1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”
Some would say the main difference between Christians and unbelievers is that Christians have faith whereas atheists have logic, but everyone has faith in something. Not only is it a false presumption to say Christians cannot exercise logic, but logic is also the object of the atheist’s faith. The question isn’t, “Will you have faith,” but rather, “What will you have faith in?” The atheist puts his faith in science, human rationality, his subjective reasoning, whatever he may choose. The difference between the Christian and the unbeliever is the object of that faith. For the Christian, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen… By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:1, 3).
As a Christian, be aware that your faith will be tested your entire life. Both Satan and God will test your faith, but they both have different incentives. Satan’s incentive is to deceive you and defeat your faith so you may suffer in Hell. God’s incentive is to test and build your trust in Him. If you read my series on Facing Trials, you might remember the three reasons for why we suffer and are tested, two of which may be God’s permission. It may be His chastisement, Him preparing us for something great, or simply because of our sin or the sin of the world. Yet always remember, “With the temptation [God] will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Faith is to trust in God’s providence—trusting He will always provide for you. Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:25-34:
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
I love this passage. God created the animals and plants of the earth, and He provides for them. But God created us in His image! Only human beings are created in His holy image. So if He takes care of the plants and animals, how much more will He take care of us! Our God is omnipotent and omniscient; He knows what we need at all times and is more than capable of providing our needs. If you’re sick, He’s provided a doctor and a hospital for you. If you’re hungry, He’s provided you with a job to buy groceries.
Jesus said if we seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness, all our needs will be given to us. But how do we seek His kingdom and righteousness? In a prophecy, Isaiah said, “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). “Immanuel” is Hebrew for “God with us.” God was manifested in the incarnate Jesus Christ and walked among us on the earth, so the song, “What If God Was One of Us” is stupid because He was one of us—His name is Jesus.
To the Pharisees, Jesus said, “Behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21b). The Jews were expecting a physical, earthly kingdom, but Jesus Christ is the kingdom of God. Paul says, “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe” (Romans 3:21-22). So, to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness is to seek Jesus Christ. This, in part, is what I think Jesus meant when He said, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). To follow Jesus is to deny our wants, accept our burdens as Christians, and just follow Him, even to the point of death. For when we seek Him, He will provide our needs and desires. Living the faith is a costly faith. Following Jesus will always cost you something.
Lastly, faith is accompanied by good works. James 2:14-20:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?
This is probably one of the biggest passages Christians debate over. Some erroneously believe James is saying we’re saved by works, not faith, but that’s not what he’s saying. What he is saying is this: you cannot show you have faith without works; only by works can faith be made evident for your neighbour. When James is speaking of good works he is only speaking of them in terms of our neighbour, not salvation. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Merely saying the right words does not guarantee salvation, for one can say these words without believing them in his heart. This might sound like advocacy for salvation by works, but examine what James says about the demons’ belief. The demons’ believing is not equated to our faith. Faith is the confidence of the heart, trusting in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, which the demons decidedly do not have. They have a base knowledge—a knowledge that God exists and that Jesus is the Holy One of God (Mark 1:24), but they do not believe Jesus is their Lord and that He has come to save His fallen creation, especially to save us. Christ says the one who does the will of His Father will enter heaven. What is God’s will? Our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3), which is something God enacts in us, not something we somehow impart to ourselves. Biblically, faith not works is the essential framework of our humanity. We are made to trust, and from that trust flows works.
Like demons, we can have a base knowledge and belief that God exists and Jesus is Saviour, but believing in Him is what saves us (John 3:16). Growing up, I had a base knowledge of who Jesus is—that God existed and Jesus died for our sins. However, this base knowledge didn’t save me. I didn’t believe Jesus was my Lord and Saviour until I was 17-years-old; that faith in Him is what saves me. Belief and knowledge are two sides of the same coin. Knowledge is merely intellectual; belief, on the other hand, is a deeper knowing of God made real. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). And it is by faith that we are able to trust God who enables us to do good works—to do His will. It is by faith that we endure tests and temptations. It is by faith that we trust in God’s providence as we seek His kingdom and righteousness—as we seek our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. By these things, we live as examples of who Jesus is.
Stay tuned for next time as I conclude this series on purity.