I Corinthians 13 is the great chapter in the Bible on love. In Hebrews 11 we find a great chapter on faith.
The first verse of Hebrews 11 defines faith as being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. William Barclay says faith is hope turned into truth.
Faith has three parts: knowledge, assent, and trust. All three parts are needed if faith is to work. Let us see how these parts apply to faith as the Bible uses the word.
First, we have knowledge. I learn about Jesus Christ. He is God, who came to earth and lived as a human among us. He lived a perfect life and died on the cross as payment for our sins. On the third day he rose from the dead, and forty days later he ascended into heaven with the promise that he would come again to judge the living and the dead.
The Church fathers put these biblical truths into creedal form, and in many Christian churches they are confessed aloud at each worship service.
Second, we give assent to what we know about Jesus. We must not only know these facts, but we must also intellectually believe they are true.
Third, we have to trust Christ. That is, as the Bible teaches, we must receive him into our hearts. This is far more than just knowing about Jesus. It is trusting in him and living with him as our Lord Ð not just the object of a creedal statement we repeat in a congregational setting.
When she was small, I used to place my daughter on the counter in our kitchen. Then I would challenge her to jump into my arms. She knew I was strong enough to catch her. She also knew that I loved her and would not let her fall and get hurt. Nevertheless, she lacked the trust that allowed her to jump. One day she said to me, “Let the ends of my fingers touch your fingers.” I walked closer to the counter and she then jumped into my arms. Soon I could stand several feet from the counter, extend my arms, and say jump, and she would throw herself into my arms. This is a leap of faith.
We not only sing the hymn, “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” we must also walk with him daily.
Life often deals us difficult experiences. When we have exhausted our ability to deal with these experiences in a mature way, we ask where we can go for help. The answers evade us and human resources lack in their ability to comfort us. In that hour Jesus invites us to come to him. We respond in faith, and he helps us answer some of these problems that could otherwise destroy us.
What do you do when you feel forsaken after losing a loved one who had been your comfort and help? Your health is poor. Your children are busy and have enough to deal with in their own lives. Your life savings dwindles as the stock market goes lower and lower.
Turn to Christ in faith and claim his promise. He will never leave you, and you will find that, in his care, you have strength for all things.
Faith is hope turned into certainty. One of your hopes may be that someday you will no longer let the words and actions of other people bother you. You fear the judgment of humans. It is true that people, including ourselves, can be very judgmental.
I thought of that when listening to President Bush’s remarks upon leaving office and returning to Texas. He has come under the judging gaze of millions in America and the world. History will clear up some of these misunderstandings and be kinder to him than is true right now. Still, the former President’s speech seemed to reveal that he is handling the criticism well. If not, and if he is a man of faith, God has a word for him: “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. . . . It is the Lord who judges me” (I Cor. 4:3-4). Receive God’s promise and all is well.
Do you remember what Jesus said to Martha in John 11 when he was comforting her after her brother’s death? Hear these words: “Your brother will rise again” (vs 23). Receive this comfort and the sting is taken out of death.
Then we ask, What about our investments? Will I have enough money to see me through this life? The stock market went below 8,000 today.
Your broker shrugs his shoulders and says, Your guess is as good as mine.
Yet people of faith hear the Lord saying through his word, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). Trust Christ, and let your hope be turned into truth.
How do we get this faith? I have tried hard to create this faith in my life, but I must be a natural-born skeptic. It just does not come.
St. Paul tells us how one becomes a person of faith: “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Live in your Bible. Store up its truths. Hear the Word preached in your church, and discuss it in small groups with your friends. Through this means of grace, the Holy Spirit will create the faith you long to possess.
Living without faith in other people is terrible. Yet it is much worse to live without faith in God. Imagine walking through this scary life alone. I hear people say that we should trust no one. How sad that must be. But then to hear them say that they have no faith in God is evidence of an empty and narrow life.
Next week, we will let God use Abraham to demonstrate what happens in the life of a man of faith.