The F Word [Guest Post by Glen]

faithThe Christian life is all about ‘having faith’, right? That seems pretty basic.  After all…

God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son so that the very least you can do is drum up some kind of belief in return.

That’s Christianity 101, isn’t it?  We’re saved by faith – which means we’re given something called “salvation” (or “a relationship with God”) when we offer up something called “trust”.  God’s job is giving us a raft of blessings, our job is working up a raft of believing  feelings. Right?

Wrong. But it’s a common way of thinking. And it’ll exhaust you spiritually if you buy into it.  Think about it: working up external acts of obedience for God is hard enough.  But how do we whip up internal acts of faith?

I’ve heard people say that “Faith is a muscle, you need to exercise it!”  Really?  Show me a verse on that!  And then take me to your ‘faith gym’ where you can show off your gleaming ‘faith muscle’, I bet it’s really impressive.

Other people tell me “Faith is spelled R-I-S-K,” to which the only response is “No. It isn’t.”

Why do people want to turn faith into something else?  Something that they do?  Well, that’s it isn’t it?  Such Christians imagine that they’ve hit upon the one meritorious work God really approves of.  Apparently He’s not in the “works” game (you know, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor), instead He likes “faith” (sentiments of spiritual fervour). So let a new breed of “faith-flexers” arise who can boast in their believing prowess.  All the while the biblical truth about faith undercuts such spiritual self-confidence.

Because in the bible faith is not a thing. (Read this excellent little essay for more: Faith is Nothing). Faith is not an energy or an exertion.  Faith is… well let’s go back to John’s Gospel to see it.

John 1:10-12: [Christ] was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

Did you spot the parallel in verse 12?  “Receiving Jesus” is equivalent to “believing in His name”.  In other words, faith is receiving Jesus.  It’s something entirely passive.  It’s completely out of our hands – which is why the bible often says that faith is a gift (e.g. Ephesians 2:8-9). It’s not an arbitrary zapping by God (because faith isn’t an energy).  It’s the gift of Jesus to us.

Put it this way: Grace is God’s gift of Jesus. Faith is our receiving of Jesus.  But in all of this, faith is not a thing I offer to God.  I don’t scratch around to find a suitable payment to God for His offer of Christ. I have nothing to offer – not even a thing called ‘faith.’  Faith is simply what happens to me as Christ is given in God’s word and by His Spirit.

Faith is crucial. You gotta believe!  But the thing you need to have aint faith.  The thing you need is Jesus.  And saying “Yes please” to Him – that’s faith.

But don’t look within yourself to try and drum up faith. Don’t screw up your stomach muscles and try boldly to believe. Put yourself in the path of God’s gift.  Through His word and by His Spirit, God is offering Jesus to the world. Put yourself in that path and receive what God has for you (i.e. Jesus!). “Faith comes by hearing… the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17)

Don’t, whatever you do, try to work up faith.  Whatever you work up will only be flesh – it will only make you proud if you manage it, or despairing if you don’t.

In the deepest sense, you don’t need more faith. You need more Christ.  Well praise God, because Christ is given to you – with every drop of His blood!


14 thoughts on “The F Word [Guest Post by Glen]

  1. It’s all gift, period. Luther was once asked, ‘don’t we contribute anything?’ ‘Yes’, he replied, ‘your stubborn hostility – everything else – peace, joy, mercy and forgiveness – comes to us in Jesus Christ”.

  2. Thank you Glen. I really needed to see this today. So many heartaches right now, and Job’s friends are telling me it’s because I just don’t have enough faith.

    Among other things, my sister has a cancerous tumor next to her brain and I’ve actually been asked NOT TO PRAY because I don’t have enough (or the right kind of) faith for her healing(!)(?)

    Funny, I never realized I had so much power- Today brain tumors…tomorrow… the WORLD.

  3. Thanks! I know so many people who have said to me, almost accusingly, that I simply don’t have enough faith. They do things like quite James Chapter 5 and tell me that the prayer offered in faith will make the sick man well, that the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. It has made me feel even worse at times, as though I should somehow we working harder than ever – but also aware that that leads back into the traps of works and achievement, rather than trusting in the amazing GRACE of our Lord.

    Your post is refreshing, encouraging and helpful. Thanks! I hope that you also were encouraged as you reflected upon the gentle kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ and remembered that in fact even a mustard seed of faith is enough for incredible things.

