Writer Tim Hansel tells this story: “One day, while my son Zac and I were out in the country, climbing around in some cliffs, I heard a voice from above me yell, "Hey Dad! Catch me!" I turned around to see Zac joyfully jumping off a rock straight at me. He had jumped and then yelled "Hey Dad!" I became an instant circus act, catching him. We both fell to the ground. For a moment after I caught him I could hardly talk.
When I found my voice again I gasped in exasperation: "Zac! Can you give me one good reason why you did that???"
He responded with remarkable calmness: "Sure...because you're my Dad."
(Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat, 1987, Word Books Publisher, pp. 46-47.)
Zac’s action was immature and risky, but his trust in his father Tim reflected wisdom. He knew that his dad loved him and would do everything he could to protect him. So he felt free to take a risk. The same is true with us and God. Our willingness to trust God is a crucial part of a healthy spiritual life. Another word for this is “faith”.
This leads to our first question:
What is faith?
One dictionary defines faith in this way, it’s “complete trust or confidence in someone or something”. In the case of Christianity, this complete trust or confidence is in God and is based on an accurate knowledge of who He is and what He’s done for us through Jesus. This, by the way, is not a blind faith. God has given us many evidences of His existence and His work. Faith, based on these evidences, then goes on to believe beyond what we can see or fully prove.
Why is my faith in God important?
1. My faith in God is important because it matters to God
You might say, “Why does the infinite God care whether I put my trust in Him or not?” Well, for some reason, God does care. He wants us to believe Him and to trust Him. That’s how He is, whether it makes sense to us or not. And, it turns out, our willingness to trust God affects what He’s willing and able to do in our lives. Let’s draw this out in the following observations.
2. My faith in God is important because it allows me to be saved from my sin
Faith is the key that opens the door of salvation. Ephesians 2:8 says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith. . .” If we believe in Jesus and put our trust in Him, God saves us from our sin and makes us part of His family. Without this believing trust, or faith, we stay on the outside looking in.
3. My faith is important because it allows me to please God
“The envelope please. . .” says the presenter at the Academy awards. The winner is announced and showered with approval. Human awards and affirmations are nice, but God’s affirmation is far more important. He’s the judge who matters most. Hebrews 11:6 notes that “. . . without faith it is impossible to please God.” God’s looking for more than just the right actions. He also wants them done with the right heart; a heart of faith.
4. My faith is important because it brings glory to God
When we exercise faith in God this brings the focus back on Him and He receives the credit. This is appropriate, since God is the ultimate hero of the human story, not us. He created us. He saved us. And He guides and sustains us. Our faith gives Him glory.
5. My faith is important because it causes me to rely on God and not on myself
The Christian life, lived properly, is unbelievably challenging. We’re called not only to do the right thing, but to do it for the right reasons – all while fighting against the world, our sin nature, and the Devil. Faith allows us to lean our full weight on God and trust Him to empower and enlighten us. Not only does this relieve us of a lot of pressure, it also opens the door for God to step in and help us in ways that He might not otherwise act.
6. My faith is important because it enables me to hang onto God despite His mysterious ways
God asks us to believe in Him and to trust in Him even though He’s invisible, silent, and often hard to figure out. With rare exceptions, God has always functioned this way in the life of His people. In Heaven it will be different. God will be visible there. But here we’re expected to trust a God who usually operates stealthily in the background. Faith is what makes this possible – we trust God beyond what we can see or completely prove or understand. Without faith, at this spiritual stage, a healthy walk with God will not survive. Often we simply have to trust that “he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Our critics think that this is a hoot – that we’re gullible yokels hanging onto our invisible “sky daddy”. As mentioned earlier, however, there are good reasons to have faith in God and the potential rewards are enormous.
This leads to a fascinating question: Where does faith come from? What tips the balance from unbelief to belief; from lack of trust to trust? Let me make two observations:
1. Faith is a gift from God
Our ability to believe in and to trust God is only available if God provides it. He has to make His existence known (He could easily hide it). He has to open our sin-blinded eyes. And He has to help us overcome our sinful repugnance to His holy presence and give us a desire to trust Him.
Does God do this for everyone? Some Christians will debate me on this, but my answer is “yes”. I believe that God gives every person the capacity to put their trust in Him. If this is so, then why do so many people not choose faith in God? This leads to the second observation:
2. Faith is a choice I make
God may make the faith option compelling, but He doesn’t make it coercive. The choice is ours. He wants us to freely choose Him. We can say “Yes” and we can say “No”.
How do we do this? I must admit that faith in Jesus involves a mysterious dance between the Spirit and us which I can’t entirely explain. He gives light and we turn our gaze toward it. He creates desire and we embrace it. He reaches out and we reach back.
Is faith an emotion? Not primarily. Faith may involve emotions, but it is chiefly an act of our will. At some point we say “Yes, I now believe. I’m ready to put my full weight of trust on Jesus.” It’s a commitment that, once made, will need to be re-affirmed repeatedly as we face life’s challenges. While we first trusted God for salvation, now we must trust Him for life. In time, God will reward our faith by deepening it and by transforming our hearts to be more and more like His Son’s. I close with a quote from evangelist Corrie Ten Boom: “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”