Understanding the thing called faith is one of the biggest hurdles that believers encounter early in their walk with God, and explaining it has been the subject of countless sermons, teachings and writings. Here’s my humble take on the matter.
FAITH AS ‘SUBSTANCE’ AND ‘EVIDENCE’
Simply put, a substance is something that exists. Though it may be visible or invisible, tangible – can be touched and felt – or intangible, taste able or tasteless, all that matters is that it is real. The air we breathe is both invisible and intangible; but it is very real. We can feel it sometimes, and it even has a chemical property.
That is what Apostle Paul likened faith to in Hebrews 11:1, where he declared:
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV)
Let’s look at what Paul is saying here:
– ‘Substance of things hoped for’: According to that statement, if you are hoping for something, there can actually be something within you that can fuel that hope. Something that you can’t see or touch, but that you can feel deep within your being, that gives you hope. So faith is that substance – that invisible YET very real thing – that you feel within your being; something you can’t explain, but you just know for a fact that it is there within your heart.
– ‘Evidence of things not seen’: Ever heard of an unreal evidence? One huge burden that prosecutors always carry is that of providing the evidence of the accused person’s guilt. They can’t simply claim that the evidence exists, without bringing it forth for all to see, and simply expect the court to take their word for it. If it’s a murder case, a very real murder weapon must be presented before the court. They can’t claim that it is just a strong feeling that they have which tells them that the accused is guilty. But according to Paul, faith is like an invisible evidence, which, even though it can’t be seen, is nevertheless very real! Why? Because faith is a very real substance. Even though it can’t be seen, it is nevertheless very evident, and can be felt by the person who is carrying it!
So faith is that thing that you feel or sense within yourself, which makes you believe that what you are hoping for WILL happen! You can’t see how it could possibly happen, but you have this unseen evidence deep within you, that it WILL happen! If someone asked you how you can be so sure that it will happen, all you can reply WITH ALL CONFIDENCE is that you just know!
The Lord Jesus made allusion to the fact that faith MUST exist in a believer as a real substance when He likened faith to a mustard seed, in this story recorded Matthew 17:14-20:
“And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, 15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. 16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. 18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. 19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (KJV)
Though the mustard seed is one of the smallest fruit seeds, it is nevertheless very real. And ironically, it grows into quite a big tree. So can – and must – faith be very real in a person, and must grow within the person!
THE ORIGIN OF FAITH
So where does this very real and evident substance known as faith come from?
To answer this question, we must first of all answer another one: where do we feel faith? In our spirits. Therefore, faith is a spiritual thing. And if it’s a spiritual thing, then, in the Christian context, faith comes from God’s Holy Spirit. Let’s see how.
1. Faith comes by spiritual hearing
According to Romans 10:17 “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God…” (KJV)
I’ve heard a lot of folks turn this statement around and say ‘… and by hearing the word of God’, instead of ‘… and hearing by the word of God.’ Why? Because they can’t make sense of the way the preposition ‘by’ is placed in the original text.
This is VERY UNFORTUNNATE because it has led many to believe that faith comes by hearing and hearing and hearing the word of God over and over and over… The point being that as one hears the word over and over and over, one will eventually develop faith in what one has been hearing. WRONG!
The truth of the matter is that ONE ONLY NEEDS TO HEAR THE LORD SPEAK ONCE in order for one to receive the faith in what one has heard the Lord say! Meaning that you can hear and hear and hear something over and over and over, but unless the kind of hearing that produces faith occurs within you, faith will never be produced!
Simply put, the statement should have been:
‘Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing [cometh] by the word of God.’
What happened was simply that the authors of the King James Bible chose to not repeat the word ‘cometh’.
So what we are being told basically is that while faith comes from hearing the word, the hearing – which produces the faith – comes from the word of God. Here’s how the NIV puts it:
“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
Meaning that faith comes from hearing the message, which itself is heard through the word.
As we know, Jesus is the Word of God. So what we have is: Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the Lord Jesus. Therefore, you can hear the word spoken to you by a human pastor over and over and over, but unless you hear the Lord Jesus himself speak to you somewhere along the line, you cannot hear the word in a way that will produce faith in you.
This ‘hearing’ that produces faith, is what is referred to as ‘spiritual hearing’. It is the hearing that occurs when the spirit of a man hears what is spoken to it in the realm of the spirit. Therefore this hearing will produce faith in a man when the man hears the Holy Spirit speak to him, or it will produce doubt and fear when the man hears the spirit of the devil speak to him.