  4. Great quote Howard, I’ll have to steal it!

    Caroline, that really is worthy of Job’s comforters! Good thing we’ve got a Friend in high places (Job 16:19-21)

    Thanks Kondwani, you’ve encouraged me too :)

  5. The key is to think of the gospel of Jesus Christ as a pattern for living, rather than steps on a checklist. We can continue to develop our faith in Christ every day by reading His words in the scriptures and praying to our Heavenly Father. When we sin, we can repent every time with a humble heart because Jesus Christ’s Atonement is never-ending. We can remember the promises and blessings of baptism by taking the sacrament every Sunday at church. We can continue to rely on the comfort and guidance of the Holy Ghost as he leads us back to God.

  6. Have I understood you propely, that by faith you mean only intelectual act? Something like an aknowledgement of God’s existence and historicity of Jesus’ ministry and its legitimacy? Something about what it is written in Heb. 11:1?

  7. Thanks Lina, I’d have to say that the gospel of Jesus Christ’ is not a pattern for living. It is, by definition, the good news about Jesus and *His* life, death and resurrection. This news is to be received by faith. His life, not ours, means that we are already in the presence of our Father – being united to His Son in the joy of the Spirit. Faith means living with those realities as a *given*

    Amen Nellie – we have to keep proclaiming the finished work of Christ entirely outside of ourselves.

    Thanks for your question Alexander. Faith means ‘receiving Jesus’ – see John 1:10-13. To receive Jesus is to believe in His Name. Jesus is God’s gift to the world. When we stop working but simply receive Him as a gift, then we are saved. The best two paragraphs ever written on faith are by Spurgeon here:


  8. If you do not mind, I’d like to continue on this issue. In the light of your answer how would you explain following two scriptures: Jac. 2:19 and Math. 7:22? What is the difference then between christians’ ‘simple’ faith and the faith of those described in the passeges above?

  9. Hi Alexander, Sorry I let your question fall through the cracks. On Matthew 7 – the point is that there are folks who do *incredible* works but are evildoers because they do not do the will of the Father. What is the will of the Father? John 6:29,40 – to actually trust in Christ. It is true that saying “Lord” to Jesus does not equate to saving faith. Mere assent to truths is not faith, it is (as I said in a previous comment) a loving receiving of the gift of Jesus.

    James is talking about the same thing in chapter 2. Genuine faith in Jesus (like what Abraham had in Genesis 15) always results in obedience (like how Abraham acted in Genesis 22). Mike Reeves’ 5 minutes on the subject is very helpful I think:

  10. I agreed with Mike Reeves’ understanding of faith, even though I would prefer to discuss this issue a little more.
    From my perspective, it is inappropriate to talk about saving faith taking out any scripture that uses this word. It is obvious that the understanding of ‘faith’ differs from context to context; therefore, it should be defined differently in each case. The faith which acknowledges the existence of God or some historical events, like Jesus crucifixion, death and resurrection, I would call ‘an intellectual faith’, which is not enough to be saved. The saving faith I would name ‘godly directed life’ (or life focused on God (sorry, but there is a gap between our languages for literal translation of what I was about to say)). In this case, according with a lot of scriptures (i.e. Eph. 2:8-10), the deeds become a natural evidence/result/consequence of the faith (as it was also stated by M. Reeves). I understand that there is a potential danger to bring some people to legalism by saying this without any following comments, but it appears that the faith is quite difficult to separate from the lifestyle. I sum up that the (saving) faith and deeds are indivisible, since it is impossible to define at which moment someone becomes a Christian (when he starts believing that there is God, so it would be great to behave well, or when he decides to live out the particular lifestyle understanding that he believed in God).

  11. Hi Alexander,

    Well Ephesians 2 relates faith, grace, works and salvation together in the most straightforward way and it definitely takes works completely out of our understanding of salvation.

    “We are saved by grace through faith and this is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God, *not* by works so that no-one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do.”

    We are not saved based on anything in us, no works, no lifestyle, nothing. We are saved purely by the gift of Jesus Christ which is simply received by faith. Works only come in after salvation, and even then – they are the works that God does through His saved people. Faith always bears fruit in works because faith unites us to Jesus and He is the fruitful Vine. But we have no fruit of our own to contribute – it’s all of grace (i.e. all a gift of God in Jesus).

    God bless,

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