“If I could have seen land, I might have made it.” (Florence Chadwick, long distance swimmer to a reporter after being taken out of the water a mile from shore in thick fog in her swim from Catalina Island to the California coast in 1952.)
Faith is a way of seeing the unseen, seeing that which is invisible but nonetheless real. It is believing what God has said, reckoning it (and him) as true, and laying hold of his promises and of hope. Faith pleases God.
What biblical faith is not: Not a leap into the dark; it is based upon something God has revealed. Not a mystical feeling, or a feeling of dependence on someone (or anyone). It is trust in the God Who Is and what he has revealed. It’s not faith in faith. (As in, “I have faith.”) Biblical faith is not sincerity in believing something, though sincerity in faith is important. It is more than a mere list of beliefs. What we believe has content, but it is more than information. Biblical faith is not merely a personal preference or a private comforting belief. It is personal trust. It is personal, but it is not private. Biblical faith always has a way of working out publicly in real life.
Ray Stedman once said, “Faith simply means believing that God’s view of a matter is true no matter what ‘everybody else’ says. This is faith, believing that God’s view is true no matter what the currently acceptable explanation may be.”
Three examples of faith...
Abel (Gen 4) Abel’s faith looks back and approaches God on the basis of the costly sacrifice of life. This foreshadows the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.
Enoch (Gen 5) manifested faith by walking with God day after day. In the Bible "walking together" pictures being in agreement, with things shared in common, enjoying friendship. Manifested in lifestyle, character... fellowship with God, lived out during the time of increasing lawlessness upon the earth.
Noah (Gen 6ff) manifested faith by working in preparation of the future, in view of the coming judgment of God.
Past, present, future. We come to God through Christ to be justified and made right with God, but God intends faith to characterize all of our life, past, present, and future.
Biblical faith is not an isolated decision. Though we may come to faith at a moment in time and are justified and accepted by God once and forever. It is never alone. We learn from Abel that faith looks back to the past, from Enoch it shapes our present lifestyle, and from Noah, it looks to the future and acts upon it. Faith is more than a one-time event. It begins that way, and justifies us before God, but goes on to trust and obey God... It’s a lifetime of faith.
There's no evidence that these three men, by believing, made any great difference on the generation that observed them. Their lives did not result in "blessing" as many of us think of blessing. Their faith did not change the outward circumstances in their lives. The world didn’t change when they got up day by day... Abel was killed in the first occasion of family violence. Enoch walked with God for many long years and there was no indication of change in the world, Noah had to get up day by day for many days to build something that did not really seem very reasonable. Enoch (Jude 14) was a prophet and Noah (2 Pet 2:5) a preacher of righteousness, but there is no record of any converts or cultural change.
Our faith is tested by time. It’s take time for the promises of God to ripen. It is his will not only for us to begin in faith (new birth, justified) but to continue and grow in faith in order to receive what was promised. Ongoing faith begins to look a lot like faithfulness. We come by faith, and we continue by faith.
"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)
"He exists"... that is, He is the God Who Is, the Lord, as he is presented in the Bible. We not only believe in the promises of God, but we trust the God of the promises. Faith is personal trust in a personal God. The Puritan theologian William Ames wrote, “Faith is the resting of the heart on God..." (The Marrow of Theology)
He is a rewarder: "For the Scripture says, 'Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.' For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'" (Romans 10:11-13 ESV)
And not just at the first moment of salvation, but this is ongoing. "Ask [keep asking], and it will be given to you; seek [keep seeking], and you will find; knock [keep knocking], and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8 ESV)
What will get us through this life? Not our self-confidence and abilities, not our intellect and education, not our strong will and determination, not even our sincerity and earnestness, or niceness. It will be our confidence in God and in what he has revealed in his word.
Over time, faith begins to look a lot like faithfulness. Being a man or woman of faith may mean doing a great work for God, but it often means being faithful to him over the long haul.
Take the story of Ruth. Ruth never set out to create a Cinderella story for herself. She gave up the culture and the gods of her native Moab and said to Naomi, "Your people shall be my people, and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16) She placed her trust in Israel's God, the Lord, and took "refuge in the shelter of his wings." (2:12) Then she committed herself to show kindness to her mother-in-law, by caring for her and working hard to provide for their needs. It is God who expanded her story-line. And it's not only a Cinderella ending, (getting married to nice, wealthy Jewish man) but she would be included in the lineage of King David (she was his great grandmother!) and more significantly, included in the genealogy of the great Son of David, Jesus Christ. (4:17). It was no accident that this story was played out in the small town of Bethlehem!