The concept of faith at most times seems to be an elusive and enigmatic thing to obtain. Scripture makes it terribly clear that “without faith” it is impossible to please God and we must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him. (Heb. 11:6.)
The Bible tells us that we have been given a “measure” of faith (Rom. 12:3) and yet what exactly is the measure and how much then have we received? In all honestly it seems that many times the measure is quite small! There have been so many times I wanted to believe with everything inside of me and yet that gnawing sensation of doubt ate away at the back of my confidence until finally in prayer I threw my hands up in the air and begged God to help me believe.
Hebrews 11 gives me a Biblical definition of faith, telling me that “faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen,” (Heb. 11:1.) The word substance is the combination of two Latin words “sub” and “stance” which speaks of a “that which is under” and could best be described from the Hebrew word as “foundation.”
The phrase “things hoped for,” is one Greek word which is primarily used in scripture as the word “trust.” Trust speaks of a confidence and thus one what Hebrews presents it that faith is the foundation of our confidence. It is free and fearless confidence in God regardless of circumstance.
It is a confidence that “knows no better;” like the little child who stares adoringly at his father and thinks to himself how impossible it would be for anything to overcome daddy. Does not scripture tell us “except ye become as little children?”
The strength of our confidence is founded on the basis of our faith. Faith involves sight and yet not the limited sight of man but rather something which is of the spirit. How we see Him determines our belief in Him. We are to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7.) A walk of faith is an unwavering life (Heb. 10:20; James 1:6.)
It is an absolute and fearless confidence which takes the step into the darkness ahead. What if there is a chasm that stands in that step? “What if,” speaks of a chance and possibility but the man whose life is firmly grounded in faith who has unwavering confidence in God looks into the darkness of the path and says “God.”
The concept of failure screams from the left while fear attempts to intimidate from the right. If those voices can win and doubt slip into the mind and the compromise of unbelief grip the heart we become unstable and unable to stand in the adversities which confront out lives.
Was it not Peter who with great faith asked that Jesus bid him leave the boat and walk upon the turbulent waters? I do not see in that account a small measure of faith which would cause a man to do what natural considers absurd. And yet when failure and fear screamed their loudest at him, doubt seized his mind and instantly began to sink.
Such great faith is met with the admonishing rebuke of the Lord, who reaching out grabbed hold of the panic-stricken Peter and declared, “Oh thou of little faith why did you doubt?” Then upon arriving in the boat the storm ceases instantly.
I will submit that the storm was sent by God for the sole purpose of the lesson which would confront the doubt which was in Peter. It is a double-minded man that is unstable in all his ways and I will submit that faith stands at the heart of such instability. In one instance Peter would stand in the basking glow of having understood the person of Jesus Christ and the promise of his instrumentality in the kingdom to the very next of being called Satan under the rebuke of the Lord. “I will follow you anywhere Jesus!” Peter proclaimed his undying loyalty to the Messiah.
If you cannot follow Jesus on the turbulent storms of your life without the wavering and sinking faith killer called doubt how could you follow him in His storm which would catch you up in its fury of cruelty? Peter was a fisherman and if there was anything a fisherman understood it was his environment; water. There was a reverence for that environment as they had seen and heard the countless men who had been pulled beneath the surface of such turbulent waves. When Jesus came walking on the water it was a far cry from their previous experience of facing the storm.
The first storm that raged against them found Jesus asleep in the boat that upon hearing their cries stood at the head of the boat and cried, “Peace, be still.” It is one thing for God to still your storm and another entirely for God to walk on your storm. Often times the greatest increasers of our faith will not be found in the instant and miraculous cessation of our greatest storms but rather it will be found with the foaming rage of a viscous sea that beats against our body as we stand on the very storm that served as our greatest fear.
It was a storm that followed the miraculous feeding of the 5,000. If anything should have served as a reminder of the awesome power of God it should have been that miracle. How soon removed they had become from their remembrance of the mountain top miracle as they were swept into the tumultuous sees, feeling alone and abandoned, rowing and toiling through the darkness of the night.
I wonder at the presentation of the 5,000 and the storm to follow. It would be after the revival of 5,000 souls in the book of Acts that the great storms of persecution would come crashing down upon the disciples and the church. In fact it was often that Jesus alluded to the coming days in which His disciples would not have His physical presence. Because of this they had to learn to face the storms of life with nothing more than faith.
