How Does Faith Work?
Written by: Richard Greene
A cardinal tenant of true biblical Christianity, which makes Christianity distinct from all other religions, creeds, dogmas, and belief systems, is the concept of faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Christian understanding of faith is unique and powerful. Faith is possible for every person in every culture at any moment in history. God has made Himself accessible by the one thing that any person can possess – faith. Anyone can believe in God if they choose to do so. Faith is the great equalizer because it is universally possible for every person, and it is the one way to truth, eternal life, and God Himself.
In this lesson we want to answer two essential questions:
1. What is faith?
2. How does faith work?
WHAT IS FAITH?
The Bible clearly defines faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
The word “assurance’ is from the Greek word “hupostasis.”
- “hupo” meaning “under”
- “histemi” meaning “to stand”
- Faith is “to stand under” or in the “assurance” or “reality” of something – something that we cannot see.
“Hupostasis” was a technical, legal term for one’s property or effects as evidenced in the legal documents of ownership, hence a title-deed. So, faith can be said to be a title-deed. A title deed is proof that you own something. We cannot see ownership with our eyes; therefore, we need evidence of ownership.
How do I know I own my car? I have the title to the car to prove my ownership. Faith is the evidence of what Christ has freely given to me through His grace. My faith is the title deed to “all that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). My faith is the title deed to “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3), and to “the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1).
We often think about faith in a generic way and assume that faith is the same for everyone. But the Bible speaks of different kinds of faith.
- There is a faith that walks on water (Matthew 14:28).
- There is the faith that moves mountains (Mark 11:22-23).
- There is saving faith (Romans 10:9-10, James 2:26).
- There is a sincere faith (2 Tim 1:5).
- There is a faith that produces works (James 2:20-26).
- There is dead faith (James 2:26).
- There is the faith that the demons have (James 2:19).
- There is a faith for healing (Matthew 9:2; Acts 14:9)
- There is a faith that does not endure (Luke 8:13)
- There is a faith that is “little” (Matthew 8:26)
- There is a faith that is “great” (Romans 4:20).
- There is a common faith (Titus 1:4).
WHAT KIND OF FAITH DO YOU HAVE?
Many people believe in God, but so does the devil, which shows us that faith is more than belief. The demons know God exists and is real, but they have chosen to rebel against Him. There are varying degrees of faith among Christians. Some have a consumeristic faith expecting God to give them what they want or what they think they need. Others have a faith that is inactive because they do not put into practice what they profess to believe. In the Bible, Hebrews 11 is known as the faith chapter. It speaks of the faith practiced by many of the heroes of the Scriptures. Every example listed in this chapter shows us that true biblical faith is not self-centered or consumeristic, and is not about getting things from God, but prophetic in nature, allowing each individual to enter into what God was doing in their lives and the world, and also in history.
QUALITIES OF PROPHETIC FAITH
- Prophetic faith sees and understands God’s eternal, prophetic purposes (1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Ephesians 3:8-19).
- Prophetic faith comes from a revelatory work of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 16:17; Luke 2:26; Revelation 19:10).
- Prophetic faith is an awareness that God is always working to accomplish His purposes (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:7-12).
- Prophetic faith is a deep desire and longing to see the fulfillment of God’s prophetic purposes (1 Samuel 2:1-10; Luke 2:25, 38).
- Prophetic faith is a willingness to sacrifice everything to fulfill God’s prophetic purposes (John 13:1-3; Revelation 12:11).
- Prophetic faith empowers God’s people to live a supernatural, kingdom, and missionary life (Acts 2:43; 8:4-8).
- Prophetic faith transcends time and is a connection with God’s work in history (John 4:1-10; Acts 2:16; 15:15; Revelation 1:8).
Prophetic faith gives us the vision and desire we need to enter into and finish the work of the Father! This is the kind of faith the heroes of Hebrews 11 had, and it is also the kind of faith we see in the early apostolic church. Prophetic faith changed the world! It brought half of the Roman Empire into the kingdom of God in less than three hundred years, without any means of mass publication. Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Indeed, what kind of faith will He find?
HOW DOES FAITH WORK?
“But the righteous man shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). The righteous man chooses to believe the word of God and what God has spoken. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith is not blind; it sees what others do not see. If you can see it, it isn’t faith. There are many things in our natural lives that we cannot see, such as electricity, gravity, radio waves, etc. Yet we accept the reality of their existence and use them in many ways. I cannot see electricity or gravity, but I believe in them.
Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin in the days of Jesus, saw the miracles of Christ and believed He was from God because of the miracles he saw with his eyes. Jesus corrected Nicodemus, saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Faith comes as the Holy Spirit reveals to us what we cannot see with our natural eyes. That is why the Apostle Paul told us, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Both the natural realm and the spiritual realm are real. When God created humans, He gave them the power of free will – the power to choose. He set before them two trees, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He warned them not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We know the choice they made and the consequences of that choice. What is interesting is that the woman chose the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because of what she saw – that it “was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that it was desirable to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). The things of the world may look good and desirable, but they will bring forth death (Genesis 2:17).
Faith changes what we see. “For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). Faith allows us to see the invisible things of the Spirit. “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). Therefore, faith is a choice. I can choose the ways and things of the flesh, or I can choose the ways and things of the Spirit. Both things are equally real. Sin is real. So are its consequences. If I choose the reality of my sinful condition, I will find myself in hostility to God (Romans 8:7), resulting in death. But grace and forgiveness are also real. If I by faith choose the reality of Christ’s work leading to my salvation, I will have eternal life. Jesus told Martha, the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus was about to raise from the dead, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).
It is evident in the Scriptures that not all who call themselves disciples are walking by faith and in spiritual maturity. Many are immature in their faith. “Concerning Him [Jesus] we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you… and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:11-13). Faith chooses to believe the word of Christ and to live according to that word.
When Moses was instructing the children of Israel who were about to go in and conquer the land promised to their fathers, he warned them to avoid falling into the idolatry of the people who lived in the land. He said, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants” (Deuteronomy 30:19). Before his death, Joshua, the servant of the Lord who led Israel into the Promised Land, told them, “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
How does faith work? Faith is a choice. God has set before us life and death. Let us choose life!
I urge you, beloved, to choose what Christ has spoken and done. Reject the lies of the evil one who accuses you day and night before God (Revelation 12:10). Christ has set you free. I choose freedom! Christ has loved you. I choose to be loved by God! Christ has forgiven you. I choose the forgiveness of Christ for my sins! I choose grace, God’s unmerited favor! I choose to be delivered from my past, my strongholds, my own works, and my fears. I choose this truth: “Therefore there is now [NOW] no [NO] condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)! Christ does not condemn you. I choose no condemnation! I choose the things of the Spirit and reject the things of the flesh!
Remember, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Faith – your faith – is the title deed to all that Christ has done for you and all that He has prepared for you! May you choose wisely by placing your faith in Jesus.
Having said all this, I close with the question Jesus asked of Martha:
“Do you believe this?”
In Jesus’ name!
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