How essential is faith in our relationship with God?
"... Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Hebrews 11:6, NIV).
"He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much" (Luke 16:10).
Trust and fidelity—faith in God and faithfulness to His Word—are essential aspects of the way of life of the Scriptures. In the New Testament the words faith, faithful and faithfulness are all derived from the Greek word pistis. Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words defines pistis as "trust,... trust-worthiness, ... what is believed, the contents of belief, the 'faith,...' a ground for 'faith,' an assurance,... a pledge of fidelity ..." (1985, "Faith," p. 222).
Infidelity—the absence of faithfulness—is a major cause of broken relationships, especially marriages. In any close relationship faithfulness and trust are vital. Most marriage ceremonies contain a statement from each party promising to be faithful to the other—often until death. Fulfilling such a promise involves each demonstrating faithfulness to the other by continual, loving actions.
M. Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled, concludes that such commitment—such determination to faithfully perform one's vows, promises and relational responsibilities—is essential in all successful relationships. He writes, "... Commitment is the foundation, the bedrock of any genuinely loving relationship" (p. 140).
What kind of faith is ineffective?
"You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:19-20; compare James 2:18-26).
Belief in God is not enough. Such faith without "works" is dead. A living faith is an active faith. "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:22-25).
Does God set us an example by His faithfulness to His commitments and promises?
"Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments" (Deuteronomy 7:9).
"If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself" (2 Timothy 2:13; compare Hebrews 10:23).
How does God expect us to demonstrate our faith, trust and faithfulness toward Him?
"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? ... Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead ... Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?" (James 2:14-22; compare Matthew 24:45-48).
Abraham's dynamic example shows what living faith in God really is. Abraham not only believed in God, he believed what God said and followed what God commanded. That is the way we also must live.
Since God is faithful to us, He expects us to be faithful to Him. He expects us to believe in His faithfulness—to trust Him with a loyal heart.
How did Abraham demonstrate his faith—his belief and trust—in God?
"... Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws" (Genesis 26:5, NIV).
Because he trusted God, Abraham lived the way of life that pleased God. Since genuine Christianity is a way of life, God expects us to prove our faith with our actions and deeds. This is the way Abraham lived (Hebrews 11:8-10).
What will ultimately happen to those who are willfully unfaithful?
"But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8, NRSV).
Must God's faithfully obedient servants endure trials and suffering?
"For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 'Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth'; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Peter 2:21-23).
"Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator" (1 Peter 4:19).
"And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope" (Romans 5:3-4, NRSV).
Putting God first can require faith and sacrifice. Christians will face trials and suffering just as Jesus and the apostles did.
Peter tells us, "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you" (1 Peter 5:6-10).
Such suffering is not at all unusual. Almost everyone suffers in one way or another. But there is a major difference in a Christian's trials. God's servants understand that their trials and suffering can help them build and strengthen their character. They "know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
How should faithful Christians view their trials and suffering?
"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified" (1 Peter 4:12-14).
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2-4; compare Matthew 5:10-12).
Those who have faith in God's faithfulness are confident they can trust Him to act on their behalf. They know that when He intervenes in their trials to deliver them His intervention will be in their best interest according to His great purpose. They trust in God's wisdom and fairness and are willing to suffer to prove it (1 Peter 4:19).
Peter sums up the attitude of trust that God's Spirit leads them to have: "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith; the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:6-9).