Fierce Faith || What Faith is NOT
This past winter I had the privilege of speaking at Cascade Church’s Women’s Retreat on the topic of Faith and what it means to be a woman of fierce faith. I am continuing this conversation that I began on this blog post back in March. Please note: I am sharing my talk with those who profess to be Bible believing Christians. If you are someone who is searching, not sure, do not profess to be a Christian, or have questions about the Bible, I would love to talk with you. Shoot me an email!
What is faith? A belief system? Hoping? Wishful thinking? Anything you choose it to be?
As I shared in my first post, the common idea of faith today is a belief not based on proof.
In this post, we will look at what our culture says about Faith and cross examine it with Truth. Because if we profess to be Christians and believe that the Word of God, the Holy (and only) Bible is Truth - this is what we should absolutely be using as our MAIN reference tool for life. Period. Then when other things start to seep in, other ideas, voices, opinions, we check them by the Word and if they are NOT Biblical - we throw it out. One of the big ideas about Faith is that Faith is wishful thinking. A hope, desire, feel good feeling... However, Faith Is NOT Wishful thinking.
Greg Koukl sums up what this popular worldview looks like, of which you can read more from his book Faith is Not Wishful Thinking or his website Stand to Reason: "It's religious wishful thinking, in which one squeezes out spiritual hope by intense acts of sheer will. People of 'faith' believe the impossible. People of 'faith' believe that which is contrary to fact. People of 'faith' believe that which is contrary to evidence. People of 'faith' ignore reality." – This is obviously a very inaccurate view of what faith truly is, yet Greg points out what so many believe.
Greg Koukl also states that the “opposite of knowledge is not faith, but ignorance. And the opposite of faith is not knowledge, but unbelief. It’s certainly possible to have knowledgeable faith or ignorant unbelief. More importantly, the knowledge vs. faith equation is not what the Bible teaches.”
How many of you would agree that definitions are important? The meaning of words are important. We can’t just create our own definitions to words that have already been defined.
Funny story - so, growing up (and perhaps even still) I would sometimes use words out of context or use the wrong word in general when trying to get my point across.
One day my mom and I were having a conversation and I was getting frustrated because she was clearly not understanding what I was saying, so I replied to her by saying, “Ugh - Do I need to draw a diaphragm for you?!” And my mom laughed and said, “DIA-GRAM, Michelle. DIAGRAM.”
This example, although silly, makes my point though. We cannot take a word and rewrite its definition. Although, sadly, we have seen this done time and time again, which distorts the truth of the core root of the word.
When we dissect the word Faith, we must go back to the meaning that it was originally written in and used.
The Biblical word for Faith is pistis, which does not mean “wishing” but instead, active trust. How do we place our trust someone? We do not place our trust in someone with a lack of evidence. But we trust BECAUSE of the evidence. We trust and have faith BECAUSE God has already laid out ALL the evidence for use.
Gregory Koukl states it so well that: “Biblical faith is based on knowledge, not wishing or blind leaps. Knowledge builds confidence and confidence leads to trust. The kind of faith God is interested in is not wishing. It’s trust based on knowing, a sure confidence grounded in evidence. This leads me to my next point of what Faith is NOT. And as we will see, Faith is NOT an absence of evidence.
Over and over again throughout scripture God proves who He is. He is not calling you to a faith that has no proof to His existence. He didn’t even call our forefathers of Biblical Faith to trust without proving who He was FIRST. And He didn’t call you to have a blind faith in Him either. He has already given you ALL the evidence you need. But it is OUR choice on whether or not we are going to actually study, dissect, and see the evidence for ourselves.
Romans 1:20 says that: God has already made Himself FULLY known. “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Hebrews 11 lists these heroes of the faith. It is not so the writer of Hebrews can name drop, but for the specific purpose of showing us how to live out our faith for God. Not by words. But in action. Here are just a few examples of the evidence God provided in laying the groundwork of creating evidence for our faith.
Let’s look at Moses for a second. When we think of Moses, I immediately think of The Exodus where he leads the Israelite’s out of Egypt. But let’s back up just a bit. Moses is adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter and has grown up in Pharaoh’s palace. Years later, God makes himself known to Moses as we see in Exodus 3. But before He speaks to Moses, He sets His presence upon a bush in the form of flames. Moses sees this bush from afar and slowly approaches to see this crazy scene. As he comes close, God speaks:
Exodus 3:4-5 “MOSES! MOSES!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
God then goes on to tell Moses how He has heard the outcry of His people and is going to USE Moses to free them from bondage. But Moses’ begins to try and find a way out.
How many of us can relate to Moses? I know I can. How many of us begin to make excuses when God calls us to do something out of our comfort zone? Or that pushes our boundaries? Anyone start to get a little twitchy and begin to doubt? No? Just me?
Let’s read on starting at verse 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12a And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign (i.e. evidence and proof) to you that it is I who have sent you...”
In Exodus 4: 1 Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” 2 Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”
“A staff,” he replied. 3 The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”
Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. 4 Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. 5 “This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”
6 Then the Lord said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, the skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow.
7 “Now put it back into your cloak,” He said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh.
8 Then the Lord said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second. 9 But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.”
God didn’t ask Moses to walk blindly. He didn’t tell Moses to go to the elders, Pharaoh, and even the enslaved Hebrews and say, “So, God was talking to me through a burning bush, and He wants us to leave Egypt. You’re just going to have to take this one on faith, mmm-kay. You’re just going to have to ‘faith it’ and take my word on it.” NO! Not at all!
Gregory Koukl states it like this: All of this was for one purpose, and one purpose alone: “That they might KNOW there is a God in Israel.” Not simply “believe” or “hope,” or “wish.” KNOW. This is no idle comment, but a message that is central to the account. In fact, the phrase is repeated no less than ten times throughout the record.
