On my way to teach the Junior Sunday School class one morning, I overheard a conversation between two young girls who were new to the church. The older girl was rehearsing her lines that she would give at altar call time: “First, I would like to say that I know I am a sinner. I believe Jesus died for my sins, rose on the third day, and is now in heaven. I am standing here today because I have faith and want to live my life for Jesus.” When the girls discovered that I was walking behind them, they jumped and giggled as if I had caught them doing something mischievous. I smiled, acknowledged what I had overheard, asked a few questions, then escorted them to my class.
Both girls were stellar students. They said all the right things, answered most questions appropriately, and had a sweetness and loving attitude towards everyone they came in contact with. They were well “churched,” yet, they had not learned to be seekers of Christ. They did not know Scripture, did not seem too interested in the sermon during worship service, nor did they inquire about spiritual things or how to become more like Jesus. Of course, they knew some stuff about Christ and believed some stuff about Christ; and, as a result, they joined the church by the coaxing of a well meaning Christian that literally ushered them to the altar when the doors of the church were open.
It disturbs me that we do not emphasize to our children what faith is, what faith does, and what faith requires. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In other words, it is taking God at His word for the things that have not yet come to fruition. It means that we are assured/confident/secured in the belief that the promises of God will occur because He vowed it will happen. And, our assurance/confidence/security stems from who He is not our wishful thinking or desires that are outside of His will. This kind of faith is not natural. It is a conviction that is given by God not by whispers from family, friends, well-intentioned Christians, or a desire to live right.
“Faith says that one is prepared to say his life is going to be committed to Christ and He is going to determine what he/she does, where he/she goes, how he/she thinks, how he/she talks and how he/she lives. It says that one is going to behave as if the promises of God are absolutely true. Faith is the conviction of things not seen. None of us have seen God, we have not seen Christ, we have not seen the Holy Spirit, we have not seen Heaven, we have not seen a glorified body, and we have not seen our place prepared. However, we live every moment as though it is reality because we have that conviction of what we have never seen being true,” (John MacArthur).
Faith is going back to an abusive husband even when it does not make sense, but you are motivated by and submitted to Scripture knowing that God is at work. Faith is praying for a sick child knowing that whatever happens is for the good of the one who loves God. Faith is leaving your home and your extended family for a place where you know no one, and have no way of providing for your family but you are obedient to what God has called you to do in that place knowing that He will provide for all of your needs. Faith is a mighty principle of operation by which the Christian lives unto God. It allows one to tread the path of obedience, enables one to resist the Devil, and requires the denial of the flesh.
It is not enough to merely know and believe who Christ is and what Christ did because “the demons also believe, and shudder,” (James 2:19b). We must teach/disciple/encourage people to transfer trust from self to Christ because He is the only source of strength, knowledge, hope, and power that wipes away sin and will enable us to withstand tests and trials in our lives. Thank God for the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, the progressive process that begins in regeneration, according to the will of God, by which we are made partakers of His holiness. For, it is through the Word of God, self-examination, self-denial, watchfulness, and prayer that it is made possible to come to a saving faith in Christ Jesus even if we initially come to Him with a different kind of “faith.”