Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).
A lot of people believe all the right things, but have little faith! Many believers who are full of good Bible teaching still fail to experience victory or change in their lives. Anxiety, worry, and fear are common destroyers of peace. They are the substance of things dreaded, and the evidence of things that are seen. There may be belief in God, but much of our Christian faith today is little more than conviction. What’s missing is personal response and trust.
By conviction alone, you might behave a little differently from your peers. You might adamantly defend the truths of Scripture. By conviction alone, you might offer yourself for service or give to the poor. But conviction alone will not keep you calm in the midst of the storm. Conviction alone will not draw you into the deeper experience of God’s love. Conviction alone will not take you into new frontiers.
Conviction agrees, Faith ACTS
Conviction says that God can and God does. But faith takes it further, believing that God has already done and that God yet will. Conviction will set us on a rock, but faith will put us out on a limb.
We go out on a limb when we respond to the call of Jesus. He said, “follow me,” and He took the risky route to the cross. He didn’t say “watch me,” but He bid us to come and take the narrow road with Him. He didn’t say “agree with me.” Had He said this only, our system of religious beliefs would be enough; and the majority of people we know would be considered true Christians. Most reasonable people will not argue with the teachings of Jesus. Even unbelievers will say that Jesus was a great teacher. Their resistance comes with the call to believe and respond.
Jesus said and says to His disciples, “follow me.” This is a present-continuous command. There is no stopping. Conviction gets us started, and faith keeps us moving unto the end.
Please don’t misunderstand. Conviction is necessary and a crucial partner to faith. They work together, and when one is missing the other suffers. Conviction takes hold of the Lord’s precepts; and faith takes hold of the promises. But the combination must be complete. When it is, trust enters in.
Conviction accepts, Faith APPROPRIATES
Conviction can accept that God cares, but faith takes it personally and says, “God cares for ME.”
When acceptance moves to appropriation, it is easier to trust. Trust is simply evidence of things unseen- the life and love of God working personally within. These unseen realities become seen in our joy and in the absence of needless care or anxiety. There is freedom to move in steps that the world might not understand. Problems may come, but they are worked out in peace alongside the Father. And we move onward, looking to that ‘better country,’ the Kingdom of God, unshaken by the threats of this present darkness.
But when trust is absent, we often get ensnared by near-sightedness, and doubt in the Lord’s care.
Consider the disciples in the boat with Jesus when the storm came (Lk.8:22-25). Jesus had fallen asleep, but the disciples came to Him in a panic saying, “Master, master, we perish!” Jesus did not commend them for their proper belief in Him, and that He should be addressed in this situation. Instead he said, “Where is your faith?”
Didn’t they have faith? The trouble came and they went to God and asked Him to fix it. We often do the same. Jesus, in His mercy, calmed the storm in spite of their lack of faith; and I believe He often helps us in the same way.
But why was this a lack of faith?
It may be because the disciples did not have enough trust in the One who was with them. What would have happened if they did not awaken Jesus? Would Jesus have been caught off guard? Would this have been the first situation to overpower Him? Would this have been the end? If they had trusted in Jesus, trusted in who He really was, they would not have panicked. They would have been confident that He was with them, and although sleeping, no storm could overtake them with Him in the boat.
I believe their biggest problem was that they didn’t think he cared. “We perish!” they cried. They doubted He was going to see them safely to the other side. Have you ever felt like you weren’t going to make it? Sure, God died for you and revealed Himself to you, but in a crunch He just didn’t seem to care, because things didn’t seem to change. This feeling is a result of looking more to the seen than the unseen.
Along our journey we have faced and will face many storms. But God is with us, and though it may seem like He is sleeping, the truth is that He cares, and He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep (Ps.121:3-4). We often panic when God does not seem to answer prayers regarding the resolution of a trying situation. He could be easily glorified in coming to our rescue; but it may be that He would rather be glorified in a later outcome, a result of our trusting Him through the storm.
Faith is not placing hope in the answers to our problems, it is placing hope in God Himself. It is diligently seeking HIM, and not just what He can do for us. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ask God to help us. But we ask with faith in Him, and complete confidence that He cares.
Faith involves much more than asking, as well. God has given us authority (Luke 10:19) and every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph.1:3). Sometimes we need to take our authority and speak to the wind and waves ourselves. We need to take charge and resist the devil (James 4:7).
All the conviction in the world cannot move mountains or pluck mulberry trees, but a little faith can. Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves (2Cor.13:5). Don’t let it be a faith that simply holds doctrines, let it be a faith that moves on promises. Not a faith that knows about Jesus, but a faith that KNOWS Jesus! The church needs to be more than just a people with a system of religious beliefs. We are a peculiar people moving towards a godly goal, to grow in Christ and to make Him known!