Faith Factor 2 – Man

“All things are possible to him who believes” – Jesus Christ, Mark 9:23

And that’s what makes faith such a vital and powerful component of Christianity. Faith is the most powerful force available to ordinary people in every generation.

By faith lives are transformed. By faith miracles are performed. By faith impossible obstacles are removed. By faith whole nations are impacted. By faith “all things are possible”!

So what is faith? How does it work? How do we get more of it? How can we build our faith, use it more freely and see more of its fruit in our lives?

I began answering these questions in part one of this series, explaining that faith is anchored in the person of God. Now it’s time to look at man’s part in this thing called faith.

Fusion of God and Man

I discussed the ‘faith fusion’ in part one, explaining that faith brings together multiple elements of Christianity into one powerful, explosive package. This fusion brings together two polarities of Christian thought; God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.

Anyone who has delved into theological studies has been confronted by the passionate debate and polarising nature of Calvinism versus Arminian thought. In simplistic terms, Calvinism places great emphasis on the sovereignty of God, while Arminianism recognises man’s responsibility.

Without getting caught in the vortex of the debate, allow me to point out that the very defining verse on faith creates a fusion of those two, supposedly competitive concepts. While Hebrews 11:6 clearly gives weight to the person and character of God, as seen in part one, it also gives clear place to the part that man plays as well.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him (God): for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

Man Believes

While God is all that He is and all that the Bible reveals Him to be, God’s almighty glory does not take effect in a person’s life until and unless that person believes. God is the ultimate and complete source of everything. But man must access God’s reality and grace, by man’s response to God. If man does not respond, then all the benefits of God’s reality, salvation, power and grace are lost to that person.

Unbelievers cannot engage faith. Faith is not a one-sided dynamic. Faith is anchored in who God is, but it is also activated by man’s response to the truth about God.

In fact, man is in a unique place to activate faith. We are told that the demons believe, but it does them no good. They believe “and tremble”.

“You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” James 2:19

Man, however, gets a powerful result from believing.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” John 1:12

Man Seeks

The key verse I am using to define faith (Hebrews 11:6) not only reveals that man believes, but it points to man also seeking God. Faith has confidence in God’s character to reward those who “diligently seek him“.

A person of faith becomes confident in who God is and that God’s character is to bless. That person becomes confident that seeking God brings positive outcomes and so they press in to Him, seeking Him and expecting Him to respond to their actions.

A person of faith has a high level of engagement in their relationship with God. They are not passively dependent on God, but actively pressing in to access the benefits which can only come from God. They are ‘actively’ dependent on God. God and man work in synergistic fusion to bring faith into play and to release the grace which God is keen to give.

So man has a double part to play. Man is not a pawn, nor a sidelined passenger in Christianity. Man must “live by faith”.

“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:38

God and Man

Christianity is a ‘relationship’. God is our Father. We are His children. God and man work together and are bonded together in salvation and in the new relationship which springs from it.

Faith is the sweetest energising of the bond between God and man. It is the lynchpin of the relationship. It initiates the union and energises the on-going relationship. Faith is a team effort, engaging God and man in mutually satisfying cooperation for the fulfilment of God’s Kingdom.

So man cannot engage in faith outside of intimate relationship with God. Faith is an expression of that relationship, not something that man can activate independently of God.

Yet faith is offered to man to operate. It is like a father providing a car for his son. The car belongs to the father, but the keys are passed to the son. In the fullness of intimacy between God and man, man is able to operate with all of God’s resources.

Boldness in Faith

Faith, then, is something which people should enter into confidently. We are to come to God with boldness, because faith is something God is keen for us to engage in.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Fear of faith is out of place in Christianity. Christianity is a ‘faith’ which creates relationship, and it is relationship based on faith. Fear causes people to draw back, and drawing back is the opposite of faith.

Be encouraged that God wants you to step out in faith and to connect with Him in faith. He wants you to become completely confident in who He is and in His will to bless you, so that you will actively seek Him.

Be bold. Step into the presence of your holy God. Press in to know Him and to be knitted together with Him. As you do so you will be stepping into the arena of faith.

In ‘Faith Factor 3′ I will point out the imperative of faith.

John Hales Turns Arminian

John Hales was born in Bath, UK, on April 19, 1584. He was educated at Cambridge, and became a Greek lecturer before becoming a leading Church of England theologian, “one of the best Greek scholars of his day” … and a thorough going Calvinist. So much so, he was invited to share in the Synod of Dort (1618-1619), a gathering of Reformed (Calvinistic) theologians who opposed the Remonstrants (or Arminians … those who opposed some of Calvin’s distinctive teachings).

The differences were vigorously debated, and the Arminians were condemned as teachers of heretical doctrine.

But John Hales weighed the debate carefully in his mind. Had Christ accomplished salvation by His death only for the elect – or did He provide salvation for all mankind … if they chose to believe in Him?

And he who had come to the Synod a convinced Calvinist changed his mind – “as he says in one of his own vivid phrases, ‘I bade John Calvin goodnight‘.” (Arminianism. by A. Harrison, page 90).

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John Hales returned to England and was made Prebendary of Windsor by Archbishop Laud.  But when he refused to acknowledge the Commonwealth “he was deprived of his living, fell into poverty and had to sell his library!” (Dictionary of Literary Biographies, page 298).

Hales had spent his time among his books and in the company of literary men, among whom he was highly reputed for his common sense, his erudition and his genial charity. He was called “one of the clearest heads and best-prepared breasts in Christendom.” For all that he also loved solitude and was content to be one of those who possessed their souls in peace.

Hales was disturbed by the spirit of controversy which prevailed in his day. He saw that theological dispute was not the calling of the church. He dreamed of a common liturgy which omitted all the things about which men differed and argued.

While Hales’ writings are clear he was always reluctant to put pen to paper until it was necessary to do so. He did not believe that men should write indiscriminately, but purposefully and in great moderation.

John Hales died in Eton on May 19, 1656.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

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