by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
Keynote Speaker, CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries
Week 4 of Advent: Love
Faith is the Foundation of Christianity
Have you ever asked for God to give you a sign? Maybe you’re trying to make a major decision that will send your life down a different path. Or maybe you feel God calling you to a certain task. Or maybe you just simply are searching for God. There are many reasons why we might ask God to give us a sign. Some say that to do so shows a lack of faith. In some instances that could very well be true and that can be a huge problem since Christianity is 100% dependent upon faith in God and in His only Son, Jesus who became the Savior or the world. The very foundation of Christianity is faith in who Jesus is and the work He did through his birth, life, death, and resurrection.
The main reason why Christians struggle with not having much faith is because we tend to follow what we perceive to be true rather than what we know to be true by faith. The kind of faith that has a complete trust or confidence in someone or something that is built up over time as that person proves himself faithful time and time again. But humans often fail us and then we lose faith in them. We struggle with faith because we base our faith on our human experiences. If we want to have the kind of faith seen in the “Faith Heroes” of Hebrews 11, then we have to base our faith on the unchanging nature of God – not people.
How to build up our faith
We can build our faith in Christ as we look at the promises of God where He has kept those promises. We can build our faith in Christ as we look at the prophets who foretold pieces of the future that God revealed to them and then see in history where those prophesies occurred. As God inspired the various writers for the books of the Bible, He gave us His own personal testimony of His faithfulness to us.
As children of God, it is by faith that we must believe that Jesus is who He said He is — the promised Messiah and Son of God. By faith, we must believe that He lived His entire life without sin. By faith, we must believe that through His death on the cross He become the atoning sacrifice for the sins of every person. It is by faith we must believe that after three days in a tomb, He was raised to life again. By faith, we must believe that He ascended into Heaven after 40 days where in that time He appeared to many. By faith, we must believe that today, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and that He is preparing a place for us in heaven. And by faith, we place our trust in Jesus as “The Way, the truth and the life.” By faith, we believe that Jesus is coming again to receive us unto Himself.
There is no other way by which we can be saved. Then, Jesus gives us His perfect righteousness, making us justified before God.
A Whole Lot of Faith
That’s a whole lot of faith. Yet often, we live as though we don’t really believe all that we claim to believe and the biggest reason why is we don’t truly know God because we don’t take the time to get to know Him. Just as you would not place your complete faith and trust in a total stranger, if God is more like a stranger to you than a Father, it will be difficult to fully trust Him with complete and total faith in Him.
The more intimately you know Him, the easier it becomes to have faith in Him. The only way we get to know Him while in this life is through daily personal Bible study where He reveals Himself to us on every page and through a habit of conversing with Him in prayer. In Romans 10:17, Paul wrote, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
We can certainly learn about God through the sermons we hear at church, but if you really want to seek God with all your heart, you’ll need to open your Bible and begin to study it for yourself.
If you struggle with faith, I want to encourage you through one of the disciples who has become known to us as “doubting Thomas.” When Thomas heard that Jesus had been raised from the dead, he said he would not believe unless he saw Jesus for himself, saw the wounds from the nails in His hands and feet and thrust his hand in Jesus’ side where he had been pierced with a sword. Jesus later appeared again to the disciples and this time Thomas was with them. With love, He walked up to Thomas and let him see with his own eyes, touch the nail scars and showed him His side. Thomas immediately bows and worships Jesus. Jesus said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
Asking for a sign
If you have asked God to give you a sign, you are not alone. Others in the Bible also asked for a sign. In Judges 6, Gideon asked God for the sign of the fleece. King Herod was hoping for a sign (Luke 23:8). In Matthew 24, the disciples asked Jesus what sign would precede His coming. And in Isaiah 7, Ahaz is told to ask for a sign – but he would not. A sign was given anyway and that sign was the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah.
Moreover the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying, “Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!” Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings.”
Jesus wants each one of us to believe – to have faith. He will meet your level of faith where you are – but He will not leave you there. He will take you to the next step – and then the next. So if you need a sign, like Thomas did, then ask.
Walk by faith, not by sight
However, at the same time, we also need to remember the words of Paul in Hebrews 11:6 where Paul tells us to walk by faith and not by sight. We can ask for a sign for the wrong reason, which is testing God. The scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees often did so to which Jesus responded, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three night in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:38-40)
Why does God give signs sometimes and not others?
Why does God give signs in some instances and not others? The answer lies within the “why” we ask for a sign. If we ask for a sign because we want to take a shortcut, our “why” is the wrong reason. Often we want to take a shortcut, because we are lazy or we feel that the task is too hard or too long and we want to just skip over to the end. Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, “For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life.” Most often, shortcuts are dangerous and have consequences.
Faith doesn’t take shortcuts
Abraham and Sarah attempted a shortcut to achieve God’s promised son. The consequences of their actions reached across generations. Shortcuts can also lead to poverty (Proverbs 10:14 and Proverbs 21:5) and mistakes (Proverbs 19:2). They can often seem profitable at the moment, but it is always better to do things God’s way.
Psalm 37:7 tells us to wait patiently for God to act.
In the Message Bible, Matthew 7:13 says, “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do.
