Probably, the most comprehensive definition of faith given in scripture is found in the Hebrews letter: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” ( Heb. 11:1 ). The phrases“things hoped for” and “things not seen” have thrown many people who misunderstand what is meant by those words. They see faith as a belief without merit. They see those phrases as describing faith itself to be the only evidence, hope and substance, and since their personal understanding of faith is simply a belief, then they see Christian faith as being baseless.
The apostle Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith , and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” ( Eph. 2:8 ). In his letter to Timothy he wrote, “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise forsalvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus ” ( 2 Tim. 3:15 ). Clearly, faith is central to salvation. But what is saving faith?
How does a person get faith? Why does one person have stronger faith than someone else? Why is the faith of some people so weak as compared to the faith of others? Where does faith come from?
It’d be interesting to hear the answers given by many on such a fundamental question. I’d not be surprised if a good number of people would actually be at something of a loss to give a definitive answer. I’m not sure that some people really know where faith comes from, and almost certainly a great many people who think they know, really do not.
Faith… Ask twenty different people to describe it, and you’ll likely get twenty different descriptions. To some people, faith simply meansbelief . That belief can be in virtually anything or anybody. For some, the term has a spiritual connotation first and foremost. For others, faith is simply a generic concept that can be applied to most anything.
Often, we feel either inadequate or without sufficient resources to be able to do something that needs to be done. These lines of reasoning are constantly used by individuals and congregations in relation to serving God. In some cases we say we don’t have time to serve God as we would like. Sometimes we state that we just don’t have the ability to do some good work that needs to be done. In other cases we claim to not have sufficient resources to the get the job done. While these statements can hold some validity, we must not use them carelessly as excuses to simply let ourselves off the hook. If we open both our physical eyes and our eyes of faith, we will often find that we have more time and ability and resources than we first imagined.
Everybody wants to be happy. In fact, there may be more emphasis in our society right now than ever before on finding happiness . There’s a lot of focus on having a job you can be happy with. Some people move to different locations in the pursuit of happiness . Wives leave husbands and husbands leave wives because they’re just not happy . Teenagers are committing suicide at a staggering rate because they’re unhappy . Happiness seems to be elusive to many people. But a profound question should be, “Where do you look for happiness?”
They say fingerprints serve as evidence. Fingerprints prove the presence of a specific individual in a particular setting. They’re used to prove, or disprove, criminal cases all the time. It’s also said that each person’s fingerprints are unique to that particular individual; no two individuals have the same fingerprints.
Near his treatise on the misuse of the tongue James stated, “For we all stumble in many things” ( Jas. 3:2 ). Boy, do we ever! The devil is our adversary- enemy- ( 1 Pet. 5:8 ), and he’s very skilled at leading us into sin and away from God. It’s obvious that James is, referring, primarily, to sinning by his use of the word “stumble.” The phrase “in many things” points to the fact that we find ourselves sinning in many different ways.
Ponce de Leon was a Spanish adventurer who, with the sanction of the king of Spain, set out to find the legendary Fountain Of Youth . In the year 1513 he searched the coast of what is today the state of Florida in a vain attempt to locate what he envisioned to be a source of perpetually life sustaining water. What a dream, what hope! Eliminating physical death. Of course, his efforts proved to be futile. There is no such water source.
We’ve crossed over the threshold of time, moving from one year into another. This article is number thirty seven in a line of bulletin articles I’ve been privileged to write at the beginning of a new year. Four such articles have come at the beginning of a new decade, and one served to usher in a new century and millennium. I suppose it’s common for a preacher to mull over, to a somewhat greater degree, just what he should write at the beginning of a new year. He wants to say something profound, something that will motivate thoughtfulness and action in a positive direction on both an individual and a congregational basis.
Gary L. Hutchens