Greater Faith for Living
by Tom McLemore
Paul wrote, “...for we walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Many of us encounter difficulties in believing, especially amid the insecurities we feel as we live our lives. We often respond as the apostles did when Jesus was crucified. They had believed, but the death of Jesus disappointed their faith. When our hopes are disappointed, we seem to find it more difficult to believe.
Perhaps what is needed is instruction in how to believe, i.e., how to go about believing. Many fail to believe because they do not know how to go about believing. Starting with our text (found in the context of 2 Corinthians 4, 5), we have a model provided by one who had mastered the art of believing, viz., Paul. Moving on to the desire for increased faith, once voiced by the apostles to Jesus, we may consider how greater faith is possible. Finally, reflecting on the classical embodiment of lack of faith (“doubting” Thomas) who came to complete faith, we will see what is at the heart of our learning the art of believing.
How We Walk by Faith and Not by Sight
First, this has to do with deciding how to respond to what we experience. Paul, in his suffering for the gospel, is faced with the decision of whether to lose heart and stop serving Christ OR to keep working and be optimistic and joyful. If he stops serving Christ in order to avoid suffering and save his life, he will lose the “eternal weight of glory.” But if he keeps serving Christ and continues to suffer and dies, he will receive the “eternal weight of glory.” How does he decide? Is it by faith or by sight? Is there really an “eternal weight of glory?” Is it more valuable than his physical well-being? How can he know? How could we know, if we were faced with suffering? By FAITH!
Second, this has to do with deciding where to concentrate/invest our time and energies. We are faced with the choice of using of our time and energies in availing ourselves of every opportunity for reading God’s word, praying, doing good, participating in the life of the Lord’s church (worship, fellowship, mission) OR neglecting these opportunities in order to get as much money, possessions, entertainment, etc. as possible. If we neglect our opportunities, we will not lay up treasure in heaven. If we avail ourselves of as many opportunities as possible, we will have treasure in heaven. How do we decide? By faith or by sight? Is there really a heaven in which we have treasure (the unseen)? Is having this treasure more valuable and permanent than the money, earthly possessions, entertainment, etc. (the seen)? How can we know? By FAITH!
Third, walking by faith and not by sight has to do with making moral decisions. We are confronted by moral choices between truth and falsehood, honesty and dishonesty, sexual purity and sexual immorality, love and hate, etc. If we choose falsehood, dishonesty, sexual immorality, and hatred, we will not inherit the kingdom of God. If we choose truth, honesty, sexual purity, and love, we will inherit the kingdom of God. How do we decide? By faith or by sight? Is there really a kingdom of God to inherit (the unseen)? Is it more valuable than what we can achieve and get for ourselves by immorality (the seen)? How can we know? By FAITH!
Faith is the confidence and trust that the unseen is real and is more valuable and permanent than the seen. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Paul, as a Christian, walked by faith and joyfully chose suffering and death for the cause of Christ because he had confidence in the reality and value and permanence of the unseen. The Christian walks by faith and chooses to avail one’s self of as many opportunities as possible to pursue spiritual things, because he has confidence in the reality and value and permanence of the unseen. The Christian walks by faith and chooses the moral course because he has confidence in the reality and value and permanence of the unseen.
How We Increase Our Faith
When Jesus’ apostles prayed, “Increase our faith” (Luke 15:5, 6), they manifested an essential desire. In order to increase our faith, which leads to making faith’s choices, we must look to the correct sources. There are unreliable sources of the confidence and trust that we need, and perhaps the most common is experience. For instance, someone says, “I pray because I prayed, and I received that for which I prayed.” But what about when you pray and do not receive that for which you pray? Do you give up praying? Yet, we are commanded to pray and to keep praying (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
There are reliable sources of confidence and trust. One is the character of the God who says the unseen is real and valuable and permanent. God tells us that “the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Another reliable source is the acts of the God who says the unseen is real and valuable and permanent. The many mighty acts of God are recorded in Scripture, and at the pinnacle is the resurrection of Jesus. “Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we too believe, and so we speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.” (2 Corinthians 4:13, 14).
We ought to desire to increase our faith, but it is not increased by asking for God and Christ to give us more faith (as the apostles did in Luke 17:5, 6). It is our task to believe. Rather, we increase our faith by studying what the Bible teaches about the character of God who says the unseen is real and valuable and permanent (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:17, 18). At the top of the list we might put studying the evidences for the resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).
Learning from Thomas’s Doubt
We may learning much from Thomas’ doubt in order to be in the position to increase our faith. Thomas demanded empirical evidence before he would believe (John 20:25). This shows that belief is a matter of the will. At the heart of faith is the will to take God at his word. The problem lies in being “slow of heart to believe” (Luke 24:25, 26). Jesus had told the apostles time and again that he would die and be raised. They had witnessed his raising people from the dead. The apostles are typical of how habitual it is for us to walk “by sight.” We must be willing to adopt a different approach. We must determine to heed Jesus’ command to “be not faithless but believing”(John 20:29). Jesus congratulates those willing to take God’s word for it (John 20:26-29).
We have studied what is involved in the art of believing. It is a matter of taking God’s word for it. Taking God’s word for it comes from knowing God is trustworthy. To take God’s word for it begins with a will to believe.
May we forsake the approach of expecting God to make it effortless to believe. Rather adopt the approach of determining to be willing to believe the word of him who is trustworthy. God has provided more than enough for us to have faith. We must take responsibility for our faith. Greater faith, and greater ability to walk by faith, will come as the result of applying ourselves to this approach.
Designed and maintained by Houston Park Church of Christ Copyright © 2000 by Houston Park Church of Christ 2 Crescent Hill Drive Selma, Alabama 36701 334-874-7941. All rights reserved. Revised: 24 Sep 2008.