|LESSON 2||*April 4 - 10|
Read for This Week's Study:
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faithand this not from yourselves, it is the gift of Godnot by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8, 9, NIV).
|Faith is not to be confused with
rational conviction. Faith in the biblical sense is not based primarily on
our reason (even though it is not unreasonable or irrational!); nor is it
based on our emotions (though emotions do play a role). Faith is a deep-rooted
assurance that affects the entire person. Faith is a principle that governs
the life. Faith is the means by which we reach out and grab hold of the promises
of a God we can't see yet we know is there.
Hebrews 11:1 speaks about the "substance" of our faith. William G. Johnsson, an expert on Hebrews, suggests that the best translation is: "Faith is the title deed to what we hope for, the certainty of what we do not see."The Abundant Life Bible Amplifier: Hebrews (Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press®Publishing Association, 1994), p. 204.
The Week at a Glance:
Faith is the guiding principle in the life of a Christian. It's how we are to live and to relate to God and to others. However important an intellectual assent to doctrines is, faith is so much more than just that. This week we'll look at how much more.
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 11.
FaithA Gift From God
What is faith?
A simple definition could read something like this: Faith is a confident and obedient trust in the reality, power, and love of God as revealed in His acts and in His promises to us. What a wonderful gift to have in a terribly fallen and broken world such as ours. No wonder many believe that faith is the most wonderful of all gifts humans could have. Now, the question is: Have you ever tried to discover where your faith originated? Why is it that you have faith in God and others you know dont? Was it your upbringing? Did you have believing parents? Have you always attended church? Did your study of the Bible, and your reading of books about the Bible, convince you that there is a God who loves you? Did you find satisfying philosophical arguments that prepared you for the leap of faith? In the final analysis, faith is a miracle, a gift from God.
How does the apostle Paul underline the gift-character of faith? Eph. 2:8.
One thing is sure: Just as we cannot be fully human without love, we cannot be what we are intended to be without faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. . . . Note that Hebrews does not teach that without faith it is difficult to please God, or that without faith it will take a long time to satisfy Him. To the contrary, it claims that it is impossible. In short, faith has no substitute. It is by faith that Gods heroes lived in the past, and it is by faith that His people must live today.George R. Knight, Exploring Hebrews: A Devotional Commentary (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald® Publishing Association, 2003), p. 198.
How can we position ourselves in a way that prepares us for the gift of faith? That is, what changes can we make in our lives to make us more receptive to that gift? Rom. 10:17; see also Heb. 11:6.
|Sometimes you hear people say that they wished they had faith. What would you advise such people? What kind of changes might they need to make in order to be more receptive to receiving the gift? See Mark 9:24.|
The Basis of Our Faith
A famous English hymn that has been translated in countless languages reminds us, My hope is built on nothing less / Than Jesus blood and righteousness (Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, no. 522). It is important that we never forget this truth. Jesus Christ is the ultimate foundation and source of our faith. But even though the gift of faith is a mystery that remains beyond our comprehension, we have been given some insights into how faith is awakened and strengthened. Some men and women in Bible times had a sudden experience that started them on the journey of faith. Paul is probably the most prominent example. Others tell of a much more gradual awareness of Gods leading in their life, which brought focus and direction in their pilgrimage of faith. No doubt, experience is an essential and powerful component of our spiritual life. But faith also must have content, and the revelation provided in the Scriptures plays the major role in establishing us in our faith.
What role do the Scriptures play in the faith-experience of the believer? John 5:39, 2 Tim. 3:15.
Clearly, the Scriptures are of extreme importance, and if we neglect them it will be at our own peril. But how the Scriptures exactly help to awaken and build our faith cannot be expressed in any human formula. Not even the famous faith definition of Hebrews 11 provides this. Hebrews 11:1 doesnt give us a definition of pistis [the Greek word for faith] so much as a description of the way faith works.
Certainly the apostle isnt advancing a psychological explanation of faith. Rather, he sets out the two cardinal abilities that faith makes possibleturning hope into reality and the unseen into sight.William G. Johnsson, The Abundant Life Bible Amplifier: Hebrews (Hagerstown, Md.:Review and Herald® Publishing Association), p. 205.
