A series of spiritual messages on:
THE FAITH IN CHRIST and ITS FUNCTIONING
“…The just shall live by faith.” (Rom.1:17)
- · “Verily, verily, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47)
- · “Yes, and if I be offered on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” (Php.2:17).
Continued from #049a – EN
Part 3b: Incorrect teachings, opinions and traditions
1. Man’s passive and defeatist position: “I have no faith”
Many Christians say, “Unfortunately, I have no faith” or “I am of little faith”. They do not have faith, which is confidence, OK, but in whom? In God? Do they not trust God? Which words of our Lord Jesus Christ are not true and are not worthy to be accepted? If one wants to believe, he can learn to believe. Faith is based on sure and certain knowledge. Also, the Bible says that man can learn how to fear God (De.4:10; 14:23; 17:19; 31:13) and to act consequently.
I was a man who lived without God but one day I said to myself: “If what the Bible says is true and there are eternal life and eternal damnation, where are you John and where are you heading to?” I searched and found out the truth. I discovered that all the prophetic words during eleven centuries before Jesus Christ were accomplished in the life of Jesus and the life of the people of Israel. God’s arguments and in particular His prophecies and their accomplishment convinced me and I learned to believe in His words and to rely on His character. I do say: I LEARNED TO BELIEVE AND TO LIVE IN HARMONY WITH WHAT I BELIEVE!
Let us note, at this point, that faith can be increased: “Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men’s labors; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly,” (2Cor.10:15). Just like knowledge increases so can faith be increased concerning the will and the promises of God. Yes, because faith is a sure and unquestionable knowledge. The problem is that we are not sufficiently interested to know the truth and to distinguish the will of God! On the contrary, we are extremely interested in knowing how to face our financial problems. The new-born Christian believes in the measure he knows, that is to say that, his sins were forgiven and that he is now an adopted child of God by the sacrifice of God’s Only Son Jesus Christ. He knows that there is a Will for him. The mature Christian has studied the provisions of the Will, he knows his duties and privileges which result from the fact that he has been adopted by God and that he is called to believe.
2. Incorrect ideas about the great faith
Many are the Christians – especially in our days – who ask for “great faith” in an abstract, however, manner without intending to employ it for a concrete goal and in a concrete way. If they do not obtain it, they express their sorrow and… indirectly, accuse God… Let us put certain things in order: Certain Christians are interested, actually, in becoming able, when God entrusts them with the gift (charisma) of faith which operates miracles and exploits, to use it for the glory of God and the progress of the church. There are, however, others who wish to have and show this gift for their own promotion in the church and/or to make money… Do you remember the case of Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:9-24?
It is true that great faith is a gift of God. God, however, gives it to those who HE wants to. It is not, nevertheless, true when we speak about common faith, simple faith, which is also given by God, if those who are indeed interested have the good will to obey the truth and to repent… It is enough to refer to three verses to understand this point of paramount importance concerning the simple or common faith:
- · John 6:47: “Truly, truly, I say to you, He that believes on me has everlasting life.”
- · Mark 11:24: “Therefore I say to you, What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them.”; and,
- · 1John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
This faith refers to the act by which the believer – obeying the truth of God – accepts Christ as his Savior, receives the remission of his sins and his deliverance of the power of sin and of his control by Satan. This faith is available to all.
The faith gift is given only to those to whom the Holy Spirit wants, in His sovereignty, for the edification of the church. This faith is mentioned among the gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1Cor.12:9-10. It is a faith which makes exploits by surmounting humanly insurmountable obstacles. I wish that we all have that great faith but what is most important is to have the simple faith, the common faith, in a GREAT GOD. We, therefore, conclude that there is, on the one hand, the common faith, the simple faith, accessible to any person in order to be able to receive his salvation and the necessary power of the Holy Spirit to live a holy life filled with power and spiritual comfort and, on the other hand, the great charismatic faith which operates miracles.
3. Incorrect ideas about the increase in faith
Let us return to the point of the increase in the faith, which we have already mentioned. Is it possible to see our faith increasing?
- · The first answer is that there can be no increase of faith in God if faith in God does not exist. Our Lord Jesus Christ could not have, among His other titles, the title of the author and finisher of our faith if there was no possibility of seeing our faith being increased and improved… (Heb.12:2);
- · The second answer is that there could be no question of prophesying “according to the proportion of faith” or according to “the measure of faith” (Rom.12: 6, 3) if there were no possibility of increase of faith. Would our Lord blame certain people as men of “little faith” if they were not responsible for their “little faith”? And would HE praise others for their great faith? Thus, it is sure and certain that it is possible to make faith increase or, the opposite, to make faith fail (Luc 22:32). We should never let escape from our spirit that there are people who have made shipwreck because they have lost the good conscience (1Tim.1:19) or because they did not hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience (1Tim.3:9).
