us

According to God’s Word, anyone who does what he knows is wrong, has sinned. If we break God’s Law in just one area, it is as if we have broken the whole Law. The punishment for sinning, be it one or many sins, a seemingly insignificant or a heinous sin, is eternal damnation in hell. No sinner can pay this penalty in any other way than to spend eternity in hell. In other words, there is no way for sinners to buy or work or negotiate their way out of this punishment. Just as no murderer can do enough good deeds or pay enough money or spend enough years in prison to restore his victim’s life, so no sinner can make up for sins in the past. Therefore, we need salvation from sin if we are to avoid eternal damnation in hell. (Note: James 2:10, 4:17; Romans 3:23)

But herein lies a dilemma. Being prone to self-centeredness, we tend to focus our attention on being saved from the penalty of sin. And truly, we need to be saved from the penalty of sin if we are to avoid spending eternity in hell. But salvation from the penalty of sin, as if that were our greatest need, is an error in thinking prompted by self-interest. Our greatest need in relation to sin is to be saved from sin in its entirety, that is, from sin’s penalty, its enslaving power, and its practice. The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Roman Christians makes this clear when he says:

“Inconceivably, some think Christians can go on sinning because God’s grace is greater than their sin. Such thinking is totally wrong! First of all, what reasonable explanation can Christians give for continuing in the practice of known sin when they have died to sin? Or is it possible we are so ignorant as to suppose we can be brought into union with Christ Jesus without, at the same time, being brought into union with his death? The truth is, if we have been joined to Christ, we have been joined to his death. Indeed, we have been buried with Christ so that just as he was raised from the dead through the magnificent power of God, so we too are raised by this same power to live an entirely new life — here and now. Therefore, all who have put their faith in Christ for salvation from sin have been united with Christ’s death to sin so they can be united with Christ in being raised to a new life. This means that our old sin nature has been put to death and the enslaving power of sin has been broken. We never again have to serve sin. In fact, because of Christ’s death and resurrection, sin has no more power over the Christian than it has over a dead person. But there is more. If we have been joined with Christ in his death to sin, we will also be joined with him in life, that is, eternal life. We know this is true because his death and resurrection were of such a nature as to free him from ever having to die again. Just like sin, death (be it physical or spiritual) no longer has any power over him. We also know this is true because the life which Christ now lives, he lives in service to God — doing the will of God and accomplishing the purposes of God. Therefore, I (the Apostle Paul) have gone to these lengths to make this clear to you (the born-again Christian) so you will see yourself as dead to sin’s enslaving power and habitual practice, but alive to God so that you will live each day as those who live godly in Christ Jesus — eagerly doing His will and cheerfully serving His purposes.” (Romans 6:1-11, author’s paraphrase)

The Scriptures are clear about God’s salvation being a salvation which saves us from the penalty, the enslaving power, and the habitual practice of sin. Yet so many make so much of salvation from the penalty of sin and so little of salvation from the power and practice of sin that they make it seem as if the only part of salvation which really matters is salvation from the penalty of sin. Not only is this untrue, it is a self-serving misrepresentation of God, His justice, His holiness, and His love. Indeed, it is only a figment of our selfish imagination that God makes salvation from the penalty of sin an essential while making salvation from the power and practice of sin an optional package for an interested few. According to the Bible, Christ died for all, so that those who live (are born again) would no longer live for themselves (self-centeredly), but for Christ — who died and rose again on their behalf. This does not mean the Christian becomes sinlessly perfect on the day of his new birth. But it does mean that when a person repents and places his faith in God for salvation from sin, he not only finds joy in his new freedom from sin’s penalty, he finds equal joy in his freedom from sin’s enslaving power and habitual practice. For this reason, he cheerfully chooses to diligently pursue (until his dying day) becoming all that God saved him to be. (Note: John 3:36; Acts 3:19-26, 26:16-20; Romans 1:16-17, 2:5-11, 6:1-14, 22-32, 8:12-14, 29-30; I Corinthians 5:9-13; II Corinthians 5:14-15, 17-19; Galatians 5:24-25; Ephesians 2:8-10; Colossians 1:13-14; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 3:12-4:1, 9:11-14, 10:26-29; James 2:14-26; I John 2:3-6, 3:7-10, 4:7-8, 5:4; Philippians 3:12-14)

It is profoundly sad that we must go to such lengths to explain that God’s intention is to save us from sin in its entirety, not just its penalty. Yet such is the condition of the Church today. It is full of people who are looking for a god who will serve their purposes and fulfill their interests. Wanting the best of God and the best of the sinful world, they expect God to pay their penalty for sin without requiring them to take seriously the need to put an end to the practice of known sin here and now. Wanting to live in heaven after they leave this earth, they expect God to receive them with open arms without having to take serious steps today to get rid of the behavior which offended and alienated them from Him in the first place. Though they know God wants them to love Him supremely, they treat Him as if such a relationship is optional while expecting Him to unequivocally fulfill His promise of eternal life. Though they fight tooth-and-nail to deny this, their primary interest in God is an escape from future doom and eternal damnation. With this kind of thinking it is not surprising that so many in our churches today speak of salvation in terms which imply that the only salvation we need, and the only salvation God requires, is salvation from the penalty of sin.

