Have you ever mistaken sugar for salt? Perhaps you tried to bake something, sweeten your coffee, or even season dinner. The wrong ingredient went in and the end result even smelled and looked mouthwatering—until the disappointing first bite. In the same way, on our Christian journey, we can mistake a host of different attitudes and emotions for genuine faith. But God, who looks at our heart, always knows the difference.
Illustration by Adam Cruft
FAITH IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Right from the early pages of Genesis, God filled His Word with role models who exercised faith as they pursued Him.
Operating in faith can involve risk or loss, but doing so—in obedience to God—is worth it, no matter what. That’s because our loving Father always has His children’s best interest in mind.
To God, belief is key to righteousness (Gen. 15:6). Since Abel’s sacrifice was seen as evidence of genuine faith (Gen. 4:3-8), he “was commended as righteous … [and] still speaks, even though he is dead” (Heb. 11:4 NIV). Name some believers who “still speak” into your life though no longer here. Describe their impact. What specific message do you hope will be part of your legacy?
Abraham so trusted the reliability of the Lord’s promises that he was able to act on the dreadful directive to sacrifice his beloved son (vv. 17-19). Have you ever sensed God calling you to take an action that felt perilous, heartrending, or even abhorrent? Tell what happened. How would you advise a friend grappling with such a faith decision?
Acting on faith will at times cause raised eyebrows—or hackles! Read Daniel 6:6-10. In order to worship God, Daniel risked his own life. List some principles and priorities that help you know how to proceed if instructions by an employer, school, church, or other authority seems at odds with Scripture.
Read 1 Samuel 24:1-22. While being hunted, David had an opportunity to take his oppressor’s life. But he resisted the temptation “because of the Lord” (v. 6). When has your acting in faith required intense self-control? What part did your prayers and the Holy Spirit play?
FAITH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
In the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly underscored that God prioritizes faith.
Jesus often linked a person’s faith with healing. (See Matt. 9:27-31; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 8:42-48.) But He also brought restoration to some who hadn’t asked (John 5:1-15). In fact, the man who was born blind didn’t even know who had healed him, but he wanted to find out so he could believe in and worship Jesus (John 9:35-38). What can you infer about the role faith might play in healing, and vice versa?
Read Acts 14:8-10. Verse 9 says, “Paul looked at [the man] intently and saw that he had faith to be made well.” What may indicate to you that a person is open to Jesus?
The same “men of little faith” (Matt. 8:26) who had hidden in fear behind a locked door (John 20:19) boldly proclaimed Christ after the resurrection (Acts 2:14-40). When you look back, can you see evidence of growing faith in your own life? List some examples.
What’s our role in developing stronger faith?
Teachers give tests so they can assess each student’s mastery of a subject. But our omniscient God already knows the outcome; His tests of faith show us how willing we are to trust Him—and actually grow our faith when we see what He does through our responses.
Consider how this study applies to your life.
Outward expressions of Christianity can occur without faith, but they don’t bring us closer to God if we only “go through the motions.” He reads the heart and knows when trust and devotion motivate worship, service, and conduct. Our Father doesn’t expect instant perfection, but He does want our faith to mature. Then we can move from fretting over our circumstances to resting confidently in Him.
As discussed on pages 11 and 12, three levels of faith are seen in Scripture. James 1:6-8 describes an individual of little faith as one who wrestles with doubts about whether God will act. This “double-minded” person is “like the surf ... driven and tossed by the wind.” Of course, facing a new adversity can give any of us moments of doubt, but God doesn’t want us to stay stuck. Try to recall a time when uncertainty about God’s ability or willingness to act deprived you of peace. What steps did you take? Did they help?
The next level—great faith—focuses on God instead of the circumstance. We develop this deep trust by immersing ourselves in the Word so we can know and anticipate what God has promised to do. Describe the relationship between knowing biblical promises and being able to “hang in there” during trials. Think of an example.
Perfect faith goes further, allowing us to rest in the assurance of God’s promises. Encouraging such confidence, Jesus said to pray for things in His name (John 14:14) and then “believe that you have received them, and they will be granted to you” (Mark 11:24).