- · The third answer is that faith grows as we apply it in the things of everyday life, in all things and circumstances! Faith develops by the study and assimilation of the promises of God. Faith develops, in particular, while obeying the truth. Faith is strengthened during the moments of testing… Faith can receive what man asks from God – according to His will – if he has a forgiving and persevering spirit:
- Ø “Therefore I say to you, What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them. And when you stand praying, forgive, if you have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mrk.11:24-26).
- Ø “That you be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Heb.6:12).
Many things could be said on this point but I think that it is preferable to close it by stating again a great and glorious truth: Let no man believe that his faith in Christ’s words and his trust in God character can increase if he does not love truth above all and does not keep steadily his conscience pure! God does not put the mystery of faith in an unclean heart and in an evil conscience! (Heb.10:22).
4. The false idea that one’s sin is too big to be forgiven
It occurs sometimes that a believer falls into a sin, which seems to him to be too repulsive to be forgiven. Then, he loses his boldness or assurance to approach God and to ask for the forgiveness of his sin. It is something, which afflicts him so deeply that he cannot find rest. The affliction of the believer becomes even deeper if he is falsely convinced by Satan that he has committed the sin against the Holy Spirit… Satan, when the believer is not versed in the Scriptures, manages to discourage him and to even move him away from God. It is only a trap! God forgives every sin and blasphemy except the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
It happens sometimes that man does not want to forgive himself even if God is ready to forgive him! He cannot tolerate the fact that “he”, such a spiritual person (!), fell into such a horrible sin! If, however, he examines his attitude closely, he will discover that it is about a hypertrophic sensitivity, whose root is nourished by pride, arrogance and lack of faith in God’s mercy! It is a good thing for the believer to be in a major pain for his sin and not let the memory of his sin escape from his spirit. David, after having committed the terrible sin of murder and adultery, said: “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” (Ps.51:3). It is, however, too bad and extremely dangerous to lose hope in the mercy of God Who forgives abundantly!
5. Faith is not “a means of blackmailing God”…
Honest and faithful people do not negotiate with God: They do not say, “if You give me this or that then I will obey and do Your will”. There are people who, lacking faithfulness, decide to move away from God because God did not give them what they hoped to obtain from Him.
A young lady said to me: “What is the use of belonging to God and of serving Him since He has not given me a husband?” I then remembered a verse of the Bible, which says: “You have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?” (Mal.3:14). The same person arrived at the point of saying: “Since God has not satisfied my request, I decided to become a worldly person in order to oblige God to give me what I asked Him for. Let Him seek and find me…”
Another person told me: «Since I have read the Word so many times, why has God left me to fall into sin and suffer so much?» Then I replied: «I did not know that you did a favor to God by reading His Word so many times and, as a consequence, God was obliged to protect you from sin, whatever you did and whatever you liked! Since you have read it, have you never paid attention to the fact that «We know that whoever is born of God sins not; but he that is begotten of God keeps himself, and that wicked one touches him not. »; (1Joh.5:18). The fact that I asked God to protect me in my trip, does it mean that I am allowed to drive recklessly and break all traffic regulations? She was dumb-founded…
God is not a “little good God” to be exploited or to become an object of blackmail by His creatures. God is great, majestic and sovereign! He who goes to God must go to Him humbly, get rid of the burden of the guilt of his sin and especially be saved from Hell by the blood of Jesus Christ. By love and gratitude, he must try to please God in all things. At this point, God, seeing that the person seeks His justice and His kingdom, meets all his needs according to the richness of His grace (Mat.6:33). When the believer tries honestly to make himself capable of every good work for the accomplishment of His will, then God does in him what is pleasant for Him, by Jesus Christ… as it is written in Heb.13:21. God is revealed to us when we seek Him with all our heart (Jer.29:11).
6. Resistance to “worries”
Another sector in which our faith is called, very often, to function is concerns or worries or anxieties of life… Very often? What do I say? No, every moment! The needs and the problems of our life lead us to worries, afflictions, troubles, anguishes or distresses but God invites us not to worry. He invites us to take care diligently of all things concerning our life but not to worry (Mat.6:24-34; 1Pet.5:6-7). From the moment when our legitimate cares start getting mixed with anxiety, sin is at the door… Which sin? The sin of: (a) incredulity, (b) idolatry and (c) stupidity. God takes care of us… He knows which are the things that we need and He provides them to us (Mat.6:8). Anxiety is a vain mental activity, an activity of the soul, a stupidity, because man can change nothing that God has decided. Moreover, he imagines that a little worry and anxiety make us wise and help us to show dynamism. Such a thing, however, constitutes an indication or a proof of how weak or at which point we are bad…Worry puts things in the first place, which should be in a second or last place; if things, persons or success take the priority in our life, then we become idolaters who have nothing to do with God! God takes care of us. Why should we then worry? Somebody said: The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith and the beginning of faith is the end of anxiety.