Nevertheless, in spite of all the self-serving religious garbage being taught today, God-focused faith is saving faith. It is by faith in God that we are able to become partakers of God’s gracious and almost unfathomable salvation from sin. By placing our faith in the shed blood, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we are redeemed from the penalty of sin, released from the enslaving power of sin, and delivered from the habitual practice of sin.

And there is more. The inexpressible joy, the indescribable beauty, the incomparable richness, and the unsurpassed treasure of salvation is our reconciliation to God. To be graciously saved from sin is an unimaginable gift from our Father, God. But to be saved from alienation from God, so as to enjoy a mutual relationship of intimate communion and companionship with Him from the day of our salvation throughout eternity, is an even greater gift. It is from this perspective that we see that our salvation from sin, though wonderful in its own right, is made more wonderful because it opens the way for reconciliation to God and the restoration of a relationship of mutual love and trust with God. Nothing is more precious. Nothing is more satisfying. And, nothing is more needful.

The Power of God-Focused Faith to Change Us

When we place our faith in God for salvation from sin we are born again. We are delivered from the empire of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of God’s dear Son. We change allegiances. We switch families. We trade fathers. In other words, our old, sinful, self-centered nature is dealt a death blow and we become new creatures with new natures being raised by a new father who intends to mold us into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

All this change brings about the need for more change. Having been born again, we are faced with the process of growing up and coming to spiritual maturity. Sinful habits, thought patterns, behaviors, compulsions, and addictions must be broken and dispossessed (put out of our lives). Godly habits, thought patterns, and behaviors must be learned, put in place of what we are dispossessing, and put into practice as our new “normal” way of doing things. Such all-encompassing, progressive, and seemingly endless change requires help, the kind of help which only God can provide. And He does provide.

God makes available to every Christian everything necessary to live a godly life in this world. His provisions for godly living include the indwelling Holy Spirit, empowerment for doing what we know is right, the Bible, prayer, fellow believers, teachers and preachers, and precious and extraordinary promises which, when called upon, enable us to share in His nature. But how do we take hold of all that God provides, including His promises, so that we grow to spiritual maturity? How do we open ourselves to the training and leading of the Holy Spirit? How do we enter into, cooperate with, and go the distance with our Father, God, in this growing up process so that we become all that He saved us to be? By faith — by God-focused faith. (Note: II Peter 1:3-4)

God says that we are to live like Christ and for Christ the same way we received him. And how did we receive Christ Jesus into our lives? By God-focused faith. Therefore, by God-focused faith we throw our old sinful thoughts, attitudes, choices, words, and deeds overboard, and put godly thoughts, attitudes, choices, words, and deeds in their place. By God-focused faith we give up godless ways and worldly passions, making it our goal to live sensible, responsible, and godly lives today. By God-focused faith we break free from the love of money and choose to be content with what God provides, confident that He will never desert us in our time of need. By God-focused faith we embrace God’s discipline, seeking to learn all we can from it so we can press on in becoming all He saved us to be. By God-focused faith we yield to the Holy Spirit’s leading so that we do not carry out our sinful desires. By God-focused faith we resist the devil in times of temptation, confident God will make him flee, so that we are free to do what we know is right. By God-focused faith we put on the full armor of God so we can remain faithful to God when bombarded by the tricks, deceptions, and schemes of the devil. By God-focused faith we count ourselves blessed when going through difficult times because we know that godly responses to such circumstances produces greater godliness, and that is what we want. By God-focused faith we lay up treasure in heaven, love our enemies, make the building of God’s kingdom and the advancement of His righteous ways our primary goal in life, and live up to the knowledge we have of right and wrong. By God-focused faith we patiently endure the hardships and persecution which come from godly living, knowing that this is the example Christ set for us. By God-focused faith we ask for wisdom, trusting God to give us all we need for the situation at hand, so we can do what is right and good in the sight of God. By God-focused faith we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, trusting Him to exalt us at the right time and in the right way. (Note: Colossians 2:6-7)

When we come to God, through faith, we become a new person. Our old, sinful, self-centered ways pass away. New, morally virtuous, love-motivated, God- and community-centered ways are put in their place. Our lives are radically changed — from distrust of God and going our own way to complete confidence in God’s goodness and living according to His Word. Then, we are faced with the life-long task of growing up, of putting off the old and putting on the new, of becoming like Christ, of responding to the Father’s instructions about how to live as a godly one in an ungodly world. We go through this process of change by faith just as we receive salvation from sin by faith. Therefore, we are changed by faith as we make use of all the provisions and promises God gives us to go the distance from sinner to saint.

