World of Faith

What is Real Faith? – Part Four: Exercising Our Faith | March 7, 2007

Before I get into this week’s blog entry, I want to share a quick preview of what will be our next series, which will begin later this month. A common and current theme that has been appearing in my own spiritual journey is that as Christians, we need to change our thinking, especially if we wish God to use us in the day and hour in which we live. In fact, real faith, the subject of this series, demands that we live in the future, and see ourselves where God would have us down the road, rather in the present time. In a few weeks, when I introduce the new series, I’ll give an important example in the life of my own church that explains this concept of living in the future and changing our thinking. But the series will focus on how we exactly do change our thinking, so I’ll likely begin with Romans 12 and discuss the renewing of the mind, and then take it from there.

Now, onto this week’s entry. As a review, last week I gave the beginning, I hope, of a biblical definition of faith. I began by discussing the origin of our faith, which is found by hearing the Word of God. However, I also emphasized that the blessings of God are only for those who DO the Word of God, and not just hear it. I examined up-close the first and second chapters of the Book of James, where we saw that our faith must be tested in order for it to be matured and perfected. And by perfected, I don’t mean flawless, but complete and whole. James clearly teaches that doubt and unbelief are the opposites of faith. Further, James also taught that when our faith is mixed with doubt, then we are in presumption, which is also an opposite of faith. This idea of presumption is implied in James 1:7-8, which discusses a man who doubts in his heart, and says, “For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” Thus supposing that you will receive something from the Lord, when such faith is mixed with doubt or unbelief, is really presumption, and is not real faith. Then I looked at the second chapter of James, where he continues to define faith by explaining how faith must be mixed with works, not so that we can be saved, but so that we can prove our faith by our works, as a demonstration of what we believe. This is an important concept to grasp, because I will build on it in this very blog entry. In fact, as I stated in last week’s entry, this concept is so important, that both Paul and James taught that it is only the doers of the Word of God that are blessed, and not the hearers only. James also makes reference to the life of Abraham in developing this issue. The example from the life of Abraham clearly exhorts us as believers to mix our faith with our works. As I said last week, mere believing will not suffice, but we must demonstrate our faith by corresponding action. So, that sums up last week’s blog entry.

This week I am going to develop the theme of exercising our faith, now that I hope I’ve given a good biblical definition of faith the past three weeks in the blog. If you’re reading this, and you think I’ve missed something in defining faith, please let me know. Exercising our faith is very important, because that is the step before the last topic in this series, which is how God rewards our faith, i.e. the blessings of living a faith-filled life. In order to receive these blessings, we need to exercise our faith.

For the past three weeks, I have stuck mostly in the epistles discussing faith. However, we need to look to the Master Teacher Himself, Jesus Christ, in learning how to exercise our faith. Jesus really did say much about our faith. For starters, Jesus said in Mark 11:22-24 (NKJV), “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” Talk about exercising our faith, this passage really gives a good descriptive example of how to exercise our faith. The first thing that Jesus says is we need to have faith in God. That’s rather basic. But then Jesus discusses speaking. Real faith is actually a declaration of our belief. Faith demands that we are bold and speak out what God is telling us. That’s why Jesus says we must speak to the mountain. In fact, from a grammar standpoint, Jesus teaches us here by example we are to COMMAND the mountain to be removed. Further, we cannot doubt. As I shared last week, James tells us that doubting produces double-mindedness and presumption. Jesus specifically exhorts us here that whatever we declare, believe that it will be done for us, and thus we will “receive” them, and we in fact will have them. This is the same concept presented in 1 John 5:14-15 (NKJV), “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” This passage shows us that real faith will produce an inner knowing, which is a confidence, or an assurance deep inside us that God will perform His Word. That’s how we know what His will is — by looking into the Word of God. In fact, the Word of God teaches us in 2 Cor. 18-20 (NKJV), “But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, by me, Silvanus, and Timothy, was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For ALL the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” The fact is that if we pray according to God’s will, by finding the promises in the Word of God, then God’s answer is yes and amen, and we can believe that we receive the petitions of what we ask of the Lord. But, if we pray something that’s NOT in God’s will, then it is NOT that God says “No to those things.” Instead, God simply does not hear us. God ONLY hears us when we pray according to His will. This is an important distinction in exercising our faith. Many people have taught that God answers prayer with “No,” sometimes. But there is no negative in God. He cannot answer a prayer according to His will with a “No.” He simply does not hear a prayer that is outside His will.

Jesus also taught these same concepts when the disciples asked Jesus in Luke 17:5 how to “Increase our faith.” Real faith is like a muscle. It must be exercised in order to be increased. While Mark 11 gives us the keys of how to exercise our faith, likewise Jesus’ words in Luke 17:6 (NKJV) also teaches us how to increase our faith: “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. This verse brings me back to some childhood memories that I cherish that I will share in a moment. But first, notice that Jesus compared our faith to a mustard seed. Mustard seeds are VERY small. However, only having such little faith, we can have a huge impact. I grew up down the street from neighbors who had two huge mulberry trees on the edge of their yard. They did not spray them, and because the trees were so huge, the branches of these trees hung well over the fence of my neighbors’ yard. So every year, during the summer, I’d walk by, and when the mulberries were ripe, I’d take advantage and eat them. Those were the days. But these mulberry trees were huge. It would be quite a task to pull them up “by the roots.” However, Jesus teaches here that if I would just have the faith as a mustard seed, then I could command the tree to be rooted up and planted in the sea, and the tree would have no choice to obey me, so long as I believe God would be faithful to perform His Word.

Thus, that is how we exercise and increase our faith. We must speak and command from our faith, in a bold way, without doubting, and believe that what we command and say will be done for us, and believe that we receive them. In essence, this is exercising our faith. So, that’s all for this week. Next week I will take up our last topic for this series, which is how God rewards our faith, i.e. the blessings of living a faith-filled life. I’ll be looking principally at Hebrews 11 and Galatians 3, and then be discussing how the blessing of Abraham applies to our life as Christian believers today.

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