Will there be any faith in this last generation before Christ returns? Jesus Christ Himself questioned whether there would be. Notice: “Nevertheless,” Christ asked, “when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth” (Luke 18:8)?
What a sobering question! God clearly states that His people – the just must live by faith (Rom. 1:17), and that without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11: 6). But dynamic, living faith is a rare commodity in this world.
How, then, can one have faith? The truth is that the kind of faith God desires us to have can’t just be “worked up”: “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8),
God must give us the kind of faith that really works, the kind of faith required for salvation. And certainly we must want to have this faith. Who wouldn’t want to have the faith required to receive God’s wonderful blessings of protection, peace of mind or healing, for example?
Now, exactly how does God give us this faith? Romans 10:17 tells us how we receive true godly faith: “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.”
First, we must believe when God says, trust Him! “For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Rom. 4: 3). This is a major problem for all of us in this materialistic generation, so steeped in evolution. It can be extremely difficult to really believe God.
All true Christians have an earnest desire to live by Faith, but there has been such an explosion of materialistic knowledge on every imaginable subject, medicine, psychology, sociology, biology, astronomy, history, geology, that we find ourselves spontaneously asking why and how to almost every statement or promise God makes in the Bible. And these are faith-killing questions.
Think about it: Why does God let good people suffer and die while evil people often live well and prosper? How could the earth, including Mt. Everest and the Grand Canyon have been completely covered with water during the Flood in the days of Noah, not even 5,000 years ago, where did all that water come from and where did it all go? Where did a fish large enough to swallow Jonah come from, and how did Jonah breathe for three days and three nights while he was in the whale’s belly?
Should we just blindly accept and believe? Absolutely not! Faith can’t be expressed that way. “But will thou know O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20). Faith has to be demonstrated by action – faith must be active, living. The key is the statement made in Romans 10: 17. Faith comes only through the preaching of Christ. Faith is spiritual and has nothing to do with the physical or material.
Let’s examine some examples of the eroding effect that human reasoning can have on faith.
God knows that we, at this time, simply could not understand why some things are allowed to happen, so He doesn’t always tell us why. But we still must learn to believe and trust Him. He also knows we could not understand how some things are accomplished by His Holy Spirit. Those are spiritual matters and we are yet physical. So wondering to excess about why God allowed something or exactly how God did something can cause us to lose faith.
John the Baptist’s imprisonment and his reaction to it is a good example of having to trust and belief without understanding why. John the Baptist became confused and upset. His reactions during this severe trial, as they relate to Christ, are quite similar to attitudes and reactions of many of us undergoing trials today.
John knew who Christ was. He twice called Him “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36). Yet, while in prison, he sent two of his disciples to Christ with the question, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Luke 7: 19.)
John knew full well who Christ was, and that Christ had the power to free him from prison. Was John perhaps wondering why Christ had not done so?
Did you catch it? John’s basic question, a faith-killing question may well have been why Christ pointed out to John’s disciples the works He had been doing, works of which He knew John was well aware. Then He concluded with this statement to his disciples: “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” (v. 23.)
Christ was telling John and all of us that God’s people may not always understand everything at a certain time, but that we shouldn’t reject God and Christ and we shouldn’t lose faith because of it.
John not only remained in prison, but he was beheaded. Why did Christ allow John to die? He could have prevented it; but He didn’t. The answer is beyond human reasoning.
A problem that can undermine godly faith is the suffering of trials. Take the example of Job. Job, like John, was surely afflicted and tried, and he, too, wondered why. It was young Elihu who gave Job some answers. Those answers were available to Job as they are available to us today. The problem is they were not the answers we want.
Elihu told Job: “Take heed, do not turn to iniquity, for you have chosen this rather than affliction. Behold, God is exalted by His power, who teaches like him?” (Job 36: 21-22). Indeed, who else but God can teach through affliction?.
God uses all these methods as He works with humanity to bring us to His own state of perfection, to literal son ship in His Family.
“Behold, God works all these thing twice, in fact, three times with a man to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life” (Job. 33: 29-30). Too often we lose sight of that awesome goal, but God never does! Losing sight of the goal can cause us to lose faith.
Undergoing severe trials and losing sight of our goal can erode our faith. Remember, too, that we live in an evil world and often have to suffer with this world’s society.
Christ, speaking to His Father, said, “I do not pray that You should take them (Christ’s followers) out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17: 15). Psalm 34: 19 tells us, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” So when some tragedy strikes, don’t blame God. Many of our problems occur because we are living in a very corrupt and evil society.
It often seems that people, if they think of God at all, blame Him for every calamity and tragedy of life. Seldom do they thank Him or praise Him for all the good things He does.
Reasoning humanly, those who write insurance policies often refer to natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and tornadoes an “acts of God.” Such is humanly views of God. But this is how we should think of our Creator: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and come down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:16-17).
Faith is often undermined by our wondering and asking why God allowed this to happen to me. John the Baptist probably went to his execution wondering why. But John must have heeded Christ’s instruction not to be offended (Luke 7: 21), “because Christ said of him, “Among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” (v. 28).
