I wrote this to a long-time friend who has had an even longer struggle with faith (she is not on FB, and shall remain nameless). After I did, it struck me I can think of many others I feel sure could benefit from the same.
Dear __________: In my opinion, you (and your hub, and many, many others!) could stand to have FAITH somewhat "demystified." I've had many conversations, some of them extremely heart-rending, with young people especially who were deeply frustrated with God, and had, in some cases, seriously messed up their lives, because they had been waiting, waiting, waiting, for God to one day zap them with a magical, mystical "faith" wand, so they could simply, easily believe what they needed to and finally live the victorious Christian life. The heart rending part is it just doesn't work that way. They're waiting for something that is never going to happen. But at least they do rightly recognize how absolutely essential faith IS to that promise of victorious experience. Hebrews 4:2 puts it, "the word preached did not profit them, NOT BEING MIXED WITH FAITH in them that heard it." See, faith is the one thing which WE are held responsible to add to the equation. It is OUR one part (Romans 4:3-5; Hebrews 11:6). It's a big mistake to put it all off on Him. One definition of GRACE is: "God doing for me what I cannot do for myself." But FAITH is MY side. Faith is me simply BELIEVING, and RELYING, and TRUSTING Him to "do for me what I cannot do for myself." Grace and faith, then, go absolutely hand in hand. They are flip sides of one coin (Romans 4:16; Ephesians 2:8-9). And faith is not some mystical thing God arbitrarily zaps some with, and refuses to zap others. Faith is very clearly described in I John 5:9-13 (please read): It is simply "receiving the witness of God!" It is "believing the record God gave of His Son!" Faith really is nothing more than that. It is taking God at His Word, which is simply a matter of "lending credence to One Who cannot lie" (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). You lent considerable credence to the claim of that young man you didn't even know: "the Holy Spirit told me to tell you." Enough credence that it still has remained with you all these years later (and I'm not mocking you for it; it happens all the time!). Why should you not lend FAR GREATER credence to the written Word that so many have been tortured and have died for, and which has been proven true in the lives of so many millions for centuries, and which boldly claims to be the very words of God, Himself (and has been subjected to and triumphed under far greater scrutiny and testing than that one young dude's presumptuous claim!) Again, I believe our Lord has a very tender and special regard for the one who "cries out, and says with tears, Lord, I believe; HELP THOU MINE UNBELIEF" (Mark 9:24). Romans 10:17 says "faith comes by HEARING, and hearing by the Word of God" I think that's referring to hearing with a heart willing to receive the Truth and yield to it (John 7:17; Romans 10:16-21). But it is a matter of continuous exposure to the Word of God, giving Him ample opportunity to use this God-breathed, living and powerful Word to deeply convict and persuade our hearts of the Truth (John 6:63; Hebrews 4:12; I Thessalonians 2:13). And then, again, He increases our faith as we take even baby steps forward, trusting Him, and He meets us, again and again, in our experience and need. "Faith is the substance (or GIVING SUBSTANCE TO) of things hoped for, the evidence (or PROVIDING CONVINCING PROOF) of things not seen." As we will dare to BELIEVE, He will do HIS part of rewarding that by providing "substance" (a greater sense of the reality of these things) in my soul, allowing me to live a life that cries out, "I am a stranger and sojourner here; this is NOT my 'home!' I am just passing through!" (Hebrews 11:1, 13-16). We talked about how Hebrews 11 is a great, great chapter to observe and learn about faith. Another great one is Romans 4. All of it. Later Ernie