Faith Refs

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:1,6)

Matthew 14:22–33

When Peter walked on the water towards Jesus, would you have walked with him? Or would you have stayed safe in the boat, shaking your head at the crazy things Peter did? Different levels of faith are shown in these events: Jesus had complete faith and walked on the water through the storm and wind; Peter had enough faith to walk on water for a while; the other disciples had only enough faith to be willing to take Jesus into the boat despite their fears that he may have been a ghost.

1. Were Peter’s actions reasonable and responsible? There was no need for him to walk on the water. Was it right for him to test God in this way?

2. Can you think of any other cases where Peter seems to have acted first and thought later?

3. Did the disciples satisfy Jesus’ demand for them to have faith? Was the faith of any of them strong enough?

4. What went wrong with Peter’s faith? Why did he start to sink? Are we ever in the same sort of situation? How do we stop our faith from ebbing away? Can doubt be controlled?

5. Was Jesus fair in saying Peter had only little faith?

6. Why did Jesus tell Peter to walk to him on the water?

What is faith and why bother about it?
In the Bible, faith is three things:

“the faith” as a set of beliefs;
faith as a certainty of things that cannot be seen.

Faith is vital because God tells us that without faith we cannot hope to please him (Hebrews 11:6). God rewards those who show a strong desire to find him although they cannot see him.

Faithfulness is being reliable and loyal—sticking to something through thick and thin. When we read of faith in the New Testament, it is often this loyalty that is meant.

Loyalty and faithfulness are very important to God. He wants us to make a commitment to him and never to switch our loyalty from him. This is one aspect of the faith we need to have in order to please God. Faithfulness is part of the fruit of the spirit—it shows godliness is growing in us. Galatians 5:22

“The Faith”
“The truth”, “the faith” and “the way” are all used to describe the set of beliefs that Jesus gave to his disciples to preach all over the world. Holding to the faith is an essential part of what is required to please God.

Being sure of what we do not see
This is the most beautiful form of faith and the one that springs first to mind. Through it, David opposed Goliath, Daniel’s three friends refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol and Jesus and Peter could walk on water. Spectacular things have been done by faith and these grab our attention. According to Jesus, someone with an amount of faith as small as a mustard seed would be able to tell a mountain to move and it would. He summed it all up by saying that nothing would be impossible for the man who had faith. Matthew 17:20

So why aren’t there more mountains moving around? Has nobody got enough faith? The Apostle John wrote

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: 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 what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14–15)

So it depends on God’s will. Jesus never moved a mountain and yet we know he had enough faith to do amazing things. But he always did miracles that God wanted. When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, he desperately wanted to avoid the crucifixion, but his faith could not change the will of God. Jesus accepted this and showed faith in his willingness to die. Mark 14:36

The meanings of faith
faithfulness, loyalty
Malachi 2:14; Galatians 5:22; Romans 3:3.  
“the faith” as a set of beliefs
Acts 6:7; 13:8; 14:22; Galatians 1:23; Ephesians 4:13; Philippians 1:27; 1 Timothy 3:9; 4:1,6; 2 Timothy 4:7; Titus 1:13.
the certainty about things not seen
Genesis 12:1–4; 1 Samuel 17:45–47; 2 Chronicles 20:20; Daniel 3:15–18; Matthew 8:5–13; 9:2, 20–22; 15:21–28; 17:20, 21:18–22; Mark 16:14; Luke 17:12–19; John 20:26–29; Acts 14:8–10.

Paul was another man with great faith and gifts of the Holy Spirit, but he was told that he must put up with a “thorn in the flesh”. 2 Corinthians 12:7–9
Faith will never allow us to change God’s determined will, but without human faith many of the events in the Bible would not have happened. Naaman was reluctant to dip himself in the dirty river Jordan, but without enough faith to try, he would have stayed a leper. 2 Kings 5:9–14

Developing faith
Faith is being certain of things we cannot see—and it cannot be seen itself. No-one can say “here is half a kilogram of faith”.
God says he does not judge on outward appearances and here is another proof of this. Faith can only be seen by others when it affects our behaviour. If others have let their faith change their way of life, we can copy it:

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Hebrews 6:12)
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7)

And if our faith works in us, others can copy us.
We are to possess faith in “increasing measure”. The believers in Thessalonica are described as having faith which was “growing more and more”. How does this happen? 2 Peter 1:5–8, 2 Thessalonians 1:3

Faith grows as we gain confidence in God. This occurs as we get to know him better through prayer, through reading his word, and through seeing him in action. Each time our prayers are
answered, or we are aware of God’s guiding hand in some event in our lives, is a time for our faith to increase.

Note that we are not asked to have blind faith—that is faith without evidence. God gives us:

evidence of his existence; e.g. Romans 1:19–20
evidence of the inspiration of the Scriptures; See Chapter 2. Reasons to believe the Bible.
and continues to provide evidence of his care for his children. e.g. Psalm 34:7; Proverbs 3:5–6

We are to use the evidence he provides as a basis for developing our faith.

Having faith in the wrong things
Imagine two people climbing a mountain. Both have faith in their equipment—one has bad equipment and falls to his death, while the other reaches the summit. Faith of itself cannot save; it must be faith based on the truth of God.

. . . the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already
heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and
growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.
(Colossians 1:5–6)

Having faith is being unshakeable in our hope and certain of the invisible. Faith helps us to:
be faithful and loyal to God;
never lose our hold on the truth of God; and
know that God’s promises will be fulfilled.

1. If we cannot prove that God exists, should we get involved with atheists in logical arguments about his existence?
Does an atheist need faith?

2. Have you ever been surprised by the strength of your faith?

3. Have you ever been let down by your weak faith?

4. Could you (or should you) be able to walk on water now?

1. What role does God play in helping us to develop our faith? Find some references to support your answer.

2. What evidence did David have that God would help him to defeat Goliath?

3. Jesus says that a person with faith can do anything, yet his great faith didn’t help him to escape the cross despite his prayers. Is this a contradiction?

4. Abraham is called the “father of the faithful” (based on Romans 4:11). Think of some examples where Abraham showed unusual faith.

The genius of discipleship by Dennis Gillett (published by The Christadelphian, 1984). Chapters 4–6. 14 pages.
The mind of St Paul by William Barclay (published by William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 9th impression, 1978). Chapter 12 (16 pages).

2. Reasons to believe the Bible
6. What is God like?
9. Prayer
40. God’s promises to Abraham and David
51. The fruit of the Spirit