“Simon, Simon, I have prayed for you,” declared Jesus upon revealing the sifting which Satan would devise against Peter. It was a prayer whose focus was centered on faith’s failure. Peter would fall but what was the most important was that his faith failed not.
And so it was that through numerous circumstances as Jesus walked with them in physical form that they were confronted with situations and storms to challenge their faith. They had been in the sinking, waved tossed boat which was buffeted by the prevailing storm. They had endured the hunger and weariness of the body only to find the miraculous feed what was considered impossible.
They had witnessed the maladies of men; the lame, the lepers, the blind, the cripple being restored whole. They had seen the demoniacs which sent others running in great fear, tremble and quake in the presence of their Lord. In order to pass the test one must first be tested.
In our modern society we are determined successful by the degrees of education we have migrated through. One does not graduate to the next grade until they fulfill the requirements of the current. So also is the life of faith. Faith is increased by enduring through the grades of life. Often times when failure is marked against us we are sure to repeat the test again.
“Why don’t the disciples fast and pray as John’s disciples,” the religious zealots asked of Jesus? There would come a time Jesus told those inquiring that when He left they would learn of their necessity to do such things. When the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith they did not realize until much later that such instances as the storm in the midst of the night was an answer to such request and how much those experiences and lessons would benefit them in the future to come.
2 Peter 1:5-7 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
All of these things increase (add to) your faith and one of the greatest builders of faith is found in the teacher of patience; tribulation. Paul, in the book of Romans, tells us that we are to glory in tribulations for the purpose of understanding that tribulation (tests) produce patience; and patience, experience, and experience, hope. If we have hope then we are gripping the evidence of things not seen.
A life without faith is a life without hope. It is faith alone that we believe what we fight for is worth it. It is by faith we endure the trial of the stormy night. It is through faith that we “quit like men” enduring until the very end regardless of peril and persecution. The inquisitors were appalled as their objects of torture enduring the racks, the boiling cauldrons and the fiery flames. The Roman brute stared with slackened jaw as they were consumed alive by the thousands be the ravenous and terrible mouths of beasts. How can one stand to endure such trials and not give? The answer my friend is faith.
I must not only pray the prayer which asks of God to increase my faith but I must also allow God to send me into the storms. “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeying’s often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watching’s often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting’s often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?” (2 Cor. 11:24-29)
What could cause a man to endure the things Paul suffered and not waver? How could a mere mortal man endure those great trials which beat against the bulwarks of his life? No matter how sever the hunger or how brutal the beatings one thing remained in his life. There was a spark that the enemy could not put out. That spark was faith in a God that would never forsake him.
When Paul considered it all he revealed how and why He could endure such great trials. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35 – 9:1.)
It was an unwavering faith in the love and power of Jesus Christ that Paul could stand on his feet and refuse to bow to the waves and the cruelty of the storms. It was an absolute persuasion (faith) that could lead such a man to a mindset.
Increased faith becomes an unwavering faith which becomes a shield to quench the fiery darts of the wicked. Hold fast the profession of faith without wavering! Why? Because He is faithful that promised! (Hebrews 10:23.) Doing the will of God and nothing seems to be opening up? No idea how the bills are going to get paid or the truck is going to get fixed? Hold fast to the profession of faith!
When Hebrews told us to “hold fast,” it was using a nautical term in which a man who held the wheel had a relentless determination no matter how hard the storm drove them and rocked them in the sea, he would not let go of the determined course he had set out to meet. It was a bold defiance some men called crazy that would have a man brace himself against the driving wind and the pelting rain with knuckles whitened by the intense grip on the wheel of the ship.
In fact, there have been times in recorded nautical history in which the helmsman asked the crew, while the storm raged and the boat was tossed in the tempest, “tie me to the wheel!” There would be times he would get tired. There would be times he would desire to let go of that wheel as his flesh grew wearied with the fight, but he would not let that happen!
Our job is to finish this race. We have a line to cross. Can we make up in our mind that nothing will stop us from accomplishing the work that God has set before us? To those that read this I pray that God will have encouraged and build your faith. If it is any consolation I have written this as faith is under fire but I am determined as I pray you also will be determined to finish this course.
2 Timothy 4:7 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (his faith failed not.)