Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 3 : Faith in God
Heb 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
One of the things about faith is that it is so obvious we probably hardly ever think about it, and it is that everything about faith is to do with God. It is so fundamental that if you took away this one thing then there would be no grounds for, or no need for, faith. It is that we believe that He exists but, more than that, that because of that it affects everything else we do in life.
It is a strange thing isn’t it, that all round this world there are people who believe in something more than mere physical or material existence, or in word, a spirit realm. That is the point of commonality for the world religions but after that they part. One world religion believes in millions of gods, another believes in a harsh God who is to be utterly feared and another…. Well we don’t need to go through them all; the point is that the sort of God you believe in determines the sort of life you live.
There is something else here we should clarify, and it is that believing on its own is not faith. The apostle James had a thing about this and chided his readers, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” (Jas 2:19) This was part of his teaching that faith without works is dead. A majority of people in this country say they believe in God but the evidence of their lives shows clearly that they do not let that belief impact their lives. No, faith is acting out of that belief. The writer to the Hebrews in verse 1 added, after his opening statement about faith, “This is what the ancients were commended for,” and the following verses go on to develop into what we call the hall of faith, a listing of many of the Old Testament heroes who were heroes because they DID things. They lived out their lives in response to their belief that there is a God and that He communicates with us and has revealed something of Himself to us, and therefore that provides motivation for our lives.
And yet strangely verse 2 of Hebrews lays out a belief but puts it in faith form, if I may put it like that: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” Note that he doesn’t even start with “By faith we believe there is a God”. The Bible so takes that for granted that it never seeks to prove it. Every page of the Bible testifies to that truth, and it starts out, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1). It doesn’t say, “In the beginning there was God,” but it moves immediately into what God did. Why? Why doesn’t the Bible do it like that?
Well let me give you a couple of testimonies. Throughout the Christian period of my life I have always thought it important to have a strong apologetics base, i.e. to know the reasons for our faith and so on. I have in the past spent many hours talking with non-Christians about why there is a strong foundation to believe. I remember one person I ‘argued’ with for five hours (no exaggeration) and at the end of it, these were their exact words: “I have heard everything you said, and I understand all that you have said, and I am convinced by all that you have said, but I like my life of sin, as you call it, and I want to carry on with it,” and with that they got up, said goodbye and thanks, and left. Intellectual argument was not enough.
There was another person, a girl, I spoke to for a long time and again it was not getting anywhere. Eventually I said, “I tell you what. How about conducting an experiment. I believe there is a God and for a few minutes I want you to humour me and pretend you do as well. I am going to suggest I pray briefly and then I want you to pretend He is here and you pretend to talk to Him in prayer and see what happens.” It took a minute or so for her to eventually agree to this ‘silly experiment’ but we closed our eyes and I prayed briefly and finished with an ‘Amen’ to indicate it was her turn. There was silence for a moment or two and then she started, “God if you are here I would like to….” and then she stopped and all I heard was a sobbing. I opened my eyes and she was looking at me. Through her tears she sobbed, “He is here! He is real!” Passing by her intellect she stepped into the realm of the spirit only to find God there.
Actually she stepped out on my faith and found her own faith. I remember John Wimber once saying that in the Gospels when you looked at all the instances of healing, somebody had faith. When the four men dropped their friend through the roof, it was their faith, not his, that enabled Jesus to heal him. God honours faith, if you like, because it starts with Him.
Going back to our starting point, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” The point is that you cannot PROVE that. The evidence all points to that but at the end of the day you have to take a step of faith that says, “I believe that….” My wife teaches philosophy of religion and deals with the various arguments for God, the Design Argument, the Cosmological Argument and so on. They are good for philosophy but they are only helps. None of them PROVES God exists. We pile the evidence up – and there is a lot of it – and say, the evidence suggests that it is more likely that there is a God than that there isn’t a God.
That’s as far as you can go, but then at some point, those who become Christians say, “I believe and that belief is going to shape the rest of my life”. It is of course a belief that goes far beyond God as Creator for it has to include God who became a Saviour of the world. But hold that one crucial point for the moment (we’ll see more tomorrow) that reading the first verses of the Bible is inadequate for faith. It is the starting point, but our lives are changed when somehow, something says, “This is true, this is so true my life must change. That ‘something’ is faith and it comes from a combination of God’s word plus God’s Spirit, plus an open heart. More tomorrow.