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.

Faith Factor 1 – God

God’s people are a miracle people. Christ works miracles in the lives and circumstances of those who trust Him. Faith, employed by Christians, is the most powerful force available to ordinary people in every generation.

So what is faith? How does it work? How do we get more of it? How can we build our faith so we use it more freely and see more of its fruit in our lives? These are the questions which I am addressing in this series.

Christianity is Faith

Christianity is based on Faith. Christianity is a “faith” rather than a religion. Christianity is more than just faith in and reliance on a set of religious writings and religious beliefs. It is activated and empowered by the active faith of its adherents.

Christians are called “believers”, because they cannot be Christians unless belief (faith) has been involved. You cannot inherit Christianity. You cannot have it given to you by someone else. Each individual Christian must have a faith experience, or they are not truly Christian.

Faith at Work

But Christianity does not just engage a person’s faith when they embrace Christianity. Faith goes far past any initiation into Christianity. In fact, the Bible repeatedly states the godly people must live a faith lifestyle.

“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17

Faith is at work in the believer’s life for the whole of their life. And it is that on-going presence of faith in the believer’s life that I am concerned about in this series. Everything I describe here will be relevant to the initial belief in Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord, which brings a person into the amazing relationship with God as Father and that is a vital component of being Christian. But my focus is not in that initiation faith. I want to encourage Christians to turbo-charge, energize and accelerate their daily life of faith.

The Faith Fusion

Faith at work is a remarkable and exciting reality which brings to life the whole gamut of Christian experience. It is the powerhouse of Christianity and it moves heaven and earth.

Faith is an amazing fusion of the whole counsel of scripture into a dynamic working structure that produces results.

Faith being put to work is like the bringing together of elements for a nuclear reaction. My father told me of a man who would demonstrate radioactive reaction through a mechanical device which brought two radioactive objects close to each other. The objects would begin to glow, to the amazement of his audience.

Having all the pieces on the bench is not enough. When they are brought together in appropriate fusion there is an output which is awesome in its power and effect.

Faith is the process of activating the various components of Christian truth so that the fusion results in release of the power and impact latent within those truths.

Factor One is God

My favourite definition of faith is given in Hebrews 11:6. This definition places God on the throne of faith. Faith is not a toy which people can use for their own convenience. Faith is not some divine power which God has allowed humans to use as they will. Faith is not placed in ‘faith’, as a magical process in itself.

Faith is anchored, centred, focused, energised, made real and only ever relevant to God, Himself!

I have met people who have ‘faith in faith’. I have heard preachers who speak of faith as if it was a tool of the gods stolen by man. I have seen people try to work up their faith, accuse others of not having enough faith, pump up faith in order to get something they want, and otherwise abuse the whole reality of a life of faith.

But God is the principle factor in faith. Hebrews 11:6 settles that for us.

“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

God is God

The basis for faith is the reality of the God who is God. Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, creator of the universe, Lord of all, God of all gods, is the only one who can make the miracle difference in our lives. His love, power, grace, wisdom, purpose and awesome reality surpass everything else.

Faith is only faith when it is anchored in the person of Almighty God.

So, let’s see that in Hebrews 11:6. Faith pleases God. The reason faith always pleases God is that faith is anchored in the reality of God’s existence. Those who come to God “must believe that He IS“. We must believe Him to be who He is. God’s “existence” is the foundation of faith.

That’s why faith in faith is folly. True faith is not anchored in faith as some kind of supernatural force. Nor is it anchored in the heart and mind or the believer. Faith is not a secret weapon in the hands of people, but an extension of God’s personal reality.

Faith Factor #1 is God. God is God! God is who the Bible says He is. God is everything He says He is, despite all evidence to the contrary. Faith is the act of confidently believing that.

God is Good

The second truth anchored in God is His character. God is a good God! God is a God who blesses. God is a God of grace.

It is not sufficient to believe that God is powerful, great, awesome, incomparable, all knowing, all glorious and so on. We must also believe in His character as a Good God.

This confidence in God’s goodness is summarised in Hebrews 11:6 in the reference to God as a “rewarder of them that diligently seek Him”. God is a ‘rewarder’. God is not vicious, malicious, capricious, deleterious or any other negative “-ious”.

Again we see that Faith Factor #1 is God. God’s person, existence, reality as the one who He reveals Himself to be in the Bible is the first element. The second is that God’s character is loving, gracious and keen to bless. Faith is built on these two revelations of who God is.

Again we see that faith is not centred in man, nor is it an independent spiritual force or tool. Faith is an outworking of our revelation of who God is. To know God is to love Him, and to know God is to be encouraged in faith to rely on Him, for salvation, deliverance, help in time of need and every good gift that He has prepared for us.

Faith in God

Faith at work is faith in God. Any other expression of ‘faith’ is beggarly in comparison to the miracles that spring from our confidence in God.

If you want to build your faith then extend your contact with God. Dive into God’s Word. Be filled with God’s Spirit. Walk under the Lordship of Christ. Seek God. Meet with Him. Get to know Him for who He is. Share with His children. Meditate on His Word, the Bible. Listen to preaching from those who know and love Him.

Since faith is anchored in who God is then the best thing you can do for your faith is to meet with God. Remember that to know God is to love Him and to know God is to readily trust in Him.

In ‘Faith Factor 2′ I will show you that man does have a part to play. Then we can move on to activating faith for good outcomes.

Battle of Milvian Bridge Changes Christendom

This is the day that the “Battle of Milvian Bridge” took place – in AD 312.

It was this historic battle, won by Constantine and his armies, which led to the Christianisation of the Roman Empire. Bear in mind that one uses the word ‘Christianisation’ in its broadest term.

