Many in this world believe that faith is a product of one’s nature where some have faith in God while others do not. But siblings born and brought up in a family under similar circumstances become different in their faith and belief in God. Scripture declares that God has known us from before we were even placed in our mother’s womb and that He controls everything. How then can someone know God and have faith in Him without His express approval? Is faith also, like salvation, is a gift from God – given to some and not to others?
Why people do not believe even after seeing miracles in others’ lives – Lord Jesus performed innumerable miracles (John 20:30) but only few are listed in the four Gospel accounts and most of the Israelites witnessed one or the other. Despite this the learned group – the seventy members of the Sanhedrin- led by the Chief Priests bayed for the Messiah’s crucifixion and only two – Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus stepped forward to acknowledge His deity. Lord Jesus proclaimed “No one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father” and again “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me” (John 6:65 & 37). As per this it is amply clear that unless God grants, none can believe in Him and faith will arise in the hearts of only those that God has given to His Son. It is through God’s grace and mercy that one believes and is saved. “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them” (John 6:63-65).
Hebrew word ‘aman’ means firm, that is supported or secure and this same word is used in Scripture for a nail that is fastened to a secure place (Isaiah 22:23). From this word is derived the word ‘emun or uman’ meaning a craftsman or one who is secure and firm in the knowledge and expertise of his work. From ‘emun’ comes ‘emunah’ which is translated as faith since faith makes one firm and secure in the knowledge of one in whom it is set. Faith is perceived as a knowledge by most people but it is actually firm action. Thus faith in God is not about knowing that He is or exists and He will act but acting with firmness towards God’s will.
Reason cannot attain this certainty for some knowledge may supersede my reasoning and prove it to be wrong. Thus ‘emunah’ is akin to ‘seeing first hand’ without actually physically setting eyes on the object of our faith. Reasoning can help me understand but cannot convince me of something that appears as imaginary to me and I never saw. ‘Emunah’ will endure under all circumstances like the firmness of confidence of an ‘uman’ in his skill in any location and situation. Like a skilled craftsman, ‘emunah’ is tested and enriched under severe testing and withstanding the same, even while making some sacrifices.
Moses taught Israel as per God’s will that “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you may love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 30:6). It is God who affects the change in a man and not man himself. Apostle Paul who was a known enemy of believers testifies that “By grace you have been saved through faith. And it is not your doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). And then again, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
But from where does our faith come? – we must look at the origin of our faith for many believe that faith comes from within man from his own experiences and knowledge. As per this even sinners can work up trust in God to have a changed heart whereas this is in contravention to the Scripture. “The carnal mind is in enmity with God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8). Unbelievers lead their lives as per the desires of the flesh and cannot do God’s will which is to trust in His promise of salvation in His Son. “No one can see the kingdom of God unless one is first born again” (John 3:3) and since one is unable to even see the kingdom of God, how can one think of entering the unknown. Faith can only come from a new and a changed heart which is an act of God in our lives. Thus regeneration precedes faith.
Grace and faith are Divine gifts and our heavenly Father offers these to all. The sinners can intellectually understand the Gospel but lack moral ability to believe and thus turn from their sinful ways. Apostle Paul and Barnabas preached the Good News of Christ in Antioch and were asked to come again on the next Sabbath, when large crowds gathered at the Synagogue making the local Jewish leaders jealous. They, then, contradicted Apostle Paul and Barnabas forcing them to turn to the Gentiles, who believed and rejoiced in faith (Acts 13:13-52). We as believers are not much better than others for even when we were steeped in sin, God in His mercy and grace chose us. We need to be thankful to God for this.
How do we receive faith? – Faith is built up on three pillars and any one of these may crumble to break our faith – both the giving and backsliding happen from God’s control. The first pillar is based on God’s love, empathy and compassion in listening to our cries of despair in difficult situations in life. The Israelites in Egypt groaned and cried out to God to rescue them from their slavery (Exodus 2:23). God revealed Himself to Moses through the Burning Bush to proclaim “I have heard their cry and have come down to rescue them and Moses was commanded to convey the same message to the Israelites (Exodus 3:6-8). Moses’ message from God caused his acceptance by his people as their leader for they believed in the love of God for them. God’s love for mankind is displayed in the coming of His Son as Messiah to save us from the captivity of sin (John 3:16).
