Faith an Advent Devotional Part 5 of 5
Faith Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence and the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
In the past few weeks, as a church, we’ve been taking a step back and working through devotionals with prayer and fasting to gain a God centered perspective. In this five-part series, we used a lens of seeking FIRST God’s kingdom and His righteousness. We considered thanksgiving, praise, worship, and proclamation as means to moving us towards intimacy, sacrifice and Jesus confessing us to our Heavenly father. In the last part, we looked at communion and described it in terms of wrestling with or intensely seeking God, until He turns his face toward us. This is an amazing promise and maybe the perfect place to leave off. But let’s explore one further truth. After all, this series has been titled Faith, an Advent devotional.
I think it worthwhile to understand a few concepts about Faith as a starting point. The first concept is that faith is formed in us as a belief system. Hebrews 11:1 describes it as a substance, a body of evidence and a conviction. This is similar to the dictionary definition which is, “a complete trust or confidence in someone or something; or a strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.” In other words, our belief in God is formed in us based on what we apprehend through our lives. Philippians 3:12 states this so well, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” I like to think of faith as our state of mind through which we interpret, process, and respond to the various experiences and encounters we have as we move through our day. Our behaviour and thinking are a direct result of Christlike character and Holy Spirit fruit that is formed in our mind, will, emotions and spirit. Of course, there are other beliefs, emotions and desires that have formed in our faith throughout our life that cause us to react with unhealthy fruit such as offense, resentment, bitterness, anger, malice or hatred. Hebrew’s calls faith the substance of what we hope for. Romans 12:2 says that instead of being conformed to this worldly way, be transformed through the renewing of your mind so that you can approve what is the good, perfect and pleasing will of God. So, first, faith is a substance, a belief system, a conviction.
The second concept is about the proof or evidence of our faith. I think Jesus asks one of the most significant questions in the bible in Luke 18:8, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” This suggests to me that our faith will be a key testimony that our advocate, the Holy Spirit, will use as evidence when we stand before Christ at the judgement seat. To expand on this concept, lets include a passage from 1 Peter 1 which we briefly looked at previously in this series.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
What this says to me is that our faith will be worked out and proven through the course of our lives by the trials that we face. Our love for Him, our belief in Him, the filling of our lives with inexpressible and glorious joy in the midst of our grief and trials, this demonstrated faith will result in the salvation of our souls and praise glory and honor when Jesus is revealed.
The third concept, fire, is also mentioned in the 1 Peter passage but needs to be drawn out a bit. There are many uses of the word Fire in the bible as it occurs over 500 times. R.T. Kendall in his book “Holy Fire” suggests that “the properties of fire include: power, illumination, and cleansing. Power … enabled the disciples to evangelize with effectiveness and without fear; … illumination … enabled the disciples to see why Jesus died and rose from the dead [and through] the spirit provides great clarification with regard to assurance of salvation and sound teaching; [and] … fire cleanses … purifying the heart to focus clearly on what brings honor and glory to God.” Peter says that the suffering of grief in all kinds of trials is like the fire that is used to refine gold. It burns off the dross, or in the analogy of the threshing floor, it burns off the chaff. How our faith holds up under the fire of trials demonstrates, or is evidence of, the proven genuineness of our faith. Someone recently told me of having dreams of fire as a child and how terrifying they were. This is such a helpful understanding because I’m not sure we always appreciate the importance and blessing that the holy fear of God is for raising us up and strengthening our faith.
So, one last concept. The bible provides a description of four types of faith that we should consider before we close: temporary, intellectual, dead or real faith.
- Luke 8:13 says, “Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.”
- James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.” We can have intellectual faith as the demons.
- James 2:17 says, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
- Romans 10:10 says “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you proclaim, profess or confess your faith and are saved.”
Real faith is contrasted through these scriptures to partial or dead faith and should give us pause about letting the Lord develop our heart and beliefs according to His ways, His truth.
Let me illustrate what I am trying to express with these four concepts. During my career, I went to Queens for an Executive Development workshop. While the whole workshop was very good, my greatest take away, or what I’ve retained, was through a personality profile test. I’d done many of these in my career and they always showed similar results. What was different about this one was that it tested your personality under stress and pressure. The notion was to see what one was really like when life was at its hardest or worst. Was this ever revealing. I was constantly under extreme stress in my work and even outside of work and therefore this was probably more my norm than what my personality might have been at rest and peace. No wonder I felt my behaviour needed to be changed.
Another thing that has impacted me very recently is the idea of “white privilege”. This notion highlights the effect of philosophy, ideologies and social constructs of race and hierarchy on our beliefs and ultimately, in part, our faith. If you have the time to listen to the first “Crucial Conversation” that Love Ottawa had with the black pastors in the city, it is well worth your time. If you have limited time, at about the 15-minute mark for about 25 minutes, Rev. Anthony Bailey gives a fascinating talk on “Systematic Racism, White Privilege and the Bible.” Here is the link for your convenience: https://youtu.be/-Y8j_9iduFk.
To me, these two illustrations demonstrate the dimensions and diversity of our faith, our belief system or the substance of what we hope for. They amplify the necessity and urgency for each of us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. How else will we see, and apprehend in our lives, the true will of God instead of the chaos of loud and constant worldly views and ideologies, or the pains and hurts that drive offense, bitterness and resentment, or the long since forgotten but still ingrained modeling of behaviours from influential people in our lives. All these things have formed a mind set, a world view, a belief system—a faith, if you will, that may or may not line up with the message of the gospel and the truths of the bible.
It is such a joy during the Advent season to focus on celebration, new birth, and the excitement and hope that Jesus Christ as a baby represents. Lord, I pray that this time of devotion, prayer and fasting as a church allows each of us to be renewed and restored as Psalm 23:3 promises. But as importantly Lord, help us to have the strength and conviction coming out of this season to always seek You first, to express our thanksgiving, and praise and to sacrifice our lives in worship to you. Let this manifest in continual proclamation of your greatness, Your gospel and Your glory in and through our lives. And, as we continually choose you to be Lord of our lives, please shepherd us. Help us in the grief and trials to allow you to purify our faith so that we will know the truth and the truth will set us free and so that what remains will result in praise glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Because maturing in our faith is a journey, here are some scriptures you might want to work through with the Lord.
|James 1:2-12; 4:7-8||2 Timothy 1:7||Ephesians 4:22-24|
|Philippians 2:1-5; 4:8||Colossians 3:2-16||Rom. 8:5-6; 12:1-2; 15:5-6|
|1 Corinthians 2:16; 14:33||2 Corinthians 10:3-5||Hebrews 10:23; 11:6|
|Prov. 3:5-6; 4:20-23; 19:21 23:7||Psalms 42:11; 46:10||Deuteronomy 30:19|
|Luke 10:38-42||Matthew 6:25-34||Jeremiah 29:11-14|
|Genesis 11:6||Ecclesiastes 7:29||Isaiah 26:3|