What does James 2:18, 19 tell us about the character of faith? Why is faith more than intellectual assent to belief in the existence of God and other doctrines?
|Why is Bible reading a life-changing experience for some people while others claim that it does nothing for them? What would you advise a person who reads the Bible and enjoys it as literature but claims not to hear the voice of God speaking in it?|
In their telling of the stories of Christs healing miracles, the Gospel writers emphasized that the underlying factor was not magic but faith. The people who were healed were challenged to exercise their faith. According to your faith will it be done to you, Jesus said (Matt. 9:29, NIV). Extraordinary experiences that carry an undeniable stamp of miraculous divine intervention do not always result in faith, however. The truth is that many people find ways of explaining such divine interventions away.
Read Luke 16:30, 31. What important point can we take from here?
Our faith will be strengthened by the experience of seeing God at work in our own lives and in the lives of others, but our faith often will precede Gods interventions in our life. Faith will expect God to show His hand. God has promised that He will act through us and on our behalf if we have faith in Him. In that trusting faith we must take Him at His word.
How do Romans 1:17; Galatians 5:6; James 2:17, 18; and 1 John 5:4, 5 reflect various aspects of this living through faith?
What is, on the other hand, the tragic result when faith is absent? Rom. 11:20, Heb. 3:19.
The context of Romans 11:20 makes it clear that Paul was speaking about the ancient Hebrews, who had received the promise of salvation in a covenant relationship with Him. They could have experienced the abundant life in Christ that faith brings to all who exercise it, but their experience, and failure, is a clear reminder to us that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6, NIV).
|Though your faith is a gift, what good reasons do you have for it? Also, even more important, what are practical ways in which you can strengthen your faith? At the same time, what are sure ways of losing it?|
Growing in Faith
Faith will increase if, when brought in contact with doubts and obstacles, we press on ahead, claiming the promises of God regardless of how we might feel at any given moment or regardless of how hostile the circumstances might be. Faith is more than a feeling; its a principle that transcends the fickleness of human emotions. Faith is doing what we know God asks us to do even though we dont feel like doing it.
If you are growing in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, you will improve every privilege and opportunity to gain more knowledge of the life and character of Christ; that is, you will do everything you can to grow in grace and increase in faith.
Faith in Jesus will grow as you become better acquainted with Him. This can happen by dwelling upon His life and love. You cannot dishonor God more than to profess to be His disciple while keeping yourself at a distance from Him.
challenge did Peter hold out to the believers?
had the church in Thessalonica lived up to that
how does the shield of faith help you to
grow spiritually? How does faith relate to the rest of the armour of
God as described in
The goal of the Christian is to become mature in faith. This is a lifelong process. While we experience the blessing of growth and stand firm in the faith (1 Cor. 16:13, NIV), we may at times wonder why others are still weak (Rom. 14:1). There is often a tendency to forget that it also has taken most of us a considerable time before we arrived at where we are today spiritually. But whatever our reaction may be, it never should be one of pride and judgment (1 Cor. 10:12). God is the One who makes every seed of faith sprout, and He also is to be credited for any growth that takes place in our spiritual life. Yet, while that is a truth that never must be forgotten, we also must remember that by our personal choices we can help create the right kind of environment in which spiritual growth can take place.
|Are there associations you have, places you visit, or certain kinds of media you expose yourself to that negatively impact faith? If so, how willing are you to give them up? The answer depends on how important your faith really is to you.|
Faith in a Person
Doctrines are important. When we say that we believe in God, we will want to know more about God, and we will be eager to absorb what He has revealed to us. It only is natural that we want to provide a structured account of what we believe about our Creator and His dealings with us, and we want to be sure that we know His will. But though we believe that the doctrines of our church are true, our faith is not anchored in a doctrinal system alone but in Jesus.
The doctrines are not an end in and of themselves. The doctrines help us better understand Jesus and what He has done for us. In a sense, the role of doctrines in the Christian faith may be compared to the role of grammar. We can communicate through language only because there is a grammatical structure in the words we say and write.
Similarly, we give a structure to the content of our faith through the doctrines. Anselm, a medieval theologian, spoke the famous words that theology is faith that seeks to understand itself.
What does the New Testament tell us about the importance of sound doctrine? 1 Tim. 4:16, Titus 2:1.
Sound doctrine is essential, but doctrine and theology that remain lifeless theory can save no one. One even can be a theologian without being a believer. Faith, ultimately, is not just holding a number of beliefs as biblically correct but is trust in the Person of whom these doctrines speak.
