I recently gave a presentation on faith (and doubt). We moderns tend to think of faith as the opposite of doubt – as in proof or evidence, or the lack thereof – but that isn’t the way Scripture presents faith to us. Cosmological and fine-tuning arguments for the existence of God and so on are elementary.
We shouldn’t be commended for merely believing God exists. God has made himself obvious. (Rom. 1:20) Even the demons believe … and bristle! (James 2:19)
Rather, faith involves trust and relationship. It involves a willingness to rely on God, rather than rely on ourselves. A willingness to wait on Him, to trust Him, and to be confident in His goodness toward us. Faith is believing God loves us and desires us to love Him.
We receive God’s grace by faith; it’s not anything we do, lest anyone boast. Rather the grace we receive is the gift of God offered to us out of His love for us. (Eph. 2:8-9)
“Anyone who comes to God must believe He exists”
“and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
Faith is not just believing that God exists, but believing that He really does reward those who desire Him.
I had not previously thought of the story of Adam and Eve in the context of faith before. After all, they didn’t doubt God existed. God walked with them in the cool of the day in the garden. They knew God face to face!
When Satan tempted them, however, they lacked faith. They failed to trust that God was trustworthy.
It may not seem immediately obvious that the story of Adam and Eve is a story of unbelief, but I think it is. When Satan focused their attention on the seeming goodness of the fruit to eat and questioned why God would not want them to eat what was good for them, Satan was tempting them to doubt God’s goodness toward them.
Adam and Eve ignored God’s warning, determining for themselves what was best for them. Unbelief is an unwillingness to rely on God and a choosing to rely on ourselves and our own ability to determine what is best for us – rather then rely on God.
Adam and Eve were intrigued by Satan’s claim that eating the fruit would make them like God. They bought into the claim that God didn’t want them to be like Him, knowing good from evil. At the core of that temptation is the desire not to be dependent on God and to be self-sustaining, self-determining, and self-righteous.
Of course, God did want them to be like Him. After all, God made them in His very image! It was the very core purpose of His plan for them to be like Him!
I believe God knew they would eat the fruit. Perhaps, God was hoping they would trust Him, but He was prepared, in His providence, for them choosing not to trust Him.
They could eat of all the fruit of the garden, but for the fruit of that one tree. By that one choice, they became disobedient, knowing good and evil, losing their innocence and their intimate relationship with God.
The world was opened wide up to them, but they had lost relationship with their Maker. All choices now were before them – a million things to substitute for God – but none of them ultimately satisfy the longing that only God can fulfill. They gained the world, but they lost their soul connection to God.
God made sure to put eternity into their hearts (Ecc. 3:11), however, so they would long for what they were missing, even if they didn’t know what it was, exactly. Finding ourselves “outside the garden” (outside of relationship with God), we wander from desire to desire in this life, and never find fulfillment.
We know the world isn’t right. We know something is wrong. We desire justice, but there is no justice. We desire peace, but there is no peace.
As children at Christmastime, children wait impatiently to open the toys under the tree. The expectation builds as Christmas Eve and Christmas day approach. When all the presents are finally unwrapped, though – an hour later, a day later, a week later, a month later – the initial thrill of fulfilled expectation evaporates into disappointment and the longing creeps back in.
Wealth, fame, accomplishment, relationships with other people, pleasure, possessions – they all fail us. They ultimately disappoint and let us down. They don’t meet the expectations we have for them.
Just as Adam and Eve made the one choice that was forbidden and doomed them to wander unfulfilled in this life, God offers us (now) one choice that, if we embrace it, will change everything.
All choices, but one, were open to Adam and Eve in the garden, and that one choice cut them off from God. Now all choices are open and available to us, but only one choice will connect us to God who is the fulfillment of all longing – He is everything we desire.
But we have to recognize this. We have to realize that God is what we want. We have to want Him so much that we earnestly seek Him. We have to let go of our desire for self-fulfillment, self-determination, and self-righteousness and embrace the grace He offers us.
God closed off all ways to Him, save one: Jesus. Jesus is the way the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Jesus. (John 14:6)
This is the grace of God that is offered freely to us. While God previously gave the people He created one choice they were forbidden to embrace, He now offers one choice to embrace that He desires us to make.
That one choice will bring us back into relationship with Him.
Faith is embracing the one choice – the grace – that God offers us.
Faith is believing that God loves us and offers us the one thing we really want, and need, and long for. Faith understands the meaninglessness of all other choices – as the writer of Ecclesiastes poetically explores.
Faith pleases God because it accomplishes the fulfillment of His purpose and His plan for us – to know Him – and not just to know him, but to embrace Him!
Faith is the exercise of rejecting all other choices in this life but God.
Faith is something that we live, and it takes a lifetime. Thus, the people who are commended for their faith in Hebrews 11 are commended for choosing God over seeking satisfaction in this life. They were commended for hoping and waiting for it, thought they didn’t receive the hope for which they were promised in their lifetimes.
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went…. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
The writer of Hebrews says, “All these people were still living by faith when they died.” They were holding out for the one choice that pleases God – the desire to know Him.
“They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”
They were “longing for a better country – a heavenly one”. (Heb. 11:16)
Faith is the assurance of things unseen. (Heb. 11:1)
We have this longing that God put within us. We have this treasure that is sealed by the Holy Spirit when we receive it in earthen vessels. Therefore we know we were made for something more. Faith is refusing to settle for the illusory satisfaction of treasures that will fade.
Just as we perceive by faith that God formed the universe from nothing – the visible from the invisible (Heb. 11:3) – so we perceive that God can satisfy the longing in our hearts that has yet to be fulfilled (and will not be fulfilled) by any visible thing.
Our longing is the pleasure of God to fulfill, and He will fulfill it. Faith is believing that God is faithful to accomplish His purpose for us and in us.