Great Faith, Part 5
Up to this point on our journey to developing Great Faith we have talked about many ideological aspects of faith but we have yet to actually talk about how to activate it and allow the supernatural power of faith to produce its fruit. So without further adieu, grab your seed, your shovel, and get ready to sweat a bit as we dig into the garden of our hearts.
The first order of business in planting is to have the proper soil in which to sow your seed. In the previous post I stated that our God-given ability to believe is the soil of our heart. Indeed, seeds need to have soil to grow and the condition of the soil is of utmost importance to our planting process. The soil of our heart could also be understood as incorporating all the aspects of how we make decisions and what actions we take related to what we believe. Our soil is an expression of the way we live. Here is a way to better understand this:
When the word faith is used by Jesus and the other New Testament writers it is presented as one of 4 parts of speech. Faith as a noun is referring to all the individual truths that we choose to believe combined into a codified internal creed. This is our internal constitution that we refer to in every decision we make. We could also call this a belief system. When a particular truth in that creed becomes strong and mature, meaning that there is no wavering in our belief system that it is absolutely true, all the time, the noun “faith” turns into the adjective, faithful (full of faith in that area).
Faith is also presented as a verb. A verb describes an action of a noun. For example, if I believe that God is my source and security for all of my financial affairs, my corresponding action should include a thought life free from financial worry and a life that is filled with generosity. My action should be a living definition of financial trust. We could call this an automatic response system.
Finally, faith is presented as an adverb, which is a part of speech that describes the continuous action of the verb. We all have moments of inspiration where we have a revelation that we need to do something that is good and noble. A New Year’s Resolution is a great example. If the resolution to do whatever it is that was determined lasts only a week then we can safely say that it has not become continuous. If the new behavior becomes fully incorporated into our life, the verb, faith, now is transformed into the adverb, faithfully. This is what we can call a lifestyle, or as the scriptures say, the just shall live by faith (Rom. 1:17 and others).
Jesus makes reference to all of these factors of faith in His teaching and discussions with the masses and with His disciples. He presents broad, sweeping statements like, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” [Jhn 14:6 NASB], that must be accepted by the hearer in order to move into a relationship with the Father. He also puts expectations on His followers to act on what they believe in a confident and consistent manner when He asks questions of His disciples like, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" [Mat 14:31 NASB]. So, Jesus is expecting a return on His investment of sowing the seed of faith into the hearts of believers that will affect every aspect of life. This willingness to accept truth is the essence of the soil.
Of all the necessary truths that go into creating the soil of my heart, is there one, absolutely critical truth, that will form the basis of the recipe for success? In bread baking, flour is the main ingredient that all of the other ingredients are mixed into. What is the flour of faith? Consider this verse of scripture: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love” [Gal 5:6 CSB emphasis added]. What the Apostle Paul is referring to here is that real faith, Great Faith, is not a function of outward forms of religious activities, but is a function of faith working through love. Love, then, is the flour that all of the other faith ingredients are mixed into. No flour, no bread. No love, no true faith.
Why is love the foundation of faith? Back in the first installment of this series we briefly looked at the power of love to cast out all fear (1 John 4: 17-ff). Although fear can be a great motivator to drive us to God, it is a terrible toxin in the recipe for faith. Fear can not be on the ingredient list as it acts as a leaven that will affect the entire loaf. A little leaven goes a long way! Fear in essence is the absence of love. So to the degree that love is not perfected within us, fear will have a profound effect on the development of faith- it will become religious! Love must be the main ingredient because it is God’s main ingredient! This is THE ONE MOST IMPORTANT belief we must have if faith is ever to grow.
Have you ever wondered why the words faith and believe are so interchangeably connected? To have faith is to believe in something and to believe in something is to have faith in it.
The origin of our English word, belief, connects all the dots for me. Belief is a combination of two words: “be” which means to exist or a state of being, and “leubh” (old Indo-European) meaning, love. This changes the entire emphasis of faith. Belief, then, can be said to be a state of being in love. If this is true, then all faith must originate from and work through love. When Jesus was asked about the most important commandment His answer was, “And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” [Mar 12:30 NLT]. This, my friend, is Jesus’ definition of Great Faith!
The love of God is so infinitely beyond our human understanding that it must be received as truth on the basis that God has said it is so. There are no words in any language to fully describe, disclose, or convince us that it is what it is - the unconditional essence of God. GOD IS LOVE. Thankfully, this love is given without the precondition that we understand it. We just need to accept it and act accordingly. Jesus makes a defining statement on all of God’s truth revealed to humanity, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" [Jhn 8:32 NLT].
What Jesus is saying must be understood in this context: in order for us to experience the benefit of truth we must first accept that it is truth because the nature of truth is that it is ALWAYS true. It is a LAW that God has established as the foundation for all of His creation.
Great Faith works through Great Love. Love is the flour that God has given to us to work with. We just need to accept that. We can’t manufacture this kind of love; it is a gift from God - “This is real love--not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” [1Jo 4:10 NLT]. If I am a “believer” that God has taken away my sin, then here is how I would describe the truth of real love that we must accept before we can move on:
Right now, in spite of and even on the account of, all of my past, present, and future failures, doubts, willful rebellion, faults, and shortcomings, I am fully pleasing to God, absolutely acceptable, highly prized, and continually celebrated. My acceptance of this truth is God’s greatest desire fulfilled. I can give no greater gift to God than to let Him love me the way HE wants to love me. This is Great Faith in its purest form expressed to God.
The Apostle Paul must have had an amazing encounter with this truth. Paul went from a passionate pursuit of tirelessly working to fulfilling every requirement of Jewish Law in order to be declared righteous to a passionate pursuer of the Love of God which IS the fulfillment of all the Law. His entire 180 degrees turnaround was rooted in God’s Love. Here is how he summed it up:
“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” [Eph 3:17-19 NLT]
Now that we have the flour, we are ready to add the other ingredients that work together to make Great Faith. But let's move out of the kitchen and back into the garden and continue on with the seed-planting motif. There are 5 key ingredients that we need to mix into the soil of our heart to create the perfect conditions for faith to grow. In order to illustrate this we will use these verses of scripture:
“All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that [country] from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better [country] that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” [Heb 11:13-16 NASB]
So, until the next post, see if you can find the 5 soil conditioners of Great Faith in this passage. Happy digging!
by Pastor Jim Anan