How is salvation in this life and the life beyond connected with faith in the Source of life? John 3:36, 6:35.
What is the fundamental conviction on which the church is built? Matt. 16:1319.
The passage in Matthew 16 often has been used as proof that the apostle Peter should be considered the founder of the Christian church. This idea finds no biblical support. On the contrary: Christ is the Stone on which the church is built. (See 1 Peter 2:48.) And it is the faith in this Stonethe unshakable conviction that Jesus, the Son of God, is our Saviorthat makes the church what it is, not a human institution but the church of God.
|Peter exhorts his brethren to grow in grace, and in the knowledge
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Peter 3:18. When the people of God are growing in grace, they will be
constantly obtaining a clearer understanding of His word. They will discern
new light and beauty in its sacred truths. This has been true in the history
of the church in all ages, and thus it will continue to the end. . . .
By faith we may look to the hereafter and grasp the pledge of God for a growth of intellect, the human faculties uniting with the divine, and every power of the soul being brought into direct contact with the Source of light. We may rejoice that all which has perplexed us in the providences of God will then be made plain.Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, pp. 112, 113.
| Hebrews 11 provides a gallery of heroes of faith.
Notice, though, how flawed in character and actions just about every one
of them were. What encouragement can you draw from their mistakes and sins
when you yourself are tempted to give up faith because of your own sins and
Many of us have at some time or another gone through a crisis of faith and have come out of this experience renewed. If this has happened to you, how did you survive the crisis? What can you do when it appears that members of your family or local church members are in the midst of a similar struggle? What did you learn from your own experience that could help them?
What are the challenges to your faith? Are they of an intellectual nature, for instance, in the area of science versus religion? Or are they related to the environment in which you live and work, or where you find your recreation? Or possibly in the area of relationships? Why is it important to meet these challenges head-on?
You dont need faith to believe in what you can prove; you need faith to believe in what you cant prove. Why is it important to realize that regardless of all the evidence we have for our beliefs, there will be things we just dont understand?
|Faith is experience. It has to do with certainty. And with trust. The Scriptures play a role in the awakening, the strengthening, and the sustenance of faith. But faith isnt just belief; it is a principle that guides how we live our lives before God and others.|
|I N S I D E Story|
|A Place to Call Home
by ZHANA SEDYSHEVA
I live in Vladivostok, the large seaport on the eastern coast of Russia. My young daughter was seriously ill, and I began to despair that she would recover. I prayed to the great God above, and He healed her! I wanted to thank Him for this miracle by worshiping in a church, but I didn't know which church I should pray in. My friend suggested that I worship at the Adventist church in another part of the city.
I was impressed by the simplicity of the worship service I found there, and I left feeling calm and at peace. I continued worshiping there and eventually joined the Adventist Church. The congregation was growing, and eventually the rented room where we met could not hold everyone who wanted to worship there. We prayed for another place to worship, and I hoped it would be closer to where I lived.
We rented a restaurant where we could hold our worship services. The restaurant was quiet, but a tourist club next door was so noisy that it disrupted our worship. We prayed for a more suitable place to worship, a place large enough to hold all of us, a place away from the noise of other businesses.
I worked in a kindergarten and asked the manager whether we could rent the large kindergarten hall for our worship. We were permitted to use the hall on Sabbaths. It was light and roomy-and quiet! But before long someone wrote an anonymous letter filled with angry criticism that the kindergarten would allow a religious group to meet in the building on Sabbaths.
I felt sick that our worship could cause problems for this school, which had a fine reputation in the city. I tried to put the matter into God's hands, but again and again we were attacked. I was so troubled that I became physically sick. The church members prayed for me and for the kindergarten, and God answered. I recovered my health, and the criticisms against the kindergarten were dismissed when the parents of children in the kindergarten defended us.
Now the city of Vladivostok has given permission for our mother church to build a new church and evangelistic center. Although we see no human means to build this church, we know that God will provide for us. I am on fire with a renewed desire to share His message with my colleagues and friends.
Your Sabbath School mission offerings help us spread God's message in difficult-to-reach areas such as Russia. Thank you for your prayers and your support.
ZHANA SEDYSHEVA is a Sabbath School superintendent in Vladivostok, Russia.
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