Most of us assume we understand what faith is. You may say something like, “I placed my faith in Jesus when I was a kid years ago, I go to church regularly, I believe in God, or I know what it means to adhere to a religion, next question.” But do we? Let me tell you what it is not:
So, what is faith?
“…he (GOD) has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature” – 2 Peter 1:4
Faith is transformative and participatory. When we place our trust in Jesus, it changes our direction, and it changes what we do as a result. We don’t have a faith, we don’t believe in faith, we participate in faith. What it looks like to participate in your faith Peter lists next…
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” -2 Peter 1:5-7
Peter says, “If you want a fully mature, refreshing faith in the person of Jesus, you make every effort to add these qualities.” Sounds like a lot more than just believing. How do you put your faith in the person of Jesus? You make every effort to live like him. You seek these traits because you believe it will be the refresh you need in your direction, and in your relationships. (Each of these qualities will get a stand alone column in future weeks.)
So, what exactly are the promises of God for you, and what does it look like to have faith in them?
Just to put that into context, the Bible sitting next to me right now has 1,142 total pages! Maybe you know some of the promises, maybe you forgot some, maybe you never knew some of these were promises to begin with. Some promises God made to specific people at specific times. Sometimes they hinged upon corresponding obedience. Many are misinterpreted, and misapplied. But some are timeless, and quite refreshing, especially in this season, or any season. We need to be careful not to ‘just’ read what God has promised, but know how God keeps that promise. For example, we are not promised a life without physical suffering and hardship, nor does God promise universally external sources of comfort and peace (like wealth, physical healing, etc.), but he does promise to send us times of refreshing. Chris Hodges, pastor and author, in his book, “Four Cups: God’s timeless promises for a life of fulfillment”, summarizes that God promises his people four core things:
“I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God” – Exodus 6:6-7 (NIV)
So What does God promise you? What can you always trust he will do for you?
Peter understood that faith is based in these promises of God through his personal experience. Peter denied Jesus, and he also walked on water! During that episode, Peter and his friends were in an incredible storm, and at a time of crisis. He turned to Jesus, even when he was unsure if it was actually Jesus. My favorite part of the walk on water event is what happens in the boat after Peter’s faith fails him…
“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” – Matthew 14:29-33
Faith is experiencing that God will bring you out. But he doesn’t want to stop there. He will free you, every single time you slip back into what we were brought out from. That is what it means to have faith. We are not just saved, but we are freed. He doesn’t just want to free you, he wants to offer you purpose and value. He wants to use you to help those in the boat, the people that are presently around you, experience Him.
You may believe in Jesus’ payment for your sins on the cross which provides you salvation, but you might not have freedom. What has God brought you out of? And are you actually freed from what God has brought you out of? What would it look like for you to take that step of freedom? What words, decisions, actions do you still need to surrender to God?
Or maybe you are saved, and you are free, but honestly you are not living in the new purpose God has given you. Maybe that’s the reason why you are not feeling refreshed or fulfilled. What has God restored you for? Is God fulfilling you? Can you trust in God without participating in the plan He has for you?
Peter reminds us that turning to God, means placing your trust in God by believing and walking in these incredible promises. I can tell you this, a refreshed, fulfilling life is one that has faith in the person of Jesus and the promises of God.
Imagine if when people looked at you, and how you live, and for a moment, they stop, scratch their heads, maybe wipe their glasses, and ask themselves, “Am I seeing the same person as before? Do I need to refresh?”
That is faith in the person of Jesus and the promises of God.
Lead Pastor, Southside Church Henry County