What Is Having Faith in God?
- Do We Have True Faith in the Lord?
- What True Faith Really Is
- 1. Abraham’s Faith
- 2. Job’s Faith
- How to Build True Faith in God
What God requires of each of us as Christians is to possess genuine faith. There are many examples recorded in the Bible of people who were able to see God’s wondrous deeds and be blessed by Him because of their faith. Moses had faith in God and through His guidance, was able to overcome the myriad obstructions and limitations of the Pharaoh, successfully leading the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt. Abraham had faith in God and was willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac to God, and ultimately God blessed him, allowing his descendants to multiply and become great nations. Job had faith in God and was able to stand witness for God through two trials; God blessed him even more, and appeared to him and spoke to him from a storm. The Canaanite woman in Matthew had faith in the Lord Jesus and believed that He could drive out the evil spirit from her daughter; she made her plea to the Lord Jesus and her daughter’s sickness was cured. As Christians, it is imperative that we understand the truth pertaining to what true faith is so that no matter what hardships we encounter in our lives—failures in business, setbacks in life, unfortunate family events—we are able to rely on our faith and unwaveringly follow God, being resounding witnesses for Him and ultimately gaining His approval.
Do We Have True Faith in the Lord?
There may be some brothers and sisters who, when hearing a discussion about faith, will confidently declare that they do have faith. “I have 100% faith in God. I acknowledge God at all times, and this proves that I’m a person of faith.” “I believe that the Lord Jesus is our Savior, and He was crucified to redeem us of our sins. As long as we pray and confess to the Lord, our sins will always be forgiven by Him. Isn’t that having faith in the Lord?” “I’ve been a believer all these years; I’ve given up my career, my family, and my job to expend myself and work for the Lord. I’ve established churches all over the place and have suffered a lot without ever complaining. These are all manifestations of having faith in God.” Undeniably, we believe in God’s existence and it’s a fact that we enthusiastically work and expend ourselves for the Lord, that we suffer and pay a price for Him. But do these things mean that we have true faith in God? This issue is worth all of us, brothers and sisters who genuinely believe in the Lord and thirst for the truth, exploring and having fellowship on.
Take me as an example. Since becoming a Christian I’ve always actively participated in gatherings, shared the gospel with others, and offered support to brothers and sisters experiencing weakness. No difficulties have ever stopped me from doing these things. I’m more than willing to put aside my creature comforts to enthusiastically serve the Lord, so I think of myself as someone who loves the Lord, is devoted to Him, and has faith in Him. However, when my family members and I fell ill and our conditions didn’t improve even after I had been praying for a while, I became disheartened and disappointed with God, and even complained to Him about not protecting me or my family. What was revealed by the hard truth made me see that I was completely lacking genuine faith, and that my faith was just based on the foundation of harmony in my family and being free of physical illness or catastrophe. However, my true stature was revealed as soon as something undesirable happened. Only then did I see that my faith in God was so paltry that it was pathetic—it was really nothing to brag about. Looking at the brothers and sisters around me, most of them were just the same. Some generally stop attending church services when there’s some sort of scheduling conflict with their home or work lives so that their own interests won’t be impacted. Some are able to pray to the Lord and ask Him for a way out when they’re first stymied in their attempts to find work or in other aspects, but if it continues to be an unresolved issue, they build up resentment of the Lord and may even become disheartened and discouraged. They begin to rely on the friends around them that seem powerful and authoritative, or they may act based upon their own thinking. There are also brothers and sisters who enthusiastically participate in all aspects of the church’s work when they receive the Lord’s blessings, but when something terrible occurs at home or they face failures in business, they live within misunderstanding and complaints of the Lord, or even walk away from Him.
We can see from what we express and live out on a daily basis that our faith simply cannot stand up to the tests of reality. We just acknowledge that the Lord Jesus is the true God and believe that He is our Savior, but that doesn’t mean that we have true faith in God. It particularly does not mean that we will never deny or forsake God no matter what sort of environment we find ourselves in. That’s because our faith isn’t established upon a foundation of true understanding of God, but instead upon a foundation of whether or not we can gain God’s blessings and promises, and whether or not we can gain any benefit. That’s why our faith in God is not at all genuine. So then what is true faith, and how is having true faith expressed?
What True Faith Really Is
God’s words say, “No matter how God works, and no matter your environment, you are able to pursue life and seek the truth, and seek knowledge of God’s work, and have an understanding of His actions, and you are able to act according to the truth. Doing so is what it is to have true faith, and doing so shows that you have not lost faith in God. You can only have true faith in God if you are able to persist in pursuing the truth through refinement, if you are able to truly love God and do not develop doubts about Him, if no matter what He does you still practice the truth to satisfy Him, and if you are able to seek in the depths for His will and be considerate of His will” (“Those Who Are to Be Made Perfect Must Undergo Refinement”). We can understand from God’s words that true faith refers to being able to maintain a heart of reverence for and submission to God in whatever environment we may face, whether we’re encountering hardships and refinements, setbacks and failures, and regardless of how great our fleshly or spiritual suffering is. We must be able to seek the truth, understand God’s will, and continue to be devoted to Him in the midst of the environment He has set up. Only that kind of person can be considered to be a person of true faith. Now let’s take a look at the experiences of Abraham and Job so that we can better understand what genuine faith is.
