God requires of each of us as Christians to possess genuine faith. There are many examples recorded in the Bible of people who were able to see God’s wondrous deeds and be blessed by Him because of their faith. Moses had faith in God and through God’s guidance; Moses was able to overcome the numerous obstructions and limitations of the Pharaoh successfully leading the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt. Abraham had faith in God and was willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac to God and ultimately God blessed him allowing his descendants to multiply and become great nations. Job had faith in God and was able to stand witness for God through trials; God blessed him even more and appeared to him and spoke to him. The Canaanite woman in Matthew had faith in the Lord Jesus and believed that He could drive out the evil spirit from her daughter; she made her plea to the Lord Jesus and her daughter’s sickness was cured. As Christians, it is imperative that we understand the truth pertaining to what true faith is so that no matter what hardships we encounter in our lives—failures and setbacks in life or unfortunate family events—we are able to rely on our faith and unwaveringly follow God, being a witnesses for Him and ultimately gaining His approval.
There are people who will confidently declare that they do have faith. I have heard people saying “I have full faith in God. I acknowledge God at all times, and this proves that I am a person of faith.” “I believe that the Lord Jesus is our Savior, and He was crucified to redeem us of our sins. As long as we pray and confess to the Lord, our sins will always be forgiven by Him. Isn’t that having faith in the Lord?” “I have been a believer all these years; I have given up my career, my family, and my job to use myself for the work of the Lord. I have established churches all over the place and have suffered a lot without ever complaining”. These are all manifestations of having faith in God. Undeniably, we believe in God’s existence and it is a fact that we enthusiastically work and spend ourselves for the Lord that we suffer and pay a price for Him. But do these things mean that we have true faith in God? Take me as an example. Since becoming a Christian I have always actively participated in church gatherings, shared the gospel with others, and offered support to brothers and sisters experiencing weakness. No difficulties have ever stopped me from doing these things. I am more than willing to put aside my personal comforts to enthusiastically serve the Lord, so I think of myself as someone who loves the Lord, is devoted to Him, and has faith in Him. However, when I fell ill a few years back and my conditions did not improve even after I had been praying for a while, I became disheartened and disappointed with God, and even complained to Him about not healing me immediately on my prayer. What was revealed by the hard time made me see and understand that I was completely lacking genuine faith, and that my faith was just based on the wellbeing of my life, my family and being free of physical illness or misfortune? However, my true stature was revealed as soon as something undesirable happened. Only then did I see that my faith in God was so worthless that it was pathetic—it was really nothing to boast about.
If we look at the brothers and sisters around us, most of them are just the same. Some generally stop even attending church services when there is some sort of difficulties or conflict with their home or work lives so that their own interests won’t be impacted. Some are able to pray to the Lord and ask Him for a way out when they are first confused in their attempts to find work or in other aspects, but if it continues to be an unresolved issue, they build up resentment of the Lord and may even become disheartened and discouraged. They begin to rely on the friends around them and may act based upon their thinking. There are also brothers and sisters who enthusiastically participate in all aspects of the church’s work when they receive the Lord’s blessings, but when something terrible occurs at home or they face failures in life, they live with misunderstanding and complaints of the Lord, or even walk away from Him. We can see from what we express and live out on a daily basis that our faith simply cannot stand up to the tests of reality. We just acknowledge that the Lord Jesus is the true God and believe that He is our Savior, but that doesn’t mean that we have true faith in God. It particularly does not mean that we will never deny or forsake God no matter what sort of environment we find ourselves in. It is because our faith is not established upon a foundation of true understanding of God, but instead upon a foundation of whether or not we can gain God’s blessings and promises, and whether or not we can gain any benefit. That is why our faith in God is not at all genuine. So then what is true faith, and how is having true faith expressed? We can understand from God’s words that true faith refers to being able to maintain a heart of reverence for and submission to God in whatever environment we may face, whether we are encountering hardships, refinements, setbacks, failures, and regardless of how great our fleshly or spiritual suffering is. We must be able to seek the truth, understand God’s will, and continue to be devoted to Him in the midst of the environment He has set up. Only that kind of person can be considered to be a person of true faith. Now let us take a look at the experiences of Abraham and Job so that we can better understand what genuine faith is.
When Abraham was a century old, God promised to bestow a son upon him—Isaac. But as Isaac was growing up, God told Abraham that he had to offer him as a sacrifice. When Abraham encountered this situation he did he not argue with God, but he was able to truly submit to Him, genuinely and truly giving Isaac back to God. It is recorded in the Bible in Genesis 22:3 onwards, “And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and split the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went to the place of which God had told him. … And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar on the wood. Then Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son”. All humans are of the flesh—we are all emotional, and when we encounter something like this we are certain to suffer, to feel pain. But the reason Abraham was able to refrain from trying to bargain with God and that he was able to obey God’s command was that he knew that Isaac had been bestowed upon him by God in the first place, and that he was then being taken away by God. He was rightfully obedient, and that was Abraham’s faith in God. He truly believed in God and submitted to Him absolutely—even when it meant being parted with what he most treasured, he still offered to give Isaac back to God. Ultimately, Abraham’s true faith and obedience to God won His approval and blessings. God allowed him to become the forefather of many nations; his descendants have thrived and multiplied and become great nations.
The Bible tells us that Job had a very prosperous family as well as ten children and many servants; he was greatly respected and highly regarded by his peers. However, through the temptations and attacks of Satan, Job lost all of his possessions and his children within a single day and after that became completely covered in boils. That trial turned Job from the greatest man in the Orient into the most destitute person in the Orient, and he was also judged and attacked by his family and friends. Even when faced with such a great trial, Job did not utter a single word of complaint to God, and he even prostrated himself in worship of God, saying, ““Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21) In Job 2:10 we see He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. In his trial Job was able to refrain from sinning with his words, as well as to come before God in prayer. Something that Job had deeply experienced in his life was that everything he had come from God’s rule and arrangements; his riches had all been bestowed by God and had not come from his own labor. Thus, if God wanted to take away what He had previously given, that was natural and right and as a created being, he should submit to God taking those things away. He shouldn’t argue with God and he particularly shouldn’t complain to God—even if his very life was taken from him. Job’s witness thoroughly humiliated Satan, and after that, God appeared to Job from the midst of a storm and bestowed even more blessings upon him.
If we wish to possess true faith, we should seek to recognize God’s rule in our life events, and things that we encounter every day, and regardless of whether the environments that God arranges are in line with our own thinking or not. We have to understand God’s diligent and earnest intentions behind the environments He sets up for us so that we can gain something from everything we go through, and we can see God’s deeds within everything that He orchestrates. Then, our faith in God will gradually become more and more genuine. It is just like Job’s faith—it wasn’t something that was inborn for him, but gradually grew by experiencing God’s rule in everything that happened in his life and seeking knowledge of God. If we can follow Job’s example, focusing on experiencing and really understanding God’s rule in our lives, thus achieving genuine knowledge of God, only then can we develop true faith in God. And then, no matter what kinds of adversities or trials happen to us and no matter how great our suffering, we will be able to face that calmly in our life actively seeking God’s will and to be a witness for Him. Some people think that believing in God means being committed to attending church on Sundays, giving tithes and being charitable, and regularly attending church activities. They believe that by doing these things, they can be saved. Is this really true faith? Is our faith in God genuine?