God did not ask the Hebrews, or even Moses, for mindless faith, blind leaps, or wishful thinking. He demonstrated His power, giving them good reason to believe, resulting in obedience. Fast forward to the New Testament in the Book of Mark Chapter 2. Jesus has returned to Capernaum and people heard that He had come home. The crowds were thick! Everyone wanted to see Jesus.
1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home.
2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
New Living Translation translates v.10 as “...I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.”
Did Jesus have to prove Himself? No, not at all. But he did it for the purpose of providing the evidence that He was who He said He was.
Jesus gives us the same lesson we find in Exodus. He proves something that can’t be seen - the forgiveness of sins - with the evidence that can be seen - a dramatic supernatural healing. Jesus heals “in order that you may know” - “to prove to you” so “that you may know.” Once again, the concrete evidence allows the doubters to KNOW the truth so that they can then TRUST in the forgiveness Christ could give. (Gregory Koukl - STR)
The Old Testament prophecies about Jesus were written as evidence and proof for those waiting for the Messiah. There were many false Messiahs claiming to be the new king. This is why Jesus had to fulfill the prophecies that were spoken of Him. God set these prophecies in place on purpose as evidence in order that we may KNOW. Over and over again through evidence He provides, God shows who He is. Of which we clearly see that Faith is NOT blind or surrendering your intellect
Have you ever played the game Pin the Tail on the Donkey? Remember all the fun that was had? Blindfold over the eyes, someone spins you around and you try to pin that tail on the correct spot on the donkey’s bum. Faith, to the world, is viewed as blindness and a lack of intellectual thought.
Matthew Henry Concise Commentary explains that Faith is a firm persuasion and expectation that God will perform all He has promised to us in Christ. Faith proves to the mind, the reality of things that cannot be seen by bodily eye.
God is not asking us to surrender our intellect and reason to believe in Him. It is quite the opposite. He calls us to attain wisdom, have discipline, and gain knowledge. God has also given us the ability to think. He has given us the ability for reason. He has given us the ability to choose. He has given us a mind to use, on purpose. This is such a unique and beautiful gift God has given us and what separates Christianity from other world religions.
When we study many other world religions, this is where we see that stark contrast. Many other world religions tell you to NEVER question their religious authorities and to take what they say blindly without questioning. You must merely believe. Questioning religious leaders or religious heads is purely not allowed. And I am so grateful that God lets me ask questions. That I can seek to know and understand Him better. That I can go directly to Him for answers AND that when things are tossed me way, I know that He has instructed us to test them to see if they are from Him.
1 John 4:1 tells us to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
And the only way we can do this is by equipping ourselves with Truth. We must seek wisdom and understanding.
Proverbs 3:16-15 “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she (wisdom) is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She (wisdom) is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.”
Wisdom and understanding do not just show up one morning. God has called us to be good stewards in all that we do. To not take His word for granted. To know and understand truth. To do this we must be diligent in learning. If not, we sit lukewarm in our faith. And Jesus warns against this.
In the book of Revelation, Jesus spoke to the church of Laodicea on what will happen with being lukewarm:
Revelation 3:14 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Not sure about you, but this stern warning makes me not want to be lazy with my faith. And sadly, there are days I am and take for granted this gift God has given me to know Him. To seek Him daily. And it isn’t just knowledge that we attain, but an armor that guards, protects, strengthens, gives wisdom etc etc… the list goes on and on.
Ephesians 6:11-18 says:
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
To know God is to study His word. In order to make Him known, we need to know Him, know His truth, and bind it upon our hearts. Not once, but daily. Deuteronomy 6:7 & 11:18-19 instruct us to do just that, and not just with us, but with our children as well.
Deuteronomy 11:18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Complacency is to surrender your intellect. It creates a false sense of security. It rejects wisdom. (see Proverbs 1:20-33)
Proverbs 1:32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
I don’t say all of this is to sound like a downer, but to show that God has given us this great ability to think. To think ABOUT Him. To KNOW Him. And not just know Him, but have a deep impactful relationship with Him. But it also means we need to be good stewards in HOW we choose to use our minds and what we allow in to influence us, what we watch, what we listen to etc…
And just like the pin the tail on the donkey game - God isn’t asking us to close our eyes and just hope for the best. This approach on Faith is in fact extremely damaging. And not just damaging to you, but damaging to those around us. Faith stands on the evidence of God’s existence. It doesn’t cross it’s fingers and hope that what it believes is true, but stands FIRM in the truth and facts that are all around us. Faith also tests to discern that what it is hearing is in fact, TRUTH. But how do we do that when there are SO many ideas, SO many opinions, SO many ideas?
1 John 4:1-6 instructs us on the HOW:
1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
This discernment is not blind, but it is how we can know what is truth and what is false. When we take arguments, ideas, thoughts, religions, and other doctrines and test them against the Word of God, this is where we see what is TRUE and what is false. It keeps us from walking blindly and it keeps us from following false teachings. It also will make you stand out in a world that says otherwise.
I have watched the tragedy of those who have known truth and have chosen to turn away from it. They no longer use the Word of God as their sounding board or test the ideas of this world to see if they line up with God’s truth. And it is painful to watch. Painful to see their choices ripple and cause themselves and those around them pain.
God has given us this beautiful gift of the mind to use for HIS glory. To ponder His greatness. To seek after Him. And the devil would very much would like to take that precious gift and distort it, twist it, and seep in false truths. I want to challenge and encourage us to seek truth DAILY. To know scripture in such a way that it has penetrated every fiber of our being AND to not become lazy with our knowledge or free gift of Grace.
If you would like to learn more about the Evidence of Faith, I would like to strongly encourage you to check out the following resources: