If I asked you to list some Christian concepts that are simple to study and easy to understand, what concepts would you list? Let me give you a list to choose from. Which of these concepts would you say were simple to study and easy to understand:

The word of God

Accepting the word of God






God's Authority

Jesus' Lordship

I wonder how many of us would say that all those concepts are simple to study and easy to understand? As you made your selections from that list, I wonder how many of you put faith on your list of concepts simple to study and easy to understand?

We have simple explanations for everything on that list, and we understand our simple explanations. However, if we did some in-depth study, we would discover that all of them are harder to study than we anticipated and far more challenging to understand than we imagined.

Let me illustrate that fact with faith. I think the average Christian would say that faith is a simple subject to study, and I think the average Christian would say that faith is an easy subject to understand.

However, one important clue should indicate that faith is not a simple subject. Faith serves as the foundation of the relationship between a physical human being and the spiritual, eternal God. Can it be simple to understand the relationship between a human and God?

  1. Faith in God involves our vertical interaction with God and our horizontal relationships with people.
    1. If I have faith in God, I will express my faith in my upward reach toward Him.
      1. I will worship God.
      2. I will pray to God.
      3. I will educate my heart and mind in the revelations God has made of Himself and His will.
      4. I will love God.
      5. I will develop proper feelings and attitudes toward God:
        1. I will have reverence, respect for Him.
        2. I will be humble before Him.
        3. I will honor and praise Him.
        4. I will exalt Him in my heart and before other people.
        5. I will yield to His authority and guidance.
    2. However, if I have faith in God, I will express that faith in the ways that I treat other people.
      1. If I have faith in God:
        1. I worship God, but because I worship God, I fellowship other Christians.
        2. I pray to God, but because I pray to God, I forgive people.
        3. I educate my mind and heart in God's will, but because I educate myself, I serve my fellow man as I accomplish God's will.
        4. I will love God, but because I love God, I will also express that love in my treatment of both good and evil people.
        5. I develop proper attitudes and feelings toward God, and because I do that, I treat all people with kindness and respect.
      2. In my faith, I must not separate my vertical relationship with God from my horizontal relationship with people.
        1. If I have faith, I cannot have faith in God and ignore people.
        2. If I have faith, I cannot have great concern for people and ignore God.
        3. If faith in God exists within me, it will reach upward to God and outward to people.
    3. As faith expresses itself in my vertical relationship with God and my horizontal relationship with other people, a powerful, fascinating phenomenon occurs.
      1. If my faith is developing in the ways that God intends and wants:
        1. The more I place my trust in my vertical relationship with God, the more merciful, kind, forgiving, and compassionate I become in my horizontal relationships with people.
        2. The more compassion I show people, the more sacrificially I serve people, the closer I come to God because my bond of trust in God grows.
      2. In our lives, our faith will always be powerfully impacted by two things:
        1. The quality of the trust I place in God.
        2. The love, compassion, and mercy that I show for people.
      3. A Christian develops, strengthens, and matures faith in at least four ways:
        1. By studying the Bible to increase his knowledge and understanding of God's will and teachings.
        2. By praying and through prayer increasing his communication and closeness to God.
        3. By placing his confidence in God as he faces and endures life's difficult situations.
        4. By showing other people love, compassion, and mercy.
        5. All four of those things affect a Christian's ability to trust, and faith is the willingness to trust God.

  2. Too many Christians think that the only way that faith expresses itself is through obedience.
    1. Faith definitely expresses itself through obedience; that is a simple concept to understand and accept.
      1. Noah had faith, so he built the ark. (Genesis 6)
      2. Abraham had faith, so he left his home to follow God's instructions. (Genesis 12)
      3. David had faith, so he fought Goliath. (1 Samuel 17)
      4. Elijah had faith, so he challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest in offering sacrifices. (1 Kings 18:16-40)
      5. Jesus had faith, so he accepted execution on the cross. (Matthew 26:36 - 27:50)
      6. Peter had faith, so he went to teach Cornelius just as the Lord instructed. (Acts 10)
      7. Paul had faith, so he changed his plans and went into Macedonia to teach. (Acts 16:6-10)
    2. But we miss a critical understanding if we fail to understand that these people obeyed because in their faith they trusted.
      1. Their obedience was not the rote, habitual response that says, "God said do it so I will do it."
      2. Noah trusted God when he was told that a flood was coming.
      3. Abraham trusted God when he was promised that God would produce nations from him and would give the land he visited to his descendants.
      4. David trusted God to give him victory when he fought Goliath.
      5. Elijah trusted God to accept his sacrifice by sending the fire to the altar.
      6. Jesus trusted God to resurrect him.
      7. Peter trusted God when God made it clear that he wanted Peter to teach non-Jews.
      8. Paul trusted God when he was informed in a vision that he should go to Macedonia.
    3. They obeyed because they trusted.
      1. Noah had never seen a flood.
      2. Abraham did not have a son.
      3. David had never fought a soldier.
      4. Elijah had never been in such a contest.
      5. Jesus had never been resurrected.
      6. Peter had never taught non-Jews.
      7. Paul had already decided that it was opportune to go somewhere else.
      8. Only because they trusted did they obey.
    4. Obedience is easily, clearly seen as expression of faith, but it is not the only expression of faith.
      1. It is the expression of faith that we have emphasized through the years.
        1. It is because of our emphasis that it is so familiar to us.
        2. But our emphasis and familiarity with obedience does not make it the only expression of faith.
      2. Faith exists and expresses itself in many forms.
        1. Faith is believing when there is nothing we can do:
          1. Like Abraham believing that God would give him and his wife a son.
          2. Like our believing that God will resurrect us to eternal life.
        2. Faith is trusting when you have done all that is in your power to do.
          1. Like David trusting God to protect him when he was fleeing from King Saul.
          2. Like our trusting God to sustain us when we must endure a horrible crisis.
        3. Faith is confidence when the solution does not lie within yourself.
          1. Like Abraham in his willingness to sacrifice Isaac on the altar.
          2. Like our confidence in God to sustain us in uncertain futures.
        4. Faith is assurance that God will keep all of His promises.
          1. Like Moses leading Israel in the wilderness with the assurance that God would give Israel the land of Canaan.
          2. Like us being assured that our sins have been forgiven and destroyed through the blood of Jesus.
        5. Faith is steadfastness in the refusal to forsake God.
          1. Like the Christians who were physically persecuted in the New Testament.
          2. Like our maintaining devotion to Christ when family and friends oppose and discourage that devotion.
        6. Faith is commitment.
          1. Like Paul's commitment to teach people about Jesus.
          2. Like our commitment to use our abilities--whatever they are--to serve God's purposes.
        7. And those are not all the forms of faith:
          1. Faith is reliance on God.
          2. Faith is fidelity to God, being true to God regardless of circumstances.
          3. Faith is dependence on God--in contrast to dependence on self.

  3. Faith also involves some paradoxes.
    1. A paradox involves two statements, two expressions in a concept, that are contradictory yet true.
      1. It would appear that if one is true the other would have to be false.
      2. Yet, even though it cannot be fully explained, both are true though they appear to contradict each other.
      3. A basic paradox concerning faith is this: faith is both intangible and observable.
        1. To be intangible means that you cannot look at it, you cannot feel it with your hands, you cannot measure it with a ruler or weigh it on a scale; it is not a concrete substance.
        2. However, though faith is intangible, you can observe its existence.
          1. You cannot look at or touch the faith.
          2. You can see that the faith is there because of the manner in which the faith expresses itself.
    2. Let's be specific:
      1. Faith is conviction.
        1. You cannot look at or touch conviction.
        2. You can observe the works, the deeds, the actions that conviction produces.
        3. Those works, deeds, or actions would not occur if the conviction was not there.
      2. Faith is belief.
        1. You cannot look at or feel the belief.
        2. You can observe the fruits that are produced by belief.
        3. Those fruits would not exist if the belief were not there.
      3. Faith is hope.
        1. You cannot look at or touch the hope.
        2. But you can observe the attitudes and actions produced by the certainty that exists because the hope is there.
        3. If there was no hope, the certainty would not exist.
      4. The foundation of faith involves confidence in the unseen.
        1. You cannot see or touch the unseen that forms the foundation of faith.
        2. But you can observe the changes that occur in the person's life when he places his confidence in the unseen.

Faith cannot and must not be restricted to the single expression of obedience. Faith always exists and is constantly expressing itself. It is not confined to the moment of the act of obedience. Obedience is an essential expression of faith. But it is not the only expression of faith. In fact, all other expressions of faith are just as powerful and just as important as obedience.

Our personal goal as a Christian man or woman must to be express faith in all of its forms.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 8 June 1997

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