1. Abraham’s Faith
When Abraham was a century old, God promised to bestow a son upon him—Isaac. But as Isaac was growing up, God told Abraham that he had to offer him as a sacrifice. There are a lot of people who probably feel that God working this way is too much of a departure from human notions, or they might even feel that if that kind of test were to befall us, we would certainly try to argue with God. However, when Abraham encountered this his reaction was completely contrary to what we would expect. Not only did he not argue with God, but he was able to truly submit to Him, genuinely and truly giving Isaac back to God. Just as it is recorded in the Bible, “And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and split the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went to the place of which God had told him. … And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar on the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son” (Genesis 22:3, 9–10). All humans are of the flesh—we are all emotional, and when we encounter something like this we’re certain to suffer, to feel pain. But the reason Abraham was able to refrain from trying to bargain with God and that he was able to obey God’s command was that he knew that Isaac had been bestowed upon him by God in the first place, and that he was then being taken away by God. He was rightfully obedient, and that was Abraham’s faith in God. He truly believed in God and submitted to Him absolutely—even when it meant being parted with what he most treasured, he still offered to give Isaac back to God. Ultimately, Abraham’s true faith and obedience to God won His approval and blessings. God allowed him to become the forefather of many nations; his descendants have thrived and multiplied and become great nations.
2. Job’s Faith
The Bible tells us that Job had a very prosperous family as well as ten children and many servants; he was greatly respected and highly regarded by his peers. However, through the temptations and attacks of Satan, Job lost all of his possessions and his children within a single day, and after that became completely covered in boils. That trial turned Job from the greatest man in the Orient into the most destitute person in the Orient, and he was also judged and attacked by his family and friends. Even when faced with such a great trial, Job didn’t utter a single word of complaint to God, and he even prostrated himself in worship of God, saying, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah” (Job 1:21), and “shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). Through his trial Job was able to refrain from sinning with his words, as well as to come before God in prayer. This showed that God had a place in his heart, he had true faith in God, he believed that all events and all things are in God’s hands, and all those conditions he faced had God’s approval and were not of man’s making. Something that Job had also deeply experienced in his decades of life was that everything he had had come from God’s rule and arrangements; his riches had all been bestowed by God and had not come from his own labor. Thus, if God wanted to take away what He had previously given, that was natural and right and as a created being, he should submit to God taking those things away. He shouldn’t argue with God and he particularly shouldn’t complain to God—even if his very life was taken from him, he knew he still shouldn’t utter a single complaint. Job’s witness thoroughly humiliated Satan, and after that, God appeared to Job from the midst of a storm and bestowed even more blessings upon him.
We can see from Abraham’s and Job’s experiences that in order to achieve true faith in God, we must first have true understanding of God’s rule, and we must believe that all things and events are entirely within God’s grasp. We must also really know our places as created beings and have the reason that creatures should possess. No matter how great our trials or hardships may be, we cannot blame or forsake God, but we must continue to be able to seek God’s will and stand on His side, and unwaveringly follow Him. No matter how great the suffering we endure is, we still have to be able to firmly stand witness for God. Only those who can do this possess true faith in God. Just think of those brothers and sisters who have been arrested and persecuted by the atheistic Chinese Communist Party and have even suffered brutal torture and have been sentenced to prison for a number of years, but they have never denied or forsaken God—that is true faith in God. There are brothers and sisters who are rejected by their family and friends after becoming believers, or unfortunate things crop up in their families, but they never complain to God, and are able to continue following God and expending themselves for Him—this is also a manifestation of true faith in God. If we compare ourselves to these testimonies, can we really say that we really are people who have true faith in God? For most of us, our faith is based on unequivocally acknowledging that there is a God, and being able to suffer a bit and pay a small price in working to spread the gospel for the Lord. However, that doesn’t count as true faith.
How to Build True Faith in God
If we wish to possess true faith, we should seek to recognize God’s rule in all the people, events, and things that we encounter every day, and regardless of whether the environments that God arranges are in line with our own notions or not, or whether they are superficially beneficial to us or not, we have to know our places as created beings and seek God’s will with hearts of reverence. We have to understand God’s painstaking, earnest intentions behind the environments He sets up for us so that we can gain something from everything we go through, and we can see God’s deeds within everything that He orchestrates. Then, our faith in God will gradually become more and more genuine. It’s just like Job’s faith—it wasn’t something that was inborn for him, but gradually grew by experiencing God’s rule in everything that happened in his life and seeking knowledge of God. If we can follow Job’s example, focusing on experiencing and really understanding God’s rule in our lives, thus achieving genuine knowledge of God, only then can we develop true faith in God. And then, no matter what kinds of hardships or trials befall us and no matter how great our fleshly or spiritual suffering, we’ll be able to face that evenly through our faith, actively seek God’s will and His requirements of us, submit to His rule and arrangements, and stand witness for Him.
Thanks be to the enlightenment and guidance of God. Amen!