Here’s an example to illustrate this phenomenon: One day, my wife was reading the Bible and as she came across the words ‘fear not’, she said it was as if those two words took on life and spoke to her in a way that she heard the Lord tell her that she should fear not! She said that suddenly she felt a surge of faith in the Lord that gave her total confidence that the Lord would take care of the issue that she was dealing with at the time.
From this example we can see how faith came to be in my wife’s heart from that moment forward concerning the issue that she was dealing with. She suddenly had this thing in her inner being that told her that she should fear not. She suddenly had this substance within her heart; this feeling that she couldn’t put her hand on, but which was nevertheless very real and evident!!! From that point onward, she could say that SHE KNOWS that all is well! Why? Because hearing had occurred within her. Because the Word – Jesus – had spoken the word in a way that the necessary kind of hearing had occurred within her spirit.
2. Spiritual vs physical hearing
Man is made up of a soul, a spirit, and flesh. The soul and the spirit are the parts of man that are made in God’s image. The flesh is simply a physical housing that enables the soul and spirit of man to dwell and operate in the physical nature of this world.
God is Spirit. He has no flesh. Therefore, He only speaks a spiritual language that ONLY man’s spirit can hear and interact with. This is what makes it so challenging for men to relate to God, because most of the time, we are living by our flesh – our physical senses – and cannot readily communicate with his Spirit. This is why acquiring the ability to communicate spirit to Spirit with God is a must for a believer! A believer must acquire the ability to hear, see, and discern spiritually, so he can communicate with God.
With his physical ears, a man can hear another man promise him a thing, and believe in the promise, because he actually heard the man make the promise. He was able to hear the man with his physical ears because the man spoke with his own physical mouth, and spoke physical words. Likewise, we can only begin to believe in God’s promises if and only if we actually hear God make the promises, and this can only be possible if our spirits are able to catch the spiritual words spoken to us by God’s own Holy Spirit. When we hear with our spiritual ears, that’s when ‘hearing’ has occurred, and this hearing then produces faith in us!
Every word of Scripture is spiritual, and only our spirits can hear, and understand and accept them. We can read and read and read them over and over, but never ‘hear’ and understand and accept what we are reading until and unless God Himself speaks to our spirits as we are reading those words. This is why we must always pray before we set out to spend some time reading the word of God. Pray and ask the Lord to speak to you as you read His word, and give you the ability to understand and believe in what you are reading.
A minister can preach the word of God all he wants, but unless the Lord speaks thru the words of the minister, the minister will be speaking in vain. Unless the people listening to the minister are also able to hear the Lord speak to them thru their spiritual ears, then the minister will have spoken in vain. The kind of hearing that matters will occur if they actually hear the Lord speak to their spirits even as the minister is speaking to their physical ears.
This is why no man can save another man. Only God can save a man, because only God can speak to a man’s soul and spirit, and convinces the man to believe in Him. The only thing God asks of us believers to do, is to open our mouths and share His words with others. As we do that, we give Him the chance to now speak thru us in the unseen real of the spirit. So we must always know and do our part only, which is to deliver the message God puts in our mouths, and leave God to do His own part of convincing and convicting the people we are speaking to.
3. Faith in God comes from God.
The last paragraph already said it all: It all begins with the Lord making contact with man within man’s spirit, and convincing man to believe in Him. This is why it is said of Abraham that “…he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” (KJV) From this statement we see that righteousness can only come from two sources: From God, and thru faith in God.
If a man never promised to give you a car, should you somehow begin to believe that the man will give you a car? No. But if you hear a rich man promise to buy you a car, you would believe it to the point where, as far as you’re concerned, you already have a car because you have faith in the man who made the promise. Likewise faith in God comes from the fact that He actually spoke to you and you heard Him speak to you, and you believed what you heard him say.
Therefore faith in God can only come from God Himself. If He hasn’t spoken, and you begin to have faith in Him for something you never heard from Him, then what you’re feeling is not faith in Him, since He never gave you any reason to believe in Him for that which you are having faith in Him for.
On the other hand, once you do hear Him speak a thing to you, believe in what you heard Him say to you with your heart and with all your mind! Allow faith in what you heard to blossom within you and grow into a mighty substance that you know is very real within you!
