Why is it so many people lack faith in God? For one thing, many, including many professing Christians, do not understand what faith is. They believe they must have some feeling, or some conviction, before they can get an answer to their prayers. What they do not realize is that such feelings are not faith. They are feelings only. Feelings and emotions have little to do with faith. God can answer our prayers in many ways we do not understand. He often answers prayers in a way we don’t expect.
Jesus referred to this lack of faith when He said, “. . .When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). This assessment by Christ was for our time today, near the time of His second coming. He could foresee an almost total lack of faith in this generation. It would be no mistake to conclude that the world, as a whole, has lost sight of faith in God.
Jesus manifested faith when He was here some two thousand years ago. Yet, He said, “I can of mine own self do nothing. . .” (John 5:30), and “. . . the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10). Christians today could have that same help and power that Christ had, if they were not so closely entwined with all the material interests of this modern world. But due to a lack of prayer and Bible study and a lack of a closeness to God, they are not filled with the Holy Spirit. Consequently, they lack faith.
What Is Faith?
Here is the Bible definition. “Now faith is the substance [assurance] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). We hope for what we have not yet received. Faith, then, precedes the request for which we are asking. When the prayer has been answered, hope is no longer necessary. This assurance or confidence that you will receive it, or possess it, is faith. Faith, as the above text tells us, is the evidence that you shall receive what you have asked for, the assurance that you will receive what you still hope for. When we go to God with our requests, it is a matter of claiming a promise. God has promised many things and God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). When we have confidence in a trusted friend, we know he will keep his promises. But, even a trusted friend can fail. Not God. What He has promised, we can claim with confidence and assurance. There is no need to try to whip up faith. But we must come to God believing. Paul tells us, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). We must believe that God exists and that He will keep His word to those who really seek to do His will.
Two Kinds of Faith
God rewards those who diligently seek Him. Seeking God’s will means to be willing to obey what the Bible instructs. Is it possible to have a kind of faith that is useless, a faith that is vain? Notice what James tells us.
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (Jas. 2:14-20).
Faith without works is a dead faith. James goes on to tell us, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:21-24). The faith that Abraham manifested was a living faith. And so it is with us. If we trust and obey God in all that we know, He will answer our prayers.
Believe in Christ in Vain?
Belief in Christ requires faith. The Scripture tells us, “. . . Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). What must be realized is this: Belief must be based on living faith. If not, it will be a dead faith. As commonly taught today, this belief on Christ merely takes into account the fact that Christ was a historical figure. One need only accept His existence, sacrifice, and saving work without any obedience to the Law of God. That is all that is necessary, supposedly. But Christ brought the gospel of the Kingdom of God, a message that emphasized obedience to God. Belief in Christ means to accept what Christ stood for, what He taught. Jesus taught, “. . . if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17). So, faith in Christ requires obedience to the teaching of Christ. This includes obedience to the Law of God. To do otherwise is to worship Him in vain. Rather than obeying God, the religious leaders of Christ’s day taught their own ideas. Jesus said, “. . . Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:6-7). They did not obey God. Their worship of Christ was not based on a living faith. Their faith was vain.
Faith is a gift of God. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Faith comes by means of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). But one must first repent. To repent means to turn away from our sins and to turn to God. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy [Spirit]” (Acts 2:38). The Holy Spirit gives us the faith and the power to obey God, to keep His law. Those who merely profess Christ will not be able to manifest the faith and power necessary to obey. Their faith is a dead faith. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). One who does the will of God keeps the Law of God.
The Purpose of the Law
One cannot be saved by works or the deeds of the law. Paul tells us, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight. . .” (Rom. 3:20). Why? Because, as the rest of the verse tells us, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” The Law of God was never intended to forgive us of sin. Its purpose is to make us aware of what sin is. Only the blood of Christ can erase our guilty past. The Law of God is a spiritual mirror to help us evaluate ourselves in the light of God’s truth. By it we can determine whether we are obeying God. James wrote, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (Jas. 1:22-25).
This is where faith comes in. The idea that Christians merely accept Christ, that faith in Christ does not require works, flies in the face of Paul’s instruction. Notice what he said. “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Rom. 3:31). Works will save no one. Only Christ’s blood can do that. But one’s faith is dead without works, that is, without obedience to the Law of God. With men it is impossible to keep the Law of God. On one occasion when Jesus instructed His disciples, they said, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus’ reply was, “. . . With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:25-26). It takes faith in the power of God, by means of the Holy Spirit, to be able to keep the commandments. Faith along with our efforts brings forth obedience to the Law of God. This is the active, living faith of which James spoke. This is the faith that saves, that makes it possible to obey God, and to live a life pleasing in God’s sight.
God’s Law of Love
Thousands of professing Christians regard the Law of God as distasteful, some kind of a burden that was “done away.” But God’s law was given for man’s benefit. It was given for man’s good. The Scriptures tell us,
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward (Psa. 19:7-11).
The Law of God protects man from the curses and pains that accompany disobedience. Aside from the ultimate penalty of death, there is a natural physical penalty that goes along with sin. Obedience to God’s law enables us to avoid this suffering. Paul said, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Rom. 7:7). “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Rom. 7:12). God’s law is a law of love. By means of the Holy Spirit, we can understand what John meant when he said, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). This love is not a natural human love. It comes by means of the Holy Spirit. In obeying God we must exercise faith and hope. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy [Spirit] which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5).
The Law of God is eternal. It never changes. “The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness” (Psa. 111:7-8). Obedience to the Law of God, coupled with the faith of Christ living in us by means of the Holy Spirit, enables us to obey God and keep His commandments. This is the living faith so necessary for salvation.