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An Introduction to Faith

The 2016 theme for Zion’s Outpost Restoration Branch is on faith. By studying the principles of faith and learning to live by faith, it is hoped that we can grow into a more Christ-like people. We have a calendar for 2016 with a series of monthly themes. These themes are designed to help the members of the branch gain experience in and understanding of faith. This is an introduction to faith. Multiple posts will follow helping to explain the principle of faith and opening the scriptures on this important topic. Please do not expect this to be the final word on the subject, but I pray it will begin to open God’s word on faith for you.

Faith is central to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing can be accomplished for the Christian that is not the result of faith. In fact, Paul said that what ever thing is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).

Faith is a word that is used casually in English. It has many meanings, making it necessary to understand what meaning of the word faith is used here. The faith which is the subject of this discussion is the faith which is able to bring one to eternal life and salvation, according to the scriptures of Christianity. This discussion will examine faith in terms of its usefulness, effectiveness and its necessity in life as designed by God. It will review the means by which faith is established in our lives and ultimately, the fruit of faith.

Faith is a principle, that will lead a believer to respond in specific ways to the word of God and grow in righteousness, peace and joy. Faith is, therefore, more than simply a principle of action or behavior. It is a spiritual force that acts and leads to fruit or evidence of its activity. Godly faith leads the believer to Christ-likeness and into fellowship with the Father.

Faith is not a character trait or powerful will that is generated by a person. Faith cannot create its own reality. It is not self-generated and cannot produce some hoped for reality based on the strength of one’s desires. Its strength is wholly dependent on the object of faith. Great faith requires a great object to which one is faithful. Faith in the one living and true God is the only faith capable of delivering the soul of the believer into the presence of God to enjoy eternal rest with him. Faith is a gift established in the heart of a person by the action of God’s will and grace.

Faith is a common principle which is daily applied effectively in everyone’s life. This type of faith may be called common or general faith. It is similar to, but of a lesser magnitude and effect than the faith which is able to save. Saving faith is the faith described in and required by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, all of humanity exercises a form of faith in everyday life. Examining common or general faith helps us to visualize and understand the faith that saves us to eternal life.

In 1834-1835 a series of classes were prepared and delivered in Kirtland, Ohio that continue to serve as useful instruction on the principle of faith. The classes were published under the title of the Lectures on Faith in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. In that study, faith was examined as a general principle which every person in the world utilizes. Many people do not see it as faith, but when it is pointed out, they can see it is indeed a form of faith.

Were this class to go back and reflect upon the history of their lives, from the period of their first recollection, and ask themselves, what principle excited them to action, or what gave them energy and activity, in all their lawful avocations, callings and pursuits, what would be the answer? Would it not be that it was the assurance which we had of the existence of things which we had not seen, as yet?—Was it not the hope which you had, in consequence of your belief in the existence of unseen things, which stimulated you to action and exertion, in order to obtain them (Lectures on Faith 1:11, partial).

The farmer exercises faith in the laws of biology, augmented with his prior experience when a field is planted with seed. The farmer has confidence, based on what he knows, that the seed will produce a crop. He has seen it before and, although he has never planted any of the seeds of this year’s crop before, he expects that he will again have success in the harvest. This is the exercise of faith. If he had no confidence that the seeds would germinate, produce new plants and eventually present their fruit in the harvest, the farmer would not waste the money or time to plant, care for the crop or look for a harvest. Without faith, he would not make the effort to plant the seeds.

In like fashion, students would not attend schools (at least the ones they attend voluntarily) without some expectation (faith) that their effort will help them to find work and to do their work well. A cook would not mix the ingredients and bake a cake if she did not anticipate that a delicious desert will be the end result.

In all of these examples, the exercise of faith is based on some level of evidence or knowledge that provides a measure of confidence in an expected outcome. Some people speak about blind faith. This idea means performing an action and expecting something good to occur without any prior information or understanding that such an act or outcome is reasonable. Faith requires an object in which to trust. For Christians, the object is God. Action which is not based on any knowledge is not real faith. It is a reliance on chance, good intentions or luck, but it is not faith. Faith is grounded on some foundation and is reasonable, because of the quality of the one in who the faith centered. In the sense of the believer’s reality, faith may appear unreasonable outside of the realm of faith.

When Moses stood at the edge of the Red Sea with the host of Israel and the army of Egypt blocking any retreat, Moses believed that God would deliver his people and defeat the Egyptians. He had no army and essentially no weapons making an armed conflict impossible. Moses and his people were saved by faith.

By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land; which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned (Hebrews 11:29).

Moses was confident that the God who had miraculously delivered Israel from the slavery of Egypt, would not permit them to die at the hands of the Egyptian army in the desert. He did not rely on his own cunning, but with the assurance of God’s promise to save the people from Egypt, Moses looked to their Deliverer and God opened the Red Sea when Moses acted in faith to strike the shore with his rod.

The farmer has some knowledge of the action of seeds when they are planted, watered, fertilized and weeded. He knows this from training or by personal experience. He understands the principles of farming and when he acts within those parameters, he can reasonably expect that he will harvest a crop. He does not expect to plant corn seeds and harvest wheat from that field. He does not expect to see a mature harvest in three weeks, because he knows it requires a full summer to grow corn. Well, you say, that is not an unreasonable expectation. No, it is not to those who have seen in done over and over again. However, to a child who has never seen it done, it is a wonder to watch something buried in the dirt grow into life and food. It really is not a reasonable thing to do, until you become assured that it will work.

In some way, therefore, all of us exercise this kind of common faith. Drivers have the expectation that when they travel from point A to point B that other drivers will stay out of their lane, follow the other traffic laws and the trip can be made in safety. Accidents happen, but the driving process is not at fault, it is the fault of a driver or machine failing to do as expected. Common faith is not perfect and it is not all powerful. There are limits to its effectiveness.

In these examples it is easy to see that faith is the principle that underlies all of the activities of this mortal life. We make decisions, spend money and initiate plans based on this principle of common faith. Even in this realm, faith governs the activities of our lives.

This common faith is not the full application of faith. Faith as a spiritual principle is capable of changing a life dead in sin into a life of hope, righteousness, peace and joy. It is capable of pleasing God and bearing the fruit of holiness and salvation.

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