Calls to “live by faith” are everywhere in Paul’s letters in the New Testament. To “walk by faith,” “walk in the Spirit,” or to “trust the Lord,” are all synonymous terms for the same thing. We have read those ubiquitous phrases so many times they have become meaningless to most of us, yet it seems that it would be important to clearly understand phrases so frequently used in the Bible. What is the idea they are all meant to convey?
Does it mean dressing a certain way? The wife of a friend of mine was thrilled when she was asked if she was a Christian. When she responded with, “How did you know?”, the answer was “I could tell by how you were dressed.” She was convinced she was “living by faith” by the clothes she wore.
If I am a Christian and believe Jesus is my Savior and do my best to be a good person, am I “living by faith?”
Is “living by faith” abstaining from questionable habits and practicing others? If I am morally pure, drug and alcohol free, a faithful church-attender, daily Bible-reader and say my morning and evening prayers religiously, can I safely conclude I am “living by faith” as the Bible admonishes me to do?
A cursory glance through the Bible may lead me to this initial conclusion. However, last week we looked at an example of that new lifestyle that Jesus says is a real life example in living color of living by faith that we can easily relate to—the way of life of a little child who has a loving, providing, responsible father. He trusts his daddy for everything; what he eats, what he wears, where he lives and what he does. He decides nothing for himself; he waits for his father to show him what to do, and, when he is on his game, he naturally and unquestioningly does it.
When Jesus was here bodily on the earth, He had the same Heavenly Father we have, because He came to earth to not only die for us, but also to live here, in the world, as a man, the Son of Man, in the same manner we are to live, and relate to our Father just as we are to relate to Him. He came to not only die for us but also to demonstrate for us, as a man, exactly how to live, and He was always on His game! He showed us how to “live by faith,” a new way of life that is completely different from the way we have always lived and the way the world all around us lives; a way described in the Bible as living “in the flesh” or “by the law.”.
Today I want to dress up the example from last week—a little child, living by fully trusting his father—in everyday clothes. What does it look like, both internally in my heart (this week) and also externally in the world, today in 21st century America (next week)?
This living by faith is not a punch-list of things to do, nor is it an instantaneous transformation that occurs automatically when I become a Christian. It is a new way to think, a renewal of the mind, as Paul calls it (Romans 12:2), and it takes a lifetime to learn to live moment by moment in this way. When I have lived my life by exercising my own free-will and made what I felt, at the time, were “good decisions,” it is hard to become as a little 5-year-old child, letting Daddy have the burden of making all those decisions.
This is exactly the model of “walking by faith” Jesus left for us. He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself” (John 5:19); “I can of Myself do nothing” (John 5:30), and He did that, just like 5-year-olds do.
Jesus said He always taught only His Father’s doctrine, sought only His Father’s glory, spoke only His Father’s words, and worked only His Father’s works (John 7:16, 18; 8:28; 9:4), doing nothing independently, on His own, as the Son of God. He acted only as the Son of Man, completely dependent like a little child on His Father, always wanting to be and act just like Daddy.
So, when I finally do realize Daddy is watching me and chuckling at the ridiculous scene of this little child trying to decide these weighty, complex issues that He is already taking care of perfectly, I begin to notice I no longer have a furrowed brow, and I have somehow lost my fear, worry and anxiety. I actually find myself trusting that my Heavenly Father has it all covered, every bit, and I suddenly realize I am “walking by faith” and I begin to experience genuine love, joy and peace, not just talk about them as theoretical doctrines.
At this point, how do I know that this experience is “living by faith?” Didn’t Jesus have some extra-special way to communicate with His Father that I don’t have and therefore be able to know His Father’s will in a way I cannot? No, His way of communicating with His Father as the Son of Man was the same way I have to do so—listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit inside me to tell me, just as He told Jesus, what I should do, say and teach.
And Jesus tells us the unbelievable, mind-blowing truth of how He heard that voice inside Him in John 10:18: “No one takes (my life) from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” And David, speaking prophetically as a type of Christ, said in Psalm 40:11, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.”
See yourself as a 5-year-old, having these unconscious thoughts in your heart; “Daddy, tell me what you want me to do. I can’t wait to do it, because I love you and trust whatever you say.” That is the response of every child whose father has captured their hearts with his love.
Do you see it? You want, with all your heart, to please your daddy, so you are FREE to do just exactly what you want to do, say and teach (whatever that may be—yes, stumbles, screw-ups, even sin) and know that that is the Father’s will for you, right now, at this stage in your journey!
A million questions flood our minds because they are still in the process of being renewed, but walking by faith is believing that no matter what you see in yourself, even the ugly stuff, it is not what God sees. He sees a completely forgiven sinner, whose sin has been forever put away, once for all (Hebrews 9:26), and He wants you to see yourself that way as well. In 2 Corinthians 3:18. Paul tells us that “we all, with unveiled face, are beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, and we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” We are completely passive with nothing to do but what we want to do! Do you believe it?
God is at work, changing your “want-to’s” to conform to His, as Paul tells us so clearly in Philippians 2:13, thus changing you continually, over your life-time, to the image of Christ—”from glory to glory.” Believing this with no visible evidence, like a 5-year-old child trusting what Daddy says, is changing a meaningless, biblical throwaway admonition, to live by faith, to a powerful, irresistible, life-changing reality!