We know that God’s people are to live by faith, since the Bible says so.
“Now the just shall live by faith” Hebrews 10:38
That verse was originally given by the prophet Habakkuk (Habakkuk 2:4) and it was quoted three times in the New Testament, in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38. So this is a truth confirmed multiple times in the Bible.
However, what does it actually mean to ‘live by faith’?
As a child going to church I heard of people who had stepped out to serve God and who were ‘living by faith’. What that meant was they did not have a guaranteed source of income but trusted God to supply their needs as and when they came up.
So ‘living by faith’ seemed to be reserved for those people called by God to live on the edge, in full-time Christian service. There was a sense of extra respect for those who lived this way, as if they were more holy than others.
However the Bible says that all of God’s people (the righteous) are to live by faith, so surely we are not all supposed to quit our job and trust God for our provisions! The meaning must have wider practical application than for those who have no income.
Among middle-class Westerners there is hardly any reason to ‘live by faith’. We generally have more than most people in income and material goods, and we mostly live in quiet stable communities where we are not brought to a point of need very often at all. So what is the need of faith in such a situation.
Our problem, however, is that the Bible reference to ‘living by faith’ suggests it is to be a lifestyle, such as a daily experience of trusting God. That’s virtually impossible in material terms for the average western Christian.
So, let’s ask the question, “When do people find themselves really crying out to God and trusting God in faith?”
The answer is probably when they find themselves in situations they can’t control, needing to trust God to sort things out for them, which they cannot sort out for themselves.
That might include situations where there is a health scare. That might include when a job is under threat or people are out of work and can’t pay their regular bills. It might include a time when there is breakdown in relationships such as an angry spouse or difficult teenage child.
Those situations can be forced on us at times, even unexpectedly, and cause us to begin praying and seeking God, needing Him to come through for us.
However the Bible says we are to ‘live by faith’. Surely God doesn’t intend for us to go from one crisis to another!
To ‘live by faith’ must be something each of us can do, daily, despite having secure income, loving relationships, good health and no real reason to have to cry out to God for rescue.
Let me share an experience I had many years ago that broadened my perception of ‘living by faith’. My wife and I were exploring a home-schooling program we wanted to engage for our children, so we attended a training program and gained some idea of how the program worked. It focused greatly on studying the Bible and that challenged my mind that was programmed toward separate classes for separate subjects, with scope and sequence, progressive knowledge building and so on. I found myself grappling with the new program because it cut across my pre-programmed ideas. With each new explanatory session I hoped to get a grip on how this program was supposed to work, but I found myself as uncertain as before.
Finally, after several days of investigating the program I was struck by an insight. The idea of the program is that families put the Bible ahead of regular curriculum and trust God to stimulate what He wants in the life of the children. When I realised that I coined the phrase, “This is Schooling by Faith!” I accepted that and we started using the program, with me putting aside my pre-programmed ideas and looking to God to bless my children’s education. As an aside let me say that I am delighted with what God did in the lives of my children and how well prepared they are for live and higher academic study.
So let’s take that reflection on doing something ‘by faith’ and see that there are many ways the righteous can live by faith, despite being well served in natural and social terms.
Let me prompt you with some suggestions.
God asks children to honour their parents. So a godly child can take a position like this: “God I don’t think my dad understands me or how you have made me, and he wants me to do a course of study or pursue a career that is quite different to what I would choose. But you require me to honour my father, so I will follow the course he recommends, and in doing so I live by faith, I put my faith in You, that You, knowing the end from the beginning and knowing what the future holds, will see that I am blessed and fulfilled and in the centre of Your perfect will. Each day I work at this thing my dad assigned for me I will be doing it “By Faith!” trusting You to be bigger than me and bigger than my dad and bigger than what I understand, and that You will bless me and my future, even though I can’t see how You could possibly do that.”
In such a situation that child is ‘living by faith’ every day.
A wife could similarly say to God: “Lord, You ask me to submit to my husband, but I think he is selfish and ignorant and he is blind to things I can see clearly. I struggle with the idea that You want me to let him hold the reins of my life and our family. For me to submit to my husband will take real faith on my part, so from this moment on I commit to being the wife You call me to be, and to submit to my husband, trusting You to be bigger than my husband and bigger than all the trouble my husband could create by his stupidity.”
A man or woman could similarly say to God:
“Lord, I sense that You want me to devote my time and money toward Your Kingdom but I have other hopes and plans. I don’t want to give up my plans, and I don’t want to miss out on things I dearly cherish, but I choose to obey You, laying down my hopes and dreams, as an act of faith. I will live by faith every day, trusting that You will bring about in me much better outcomes than all the things I don’t want to give up.”
Those are only examples, but I trust you can see by these reflections that we probably all need to stop and reconsider how we, in our daily lives, among all the wonderful things we enjoy, are actively Living By Faith.