In Psalm 32:8, God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”
Proverbs 37:5 tells us to “commit everything you do to the Lord, Trust him, and he will help you.” Taking shortcuts turns the discovery of God’s will into a scheme that places all the responsibility and work on God. Beware of taking the easy way out.
Faith doesn’t ignore what God has already revealed
We also need to be sure that asking for a sign is not a way to ignore what God has already revealed to us as His will because we don’t like what He’s already shown us. We know from God’s Word that we are to give a tithe. So to pray and ask God for a sign that He wants you to tithe would be wrong. We know that God says in His Word that we should not commit adultery. So to ask for a sign from God to see if it’s OK for you to have an affair is wrong. To ask for a sign for anything that contradicts what God has already revealed, is wrong.
Faith doesn’t test God
If we are asking God for a sign to “test” Him, then it is sin. Deuteronomy 6:16 says, “Do not test the Lord your God.” In Psalm 78, David wrote about Israel’s continued sin, rebelling against God and deliberately testing Him.
Faith doesn’t validate a decision you’ve already made
We also should not asked for a sign as a means to validate a decision we’ve already made. Balaam did this when he asked God if he could go and curse the Israelites. God’s answer was, “No!” But Balaam didn’t like the answer and prayed again. God did not give Balaam a sign that he was to go, but he went anyway. He had already made up his mind to go before he ever prayed. The act of praying in this case was an attempt to justify the decision that he had already made. Too often, we jump into something that looks really tempting and then begin to pray and ask God to bless it. Essentially we are asking God to surrender to His will to us rather than us surrendering our will to Him.
Faith doesn’t avoid the waiting
Another reason we tend to ask God for a sign is because we want to avoid waiting. Waiting is often a time of feeling powerless, dependent, anxious while knowing we can do nothing – but wait. We we ask for a sign, we are putting ourselves back in control. Let’s say that the sign you ask for is that God would do something by a certain deadline. This means that God needs to respond by our schedule – not his.
In their book Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Harry Blackaby and Richard King say, “If you do not have clear instructions from God in a matter, pray and wait. Learn patience. Depend on God’s timing. His timing is always right and best. Don’t get in a hurry. He may be withholding directions to cause you to seek Him more intently. Don’t try to skip the relationship to get to the doing.” God is never late. Wait on Him. It will be worth it.
God is not a genie in a bottle
Lastly, we can’t ask for a sign as if God were a genie in a bottle. He is not a good luck charm that keeps us from failure or pain. We can’t use a sign from God as a means to never experiencing problems in life. What we see as success and what God sees as success can often look very different. From the world’s view point, as Jesus died on the cross, the world could say that He failed. But from God’s viewpoint, Jesus was a huge success because Jesus accomplished God’s perfect plan to redeem us and to save us from our sins. God’s plan may include some times of pain and suffering, but there is blessing in obedience.
Is it ever right to ask God for a sign?
So is it ever right to ask God for a sign? God wants to develop an intimate and loving relationship with us – and that takes time. Without a relationship with God, Christianity is reduced to a superstitious and shallow practice not any different than when the Israelites worshiped the golden calf. What sets Christianity is part is a relationship based on faith in THE living God. Within that relationship, God may choose to speak to us through His Word, through a friend, through our circumstances, and even through a sign.
Asking for a sign after God has already spoken is wrong. But when His will is not clear, there is nothing wrong with asking God to make His will known. He could choose to do so through a sign, but it could also be another way of confirming His will, such as through the pastor’s sermon or through the words of a friend. When we do feel that God has given a sign, we must be cautious because we also know that Satan can do signs. So be sure your recognize God’s voice when He speaks to you. In John 10:27, Jesus said that we hear his voice because He is our Shepherd.
The purpose of signs
Over and over again in the Bible we can find God giving His people signs. What’s the purpose? So that they would know Him. Why does He give us signs? Because He loves us and He longs to have a relationship based on complete faith in Him. The signs He gives are one way to reveal Himself to us and grow our faith. He doesn’t want to be some mystical being we don’t know. The whole reason He gave the sign in Isaiah 7:10-16 was so we would recognize the Messiah when He came. He loves us and wants us to know Him.
So, as we celebrate Christmas this week, take time to reflect on God’s love for us. A love that desires a relationship with us and so God gave us a sign so we would recognize His Messiah, our Redeemer:
By Ron Dunn / B&H Books
Many well-meaning Christians misunderstand the role that faith plays in our relationship with God. And because we don’t understand the ways of God, we open ourselves up to losing faith if he doesn’t deliver what we want, when we want it. But the Bible promises that God always rewards real faith. So what, then, is true faith? And how do we tell the difference between truth and a counterfeit faith that is nothing more than false advertising? In Faith Crisis, Ron Dunn guides us through a study of the nature of faith, using Scripture and real-life examples to show what the genuine article looks like, so there’s no mistaking it. You’ll learn that it’s not about quantity but quality, and that the reward of faith is not in blessings, but in experiencing the very presence of God.
By Kay Arthur / Harvest House Publishers
Discover the truth of God’s Word for yourself! The Book of Romans is Paul’s clearest presentation of the gospel—and includes answers to some of life’s most important questions. How can I have peace with God? How can I know God’s will? Does being religious make me a Christian? For personal or group study. 144 pages, softcover from Harvest.
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