Christ was saddened when He heard of John’s death. He wanted to go off by Himself, but a multitude followed Him out into the desert.
Christ displayed God’s power by turning five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food for 5,000 men plus women and children. After everyone was fed, 12 baskets of crumbs were collected (Matt. 14:13-23).
Jesus’ disciples were certainly impressed with His miracle-working power, but they too, had even more to learn regarding real faith.
Consider: A major pitfall in exercising faith is demanding to know how faith works. Faith is spiritual, but the results of faith in our lives are often quite physical and material. For example the miracle of healing (James 5:13-15), the preservation of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3) and the feeding of the 5,000 are physical consequences of faith. But how such miracles are accomplished is spiritual and inexplicable in physical terms.
How God accomplishes His purposes becomes so important to some people that, when they don’t understand, they simply stop believing God or the biblical account.
For example, the theory of evolution is humanity’s attempt to explain how physical things are the way they are in purely physical terms humans can understand. Since people think they have found out how life and the physical world “evolved,” they no longer have to deal with the question of God and their responsibility to Him
Conditioning your faith on knowing how God’s purposes are accomplished can destroy your faith.
This was a major lesson Jesus’ apostles learned when Peter found himself in a situation where the how of a great miracle so plagued him and his physical senses that his faith vanished. Remember the incident of Peter walking on the water? It is recorded in Matt. 14. “Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away” (v.22). This was just after the miracle of feeding the multitude, and it was still early in the evening (v.23).
A storm came up and so tossed the boat about that the disciples could make little headway (24). Notice that, as fierce as the storm was, the disciples gave no indication of panic as long as they were in the relative security of the boat.
When they had spent most of the night fighting the heavy seas, Jesus appeared to them in the 4th watch (v. 25). Naturally they were troubled at the sight of Jesus walking on the water. “Immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer it is I; do not be afraid” (v. 27). The disciples were frightened at the unnatural sight of Christ actually walking on the surface of the water. That was contrary to any experience any of them had had. However, when Christ spoke to them, they were comforted. Why? The unnatural situation of Christ walking on the surface of the water was still there before their eyes. But they were given a physical assurance that did fit in with their past experience, the familiar voice of Jesus. Although they could not understand how He managed to walk on the water, they were comforted by His familiar voice.
They were also quite aware that Christ did perform some great miracles. The disciples were growing in faith; they were beginning to believe the things Jesus did.
Peter was so confident that he thought he could walk on the water, too. If Christ were to bid him to do so: “And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is you command me to come to You, command me to come to You on the water’” (v. 28). Peter knew that the feat was possible only if Christ commanded him to do so.
That is an important point in growing in faith: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him’ (I John 5: 14-15).
Peter actually walked on the water! But now something totally alien to any experience Peter had ever had happened, and Peter’s faith departed. What was it? “But when he saw that the wind with boisterous he was afraid: and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying ‘Lord save me!’” (v. 30.)
Had Peter not been aware of the wind before? He certainly had! He and the other disciples had spent the whole night being tossed about by the waves, but they had been in the relative security of the boat. So what had happened that terrified Peter so much? It was really more a matter of what didn’t happen than what did.
Peter was totally unprepared for how he was held up by faith. Where was faith supposed to react to Peter’s body to give him that reassuring sensation of physical support? On the soles of his feet, where he felt support when he walked on the solid surfaces? It wasn’t there, no feeling of support at all. Was there a feeling of support under his arms as one would feel support if held up by a harness? No. Was there a feeling of support through his hair, as if he were being held up by the hair? No. Peter could nowhere feel the sensation of physical support. Faith was supporting him. Faith is spiritual, feeling is physical.
Peter’s mind, from long experience in the physical environment, knew of no reason why he could be there on the surface of the water. Peter was unprepared for how faith would hold him up on the water. He reacted to his physical senses, and began to sink.
The lesson is that one has to grow in, and exercise faith.
Peter’s faith in the person of Christ was still firm. “And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (v. 31). In the firm grip of Christ’s hand, Peter made it back into the boat. There was simply no way that Christ could have explained to Peter, in terms Peter could have understood how faith would support him. Peter just had to experience it and grow in faith.
You, too, can have faith! You must have faith, for without faith you cannot please God. You can’t qualify for God’s kingdom without faith.
So, like John the Baptist and Peter, you have to learn to believe God, and without question – through the dynamic faith God will give you as a true Christian. To develop this faith in God you must know God, and you can know God through Bible study and prayer. And because you express this faith, God promises to prosper you, heal you, protect you and, yes even try you at times, for your own good.
When you are sure you have done your part, and know from God’s Word what God’s will is, “do you turn to iniquity” (Job 36: 21) because God does not answer in the way you expect. Trust Him! Believe Him! Continue doing your part patiently and never lose faith.
After all, God reminds us: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways”, says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9). Trust in God, grow in faith.