Summary: This is the introduction to my series "We Walk By Faith". In this message I focus on the confusion concerning faith and how that everyone has some faith operating in their lives.
We Walk By Faith - Introduction
Before I get into the heart of the message, I want to share a story with you that we discussed this past week during bible study that I read recently. “There was a man who tied a tight rope across Niagara Falls. He then walked up to a group of people at the Falls and asked them the following question: “Do you believe I can walk across the falls on this tight rope?” The people thought he was crazy and told him “No, they did not believe he could.” The man then climbed on the rope, walked across and then turned around and walked back. When he returned, he asked the people, “Do you believe that I can walk across pushing this wheelbarrow?” Having seen him walk across alone, they did not believe he could do it with a wheelbarrow. They answered “No!” The man once again climbed upon the tight rope and walked across pushing the wheelbarrow. When he returned he asked the people this question: “Do you believe I can walk across this tight rope, pushing this wheelbarrow with a person in it?” having seen him do it twice, they all exclaimed excitedly “Yes!” as the believed he really could do it. The man then asked this question: “Which of you would like to volunteer to be in the wheelbarrow?” No one answered.” I want you to think about this story. If you had witnessed the man doing what he had said he would do twice and you believed that he could in fact walk the tight rope while pushing someone in the wheelbarrow, would you volunteer to get into the wheelbarrow? This story exemplifies how we walk with Christ. We believe what the bible says and the testimony of others, we just do not believe it unquestioningly when it comes to us. Keep this story in mind as we continue through this series in the weeks to come.
This morning I am embarking on a new series I’ve titled “We Walk By Faith.” Our foundational Scripture for this series comes from 2 Corinthians 5:7 where Paul makes the following declaration: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” I will explain later the context of his statement. Throughout this series we will examine scriptural references in a context that might seem different from how you have read the Scriptures before as my desire is to give you something you can really “chew” on during your times of meditation. To begin this series, I want to start by explaining just what faith is and how it’s true definition might differ slightly from how we have thought about it in the past.
I. The Definition of Faith
Webster’s dictionary defines faith as “Unquestioning belief; complete trust or confidence; loyalty.” It also states that it is often associated with a relationship to God. The first thing I want to point out this morning is that faith exists on some level in everyone’s life. It is not a religious word or act; it is something that is imparted within us from the very beginning of our lives. Even though we often speak of faith within the Church walls or in relationship to Christ, faith in and of itself is not solely attached to a religious act or belief. Faith is something that exists in people who are religious as well as in people who are non-religious or outright atheists. It is a generic term that describes a very powerful action. Now before some of you blow a religious gasket please hear me out.
In our religious circles we talk about faith and the different levels people exhibit of faith. We talk about having faith and walking in faith. We talk about people of faith doing great things and people with little faith doing “small” things. We listen as people make statements about their faith or lack thereof and what they can do to increase their faith. We establish classes that focus on teaching people how to walk in faith. And yes, we preach and preach and preach on faith in an attempt to help our members strengthen their faith walk with Christ only to have them walk out the doors no further along that they were prior to ever hearing the morning message. All of these activities in some ways have been aligned to our understanding of faith and yet we have many Christians with very little faith that they can act on in a real time of need. Experiencing this demonstrates that somewhere there is a disconnect between our understanding of faith and what faith really is in practice?
If I were to ask you to give me the definition of faith, many of you would immediately go to Hebrews 11:1 which states the following: “Now faith is the assurance (or substance) of things hoped for, the conviction (or evidence) of things not seen.” As you quote this verse, please note that in Paul’s definition of faith there is not a reference that faith is strictly tied to religion or to a relationship with Christ. He does not mention Christ in his definition nor does he say anything about God. He says that faith is the assurance of things you’re hoping for – meaning that you have full confidence that you will receive what you are hoping for. He also states that it is the conviction of things not seen meaning that you have evidence that cannot be seen that you have received what you have hoped for. Paul’s definition does not tie itself to how we have used it religiously in the past and this is part of the reason why some people do not think they have much faith. When you compare Paul’s definition to that of the Webster’s dictionary, they both state the same thing just in a different way. Both speak of the process and outcome of what faith is and this process and outcome applies to more than just our faith in Christ. I believe if we can get people to understand that they walk in faith everyday in some areas of their lives and through those experiences, learn to apply that same faith that already have to a relationship with Christ. We call this transference – you take something you’ve learned in other situation and use it in another one. In this case, you take the faith you use in one area and apply that same faith to another area. For example, if you are very skilled at doing your current job because you learned the process of how to do it, you have a belief (faith) that you can do any other job that you may want if you take the time to learn it. Your belief is not based on the “skills” you currently have, but the “belief” that if you learned to do your current job you can, with the right training, learn to do the other job. Your faith (belief) therefore is in your ability to learn a new skill versus believing in a skill you already have mastered.