David Jeremiah — What Is Faith?
10 Questions Christians Are Asking
01. How can I be sure of my salvation?
02. How can I overcome temptation?
03. How can I get victory over worry?
04. How can I find forgiveness?
05. Is there only one way to God?
06. Why do Christians have so many problems?
07. Why don't my prayers get answered?
08. Is there a sin God cannot forgive?
09. What is faith?
10. What is the greatest commandment?
What is faith? Hello, I'm David Jeremiah, and welcome to "Turning Point". You may remember the man in the Bible who once cried out to Jesus, "Help my unbelief". Well, sometimes you and I might want to cry out those same words. Faith, or belief, is a simple word, but it can seem complex. What exactly is faith, and how does it work? How do we know we've believed enough? When an eternity is at stake, or we're in the midst of a crisis, where do we find faith to believe? That's just one in a list of ten questions I'm answering in our current series, "Ten Questions Christians Are Asking". And today's message, "What is Faith"? is a big one. If we are saved by faith, we need to get this one biblically right. So I hope you'll stay with us as we discuss this question on today's edition of Turning Point.
There's an old story about a man who was trying to fix his television antenna in the days when such things existed. And he was on a slanted slate roof, trying desperately to get the antenna rotated in the right direction so that he would be able to watch the football game that was going to be on a bit later that afternoon. In his hurry, he lost his grip on the chimney, and began to slide down the roof of his house. Finally, slipping over the edge of the roof, he caught himself by the ends of his fingers on the eavestrough, and he was dangling there three stories above the ground. In his desperation, he looked down and began to cry out, "Can anybody down there help me"? And there was no answer. Finally, in one last act of desperation, he looked up and yelled, "Can anyone up there help me"? And out of the heavens came this deep, resonant voice, "Believe and let go". After a moment of thought, the frightened man cried out, "Is there anybody else up there who can help me"?
I love that story because it illustrates the fact that most people are willing to try anything except faith. It is quite evident that the word "faith" in our culture has fallen on hard times. The meaning of it in the post-Christian world has sort of morphed into something nobody knows for sure what it means. So what is faith? Verse 1 begins with a description of faith. It says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, it's the evidence of things not seen". This description of faith is incredibly accurate. By the way, the word "faith" appears 32 times in the book of Hebrews, 24 of them here in the 11th chapter of the book, where we have the best definition of faith found in the Bible. We learn, first of all, that faith is the realization of things hoped for. The word translated by the word "substance" is translated best by the word "assurance" or "realization". Literally, the writer is saying, "Now faith is the realization of things hoped for". The future is made real for men of faith and women of faith.
So then faith is not ambiguous. It is not unsure. It is a concrete conviction. It is the present-day confidence of a future reality. Faith is the solid, unshakable confidence in God, which is built upon the assurance that he is faithful to his promises. For the unbeliever, seeing is believing. For the believer, believing is seeing. Let me tell you practically what faith is. Faith is like a sixth sense that God gives to us. It's his gift. Faith is a gift from God. It enables us to take a firm hold upon the unseen world, and bring it into the realm of our experience. Did you know that all of your senses do just that? There are five senses, as you know. There is seeing, and hearing, and tasting, and smelling, and touching. Those are the five senses. With the possible exception of touching, all of the first four senses work just like faith.
Let me explain. Out there in the unseen world is what we call light. Light is there, but the only way you can see it is through the sense of your eyes, which God has given you. He has given you an instrument that enables you to see the unseen light. Without your eyes, light does not exist. Out there in the unseen world are sound waves. Those waves are there whether you hear them or not, but God has given you two ears, instruments so that you can hear those sound waves. And your ears bring those sound waves into your experience, and they become part of you. Out there in the unseen world are aromas that are just there. Whether you sense them or smell them or not, they are there. But God has given you your nose so that, through this nose, this instrument, you can bring those aromas into your experience, and they become a part of your being. Out there in the unseen world are these scrumptious, unbelievable tastes. God has given you this incredible instrument called taste that brings those beautiful sensations into your being, and they become a part of you.
