The Good News - Home
The Proving of Faith
by David A. DePra
What is faith? Faith is a RELATIONSHIP word – it describes my relationship with God. Put simply, it is a choice to believe, trust, and surrender to God.
Now you will note that faith isn’t simply a matter of believing that something is the Truth. No, although we must start there. But faith goes on to trust and surrender to the Truth. It is one thing to believe God is faithful as a fact. It is another to surrender to Him because I believe it.
There is no such thing as faith unless we surrender. Faith without works is dead. IF we believe, our faith will result in trust and surrender.
Meaning of "Faith"
The Greek word translated "faith" in the NT is "pistis." It means "A TRUSTING." It carries the notion of BEING CERTAIN. The verbal form of the word, "pisteuo," is usually translated, "to believe" in the NT. It speaks of putting my faith into action. It means not only, "to trust," but also "to obey." To be unconditionally committed. It is to move ahead in the "certainty" OF my faith.
We must get this established. Faith means, "a trusting certainty." To believe means, "to exercise my trusting certainty." The word is the SAME in the Greek, the first being the noun, and the second being the verb.
Now, it is absolutely vital that we see that "to believe" is the same word "faith" – but as exercised in action – as our motivation. We must see this, because in English, things don’t quite work that way. In English, "to believe" doesn’t necessarily mean faith in action at all. Indeed, it may not have anything whatsoever to do with trust or obedience. It may mean nothing more than we agree with the fact that something is true.
This causes problems for us when we read the Bible. For instance, we read, "Whoever believes on Jesus will be saved." If we interpret this along the line of what we usually mean in English by "believe," we may end up thinking that all we need to do to be saved is agree with the fact that Jesus died for us. We could therefore say, "Yeah, I believe Jesus died for me," and that never surrender to Jesus – and yet be saved.
The fact is, agreeing that Jesus died for me is NOT saving faith. Indeed, if I believe and agree that He did die for me, I may be condemning myself out of my own mouth! Why? Because it is one thing to believe something is a fact. It is another to surrender to the reality of it. It is one thing to believe that Jesus died for you. It is another to do what the Bible means by believe: Place your whole trust, certainly, and very LIFE, in the hands of the One who did die for you. In other words, if I have "faith" I will unconditionally COMMIT myself to the One in whom I trust.
Biblical faith is not intellectual assent. That is not what the Bible means by the term, "to believe." In the Bible, "to believe" means to be so certain of the One who saved me, that my trust in Him motivates me to place my entire self in His hands. I rest and rely upon what He has done for me.
Now, obviously, true faith can start with intellectual assent. We do need to understand Jesus died for us, and intellectually agree to it. We aren’t likely to trust Christ with any level of certainty if we are intellectually DISAGREEING that He died for us. But "to believe" go much further. It is to be so committed that I GIVE MYSELF to Christ as the outcome of that certainty.
We find out in a hurry whether our faith is only intellectual assent once our faith in God is tested – and the nature of faith is that it must be tested. If we have only intellectual assent to certain Truths, we will never stand the test. It is only if our faith is in God that we will overcome. Our faith is only as strong as the One in whom we place it.
True faith is not in doctrines about Christ, but in Jesus Himself. True faith is not intellectual or emotional. It is MORAL in nature. Because I am sure of Christ, I believe. I commit myself to Him in an unconditional devotion. And because I believe, I am motivated to live like it. I give myself to Him as Lord.
Faith is Never Merit
There have always been certain teachings around Christianity that suggest that if we say faith is necessary for salvation, that we are allowing fallen man to have credit for "contributing to his own salvation." Instead, some even teach that it is impossible for fallen man to have faith. They claim that faith is the result of salvation, rather than the prelude to it.
There are others, however, who go to the opposite extreme. They suggest that fallen man has the capability of contributing to his own salvation. Thus, they say that, yes, we are required to have faith, and faith IS our contribution. But they see nothing wrong with this. They consider this acceptable in God’s plan. So what is the Truth about this? Is faith a contribution to our salvation? Can fallen man believe?
The objection that man cannot have faith because this would mean he is contributing to his own salvation is a "straw man." Likewise is the notion that we are required to contribute to our own salvation by believing. Why? Because both arguments presuppose that faith IS a contribution to our salvation. Thus, the argument endlessly bounces back and forth as to whether man must contribute to his own salvation by believing.
The Truth is, faith, as defined in the Bible, is never merit, or any contribution I make to my own salvation. Once we see this, it clears the air of confusion. It immediately means that, yes, man must choose to believe. But it also means that in doing so, he is NOT making a contribution to his own salvation.
Biblical faith, rather than be merit, is the result of seeing I have NO merit. Rather than be a contribution to my own salvation, Biblical faith is the outcome of seeing I have no contribution to make. Biblical faith is never a matter of me, "giving God permission to save me." Rather, it is the outcome of me surrendering to Him as a sinner.
