Jack Graham - What is Faith?
We're in our series GOING THE DISTANCE. And this is the book of Hebrews, a message series which is about growing, building, developing a muscular faith. A strong muscular faith that will never tap out. A faith that will not fall apart even when you may be falling apart. So in Hebrews chapter 11, beginning at verse 1, we see this description of faith: "Now faith is the assurance of the things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old", that is, the individuals we're about to meet who walked and lived by faith, "the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible".
Now just scroll down to verse 6, "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him". Every one of us as followers of Jesus should pray what the disciples prayed when they asked Jesus, "Lord, increase our faith". Lord, increase my faith? Have you prayed that lately, or is your faith static and still? Are you asking God to deepen and strengthen your faith? Now I've been a Christian for a long time now, and over the years I've seen my faith strengthened and deepened; typically the most during the most difficult times.
I've been able to exercise my faith and grow muscles of faith. And this faith that God has given me is now stronger than ever, because we keep going. I can tell you this: that God never disappoints those who trust in Him! Never! And as we have trusted Him over the years we've seen God to be faithful. When you trust in God, when you live by faith, you're not disappointed. Now you might say that faith, and here's a definition, that faith is trusting God regardless of the circumstances or the consequences, faith is trusting God no matter what! Trusting God regardless of your circumstances and regardless of the consequences that faith demand!
So we need to know what faith is. And that's really the title of the message today "What is Faith"? Three things. Number one: faith is real. That's why verse 1 says: "Faith is the substance or the assurance of things hoped for". Substance or assurance. Faith is real, and therefore, it is reliable. Faith is substantive. It is something that is strong and formidable and powerful! It's a description here, this word substance, of the foundation of a building. If you see a massive skyscraper or even your house, there's a foundation, and the foundation, of course, holds everything up. The stronger the foundation, the deeper the foundation, the larger and the taller the building. And so when it speaks here of substance or assurance, it means that we are building our faith upon a sure and strong and steady foundation!
Now I want to remind you that faith is only as valid as its object. I mean, you can believe in green mushrooms, but that doesn't matter. You can believe anything you want to believe about anything you say you believe. But faith is only as valid as its object. The object of our faith is the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ! Our faith, our hope is not in wishful thinking. Faith is not a pump-up! Faith is not just positive thinking. I like positive thinking! I like being around positive thinkers, a lot more than negative thinkers. But faith is so much more than thinking positively! Certainly faith is not faith in faith! Just say, "I believe". Believe what? "Well, I believe in faith"! Or even, "I believe in god", some generic god. No, faith is more than that, faith is stronger than that, faith is more substantive and certain that this. It is not soft. It is not sentimental. Faith is not feeling. It's not faith in ourselves. "Oh, I believe in myself".
How's that working out for ya? We need something stronger than ourselves. Because, you know, really the first step in seeing God change your life is to admit that you're not strong enough, you're not good enough, and you humble yourself before God and say, "I need help! I need God's power! I need a living faith"! So this faith is built upon a sure foundation. Don't just say, "Oh, oh, oh, I believe". Okay, well, what do you believe? "Oh, well, I believe in God". Well, tell me what you believe about God? "Well, I believe what my church believes about God". Well, what does your church believe about God? "Well, they believe what my mama believed about God". And so on. What do you believe? When you say, "I believe", it's more than just saying, you know, for every starlit night I should say I believe. Just what it is? "I believe what my parents taught me". Or "I believe what my church taught me". Or "I believe what my wife said". No, what do you believe? Our faith, what we believe is in God through our faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Faith is essential for everything in life. In one way faith is common ordinary stuff. I mean, we believe a lot of things. You believe when a doctor writes a prescription in handwriting you can't read and you take it to the pharmacist and they put those little pills in a bottle, that you don't even know really what they are but you go home and you take them, it says take two a day, or whatever, and you do it; you do that by faith. When you get on the highway out here, if you get on I-35, you do that by faith. That takes some real faith. So, you know, you exercise faith and you would be paralyzed if you didn't take some risks everyday, if you didn't operate in some realm of faith. But, again, we're not talking about common ordinary faith; we're talking about our faith in Jesus Christ; faith that really makes a difference. So why is this faith essential? Well, there's several things right out of the Bible.
Number one, we are saved by faith. "Whoever believes in Me has eternal life". We are connected to God in faith. We have access to God by faith, and that's in Ephesians chapter 3 and verse 12, "in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him". In Romans chapter 5 and verse 1, we have peace with God by faith, "Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ". We please God by faith. We've already read that in Hebrews chapter 11:6, "For without faith it is impossible to please Him". Adrian Rogers, wonderful friend, pastor, now in heaven, is well known for saying "If you please God it doesn't matter whom you displease. But if you displease God, it doesn't matter whom you please". We please God by faith. We live a victorious life by faith. "This is the victory that overcomes the world even our faith".
