by Matt Slick
The Bible says this about faith: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen," (Heb. 11:1, NASB). The dictionary says faith is "confident belief in the truth." These are great comments on faith. But, sometimes faith is best defined as "Just plain ole' hard!"
Have you ever been in a situation where your faith is really tested, I mean REALLY tested? Or have you ever wondered where God is in the midst of your difficulties even though you've been crying out to Him for deliverance and have seen none? Have you ever found yourself with nowhere to turn, no real answers, no light at the end of the tunnel? Have your heart and mind been filled with both anguish, doubts, fears, and commotion, and faith seems more like a distant concept then present reality? I have, and if you have been a Christian for very long, then you probably have, too.
Why does God allow us to go through these desert times of the testing of our faith? Well, James tells us plainly, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4, NASB). James knew what it meant to live by faith, and he knew what it meant to have his faith purified. That's right, purified.
It is easy to have faith in God when we are sitting in our easy-chairs, in our air-conditioned homes, with our remote controls in one hand, and a bag of chips in the other. That kind of faith is easy. However, it leads nowhere--except to the easy-chair. But, take it all away and you will find out what kind of faith you really have. Take away your comforts and your security and then what kind of faith will you have in God? You will quickly find out what you are really made of. Will you bemoan your circumstances and whine at God, or will you turn to Him in the midst of your trial and by faith praise His name and continue to trust Him even beyond your ability to understand?
Real trials provide for us a rare opportunity to actually praise the Lord of Heaven when life is difficult. It is THAT kind of praise and faith that is pleasing to God (Heb. 11:6). And, it is that kind of faith that builds your character (James 1:2-4).
Now, here is a little heresy for you from Matt Slick: Faith does not save you. Got that? FAITH DOES NOT SAVE YOU! Faith is not a substance that you put in a jar or detect with a meter. Faith isn't a cream you apply to protect you from something. Faith is belief, trust, etc. The key to understanding faith lies not in faith itself but in the OBJECT of faith: God! Faith is only as good as whom you put it in. Faith in a false god (i.e., Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, etc.,) is useless, and it doesn't save you. But faith in the TRUE God DOES save you. You see? Faith is only as good as whom you put it in. Faith in the true God results in salvation (Rom. 5:1, Eph. 2:8). Faith in a false god results in damnation.
Finally, faith "works" because of whom it is placed in. It is not a thing dependent upon you for its vitality. It is not made real by YOU. It is made real by WHOM YOU PLACE IT IN. That is why true faith in the true God is independent of your circumstances. Romans 12:3 says that God gives a measure of faith to everyone. Okay, so what do you do with this measure of faith? During trials and tribulations do you withdraw it from your spiritual walk, whine, and complain, only to be faithful again when things get more comfortable? Or, do you continue on in faith (because it is in the Creator of the Universe) in spite of your circumstance and do exactly what the Bible says: "The just shall live by faith," (Hab. 2:4)? To live by faith means that you continue on trusting God because your faith is in HIM and not in your comforts, your health, your needs, your emotions, or your intellect. To live by faith means that you trust the Lord in all circumstances. In this, God is glorified.
Do you think that the God of Glory who died on the cross and rose from the dead is going to leave you or forsake you? He cannot. Therefore, your faith in Him is well placed. But remember, His perfecting of your faith sometimes requires you to actually live by it. Keep your eyes on Him and remember that His love and commitment to you was proven on the cross. That will make it easier to endure the times of perfecting your faith.