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The Object of Faith

Why is it reasonable to have faith in the word of God? It is reasonable because of God, the origin of the word of God. His word is an extension of who he is. It describes, affirms the character, attributes and perfections of God. It performs the work of God and the word was made flesh and lived among us in Jesus Christ. Every promise of God was made yes in Christ. The faith of Abraham is reviewed in Hebrews 11 and helps illustrate this point.

In Hebrews chapter 11, Abraham is presented as an example of faith. He was looking for a city with “foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). He left home and entered a new land with the expectation of being the father of a great nation, yet he was childless at the time the promise was given. He did not live to see the fulfillment of the promise, but lived as though the promise was already his. He was assured that the promise was true and would be completed at some future time.

Abraham’s confidence or faith in the promise was based on the character of the promise giver—God. Abraham knew enough about God to allow him to be willing to place his life in the hands of God. Faith requires an object in which to trust. Great faith requires a great object of faith. The object of saving faith is not a thing, event or religious system, but the Almighty God and Jesus Christ who was sent God to us.

Our confidence is in the eternal reliability of God as revealed in his word. When the disciple of Christ speaks of having faith in God, he/she is speaking of having a confidence in the nature of who God is and in the word that God has spoken. These are really inseparable items. In the United States we often speak of someone who is as good as his word or that she is a person of her word.

How do we know about God and what he is like? We know about God because he has revealed himself to us. This revelation is found in the body of scripture. In scripture, God is shown to be the only living and true God. He is infinite and without beginning or end. God is the creator of life and has life within himself. He is all powerful, all knowing, the fullness of love and holiness. He cannot lie and his word is infallible in its work and is the truth.

If we knew nothing about God, but surmised that there was a god or ought to be a god, we would not have any clue as to the attributes or character of that god. It would all be conjecture and everyone could make god to be whatever they wished him to be. Many people are today creating gods in their own image and assigning characteristics and attributes according human standards. These gods are not faith worthy because they offer nothing which is superior than who we are and what we know. They are at least as unreliable as we are and sometimes more unreliable. No one is able to exercise full faith, that requires one to entrust their life and eternity, in a god about whom they had doubts.

We must know something about God in order to be able to trust him fully. It is not necessary to know him completely in order to trust him completely, but it is necessary to have sufficient knowledge to convince the believer that God is trustworthy. Thus, faith must be based on some knowledge, but in terms of the eternal God, it is always an incomplete knowledge. Alma speaks about this.

And now as I said concerning faith: Faith, is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith, ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true (Alma 16:143).

The limitations of our mortal existence means that it is impossible for us to fully comprehend all that God knows. We do not need to know the full details of God’s dealing or how he accomplishes all that he does in order to have perfect faith that God is able to do all of the things he said he will do. For example, airplanes were built and flown by pilots long before many of the finer points of aerodynamics were known to the engineers. Pilots flew the planes despite not knowing exactly how they flew. It was an act of faith based on what they did know which gave them confidence to fly.

Abraham trusted God and lived by faith in his promises despite being unaware of the fullness of God’s character and attributes. He did not need to know all of the details of how God would arrange for Abraham to have a son and become a great nation. Abraham only needed to be confident and assured of who God was in order to trust him.

God’s revelations to us show us who he is and what he does. His revelation also teaches us how we relate to him (created beings, children), our gifts and duties (agency, obedience, service), respond to him (worship, prayers, humility) and depend upon him (life, sustenance, salvation, forgiveness of sins and eternal life). All of these things are essential to build a solid faith that is capable to leading us to life and salvation. Without this foundational understanding, no one would know to trust him and no one would have a reason to trust him.

I may have a desire to jump from a building by parachute, but before I do, I need to know some things about the parachute. I need to know how it is made. I want to know that the seams are well sewn and the fabric is sound. I want to know that it was packed properly and all of the rigging is in good shape before I jump into the air, hundreds of feet above the ground.

For the Christian, our faith is in God. Every decision and act performed is based on his or her faith in God. Even the common faith of everyday activity is a but a sub-part of the total, saving faith they have in God. Accordingly, faith guides and informs the choice of the language they use, clothes they wear, friends they make, the way they do their jobs, drive their cars, take care of their homes and how they worship.

