CHARACTERISTICS OF GENUINE FAITH￼
Faith starts by believing in the gospel as believing is necessary to salvation, but when is faith considered genuine? To what extent is one expected to believe? Are we expected to have faith only when it’s easy? Should we have faith only when we understand or only when it makes sense? Genuine faith is not by mere words of mouth but by the firm belief in Christ that we have in our hearts. Faith must be in something or someone and the one true God is the only one worthy of our faith.
The Bible in Hebrews 11: 1- 40 dwells on the subject matter of faith. The first verse describes faith as being sure of what we hope for and being certain of what we do not see. It goes further in verse 3 to say that “By faith, the universe was formed at God’s command so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible.” The chapter examines different individuals who despite not being perfect lived lives that demonstrated faith in God. These individuals include the likes of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Rahab among others. They all came from different backgrounds and were faced with different situations and trials but God delivered them all. Though they were different people with different lives, their faith exhibited common characteristics.
Some of the characteristics of genuine faith include:
1. Firm confidence in God- Faith is a firm confidence in God and his promises to us. Living in faith is living with the constant assurance of God’s promises.
2. Sacrifice- A life of faith is a sacrificial lifestyle such that we must be willing to give God our best, like in the case of Abel (Hebrews 11:4) who gave God the best from his flock by faith. God spoke well of his offering and also considered him a righteous man.
3. Continuously seeking God- Faith chooses to believe in God and seek him each day like in the case of Enoch who was commended as one who pleased God( Hebrews 11:5). He did not experience death because God took him away. Verse 6 of the same chapter also makes it clear that without faith, it is impossible to please God. Genuine faith stands the test of time.
4. Obeying even when it’s hard – Total obedience to God is an indication of faith. Faith obeys even when it’s not easy. In obeying God, we sometimes have to go against our cultures, family and our loved ones so it’s not always rosy. We’re expected to believe even when it’s difficult. It was by faith that Noah obeyed God’s instruction to build an ark ( Hebrews 11:7). He was warned about the flood, he had not yet seen it but he obeyed even to the point that some people thought he was mad. Noah looked foolish in the eyes of the world. It wasn’t easy but he obeyed irrespectively.
5. Trusting God even when we don’t understand- Faith trusts that God has a plan and the power to carry it out. God’s ways are not our ways so we do not always understand what he’s up to. Sometimes we only see God carrying out his plans step by step, it doesn’t even make sense sometimes, but yes, we should have faith even when we don’t have answers as to why? or how? In Hebrews 11:8-17, we get to see how Abraham displayed crazy faith. He was called to leave his home and he obeyed even when he did not know where he was going. By faith, Abraham and his wife had a child in their old age. Even though God had told Abraham that it was through Isaac that his offspring will be reckoned, he still went on to offer Isaac as a sacrifice when God asked him to. By that faith, he became the father of all nations.
6. Keeping an eternal focus- Hebrews 11:10, 13, and 16 show us that the best of God’s promises to us are eternal, that is to say, that they will not be fully realized in this life. God has promised us eternal life and has prepared a heavenly place for us but we cannot get to live that eternal life and live in that heavenly city without first believing.
7. Trusting God to do the impossible- Faith acknowledges that God is all-powerful even when circumstances seem insurmountable. It fills the gap between possibility and impossibility. There is no impossibility when there is faith. It seemed impossible for Abraham to have a child as a result of old age but God did not only give him a child, he made him the father of many nations because he believed. Also, Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death ( Hebrews 11:19).
8. Fearing God rather than man- Faith doesn’t allow threats by man to keep it from obeying God. In Hebrews 11: 23, “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” Moses’ parents did not allow fear of the king to tamper with their faith. Also in verse 27, “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” Moses’ did not yield to fear for the King.
9. Ignoring temporary pleasures- In Hebrews 11:25&26, we see how Moses refused to succumb to temporal pleasures.” He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Faith chooses God over the pleasure of sin and the love of money.
10. Enduring persecution for the sake of Christ- Faith stands firm in God without relenting, when persecution comes. Although faith doesn’t seek persecution, it endures it when it comes. Hebrews 11: 35-38 shows the type of persecution people faced for Christ. “Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” The promise of eternal life encourages in times of persecution because there is the consolation of a better life after death, where there is no pain or tears.
The people mentioned in Hebrews 11 exhibited faith in action, not dead faith. We saw how they backed their faith with works as faith without works is dead. The various examples show that genuine faith leads to salvation, stands the test of time, does not fail in times of trial, is backed by works, trusts God in uncertain times, yields good fruits, is not based on sight, leads to true repentance and it enables us to love God and others. Faith as little as a mustard seed can move mountains as long as it is real faith( Matthew 17: 20). One cannot say he believes in God and does not have faith in him because, without faith, it is impossible to please God.