Are you getting the picture here? All of these things are unseen things, but God gives you something to take that which is unseen, and make it a part of reality in your life. And that's what faith does for you in the spiritual realm. Out in the spiritual realm are the promises of God. Out in the spiritual realm is the reality of God. Out in the spiritual realm is the history of Jesus Christ and his death upon the cross. And God has given to you, and he gives to you at the moment of your conversion, he gives you the gift of faith that enables you to take that which you cannot see, and it becomes a part of who you are. Faith is the realization, the actuality of things hoped for. But the second statement's even stronger. Faith is the reality of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1, "The evidence of things not seen," the conviction of things that aren't seen, but faith gives you the ability to accept them, and believe them, and acknowledge that they are true. And 1 Peter 1:8 and 9 is the classic text, listen, "Whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls".
You say, "I know God, but you can't see God. I know Jesus, but he's not here anymore physically. I believe in the Holy Spirit, but he lives within you. How do you know and see and believe all these things"? You know and you see and believe because God has given you the instrument of faith as his gift. And by faith, you see the unseen God, you know the unknown Jesus, and you sense the reality of the unseen Spirit. Faith begins with perception. It's impossible to have saving faith unless your mind embraces the content of truth. You don't just get faith by putting your Bible under your pillow at night. You don't get faith in some emotional experience. Faith starts with truth. God allows you to hear truth, and that truth comes into your mind, and that truth begins to interact with what you already know. Do you know what that's called? That's called thinking. And believe it or not, Christians think. You become a Christian, first of all, by thinking, by hearing some truth, by understanding.
That's why you preach the gospel, why you preach the Word of God. And the Word of God then gets into the mind of a person, and it begins to interact with what's already there, and that thinking process is called perception. But perception cannot be faith. Just knowing something isn't faith. You have to add to that the second piece of the action, which is persuasion. The first has to do with your mind; the second has to do with your emotion. You become emotionally attached to that truth. You begin to think about it. It begins to play upon your heart. You begin to turn it over in your mind. You can have tons of faith, but if the object of your faith is not worthy of your faith, your faith is inconsequential. It's not about how much faith you have. It's about how much Jesus you know. And it won't take much to believe in him if you know who he is because his record is so clear and so clean, you get emotionally involved with him. First of all, there's perception, then there's persuasion, but finally, there has to be a performance.
You say, "Do you believe that you have to do a work in order to be saved"? Absolutely not. But you have to respond to faith. You have to let your will get involved. Saving faith is the whole of my being, embracing the whole of who Christ is, my mind, my emotion, my will. Real faith doesn't bypass the mind, doesn't bypass the emotion, but neither does it bypass the will. Real faith says, "I will". Real faith says, "I do". Real faith says, "I believe it, I accept it, I receive it". And if you haven't come all the way through the process, you don't have real faith. Then we have the demonstration And verse 2 says, "For by faith the elders obtained a good report". Do you know who the elders were? The 27 that are in the book of Hebrews in chapter 11 and a few unnamed people, those are all the people who believed God listed in the chapter.
Here, the Bible tells us that by faith, verse 2, we commend ourselves to our creator. "By faith the elders obtained a good report". You want to have a good report with God? You have to have faith. Hebrews 11:5 says that Enoch's testimony pleased God because he walked with God. We're going to learn in a few moments that you can't please God apart from faith. Faith is the one thing that gets God's attention, that pleases God. And then in verse 3, we're told that by faith we comprehend creation. "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible". What an incredible text. This whole argument that we seem to continue to keep alive in our culture today about where did we all come from, and how did the world start, here it is right here. The Bible says that we understand how the world began by faith.
And the evolutionist says, "Well, that's the problem. That's so unscientific". Hold on. Faith in God gives us an understanding of the universe. God created the worlds by his Word. The Greek word translated "world" here means worlds, ages, the natural universe. Here we are told that the world began in a certain way. How did it begin? "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". Listen to the psalmist's commentary on that. "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. For he spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast". That means that what we see, the material universe, was not made by material things. An unseen power, God, created what we see. There's an old story about God and an atheist having a contest. The atheist said, "I can make man just like you can". And God said, "Go for it". So he said, "We'll each take some dirt, and we'll make man". And he started, and God said...
Isn't that really the issue? All of the men that I know who are atheistic evolutionists can reason all they want to, except when they get to the beginning of it all and where it started. They come up with some Big Bang, and that still doesn't answer the question, where did all the elements come from that the Big Bang expressed? And they have no way of knowing. Everybody says that evolution is a scientific theory. Evolution is the most unscientific thing you will ever read. Not one of their theories can be proven, and most of them have been disproven. Yet we carry it on in our schools and in our culture as if it were in stone. How did the world come into being? The Bible says by faith, we believe that God spoke and it happened. If you listen to the modern atheistic evolutionists, they love to make fun of evangelicals because of our faith, but what they refuse to acknowledge is the fact that they operate on faith just as we do. It's not your faith, it's the object of your faith.
