That got your attention, didn’t it?
But it is necessary to clear up some false teaching. If we don’t get this right, we will be tossed around continually by doubt and fear, and we will be enslaved to bondage again.
The word “faith” is popular in wall art, memes, and paintings. You may have tried to encourage someone who was suffering by saying something like, “Have faith!”
But by itself, faith is a meaningless word. Faith means to believe in…something.
So when you say, “Have faith”, I will say, “in what?” It is simply a question of grammar.
Faith that everything will work out just fine? Well, it probably won’t. Lots of people die unexpectedly and alone and in pain. The cemeteries are full of people who may or may not have believed that everything would work out OK. They all still died. If you believe that everything will work out OK, and your only frame of reference is the things of this world, the odds are overwhelmingly against you. History shows again and again that things usually don’t work out alright.
Are we saying, “Have faith in the goodness of people”? Really? Have you met people? They all let you down. Promises are easy to make, and seldom kept.
Perhaps we are saying, “Have faith in yourself.” You know, like the song, “I believe I can fly”. But it never occurred to anyone that believing he could fly did not actually enable R. Kelly to fly. He probably would have been better off if he had sung, “I believe I can be a decent human”, but it probably wouldn’t have fixed that, either. But I digress.
Perhaps this is why people simply say, “Have faith”, as if that meant something. They don’t have anything to believe in that actually gives purpose and meaning to their lives.
What becomes a problem is when we believe that faith is what saves us. If we take just a second to examine ourselves, some questions come up. How much faith do I need? What do I believe in, then? Am I having faith in faith? But that seems a bit odd. How do I believe in believing?
Now I am in a weird circle of believing in believing in believing, but have nothing to actually believe IN. If I believe in faith, and faith is simply a meaningless word without an object of faith, then I guess I am putting my hope of eternal life in a word that makes me feel like I am accomplishing something when I am really just staring at my navel wondering where all the lint came from…
How’s that for a sentence?
The gospel is never “believe”!” It is always, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!”
That makes all the difference. Faith doesn’t save anyone. There is only one savior: Jesus Christ. Faith is the arms that hold him, the eyes that see him, the ears that hear him. To put it into theological terms, faith is the instrument by which we lay hold of Christ!
And that is everything. It takes our gaze away from our own hearts and directs it to where Christ is, at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1). We are weak. We are foolish. We still struggle with sin. We are outcasts. We are despised. We are poor and oppressed on every side.
And yes, there are times when we are discouraged. Times when depression crushes us. Times when we certainly do not feel the presence of God, when we are downcast and almost in despair. There are times when we don’t understand anything, when we don’t know what to do. When we are lost and feel like we are drowning.
And there are many gurus who will tell you how to have more faith, how to be more cheerful, how to live a life of power. You can find all sorts of people who give you instruction on how to lift yourself up, climb out of that hole.
But that isn’t the answer of the Bible. The answer of Scripture is this: Lay hold on Jesus Christ. He is everything you are not, and everything that he has is yours. His righteousness is yours. His death was yours, so you are no longer under condemnation. His righteousness is yours, so you can stand before God’s throne with confidence. His resurrection is yours already, so even when worms devour this flesh, I KNOW that in my flesh I shall see God. Because Jesus is already there, and he is mine and I am his.
Eternal God, strong to save, who does all of his own pleasure, became flesh and fulfilled the law of God perfectly in my place. He took the curses of the law so that the blessings of the law might be mine forever.
If only I accept that benefit with a believing heart.
(Psa 40:2 KJV) He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
So when you are downcast and fearful, when the storms of life have almost overtaken you, when the devil and his condemnation continually attack – quit looking at yourself, and lay hold on Christ. He lifts you out of the pit. He delivers you from your sins. He cleans you up and presents you to the Father. Everything that is his he gives to you – life, peace, joy, glory, salvation.
He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the rock that can never be moved, and faith holds on to him.
Faith doesn’t save anyone. Jesus saves. Faith that believes in faith is the sound of one hand clapping. It’s as meaningless as the grasshopper quotes from “Kung Fu”.
Faith in Jesus Christ is something far different. He who believes on him will never be ashamed, can never be lost, and is already in possession of eternal life.