Did you ever look up “faith” in a concordance? All I did the first three days was write down scriptures. I wound up with twenty pages. I spent the next two weeks reading those scriptures and jotting notes about them that would jog my memory when it came time to organize them, which took another two weeks. Then another week’s study gave me possible lesson titles, and in a few more days I sorted the scriptures I had found into those lessons. Then I finally started writing lessons.
In the process things changed. Some lessons were divided in two. Shorter ones were merged to create one longer one. Questions were constantly in flux, created, edited, sometimes deleted altogether, other times expanded to two or three.
As I worked it became clear to me that we have shortchanged “faith” in our Bible studies. It has become simply the first stairstep in the Plan of Salvation chart so many of us grew up memorizing. When you really study it—I mean, twenty pages of scriptures, folks!—it is far more important. In fact, I wound up calling our study, “Faith: Stairstep or Staircase?”
As we ended lesson 8, “Faith in Hebrews 11,” which I bet you have never in your life studied the way we did, something else became apparent to me. I had inadvertently put these lessons in a good order. “Inadvertent” is not really accurate though; I did think about the order and rearranged them more than once, but as we have continued, it has become clear that the sequence has worked out beautifully. I was certainly not inspired, but God’s providence has worked in its usual wonderful way, and through no fault of my own, these things are fitting together like the pieces of a puzzle.
Can I share one “for instance?” The lesson right before the Hebrews lesson was actually two, “Faith in the Book of Romans,” parts 1 and 2. (Keith wrote those since Romans is one of his specialties.) At the end of the lessons we drew this conclusion: our faith is not in a what but a who. It is not in the promises of God, but in the God that made those promises. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness, Rom 4:3.
Do you see how much better that is? When you believe in the who, the what automatically follows. Of course the promises will come true—God made them! [Abraham was] fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised. That is why his faith was counted to him for righteousness, 4:21. Believing in the “Who” leaves no doubt at all about “what” you will believe.
Then as we moved on into Hebrews 11 we took it a step further. Our faith in God must eventually become a personal faith—we don’t just believe God; He becomes “our God.” That increased depth in our faith makes God not only proud of us, but willing to be “our God,” and to have that personal relationship with us. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, the writer says in 11:16.
And what does that do for you? It effects every action, every word, and every decision you make when the relationship between you and God is personal. What did Joseph say to Potiphar’s wife? “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Gen 39:9. He may not have said “sin against my God,” but you get the feeling nevertheless. To sin against God would have been a personal affront. You don’t get that motivation to stay pure if your faith has not reached that level of closeness with your Creator.
Instead of just ripping through the list in Hebrews, we really looked at the actions of those great heroes. “By faith” Enoch walked with God, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, Jacob blessed his sons, Joseph mentioned the exodus before he died. Wait--those are courageous and daring feats of faith? No, they are just the words and deeds of men who believed God when He made His promises, and whose belief imbued every part of their lives. Isaac, in recognizing that God had been in control when he (blindly) wasn’t, refused to change his blessing. Jacob in his blessings to his sons embraced the entire promised future of Israel, from the conquest of the Promised Land to the coming Messiah. Joseph spoke assuredly of the future exodus and his desire to be laid in that Land. And Enoch? He just lived every day as his God wanted him to, walking with his God in a personal relationship that made every action and decision obvious instead of an internal struggle. Faith is believing God; faith is believing my God.
And so we will continue on in our study. It has become exciting to see each new aspect of an old and neglected issue.
“Faith only?” Well, that depends. Is it one step in your life, one instant of “Now I am saved,” or even, “Now I can move on to the next step,” or is it, as it was for those ancient patriarchs, the entire staircase that lifts you to Eternity?
For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever. Micah 4:5