1 John 5, and verse 4. Are you addicted to something? Are you hung up on something? Can you not break the habits of sin in your life? Does the world have a grip on you? Are you just going with the flow, compromising your life all the way? The way to defeat the world, to overcome the world and to live in victory in your life is how? How? How! By faith! We are to pray by faith. Matthew 21:22: What did Jesus say? "Whatever you ask in pray, you will receive if you have", what? Faith! When we pray, it's to secret to answered prayer. And, yes, God always answers prayer. We pray in faith. You know, there are three kinds of faith really: there's the kind of faith that says God can do something. Then there's the kind of faith that says God will do something. And then there's the kind of faith that God says "I have done something"!
I believe that God can, I believe that God will, and when you pray in faith you believe that it is done in Jesus' name! That's the secret to answered prayer. And then we resist the devil by faith. We're all under attack by the enemy. So how do we resist him? "We're to put up the shield of faith when the flaming darts of wickedness", are aimed against us. So faith is essential, not just for part of your life, but for all of your life! Faith is real! Say that: "Faith is real"! And therefore it is reliable. Faith is substance. But something else: Faith is reasonable. Because back in Hebrews chapter 11 in verse 1 it says: "This faith is the conviction or the evidence of things not seen". 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "We do not walk by sight but by faith".
Faith operates in the real world, for sure, but it operates beyond this world and in the world that is without and the world that is to come. It is an unseen world! Do you know somebody should write a book and call it Unseen! Did you know that all around us there is an unseen, invisible, but very real world? It is the world that is accessed only by faith. Not visible to the human eye or experienced by our five senses. But there is a sixth sense that God has given every person who believes and trusts in Him; it is the faith sense. It is understanding that beyond this world there's something else, there's something more and that something more is all around us. Angels are around us right now, as well as demons operating. God's presence is real. And heaven is closer than you think. There is a thin veil that separates us in this life from the life that is to come. It is tissue paper thin. This world is real, and therefore, it is reasonable in the sense that there is evidence.
You say, "Well, what is this faith that you're talking about? Is it just sort of closing your eyes and imagining things that down deep in your heart you really don't think exist"? Like the little boy was asked, "What is faith"? Little boy said, "Faith is believing what you know ain't so". Is that faith? Is that what we're talking about? Of course not! Because faith is not imagination, faith is not fiction, faith is not fantasy, but faith is the reality that God exists and that we believe in Him!
Did you know that before we were called Christians in the New Testament, before Christians were called Christians, they were called what? Believers! And you cannot be a Christian if you are not a believer in Jesus. A follower of Jesus is a believer and a believer is a Christian! We are compelled to follow Jesus, and trust that His Word is true! And so if you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, no matter what church you may have grown up in, no matter what someone told you, no matter what you may say to yourself, if you have not believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, you have never been saved! You have never entered into a personal relationship with Christ! And know this: saving faith is for more than just getting started!
Oh, it's vital that you get started! You have to begin the race, get in the race to begin the race! But everything in our lives is to be lived as believers in faith! Faith is not a once and for all experience. The problem for some people, they kind of put their, they get their faith when they're saved, put it in their hip pocket and wait till the last bus to heaven. But that's not how faith is to be exercised! Faith is like a muscle! If you don't use it, you lose it. Not your salvation, but again, you can throw away your confidence as a Christian. There is a moment's decision when you trust in Christ for salvation, but the faith that saves us is the faith that sustains us and strengthens us throughout our lives!
So we are saved by faith. We are kept by faith. We walk by faith. We worship by faith. We work by faith. We do good works by faith. We persevere in faith. We praise God in faith, even when we don't feel like it. We get married in faith. That often takes a lot of faith! We have children and raise our children by faith. That really takes a lot of faith! We're to love by faith. All we do is by faith! The way we think, the way we see the world, it's our world view. We have a faith world view.
We teach our young people in our student ministry and also at Prestonwood Christian Academy to view the world through the Word, to see the world and understand who you are and why you're here by faith. And the writer of Hebrews points us to the ultimate. He takes us all the way back to Genesis 1:1 when he talks about that God has created this world, he says in verse 3: "By faith we understand that the universe was created by the Word of God", that is, God spoke and what was, "what is seen was not made out of things that are visible". In other words, God takes us all the way back to the beginning, before the beginning, when He spoke and everything came into existence. He says, "You start there".
You want to understand your Bible? You'll never understand it until you look at verse 1 of chapter 1, the very first book of the Bible, Genesis, when we're told, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". And if you don't have faith... You say, "I don't understand a lot there is about faith," well, then start there. You say, "Well, I don't know. I don't know if God created the heavens and the earth. Maybe it just came into being". Oh, really? So you're one of the persons who believes that nothings times nothings equals everything! You say, "Well, no, I'm not really that. I'm just agnostic about all of that". You know the word agnostic means ignoramus in the Latin, don't you? It means I don't know! It does! That's what it means.
