Having addressed such issues as worry and doubt it’s time to move on, but for some, this could be like asking them to leave a friend behind. Since worrying requires no effort and causes a person to focus on self more than God, worry can only be left through conversion and the Christian who worries didn’t learn how to do this from God. Faith, on the other hand, is the application of God’s Word and this requires effort.
Why a deliberate study of God’s Word is necessary to faith
Jesus likens hearing and doing His words to a wise builder who builds on solid ground so that when the storm comes the house is able to stand firm, whereas the house that falls is not built on obedience to the Word of God. In this simple parable, illustrating the importance of hearing the words of Jesus and doing them, and as James says, real believers are those who hear the words of God and does them, we learn that to grow in our understanding of God’s Word is linked to our stability as we live by faith.
The Christian faith is based on knowledge, the knowledge of God. God has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus and Jesus is the basis of our faith. When Jesus asked his disciples “where is your faith?”, and then rebuked the storm, calming the wind and the waves, we recognise that the disciples were fearful when they shouldn’t have been. When the disciples say, “Who is this that can calm the wind and the waves?”, we see how a lack of knowledge of Jesus led to their lack of faith and being fearful.
How do we use the gift of faith
Faith is a gift from God which must be used by those who have it, yet what can happen is that we can expect it to operate without us being involved as if we can simply sit back and receive its benefits. The blessed man is the one who hears and does the words of Jesus, therefore the way we use faith is by doing the words of Jesus just as the parable of the wise and foolish builders teach us.
Faith is how we get to see the value of Christ’s instructions, promises, teaching and commands. Faith causes us to see through hearing the Word of God and the faith which God gives us causes us to value His Word above our unbelief. Faith causes us to take into consideration the Word of God in all matters knowing that it will make a difference to how we will interpret what is in front of us. The faith which God gives, causes us to hold on to the truth and this is how we begin to use the faith we have received. We are to take the words of Jesus and put them into actions, not worrying is an action of the mind and a result of disciplined study. The disciples, who in fear woke Jesus in the middle of a storm were not taking into consideration what they knew about Jesus, what they had seen, all those miracles, how people marvelled at His teaching, it was as if all of that was forgotten in the moment.
Faith and value
We hopefully recognise that God values us more than the birds of the air and this in turn, given its context in Matthew, should cause us to stop worrying. God looks after the birds of the air and because we are of greater value He will look after us. Now given that value plays an important role in how we treat someone or something, what is the appropriate response to God? In other words, our faith in God is the precise measurement of how much we value Him and His words. Our faith in God can explain why we trust God over the situation we are in. There are only two occasions in which Jesus marvelled, the first is in the faith of the centurion on behalf of his servant (Matt 8:5-13) and the second is at the unbelief of the Nazarenes (Mark 6:1-6). The centurion expressed faith in Jesus and the power of His words, the Nazarenes expressed nothing but unbelief.
Faith and the Future
One of the benefits of learning to play basketball is that it offers immediate feedback. You throw the ball and you will either get it through the hoop or you won’t, from this feedback, you are able to make adjustments. However, there is a reason why basketball players, footballers, tennis players and others have coaches, it’s because even though they receive immediate feedback regarding what they are doing, if it is working or not, they are not always able to interpret this and make the necessary changes.
The Christian life can dish up a few painful realities which are not immediately apparent but come into sharp focus when put under the necessary stress to reveal them (like the disciples in the boat with Jesus in the middle of a storm). When Peter denied Jesus, he did so after pronouncing that he would never fall away, as the other disciples would from Jesus.
“And the king of Israel answered, “Tell him, ‘Let not him who straps on his armour boast in himself as he who takes it off.’” (1 King 20:11)
Faith is well thought through and while we can take risks based on what we know about God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven, faith will never cause us to become overconfident in our own abilities like those businessmen in James.
The importance of controlling information (Shephard’s table)
As an example of “controlling information” and why it is so important I will use the famous Shephard’s table to make the point and show how it’s relevant to our subject. In the picture below we have two tables, but they are the same table from different perspectives and so we end up believing that this table shown in two ways, is actually two different tables.
When you measure the tabletop of each table, you find that they are in fact the same size. The ruler becomes for us the means by which we can have our perception controlled by knowledge, however the moment we take away the ruler, it’s as if we have learnt nothing. The way we perceive the tables kicks back in and controls what we see and what we think we understand.
The point to all this is hopefully clear. Without the ruler guiding our understanding we perceive the same table as two different tables and without faith (understanding and believing the Word of God) we will perceive this world and many other things as something which it is not. Christians are called to live by faith and not by sight, by understanding the Word of God in faith and not by our own ability to perceive the world. Faith is a perpetual belief.