The Milvian Bridge crossed the Tiber River, which was part of the western defences of Rome. The bridge was first built by Gaius Claudius Nero in 206 BC. In 63 BC the bridge was the site of an ambush by agents of Cicero.

Serbian born Constantine was at this time one of six contenders for leadership of the Roman Empire, following his father’s death in York, in Britain. Constantine marched on Rome and his forces met those of Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge.

Constantine’s victory was not the only significant event of that day. He claimed to have seen a vision at midday on that same day, seeing a Christian Cross superimposed on the sun, and the words “In This Sign, Conquer”, “In hoc signo vinces”.

Following his decisive victory, Constantine went on to become Emperor of the Roman Empire. He then made Christianity legal. Constantine claimed to be a Christian, and the changes that followed were momentous.

Persecution ceased. By March, AD 313, the Edict of Milan was published granting religious liberty to all, restoring previously confiscated church property and protecting Christian people from persecution. The Lord’s Day was set aside as a day of rest and worship. Favours were granted to the clergy. Churches were built.

Miller, in his Church History, records that in one year, in Rome, 12,000 men and women were baptised … “and a white garment, with 20 pieces of gold, was promised by the Emperor to every new convert of the poorer classes…” (page 194).

Three years after his victory at the bridge a triumphal arch was built with words telling how Constantine saved the republic ‘”by greatness of mind and impulse of divinity.” Roman troops then carried a pennant bearing the monogram of Jesus – the Greek letters “chi” and “rho” standing for the word “Christ”.

Within several years Constantine sponsored the Council of Nicaea to negotiate a statement of orthodox Christian belief that could be recognized across the Empire. The Nicaean Creed continues to be used today.

Some ‘state churches’ regard these events as a triumph in the history of the Christian faith; others, of ‘free church’ persuasion, are more likely to regard it as “almost as calamitous as the fall of Adam and Eve.”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Wendell Loveless at the Moody Bible Institute

This is the day that … Wendell P Loveless died in Honolulu, in 1987.

“I was born in Wheaton,” he had told an interviewer the year before he died, “which is the Protestant Vatican!”

After his father’s death, when Wendell was still an infant, the rest of the family lived with the godly grandparents.  They attended Wheaton College Church, and “before I was saved,” Wendell tells, “I was leading the choir.”

He studied singing, piano and drama – God was preparing him for future service. In 1914, he was chosen as a member of an entertainment group that toured the United States for six seasons, giving him experience and training in voice, piano, dramatics, and master-of-ceremonies duties, which he used later in Christian ministry.

During World War I he was an officer in the US Marines.  He was married in 1920 (“neither of us knew the Lord,” he said) – and was chaplain of a Masonic Lodge.

But, watching his eldest child playing, he says:  “The thought came to me with terrific force – I’ve got to set a better example to my son!”

Wendell Loveless began to read the Bible – and “when I came to Romans, I was saved!”

Seeing the incompatibility between Masonic teaching and Christianity, he resigned from the Lodge.

James Gray, the president of Moody Bible Institute, invited him to join the staff in a management role.

Then WMBI, Moody’s radio station, commenced – and Wendell Loveless was the first manager … “along with a secretary – that was the radio department!”  Today WMBI has over 160 full-time workers.

In 1928 he wrote his first chorus …
          Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before….

Others flowed from his pen – Altogether lovely …, You’ll never know real peace ‘til you know Jesus …, All because of Calvary….

After 20 years with WMBI, Wendell Loveless pastored three churches, Wheaton, Illinois; Boca Raton, Florida; and Honolulu, Hawaii, and lectured at the Moody Bible Institute.

At the age of 90 he suffered a stroke that slowed him down a little – some days, he told a reporter, he could only type 25 letters because he could no longer use his right hand.

Living in Honolulu, where his son Bob was “chaplain of Mid-Pacific Institute”, Wendell P. Loveless went home to glory at the age of 95.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Jerome Used His Pen To Bless the Church

This is the day that … Jerome died in AD 420, at the age of 89.

Born in Europe just 300 years after the birth of Christ, Jerome had a good education and learned several languages.

At the age of 18 he was baptised and joined the church, probably just to please his godly parents!

He writes concerning two things that happened later, causing him to think more seriously about his commitment. One was a dream in which he saw Judgment Day, and he heard a voice say: “You are not a Christian.”

History usually refers to him as Saint Jerome, but one gets the distinct impression that he was not all that saintly!

He was “controversial, argumentative and barbed in his attacks on those who opposed him,” writes M. Tengbom.

Another says: “He was unable to bear rivals … he died cantankerous and argumentative as ever.”

Another: “Jerome was so objectionable that no-one would live anywhere near him.”

Eventually Jerome went to live in Bethlehem … in a cave. It was in this cave that he translated the Scriptures into Latin, the tongue of the common (vulgar) people, hence it became known as “the Latin Vulgate version”. The “Latin Vulgate” was the main Bible in Europe for over 1000 years.

The story is told that one day while he was translating, a lion entered his cave. It had a thorn stuck in its paw so Jerome pulled it out and the lion became his pet and lived in the cave with him! Since then, whenever someone has painted Jerome doing his translation work, a lion has always been included in the painting.

Jerome produced a huge volume of works, including translations, commentaries and letters, which he intended to see published. He used the pen to argue his points and to press his interpretations.

Initially he looked on the Septuagint as an inspired text, but his continued study of Hebrew and his discussions with rabbis led him to revere the Hebrew text and disdain the Septuagint.

His correspondence is valued for the insight it give to the culture and thinking of his day, both in his own expressions and in the matters which he challenges. His contribution has greatly impacted Christendom.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.