The Power of God-Focused Faith to Sustain Us

The Christian life is not only demanding and challenging, it is costly, and even difficult at times. As Christians, we are faced with the brutal task of denying self and dying to self so that we can live for Christ — the one who died and rose again on our behalf. We are humbled by the arduous and sometimes failure-ridden whole-life, life-long task of putting off our old sinful ways and replacing them with godly ways. We are pushed to our limits by the testing of our faith in the crucible of trying circumstances. We are challenged by the command to maintain the right attitude and a godly response in the face of unjust treatment. We are put to the test by the requirement to love our enemies and pray for those who make our lives miserable. We are expected to risk everything temporal in order to be God’s virtue-preserving influence and truth-illuminating beacon in the world around us. We are asked to endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. And, we can anticipate persecution for doing what we know is right and asking others to do likewise.

When viewed from this perspective it is not surprising that Jesus said the road to life is narrow and only a few find it. But of those who do find it and travel that way, the temptation to give up and return to the old, familiar, comfortable, seemingly easier ways of selfishness and worldliness press in on them from all directions. And though they may never return to the sinfulness of their past, many Christians, out of weariness or discouragement or an unwillingness to endure the rigors of further growth and Christ-like living, make their current level of spiritual maturity their final level. Truly, we need help to persevere to the end — not just to enter the narrow road but to remain faithful to the “Lord of the narrow way” until we see him face-to-face.

Thankfully, help is available. God will give us all the help we need to face the demands, challenges, costs, and difficulties of living the Christian life. And how do we obtain this help? By faith. For this reason, God says the righteous live by faith. But if they turn back to their old ways, instead of persevering to the end, He will find no pleasure in them. (Note: Hebrews 10:32-39)

To persevere to the end we must place our faith in God and trust Him to be our all-sufficient provider and protector. To faithfully pursue godliness in every area of our life and for the rest of our life, we must trust in God so as to be certain He will bring to completion the good work of changing us begun at the time of our salvation. To consistently love others as ourselves, we must trust in God so as to be positive God is doing and will do for us more than we can ever do for others. To remain faithful in the midst of trials and testing, to persist to be salt and light in a dark and unsavory world, to risk so much of that which is temporal for the sake of that which is eternal, we must trust in God so as to be convinced He will work all things out for good as we love Him and live according to His will. To put our jobs, family, homes, health, future security, and even our life on the line for righteousness sake, we must trust in God so fully that we can confidently say that nothing, absolutely nothing, is able to separate us from His love. (Note: Philippians 1:6; Luke 6:38; Romans 8:28, 35-39)

Therefore I beg of you, do not be like those who give up under pressure and return to the momentary ease and gratifying pleasures of sin. God-focused faith is sustaining faith, and by it we can be sustained by God so as to remain faithful to God from the first day of our salvation to the first day of seeing Him face-to-face.

In Summary

Everyone lives by faith, and the way we live shows in what and in whom we have placed our faith. This means faith is never mere agreement with information or the acknowledgement that certain facts are true. Faith is the act of trusting in something or someone to the degree that we live according to the object of our faith. This is why behavior mirrors faith. Therefore, how we treat others — especially those nearest and dearest, how we spend our money, the things we accumulate, the entertainments we seek, what we depend on for security, how we respond to human need, our business practices, how well we keep our word, what we do about known sin in our life, the thoughts we entertain, the attitudes we condone in ourselves, and the value we place on relationships shows what we believe and where we have placed our faith.

God-focused faith brings us into the saving work of God, a reconciled and intimate relationship of communion and companionship with God, freedom from the enslaving power and habitual practice of sin, a life which is progressively being conformed to the likeness of Jesus, empowerment for godly living, living for God, and eternity with God.

Truly, God is worthy of our faith. His promises are worthy of our trust. His Word is worthy of complete obedience. Any doubt concerning the character of God results in suspicious distrust of God. Any distrust of God results in distrust of His intentions for us and His dealings with us. Whenever our distrust of God meets the deeper longings of our flesh, or the harsher realities of life, we will disregard God and His Word and go our own way. We will do what we think is best. This is unbelief. And unbelief always leads to sin. It cannot be any other way.

What about your faith? Who and what is your confidence in? Of course, you’ve put your faith in many people and many things, but who is the primary focus of your faith? Is it God? If it is God, is your faith such that you’ve put your life in His hands? Have you gotten into His wheelbarrow? Do you trust Him completely?

Are your claims of faith validated by your choices and behavior? If you would answer yes to this question, would the people most affected by you agree with you? Are you justifying or ignoring known sin in your life? Are you living up to what you know? These are the questions you must answer, if not in this life, then certainly when you stand before God. Choose the way of God-focused faith, today!

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