So, you know, "I just don't know"! Well, can you agree that creation displays the grandeur and the glory of a Creator? Start there. That all of this didn't just happen. The Bible says, "The fool has said in his heart there is no God". And actually if you take that verse apart, "The fool has said in his heart there is no God" it literally, it says, "The fool has said, 'No, God'" because the vast majority of people who say they have an intellectual issue with following and believing in God. They don't have a mental problem, they've got a heart problem.
The Bible talks about an evil heart of unbelief. And so often, you know, these ideas of unbelief and this disbelief comes from a heart that is far from God. There's plenty of proof to believe! There's more than enough proof and evidence and assurance in the Bible, even in the natural realm, that if you look then you will see the reality and the reasonableness of faith. No one is asking you to leave your brain at home when you come to church. Quite the contrary! The more you think deeply about God, who He is, the more you contemplate the possibility, the reality of God, the bigger your brain will get! There's plenty to believe.
Now I'm not saying that it is easy to believe for everyone. Frankly, you know, as a boy, as a child, it was easy for me to believe, growing up in a Christian home and family, and I personally believed and received, and through the years that faith has grown. But I understand that while there are a lot of people that it is relatively easy for them believe, there are some that it's hard for you to believe. It's the way you are, it's your personality, it's the way you think, I don't know, but there's some of you who have sincere questions. And your sincere questions deserve sincere answers, and thoughtful responses. That's why the Scripture says here that if you will start with the reality that God exists, that God is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
And I can promise you, according to God's Word, if you have sincere questions, if you have doubts or even unbelief, if you will start there and you can even say, "God, if you exist, if you're real, reveal Yourself to me". And if you will seek God and ask the right questions and open the Bible, you know, many people who have rejected God out of hand have never even read the Bible! Don't know what the Bible's about! You think the Bible's, you know, just a rule book or commandments or stories or fiction or fables. You don't know what the message of the Bible is. So you owe it to yourself, if you sincerely have questions and it's hard for you to believe, you owe it to yourself to open God's Word, because Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God"!
This is a faith-building Book! If you want faith, then ask God to give you faith! And be honest enough with your questions that you seek the answers. Again, there's plenty of truth to believe! "Seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened unto you". And maybe today you need to say, along with that man in the New Testament who came to Jesus, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief"! Jesus talked about faith being a grain of mustard seed, something very small. You say, "What does a mustard seed look like"?
If you've ever seen one, it's about the size of a flake of pepper. He said, "If you have even just a small amount of faith, use the faith you have; exercise the spiritual muscle you have and watch that faith explode"! Because if you get in the presence of Jesus, listen to me, if you open your eyes to spiritual realities and truth, if you get in the presence of Jesus, He will compel you to follow Him! Peter who followed Jesus, spoke to us who had never seen Jesus face to face. We've not seen Christ in the flesh. We will one day see Him face to face. But he said, "The one that we have not seen, we love"! I've never seen with physical eyes the Lord Jesus Christ, but I know Him! I've seen Him through eyes of faith! And I'm not ashamed to tell you as a grown man standing up here, I love Jesus! I haven't seen Him, but I love Him.
I go back to what I said at the beginning of this message: As I've trusted Him, I've found Him to be trustworthy! I've never been disappointed in Him! Have there been hard times? Yes, of course! That's what this whole thing is about! Persevering through dark times, deadly times, difficult times, doubting times to keep going. And we find that even when we fall, He'll carry us home. Like Peter who by faith got out of the boat, walked on the water, until he saw the winds and the waves and he began to sink.
You say, "What a fool! Tried to walk on water". Well, he walked further than any of the rest of us have walked! He walked a few steps and then he got all sidetracked, and it says he began to go under. But Jesus reached down, He cried out, "Jesus, save me"! And Jesus reached down, He was walking on the water, and pulled him out. You ever wonder how Peter got back to the boat? Did he swim back? Did he walk back? I don't know. I have an idea Jesus carried him back. Held him up and took him to the boat. I'm saying to you, if you will take a step of faith, if you will just believe like a seed planted in the ground, if you will exercise the faith that you have, that God will reward you.
You know what the word reward there means? God's going to bless you; He's going to bless you because faith is not only reliable, real, reasonable; faith is rewarded. He is the rewarder of those who seek Him. And if you will step out with Him as you seek Him and follow Him, He will bless you and ultimately reward you for your faith. We'll see a lot more about that in the lives of these believers in Hebrews 11, but until then, are you ready to be a person of faith? Do you need a genuine faith, a faith in Jesus Christ?