Don't ever let an evolutionist tell you they don't have faith. I'll tell you what, it takes a whole lot more faith to be an evolutionist than it does to be a Christian. The description of faith and the demonstration of it, notice the demands of it. Now, we jump to verse 6. "For without faith it is impossible to please God". And that's true because faith is essential. Faith is essential. You cannot please God without faith. You say, "Well, why is that"? Let me tell you why. God makes the rules. Faith is part of the DNA of a Christian. You can't please God without faith. Argue with God. It's just what God says. Faith is not only essential, but faith is a divine explanation. It says, "For he who comes to God must believe that he is". The beginning of faith is simply believing that God is.
Over these last years, I've been researching these books that I've written, and I've read a lot of stories about atheists who have struggled to come to the truth, and many of them have come this far, that they believe there is a God. They haven't accepted Jesus, they haven't become Christians, but they've at least taken a first step toward faith in that they believe that God is. They've come to the conclusion that there's no logical explanation of the universe if there is no God. Not only that, this is a divine expectation. Not only believe that he is, but, "That he is a rewarder of those who will seek him". The Bible says that if you will seek God, he will be found. Isaiah 55:6 says, "Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near". Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and you will find me if you search for me with all your heart". Amos 5:4 says, "Thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: 'Seek me and live.'" And we all know the verse from Matthew 6, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you".
What does the Bible say? The Bible says if a man will really seek after God, he will be found. Missiologists understand that. The Bible says God has revealed himself in his creation. That if a man really wants to know God and he seeks after God, he will be found. You say, "Well, I don't know that I believe in God". My question to you, sir, my question to you, ma'am, is are you really searching for him? Are you really seeking after him? Don't just come and say, "Well, I'm not sure I believe in God". Here's the question, how much do you care? How much have you sought after him? What have you read that helps you understand who God is and what God does? Then you come to the derivatives of faith. The derivatives of faith are the rest of the 11th chapter. This chapter is filled with the names of people who are my favorite characters in all the Bible, you know why? They made the hall of fame. These are some of God's best people. These people are going to tell us how the just live by faith and so on. Paul declared that we walk by faith and not by sight. He wrote to the Galatians, "I live by the faith of the Son of God".
And I want you to remember something as we close our Bibles today, that faith is not a passive word. Faith is an active word. Faith does something. You say, "Well, Pastor Jeremiah, where did you get that"? Hang on, this is going to be a fast trip through Hebrews 11, as fast as I can talk so you get the message as empowered as it can be. Are you ready? Faith brings the proper sacrifice. Faith enables one to walk with God. Faith builds an ark when it's never rained. Faith goes out not knowing where it's going. Faith dwells in tents in a foreign country. Faith looks for a city whose builder and maker is God. Faith receives strength to bear a child when the mother is past the age of childbearing. Faith offers up one's own son in obedience. Faith believes in the resurrection. Faith promises not to leave Jacob's bones in Egypt. Faith refuses to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. Faith chooses to suffer affliction with the people of God. Faith esteems the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. Faith forsakes Egypt for the Promised Land. Faith passes through the Red Sea as on dry ground. Faith walks around Jericho till the walls fall down. Faith subdues kingdoms, works righteousness, obtains promises, stops the mouths of lions, quenches the violence of fire, escapes the edge of the sword, turns flight to the enemies of aliens. Faith receives the dead back to life, and faith receives the promise.
Whew! What does faith do? You see, don't let anybody tell you, "Oh, faith is just a feeling". No, faith is something that happens. And I'll make a prediction, that you and I in this congregation are going to learn a lot more about faith in these next years than we have ever learned in history. Even now today, when we look at our 401k, we're walking by faith like we never have before. So the question becomes, do you have it? Do you have faith in Christ, in God, in his Word?
You say, "Well, when I can fully comprehend it and understand it through my logic, I will receive Jesus". If you wait until then, it will never happen. Ask God to energize your faith. Say, "Lord God, give me faith today so that I can believe your promise, and I will receive eternal life through Jesus Christ". Some of you need to do that here today. Some of you need to say, "I believe. Help my unbelief, Lord". And then you take the step, you take the step of faith, and watch what God does in your life. He will change you. You will look back and say, "That's the most important moment in my life". And you will come to know him, whom to know is life eternal.