No man alive has ever seen God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But we believe that they exist because we have faith that they do. And we have this faith because we heard them tell us in their Word that they are real, and we believe it!
Furthermore, faith comes from God because faith is produced by Christ. Christ is the Word of God (John 1:1). The reason the word can speak up in a manner that produces faith in a man is that the word is Jesus.
As we know, salvation is thru Christ only. He is the Bridge between us and God the Father. He comes and dwells in us and helps us believe in the Father. THEREFORE, Jesus is the source of the faith that we feel in our hearts and spirits! He is the Word that speaks to us and tells us to believe!
THE INDISPENSABILITY OF FAITH
As we know, another word for religion is faith. Whatever religion a man follows, he does so because he has faith in that religion. Therefore, faith in God is indispensable to His followers for the following reasons:
1. Without faith it is impossible to relate to God
Has any man alive today ever seen Jesus? No. Not even the great Apostle Paul had seen the Lord Jesus in person. But like Paul, many have literally given their lives up for the Lord Jesus! Because they believed in Him! They believed that He is whom He says that He is! That faith in Him is the only thing that made possible their relationship with Jesus. What’s the point in trying to have and build and relationship with an invisible God that you don’t even believe to be real? Or whose claims about Himself you don’t believe? Those who are willing to die for God obviously have such great faith in Him that they are willing to lay down their lives for Him!
Without faith in God, how can one grow in God? Satan fights a deadly battle against anyone who begins to believe in God, and the only thing that can help the new believer to keep on believing in God is the faith that he has in God. It is only this conviction –this faith – that he feels deep within himself that can help him withstand any assault from the devil, and stand strong in God!
When I hear God speaking to me spiritually, or when I see something with my spiritual eyes that I feel that He has just shown me, or when I sense the move of His Spirit in me, it is only by faith that I can believe that I have just heard or seen, or sensed that thing. Needless to say then, the greater one’s faith in God, the greater one’s ability to relate to God; therefore, the greater one’s relationship with God!
It is by this faith that I know – because I believe it – that I am His child! It is this faith that speaks up and tells me to be joyful at all times! Faith is that feeling that comforts me during times of tumult; that reminds me that greater is He who is in me than the jerk that is in the world! It is faith that tells me that God loves and cares for me, and produces peace and calm within me when I have so many reasons not to be at peace! Faith it is that gives me a steady dose of power, courage and confidence when I’m going thru a worrisome ordeal!
This is why relating to God is all about having ‘faith’ in Him. And this faith comes from nowhere but His words, therefore, from Jesus Himself! A believer will swear that he knows that God is real, and even allow himself to be killed rather than renounce this faith in God, because he feels this thing – this real substance called faith – deep within his being, that tells him that God is real!
So brethren, never cease to seek after a deeper relationship with God so you can keep improving in your ability to interact with Him spirit to Spirit. Never cease to ask the Lord for more faith in Him! Let the substance of the faith that dwells in you continue to grow, that you may be able to do great and mighty acts of faith for the world to see and believe in our great God!
2. Faith is the currency in God’s kingdom
When you need something, you go out to the place where they sell that thing, and you purchase it. This action requires that you exchange something – like money – with the owner of the thing you wish to purchase. Well, things from God do not come free either, and faith is the currency that He requires from us.
No matter what we set out to do that involves God, whether it is simply to ask God to do something for us, or if we’re trying to call down fire from heaven, our faith in God is what will make it happen for us! And as we know, the more money one has on earth, the more things – and more expensive things – one can afford. Needless then to say, the greater one’s faith in God, the greater things – greater miracles, favors, answers to prayer – one can obtain from heaven!
3. How much faith is enough?
Earlier we read the story of the time when the Lord rebuked His disciples for not having the faith to heal a sick boy. He told them that if their faith was even as small as a mustard seed, they could, by the power in that faith, command mountains to move, and the mountains would obey! This means that faith even as small as a mustard seed is all we need! What this means is that to God, faith is faith!
The story of the time when God told Elijah that He was going to send rain upon the drought-stricken land, offers a great illustration of how this works. 1Kings 18: says “And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.” (KJV)]
And 1Kings 18:42-46 says:
“And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. 42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, 43 And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. 44 And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down that the rain stop thee not. 45 And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. 46 And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” (KJV)
As we all know, rain comes from clouds. For 3 long years, there had been no rain in the land of Israel. So it is safe to assume that for those 3 years, there hadn’t been any clouds in the sky over the land of Israel. Then one day, out of the blue, God told Elijah that He was going to send rain. When Elijah heard this from God, he believed God!