The Faith of Christ
Paul said, "The life which I now live, I live by the faith OF the Son of God…" What is, "the faith of the Son of God; the faith of Jesus Christ?" Well, it is the only real faith that there is. What? Do we actually think that we, as human beings, can generate real faith from ourselves as the source? What do we imagine we have to work with?
The faith of Jesus Christ is the life of Christ in us, aligning our hearts with the will of God.
Or to put it another way, once God reveals to us His will, and we yield to Him, the faith of Jesus will be there. But if we are in our own will, the faith of Jesus will not be in us.
The faith of Jesus is the Holy Spirit pushing and exhorting us towards the will of God. Therefore, it is NOT POSSIBLE to have the faith of Jesus Christ for anything that Jesus would not have faith for – and Jesus would have faith only for God’s will.
We must see this: You cannot have the faith of Jesus for that which is NOT God’s will. That is because the Holy Spirit isn’t in it. And you cannot have true faith on grounds other than the Truth. But what this also means is that you can have faith for that which IS God’s will, and based in Truth. For God’s will, once revealed to you, carries the faith you need – if you surrender to Him.
This clears up a bunch of confusion. It means that we need not struggle to, "try to have faith." No. Just ask God to reveal His will. And surrender to it.
If you seem to have faith for something that you discover was out of God’s will, then it was not the faith of Jesus. It was OF YOU. It is just that simple.
Faith, if it is real, is never generated from ourselves as the source. No. If you have Christ in you, you have the faith of Christ in you. But the faith of Christ only operates according to the will of God – not our will. Therefore, if you want the faith of Jesus Christ with regards to anything, surrender to God. Surrender to HIM, even if you haven’t a clue as to what He is doing or what He will is. In short, if you want to have faith in God with regards to a THING, surrender to God the Person. As you do, the faith that is necessary for the will of God will grow.
What Faith Isn’t
Faith is not understanding. Indeed, faith ought not be based on it. For if faith is based on my understanding, then in effect, my faith is IN my understanding. God never tells us that we must understand His will or purpose in a matter in order to believe and trust Him in that matter. No. Rather, He says, "Trust that I understand." Proverbs says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not upon your own understanding." Ask: If we are not to trust in OUR understanding, would God trust in OUR understanding? No. God looks for faith.
This does not mean that Christians are to check their brains at the door. But it does mean that, "by faith we understand." Anyone who surrenders to God is going to come to understand more than he can imagine. And anyone who refuses to be accountable to God will remain ignorant, if not hardened, to God. The entry point for understanding is faith. BY FAITH we understand – not – if we understand, then we can believe.
Neither is faith emotional or intellectual. Faith is surrender to God’s will. Anything else isn’t faith. If you can feel it, it isn’t faith – it is merely your reactions to things.
One of the easiest traps to fall into is to think that how I, "feel about something," must be the way God feels about it. It is easy to think that if I want something that God must want it. But no. Even if God does want it, I must take my hands off and surrender. Then I can be trusted with it.
Faith is not intellectual assent or emotional wholeness. Real faith can never be based on my merits to receive from God. Furthermore, God will never do what I want because I believe. That’s right. No. God will only do what HE wants. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to bring ME into conformity with HIS WILL.
The Trial of Your Faith
Now, everything I have stated about faith is background and premise. But it is all UNTO a great principle that pertains to the trial of our faith. That principle may be stated as follows: Every bit of Truth you know has come to you as the result of REVELATION. You may think you got it out of a book, or a sermon, or the Bible. But those are only tools by which God reveals Truth. The Truth itself – if it really IS the Truth – is the product of a revelation of God to us, through the Holy Spirit -- OF JESUS CHRIST. But how do you know that what you have received really IS the Truth? And how does that Truth come to be part of you? The trial of faith – if we respond in faith – will do this. For the fact is, the only way for you to know what you believe IS the Truth in Christ, is for that Truth to be PROVEN AS THE TRUTH. But not just as a fact. It must be PROVEN AS THE TRUTH IN YOU!
What good is faith if it is in error? Or off the mark? The trial of faith proves the Truth as the Truth – reveals to us Jesus Christ Himself. Then our faith is likewise PROVEN valid, because it was shown to be based in TRUTH!
You cannot divorce faith from the Truth. Faith in error isn’t faith. Faith must be in the Truth. Thus, a trial of faith proves faith valid, and strengthens it, because the trial of faith proves that the Truth is the Truth.
God will, in fact, orchestrate a trial of faith so that only a revelation of the Truth in Christ Jesus will get us through. But to set this up, we must face questions and contradictions to what we believe. The trial will provide these. Yet in the end, if we keep surrendered to God, not only will the Truth be proven to be the Truth, but our faith will be proven to be on the solid ground of Jesus Christ.
What We Believe
Let’s see more about this. A trial of faith is, well, whatever tries your faith! Right? Sure. Thus, if faith is trust and reliance upon Christ, then a, "trial of faith," is whatever challenges that, calls it into question, or contradicts it.
But notice something here. A trial of faith would make no sense if all a trial of faith did was challenge our willingness to trust God. Certainly this is a part of the trial of faith. But only a part. What a trial of faith REALLY does is challenge, not only our willingness to believe, but WHAT we believe.
