By Jeffery Kingry
Faith as described in the Bible is not mere mental assent to the deity of Jesus Christ. Neither is it just the outward acts of obedience which put us into Christ. Faith is a way of life.
There is no difficulty involved in recognizing an individual who has faith in something. I have seen materialistic Communists in S.E. Asia who had such a driving faith in their form of political view that it moved them to leave home and family for decades, to live under primitive conditions, always in fear of death, and dread of capture. They willingly chose this life of lonely furtiveness to further the cause of Communism. I have spoken to atheistic liberals who believe that the hope of mankind rests upon humanism. These individuals are more than willing to spend their lives and their money in the advancement of their ideal. They are eager to gamble their comfort and future on the chance that a man-made utopia might be achieved. To the Christian, to whom this world is but a precursor to life everlasting, this must seem ludicrous. Yet, these children of the world are willing to risk all they are and have, that perhaps, in another generation, good might come. How true it is that “the children of this world in their generation are wiser than the children of light.”
The writer of the Hebrew letter described faith as the foundation of our expectation of all spiritual and physical blessings. Through our faith we have a living hope that God will keep his promise of salvation and heaven, if we continue faithful to him (Heb. 11). Paul further said that “we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for” (Rom. 8:24)? Herein lies the true test of faith. By faith Noah, being warned of God, spent a large portion of his life, and all of his substance constructing an Ark miles from any kind of water. Noah was willing to lay his life and energies on the line that he might save himself and his family (Heb. 11:7). It was through faith that Abraham left the ease and comfort of Ur and struck out through the desert to a place that he had never seen before. He left wealth and means, to dwell in a tent as a nomad, so that some day he might find a spiritual city, like none that he left behind (Heb. 11:8-10). Faith then is not something that is, but something that does.
Can we imagine our heritage if Noah had said, ”I don’t know Lord… A boat that size? The nearest water to float that thing is at least a thousand miles away! And the size that you specified would take years for me and my sons to build; it’s for sure that I’ll get no help from my neighbors. Are you sure that it will be worth all the trouble and expense? Isn’t there some other way for you to save me and my household?”
Would Abraham have been the one God chose for the lineage of Christ if he had been the kind of man that would have said, “Go where Lord, Canaan? I never heard of the place. Just a lot of foreigners out there. And what’s all this business of making me a great nation? You can’t do, anything with a dried up old 75 year old man, and Sarah is way past tier childbearing years. I have so much right here in Ur couldn’t I just be a good steward right around home?”
It all depends on what we think is important. Faith never tried, never stepped out upon, is not faith. The Christian who must see the final good of his work before he begins it does not work in hope or faith. The Christian who questions God’s plan of work for the church with “what good will it do?” is not a man of faith, but one of sight.
The New Testament describes a man who walked by faith: his name was Epaphroditus. This good Christian brought the gifts of the brethren in Philippi to Paul while Paul was in prison. Epaphroditus stayed in Rome to be Paul’s servant, and to see to Paul’s needs. Epaphroditus gave so much of himself that he lost his health and almost died. Paul said, “Because of the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service to me” (Phil. 2:30). The word that is translated “not regarding his life” is a gambler’s word: paraboleuesthai. It means to cast everything down for a chance, or to stake all at a risk. What Paul is saying is that Epaphroditus gambled or put his life on the line, that Christ’s cause might be advanced.
William Barclay relates that there was an association of men and women in the second century who called themselves the parabolani, the gamblers. It was their aim in life to visit the sick and those in prison, especially those, who were ill with infectious diseases. It was through their effort in 252 A.D. that the city of Carthage was saved from the destruction of the plague, even after the heathen had abandoned the city. The church today needs more men who would be willing to gamble with their lives and their resources that the gospel might be preached. Some are not willing to let go even of their purse strings for Christ. “And if, therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust true riches” (Luke 16:11)?
The lives of those Biblical characters who were characterized by faith were men who were willing to stake all they had on the Lord’s promise. Do we have many such men of faith today?
Truth Magazine, XVIII:44, p. 2
September 12, 1974