So later that day when the time came for the rain that God had promised to fall, Elijah set out to call forth the rain thru prayer. And while Elijah prayed for God to fulfill His promise and send the rain, he acted on his faith in God’s promise by having his servant look out for the clouds that were to bring the rain. So get this: Once the servant saw a patch of cloud in the sky that was as small as a human hand, Elijah stopped praying. Why? Because as far as he was concerned, the promised rain was coming!
Here’s the point: By faith, Elijah believed that the tiny cloud that had appeared was the first of many – and bigger – clouds that would eventually produce the promised rain! That tiny cloud was all he needed to see to know that the rain was coming. This illustrates the way faith is born in the human spirit. When you believe in God for something, it might start as something very tiny in your heart, which is why the Lord Jesus likened it to a tiny mustard seed; then as you keep on believing in God for the fulfilment of His promise, that tiny faith will steadily grow into something bigger, just as the tiny cloud grew into thick clouds that dropped a deluge upon the land.
So how much faith is enough? From all this, what we can understand is that faith is faith! All that God wants to see in us is faith. Even if it’s as small as a mustard seed, it is faith, and that’s enough for God to be pleased in us. If faith as tiny as a mustard seed is enough for us to move mountains, then that’s enough faith to please God. If that tiny faith can enable us to move mountains, it means that God is pleased enough with the tiny faith to grant us the power to move mountains. Therefore, whenever hearing occurs in you and the smallest glimmer of faith sprouts in you, hold on to that faith and keep believing, and acting on it. It will be enough to see you through because God will honor and work with it! That tiny faith is all He is asking for!
Just like Elijah saw that tiny cloud and was satisfied that rain was coming, so does God see the tiny faith in a man and is satisfied that the man has started to believe in Him. God then sets out to help the man grow that tiny faith into a giant faith! What does this mean?
The mustard tree teaches us a serious lesson on what is expected of us believers. The Lord Jesus spoke highly of the mustard tree when He said in Luke 13:19 “…it is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.” (KJV)
A quick search on Google revealed that there are many types of mustard trees, and some grow to be as high as 20 feet tall, with widespread branches adorned with pink fleshy fruits. Here’s an interesting description I ran into: “While many trees provide shade and food, the mustard tree also serves as a toothbrush, treats dental problems, soothes away body pain and functions as a medicine . Properly known as Salvadora persica, the blooming mustard tree is a multifunctional evergreen shrub.” (1)
A very productive, useful and beneficial tree indeed! And all it takes to produce such a tree is a tiny seed. So MUST the tiny faith that springs within our spirit-man cause our spirit-man to grow into a spiritual giant! Once we begin to believe in God, a tiny faith in Him springs within us, and that tiny faith must grow into a strong, mature, unshakable, immovable and undying faith in Him!
Because we believe in God, we MUST, by this faith, allow Him to work on us and make us into spiritual giants, the way He made Paul, the other Apostles, and the great men and women of the Old Testament! They all started to believe in God at some point in their lives, and they nurtured their tiny faiths into giant faiths! As they grew their faiths in God, they grew into people who were great blessings to those who came into contact with them!
That’s what the Lord Jesus is talking about in Luke 13:19. Just as the mustard tree offers shade, food, and a variety of benefits to people and animals who come into contact with it, so must a believer offer all kinds of blessings to everyone around him! As believers we must grow into people who represent our great God in every sphere of life. Like the tree that is productive and bears fruits, we must prosper in all areas of life, and share the prosperity with all men. Thru our faith in a miracle-working God, we must grow into great miracle workers as well! Like the tiny cloud that gave way to thick clouds that produced a deluge, our faith must grow and produce in us a giant well that pours out rivers of living water upon everyone around us!
Dear reader, the world awaits the manifestation of your faith in God! Seek to grow your faith into a giant one thru which you are able to do great and mighty acts, to the glory of our great God!
(1) BLOOMING MUSTARD TREE by Christa Sheehan http://www.ehow.com/facts_7154132_blooming-mustard-tree.html#ixzz2yRN0siJJ%5D