What is faith?

Introduction

Karl Williams (not his real name) was in the final stages of terminal cancer when he asked me, “Pastor, what is faith?” None of my glib answers seemed to be adequate at that point. Fortunately, Karl experienced real faith before he went home to be with Jesus. But, I have since pondered his question many times and I have sought to answer it. This sermon is yet another feeble attempt to do so.

1. Knowing the unknowable

A. Some think that faith is believing something to be so. But faith is knowing  that it is so.

B. “It is not the hope which looks forward with wishful longing; it is the hope which looks forward with utter conviction.” (William Barclay)

C. John Bunyan (Pilgrim’s Progress) was tortured by uncertainty. “Everyone doth think his religion rightest,” he said, “both Jews and Moors and Pagans; and how if all our Faith and Christ and Scriptures should be but a ‘Think so too?” But when the light broke he ran out crying, “Now I know! I know!” The Christian faith is a hope that has turned to certainty.

2. Moffatt’s directions of faith

A. It is belief in God against the World (It is not both/and; it is either/or. The worldviews do not coexist.) The Christian view says, there is an all-powerful God who loves His creation and chooses to reveal Himself through nature, His written Word, and the Living Word, Jesus. There is life after death, either in Heaven or Hell.  There is good and evil, ergo moral absolutes. There is reward and punishment respectively.

B. The world view says, There is no God, creation just happened without plan. There is no life after death; no Heaven; no Hell. Good and evil is merely a matter of perception, ergo no moral absolutes. The only reward and punishment is the temporal consequences of the choices we make.

C. Both worldviews require a leap of faith! Who stands to lose the most if he is wrong? “Faith is belief in God against the World!” (James Moffatt)

3. Belief against the five senses

A. The world says, Believe only what you can see and prove. Everything must stand the test of scientific inquiry. Everything must stand the test of logic.

B. The Faith-filled Spirit says: I cannot see, hear, touch, taste, smell, yet I believe! Logic may say ‘no’, but if God says ‘yes’, I believe! Logic said no to Shadrach and friends, but faith said “Our God will!”

C. Common sense said “No!” to Gideon, but God said “Yes” and went before him to victory. When it comes to a choice between believing God or your senses, believe God!

4. Believing the future against present

A. Sometimes the present can be so dark that it obscures any hope for the future. Paul and Silas must have wondered about the dungeon. Paul must have questioned his own ability to find God’s will when they lowered his bleeding body in a basket. John must have wondered where he missed God in the loneliness of Patmos.

B. Fosdick said that Nero once condemned Paul to death, but the tide of history is such that today men name their sons after Paul and call their dogs Nero.

C. A beautiful song says, “Hold on my child, joy comes in the morning.” Remember there is never a moment when God is not in control!

5. It’s not a matter of “if” but “where?”

A. Only one religion offers a loving God! Only one religion offers forgiveness and relief from the penalty and guilt of sin.

B. Only one religion offers eternal life as an individual person. Christianity is that religion.

E. Joshua said, “Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve!” Everybody has faith. Where is yours placed?

Conclusion

Some people have faith on their power while others on their wealth and may be another human being. Only the faith in Christ alone will give us everlasting joy and satisfaction.

Taken from the personal Sermon Notes Collection of Dr. Arnold Lastinger.

Image by: Mario Seekr

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