The second pillar is based on God’s power to make good His promises. Moses was empowered by God to act on His behalf before Pharaoh and this resulted in ten plagues being brought upon Egyptians till finally the Israelites were permitted to leave. When the Egyptian army chased the Israelites to bring them back, God acted through Moses to open the Red Sea for them to provide dry land as passage. On the other hand when the Egyptian army followed with their chariots and horses, the wheels of chariots got stuck in wet land till the Israelites crossed over. Sea waters rushed back to destroy the might of the Egyptians on the sea bed. The power of God is displayed through an angel to rescue Apostle Peter from the prison where the angel opens the latches on his legs, the door locks and leads him out of the prison (Acts 12:3-9). The indwelling Holy Spirit empowers all believers for performing “acts that the Lord Jesus did” and more than that in fulfillment of His promise.
The third pillar is about understanding of and by God of the faithful. God descended on Mount Sinai with fire, smoke and thunder and spoke to Moses who understood His Words and communicated with God “face to face”. God understands what we suffer and listens to and communicates with believers. Apostle Peter had denied knowing the Lord Jesus thrice and the Lord looked at Him while Peter could see His love, understanding and compassion in His eyes to cry out bitterly in repentance (Luke 22:61-62). The Messiah did not condemn him but sought confirmation of his love for Himself on the beach, after resurrection to anoint Him for greater responsibilities of “Looking after and feeding His sheep” (John 21:15-17)
How do we lose faith? – To lose faith one of the three pillars must be pulled down for the faith edifice to crumble. Moses spoke to the Israelites about their refusal to go into the Promised Land and rather send spies to check the situation first. After their report, ‘the Israelites complained that God hates us and wants to hand us over to the hands of the Amorites to get us killed (Deuteronomy 1:27). All three pillars were demolished by them and they forgot all that the LORD had done for them just a few days back in Egypt and on the way. Lord Jesus’ teachings were not liked by those hearing and ‘many people did not follow the Lord’ after that despite having seen and receiving healing, deliverance from demons and other miracles performed by Him (John 6:60-70).
How to remain strong in faith? – Father of the deaf and mute boy cried out to the Lord, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24) and to ask Him is the first and the foremost action we can take. Faith is a gift from the Holy Spirit and only He can restore us into it. It is important to know God rather than concentrating on the miracles performed by Him or in His name by the believers. We can know Him through His acts in His creation and its magnificence as well as His deeds.
Pray to Him for He has the power to save and He will. Lord Jesus warned the disciples before His crucifixion that Satan had sought them ‘to sift you as wheat but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail’ (Luke 22:31-34). Repent and seek forgiveness for any sins committed and seek the help of the Holy Spirit for “He convicts us of sin”. Seek fullness of the Holy Spirit and His nine gifts for the Lord has declared “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13). Practice or act out your faith like a craftsman who repeatedly uses his trade to master it. Act in faith for fulfillment of His promises as “You do not have for you do not ask” (James 4:2-3) and see Him answering the prayers for He and His promises are true. Listen to the Word for ‘faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God’ (Romans 10:17). Read the Scripture aloud as also listen to others preach.
Grow through believing the Word for all His promises are true since Scripture is ‘God breathed’ and living. “I am the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15:26) and “by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Lord Jesus healed all who were brought to Him and when we believe we receive (Matthew 12:15). Act in belief as one who is victorious not as one defeated and beaten. Grow through receiving the blessing; thankfully accept the same even though it may not be visible in the worldly realm. Daniel continued in prayer for 21 days for the answer was delayed by the devil. Like the father of the demon possessed deaf and mute boy seek His help for even the disciples prayed to Lord Jesus, “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5) for they were aware that He alone could do this. Nobody except God has all the answers that arise in our minds. Therefore let us humble ourselves before Him and seek His grace and mercy to “Increase our faith”.
Our faith is not the result of some inherent goodness that we posses with ourselves but it is due to God’s mercy and grace and there is nothing that we an take pride in. We need to humble ourselves in thankfulness and be a willing receptacle. Our Father, who are in heaven, thank You for my faith. I pray to You to sustain it, strengthen it, deepen it and do not let it fail. Make this faith the power of my life so that in everything I do, You alone get the glory and honor as the Great Giver.