Think about it. When your faith is tested, what is challenged – whether your faith is REAL? Well, that can be part of it, as I said. But more than that, what is challenged is whether WHAT you believe is the TRUTH!
When you are being tried, isn’t it a fact that what is often questioned is the faithfulness of God? And whether you have believed the Truth about Him? This is so even if our doubts are based in our own failures. For part of faith is the trust that God will be faithful to us, and get us through, despite our failures. Are we on solid ground to believe this? Can we count on God?
If you examine your trial, you will find that much of it goes back to whether God is with you – despite everything – on the grounds of the Redemption. If He isn’t, then everything is up. But if He is, then there is no way you will not emerge victorious. For if God is with you, He will be faithful to forgive, redeem, provide new beginnings, show you what need to know to correct course, and even take the initiative to reveal to you His Son. The trial of faith brings the faithfulness of God into question. It TRIES OUR FAITH – yes, as to whether our faith is real – but it TRIES the Truth of God’s faithfulness!
The biggest issue for a Christian in a trial of faith is to answer the following question: Despite everything that is contradicting what you believe is the Truth, and despite all of your own failures, weaknesses, and blindness, is God faithful to YOU? If God IS faithful to us, then our faith is based on solid ground, and will be proven real, because Jesus Christ will be proven faithful! But if God is not faithful to us, despite ourselves, then our faith in Him is nonsense.
The trial of faith will prove God is faithful every time. It will create a situation that can be resolved only by a revelation of Jesus Christ! In the meantime, we are suffering, and being made fit for that revelation if we are abiding under God’s hand. But then the revelation will dawn – probably slowly and without fanfare. But it will. And in the end, the trial of faith will have proven our faith, and it will have proven the Truth upon which our faith is based. The Truth will be PROVEN true.
Of course, if what we believed was in someway wrong, the trial of faith will reveal this as well. But isn’t that what it means to be set free by the Truth?
There is only ONE WAY that the Truth can be proven true: If it is challenged with contradiction and questions. Will it emerge? Well, if what I believe is the Truth it WILL emerge, and because it has faced questions and contradiction, and has nevertheless prevailed, I will know the Truth in a greater way than ever before. My faith will have grown.
Can we see that this is overcoming? That there is no way for Truth to be proven TO us, and IN us? That otherwise our faith is mere intellectual assent – untested facts? God wants more. He wants to prove that the Truth is the Truth – by revealing to us His Son in a trial of faith.
Faith Faces Doubts
We have already seen that if Christ is in us, then the faith of Christ is in us. However, without testing, it is latent, dormant, and not brought out. Sure. Untested Truth is mere information. Untested faith is intellectual assent. Truth must face error and emerge proven. Faith must face doubts and emerge victorious.
You and I believe that 2 + 2 = 4. But how do we know? We might assume it is so without ever having looked into it. If someone can along with a convincing argument that 2 + 2 =5, this would be a test to our conviction that 2 + 2 = 4. But rather than a negative test, it would be a positive test, because at the end of the test, we would have PROVEN that 2 + 2 = 4! And because we have faced the question, and the test, we will never need to cover that ground again.
A simple example, but proves the point. A trial of faith PROVES God is faithful! And because it proves God is faithful, it PROVES our faith – it proves it to be based on the Truth, and it establishes our faith all the more in God.
All of these positive results of a trial of faith are contingent, of course, upon us responding to God IN FAITH. Ironically, the way we overcome doubts, questions, and contradictions, in a trial of faith is by BELIEVING.
So we see that God isn’t trying to figure out whether we have faith. A trial of faith is intended to BUILD our faith. It is intended to more firmly establish us in an eternal relationship with God.
There are many facets of faith, and it’s testing, and we are going to touch on most of them. Faith is a relationship word – the most important aspect of our relationship with God. Faith is the means by which we enter into everything God has for us. And ironically, trials of faith make this possible.
We have seen that God will orchestrate a trial of faith wherein nothing short of a new revelation of the Person of Jesus Christ will suffice. This is deliberate and the entire point of the trial. But in the meantime, there is another work going on – that of preparing us for that revelation. The wearing and tearing of suffering, and of perplexity, and of abiding, and of facing fears, questions and contradiction – all of these ought to press us more and more to God Himself. And as that happens, there is a purging going on – a purging that will make us pure in heart so that we can, as Jesus said, "see God."
If Truth were merely facts and doctrines, none of this would make sense. But Truth is a revelation of a Person – a Person who wants to enlarge Himself in us. But for that to happen we must be DECREASED, made weak, and brought to a great reduction. This is a MORAL condition – not merely physical. Then our hearts have no agenda, and we are not going to interpret revelation along a biased line. We will be ready to see the Truth because we have surrendered to Him.
The trial of faith will prove that the Truth is the Truth. But it will unfold the Truth in us – it will be a revelation of a Person. Then our faith will be proven to be based on the solid ground of the Truth of Jesus Christ.
The Good News - Home