When you plant vegetable seeds, you are exercising faith that, in time, you’ll enjoy homegrown vegetables from your garden. When you sit in a chair at your kitchen table, you are exercising faith that the chair will support your body. When you board a jet, you are exercising faith that the jet will hold together and the pilot will direct it safely to your destination.
Although faith is essential to everyday life, you seldom think about it because you’ve learned to put your trust in what you believe to be trustworthy objects and people. But sometimes putting our faith in Someone is a matter of life and death.
Good works aren’t good enough to earn God’s acceptance, to find peace with God, or to pay the debt for sin. No matter how hard we try and how sincere our efforts, our consciences will never be cleansed “from acts that lead to death” (Heb. 9:14). Instead we must come to God on his terms—not by our works but by trust in the finished work of his Son.
The Trustworthy Object of Our Faith
The important question isn’t how much faith we need. What matters is this: Who is the object of our faith? Only the God of the Bible, the One who sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins, is fully trustworthy. Faith trusts him to always be who he says he is. Faith believes that the Promiser keeps his promises. Your faith is enough if your faith is in him.
God’s work of salvation in Jesus Christ was finished nearly two thousand years ago—before I was born, long before I committed my first sin, let alone before I repented and believed. It is finished, and there’s nothing I can add to my salvation.
Although we commonly trust chairs to support our weight and airplanes to arrive at the destination city, these things can let us down. It doesn’t take much to make these objects of our faith untrustworthy. God is always trustworthy; we can put our faith in him and know with certainty that he will be who he says he is and do what he said he would do.
Lamentations 3:21–23 says, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Our hope is based in a God whose mercies are constantly renewed; we can rest our whole being in his faithfulness.
Faith is essential to eternal life; it is the way we have a relationship with God. First, when we receive Jesus Christ as Savior, we are exercising faith that he is the way to heaven, the one who makes us God’s child. Second, because we cannot see God now, we live our lives by faith. We make our decisions and follow desires based on God’s character and his promises.
During one evangelistic crusade, I counseled people who called our television program in search of spiritual help. As I prayed on the air with those who wanted to receive Christ, the station manager standing in the studio listened intently.
“I don’t understand it,” he said to me as the program signed off. “I attend church every Sunday. I partake of Holy Communion. I do confession at the stated times. And yet I have no assurance of eternal life.”
Unfortunately, millions of Americans share that station manager’s uncertainty and are on a long quest, because they are trusting their own efforts—especially religious observances—to get them into paradise. This kind of thinking permeates all religions, including traditional Christianity.
From the moment Adam disobeyed God in the garden, man has sought his own way to cover his sin and cleanse his conscience. We desire to do. We ask the same question the crowd asked Jesus: “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (John 6:28).
And God has always replied, “There’s nothing you can do. You must trust me to do it for you.” Jesus answered the crowd: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (v. 29).
It seems so easy! God requires only faith for our salvation, but it is the way that we live that enables us to grow in our relationship with him. Ephesians 2:8–9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Faith Proven by How We Live
It is after conversion that we are to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24). Good works are the outcome of faith. Good works are a logical, loving response to the mercy and grace of God, and a fruit of the Holy Spirit who has now come to live within us. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). True saving faith leads inevitably to good works—doing the revealed will of God. Obedience is faith in action.
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18). Good works reveal our faith. “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (v. 26). We work for God and for good because we are saved, not seeking to be saved.
A good deed in the eyes of God is not something we choose to do. Good works are obedience to God’s revealed commands. An honest Christian will always feel that his good works are certainly less than perfect. But he’s at peace with imperfection because he’s not basing his right standing with God on his good deeds. Daily he proclaims, “My soul will boast in the LORD” (Ps. 34:2)—in him alone. That’s what salvation is all about.
Our faith in God does not grow without careful attention. Like the vegetables in your garden, your faith needs deliberate care. A bodybuilder cannot lie in bed and dream of growing strong and thus develop muscles. Neither can we leave our faith on the shelf and expect it to grow.
God does not ask us to work the “muscle” of faith on our own. The father of the demon-possessed boy who brought his son to Jesus Christ said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). What a beautiful thing to tell the Lord! God does not expect us to mature alone but commands a few things that will aid in the development of our faith.
Read over the list below. Where do you stand? What steps can you take to develop your faith muscle?
1. Experience fellowship with other believers (Heb. 10:25) so that you can sharpen each other’s faith on to greater maturity. Commit to a church home and get involved with a Bible study, Sunday school class, or ministry. You cannot grow alone!
2. Commit to reading and studying God’s Word to know him better. David says in Psalm 119:11: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
3. Choose to pray for a particular person, situation, or even a country. Praying for others will not only increase your faith but also increase your love for people. God loves to answer the prayers of his children!
This article is written by Luis Palau and taken from the book The Complete Evangelism Guidebook (Baker Books, 2006) edited by Scott Dawson. Used by permission from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.