Faith is a direct response to the word of God and therefore, to God himself. The word of God does govern all things. The worlds were made by God speaking the word. God speaks laws and promises and they are fully effective and reliable. Faith trusts in, rests in and honors the word of God.

Part of the knowledge which lends to a strong and effective faith is based on experience and testimony. It can be the testimony of what God has done in the life of the believer and hearing the testimony of the work of God in the lives of other people. Scripture is a rich source of these kinds of testimonies. This is one of the reasons that Hebrews 11 is in the Bible.

The church members of the New Testament church needed help in building their faith in God. The author of Hebrews recounts the lives of many heroes of the Jews and describes how they acted in faith and were blessed. These testimonies were designed to encourage the people reading the letter to act if faith also. If God helped these so long ago, will he not now also bless us when we live by the same faith? This is why Hebrews 12 begins,

Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Faith is more than an intellectual assent to knowledge, it is the application of the knowledge they have in the promise of God for what is yet beyond and unseen. The heart in faith extrapolates what is known of God by revelation and by experience and trusts that God, who is unchanging and all powerful and all knowing, will be the same God through and beyond the future event and they act in faith.

The witness of the Holy Spirit is important, nay, critical, to the operation of faith. The Holy Spirit is God and one of the ministries he provides is to act as a witness of truth and of the Father and the Son. When the word of God is received by a believer, he/she can compare that to what they know of God and through prayer, the Holy Spirit confirms the word of God to the believer. In this assurance, the believer may act in faith.

When scripture says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:16), it is describing the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter was filled with the Spirit of God on the day of Pentecost and through his preaching 3000 souls believed and were baptized. It is the Holy Spirit that carries the word of God from the preacher’s mouth to the listeners heart.

When the scriptures describe saving faith, i.e., it is describing faith in God through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. We have the testimony of scripture about sin, death, the justice and holiness of God and his word. We have the testimony of the love of God and the atonement and resurrection. Furthermore, we have a great cloud of witnesses calling to us to believe. And we have the ministry of the Holy Spirit to move us forward in faith.

Christian faith, therefore, is a seeing faith and knows nothing of blind faith. Faith builds on what is known and moves into the future and eternity. In the hymn by John Newton, “Be Gone Unbelief,” the process of saving faith is wonderfully described.

His love in time past forbids me to think
He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink.
Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review
Confirms his good pleasure to bring me quite through.

Ebenezer refers to the stone which was set up by Samuel, the prophet, after Israel defeated the Philistines. Samuel erected the stone as a memorial to testify that God had helped Israel win the battle (1 Samuel 7:2-14). Newton used the term to mean the many places in life, or in the history of God’s dealing with mankind, where the intervention of God is known and remembered. These events testify to the character of God (faithful, powerful, covenant-keeping) and to his faithful actions to stand by his people when they cry to him. All of these events build a library of evidence encouraging the believer to continue to trust God in the future.

Faith is indeed assurance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Hope is an important associate of faith. A Book of Mormon prophet wrote about their relationship.

And again my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope? And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you, that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal; and this because of your faith in him according to the promise; Wherefore, if a man have faith, he must needs have hope; for without faith there can not be any hope. And again, behold I say unto you, that he can not have faith and hope, save he shall be meek and lowly of heart; if so, his faith and hope are vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly of heart (Moroni 7:45-47).

It is common in everyday life to speak of hope. Very often the thing we mean by hope is really a wish or fantasy. “I hope I win the lottery.” “I hope I get an A on the test.” This is not the hope which scripture describes. True hope or Christian hope is the expectation of a promise made.

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then with patience we do wait for it (Romans 8:22-25 Inspired Version).

Now read the same verses in another translation.

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:22-25 English Standard Version).

In the first reference we are described as waiting for adoption as the sons and daughters of God. In the second reading the idea of waiting is amplified by writing “we wait eagerly for adoption.” This rendering helps bring the meaning of hope to life. It is not passive, but eager, anticipating the fulfillment of God’s promise through the atonement of Christ.

Faith gives grounds upon which the believer may hope. God promises us eternal life in the world to come and the words of eternal life in this world (Genesis 6:62). By faith the word is believed and the believer moves forward in hope. Hope is formed because of faith through the word of God and the Holy Spirit encourages and assures the believer. Faith is based on God. It is therefore capable of being great faith because the God in which it rests is the great, one true and living God. Hence, those who exercise this faith have a faith unto life and salvation.

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