We must, at this moment, stop and speak about the confusion which exists in our spirit between “care” and “worries or concerns or anxiety”. The farmer must sow but he does not visit his fields with anguish every day or at any moment to see the evolution of his plantation… He waits for the moment of harvest patiently and, if necessary, he intervenes to rectify the situation! Anxiety comes from our desire to follow our own way or our impatience or the way in which we believe that our success or prosperity depends according to our own thoughts and opinion. Abraham left without knowing where he went… He did not know where he was going but he knew who was He who was leading him… Our Lord never worried because He never desired to do His own will.
This difficulty becomes more dangerous for the children of God when it appears in a spiritual form of success in the life. They think that their worldly success in society glorifies God in their lives. God, however, does not need our successes according to worldly mentality to be glorified; He wants to see our repentance and our faith in His Word as well as our trust in His character; also, our faithfulness in obeying His commands. Our faithfulness in the execution of our duty is the only thing, which counts before of God. Let us learn how to commit all our problems to God but also our own so-called spiritual ambitions. Our works, our ministry and we ourselves belong to God. Let us let God take care of them. Let us commit everything to Him and leave them there. Yes, and let us leave them with Him (Ps.37:5). Faith brings our problem to God and it leaves it there!!!
In Ps.13:2 there is a revealing verse: “How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? …” The sorrows in the Psalmist’s heart were due to the conflict between the desire of his soul and the will of his heart, which wanted the will of God. The conflict between the will of God and the will of man creates in man’s heart a painful and unstable situation in man’s soul…
When your wrist watch is broken, you give it to somebody to repair it; you leave it there and you leave. You do not stay close to him to dictate him what to do. If you try to dictate him what to do or how to repair it, he will be offended, he will return it to you and will say, “Take it back, and leave me alone.” Unfortunately, that is what we often do with God. We say that we have committed our problem to Him but we are so impatient as if He did not know what to do for us or to fix our problem or that He takes too much time to repair it. “Commit your way to the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Ps.37:5). This verse is the verse of my life… I try to apply it continuously, particularly when I am worried and risk losing my spiritual orientation!
7. Faith and afflictions or “disguised blessings”?
In the book of Job 7:1, it is written that the life of man is warfare, a hard service (also Job 11:1-20; 33:8-33 (YLT and ASV). It is full with afflictions because “…man is born to trouble…” (Job 5:7)… It is full of tribulations because “we are appointed thereunto” (1Th.3:3). Afflictions, tribulations, difficulties and adversities make our faith pass from difficult moments. Then the sky becomes black and the presence of God seems to disappear from our eyes or from our feelings. It is at this point in time that you and we must remember that the Almighty is full of love and full of words of comfort and must consider crises as opportunities for our improvement… Our consolation will not come from our efforts to relieve ourselves by worldly entertainments or by false consolations but by every word coming from the mouth of the Most High.
When I know that God chastens me by afflictions, difficulties, testings or persecutions for my profit, in order to make me partaker of His holiness (Heb.12:10); when I know that He purges me that I may bear more fruit (Joh.15:2); when I know that He protects me from calamities (Ps.57:1); when I know that the afflictions that I am going through under His control are disguised blessings, and that the spiritual material that I will gain and assimilate is intended to be employed by me to the profit of others so that I may be able to comfort those which are in any trouble, by the comfort with which I myself am comforted of God (2Cor.1:4); when I know that He refines me and makes me invaluable in the furnace of the adversity (Isa.48:10); when I know that my light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2Cor.4:17); when I know that I do not know what is good for man in the life (Ec.6:12); when I know that all things work together for good to them that love God (Rom.8:28), THEN, do tell me, how should I not be unceasingly comforted and how should I not be full of peace and gratitude springing out in a spontaneous way from the depths of my heart?
Listen to what the Word of God says in the book of Job, in my own words: He charges of vapors the clouds, He disperses them sparkling; their evolutions vary according to His intentions, in order to achieve all that He orders them to do, for correction, for the earth or as a sign of His mercy… (Job 37:11-14).
8. In perplexity but not “in despair”
Of course, there are cases where believers who, in spite of the fact that they fear the Lord, that obey the voice of His servant, that walk in darkness, and have no light; it is then that they are exhorted by the Lord, as it is written in Isa.50:10, to trust in the name of the LORD, and stay on their God. This is what confidence in the Lord means. Even if the true believers are troubled on every side, they are not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in their body (2Cor.4:8).
Sometimes we do not know which promise we must believe and which command of God to obey exactly. It is then that we must apply our trust, our confidence in the immutable love of God and on the immutable faithfulness of God. Faith has to do mainly with the commands and promises of God but trust in God has to do with confidence in the holy character and the attributes of God.