Out of all the children of Israel who left Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb entered into the promised land (Num. 14:30; 26:65). Paul tells us that all the others who were of age failed to enter into the promised land for one reason–lack of faith. Paul wrote, “But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:17-19).
The good news was preached to them in promise, but it was not mixed with faith in them that heard it (Heb. 4:1,2). When faith is not in the mix, then the gospel cannot do its work (Rom. 1:16,17). Here are some characteristics of faith we should keep in mind as we keep faith in the mix.
First of all, faith is a tangible commodity and produces tangible results. The Bible says that Jesus saw the faith of those who brought the man sick with the palsy (Luke 5:20). Their faith manifested itself when they had to overcome obstacles to get him to Jesus (Luke 5:20). What He saw was their works. Indeed, James says “show me your faith” by your works (James 2:18). Our Lord asked the question, when He comes again will He find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8). Faith, then is something that can be observed by looking at the results it produces.
Second, faith is a living thing. Faith is not just some static object that once possessed, you can keep in your pocket and bring it out whenever you might need it. Faith is something that breathes and grows. The disciples realized that while they had faith that it was not sufficient for them so they asked the Lord to “increase” their faith (Luke 17:5). James again tells us that one can possess a dead faith, one which does not work (James 2:26). The apostle Paul observed that the faith of the brethren at Thessalonica had grown exceedingly (II Thess. 1:3).
In the third place, faith is absolutely necessary. Paul wrote that without faith it is impossible to please God. (Heb. 11:6). Without faith, our prayers would be just mere words spoken into the air (James 1:5,6). It is by faith that we are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8). That is because faith grants us access into the grace of God (Rom. 5:2). That is how we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1). To be sure, the just shall live by faith (Heb. 10:38). Faith is not all that is necessary, but without it we will die in our sins (John 8:24).
Therefore, in the fourth place, faith is precious. Peter declared that he shared with his brethren a “like, precious faith” (II Pet. 1:1). Knowing that believing in the Lord will eventually win us a crown of life, it is something which we should count very dear (II Tim. 4:7,8). Even a small amount of faith brings great blessings (Matt. 17:20). Faith is a cathartic, purifying our hearts (Acts 15:9). Knowing that not having it could eventually cost a man his life, faith becomes very precious indeed (Rev. 2:10).
Faith is also very powerful. Great things are accomplished by faith. By faith, Enoch was translated that he should not see death (Heb. 11:5). Faith brought sight to the blind (Matt. 9:29; 10:52), cured the palsy (Matt. 9:2), made the sick whole (Luke 8:48), made the lame walk (Acts 3:1-16) and raised the dead (Heb. 11:32-35). Faith is powerful because it has behind it the power of the gospel–God’s power to save (Rom. 1:16,17).
There is also an objective side to faith. People can and do believe anything. But saving faith is tethered to the objective body of doctrine known in the New Testament as the faith (Rom. 10:17). Paul said he preached “the faith” which he once destroyed (Gal. 1:23). Previously, however, he had written that no one was to preach anything but gospel (Gal. 1:6-9). Since Paul preached only the gospel, and he preached the faith, the faith must be the same as the gospel. Paul told the Corinthians to examine themselves as to whether or not they were in “the faith” (II Cor. 13:5). Jude exhorts us to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3).
Finally, faith is victorious. John said that this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith (I John 5:4). “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God” (I John 5:5)? It is the unbelieving who will be cast into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone (Rev. 21:8). “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39).
Put faith in the mix (Heb. 4:2).
Eric L. Padgett