Faith, Trust, and Obedience

In Romans 12:3, Paul makes this statement about faith: “… God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Faith is one of the main ingredients in the recipe for salvation, but do we really understand it and utilize it properly?  Hebrews tells us what faith is: “Now faith is the substance [realization] of things hoped for, the evidence [confidence] of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1. Like you, I have read this scripture many times and contemplated its meaning. The mysteries of God are far deeper than the human mind, but let’s see if we can reach at least an elementary understanding of faith.

Faith, or a belief, in the secular world is based on what might be considered to be facts. There are many beliefs about the age of the earth and mankind that stem from faith in certain scientific criteria. People have faith that scientists are smart enough to figure out such things and know what they are talking about. So worldly faith is believing something to be true even with little or no proof.

Christians, on the other hand, believe in a Higher Being that has greater knowledge than mankind. They believe that God, through His Son Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit, inspired the creation of the Bible so that we might know how to live a holy life. Most religious beliefs are based on faith in something or someone, but Christians are the only group that believe solely in the word of God as the source for their faith in Him.

When we talk about Christians, I do not mean every group of people that professes to be Christians, but those who strive to live by “… every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4. It is this group that chooses to live by faith in God’s word as the basis of their belief. Yet as a people, we sometimes have trouble with our own faith, because knowing and following are totally different things. The exercise of our faith becomes the problem, yet faith grows only by exercising it. The more we mistrust ourselves, the more faith in God’s word can work in our lives.

“We must have an increase of faith, else we cannot be renewed in the divine image, and love and obey the requirements of God. Let the prayer go forth from unfeigned lips, ‘Lord, increase my faith; give me divine enlightenment; for without help from Thee I can do nothing.’ Come in humility and bow before God; open before the Lord your Bibles, containing the divine promises; take your position upon them; make a covenant with God that you will answer His requirements; tell Him you will believe, without any other evidence except the naked promise. This is not presumption; but unless you work with zeal, unless you are earnest and determined, Satan will obtain the advantage, and you will be left in unbelief and darkness. The words and promises of God are the only foundation of our faith. Take the word of God as truth, as a living, speaking voice to you, and obey faithfully every requirement. God is faithful, who hath promised. He will work with the efforts of superintendents and teachers. Our blessings are limited by the weakness of our faith. God is not unwilling to bestow; He is a reservoir of power. We must cherish meekness and lowliness of heart.” Testimonies on Sabbath-School Work, 28

Like the wind, faith cannot be seen or touched. But as the wind is felt as it blows across our skin, or seen as it plays in the leaves of the trees, we also can see the results of faith when it is exercised to do God’s will in our lives and the lives of others. The key is to exercise faith and to listen as God tells us how to use our faith according to His will.

In Genesis 6, we find the well-known story of Noah and the ark. In verses 13 and 14, the Bible tells us God talked to Noah: “And God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.’ ” Noah exercised his faith in God by building a huge boat on dry ground, at a time when it had never rained on the earth before. Do you think we would have that kind of faith today?

We do not know how God talked to Noah, but I imagine that Noah was a man of prayer and that God talked to him during those prayerful moments. If we have faith in God, we will want to spend as much time as possible to know His will in our lives. I believe Noah was praying, discussing with Him the wickedness of the people around him and asking how he could witness to them and God showed Noah how beyond anything he could imagine—by building an ark.

God said, “And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die.” And then He told Noah, “But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.” Genesis 6:17–19

For 120 years Noah built his ark in the face of taunts and ridicule. He stood as a firm witness for God. As he built, he preached the coming destruction of the world and the only path of salvation. His faith sustained him through trial and hardship, through painstakingly-detailed work on the ark that would be the salvation of his family and anyone else who would accept God’s message. The ark was a representation of Jesus who shelters us under His wings of salvation. It also represents the protection that the people of the last days will receive when faced with unparalleled hardship and evil. Were it not for his faith in the soon-coming Saviour, promised to Adam and to the following generations, Noah would have failed in his endeavor, but God sustained him because he believed Him.

Faith is not only believing that God exists and created everything, but it is also trusting in all that He says. Abraham is another example of faith in God. The Bible says, “And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” Genesis 15:6. Paul remarks on this scripture when addressing the Galatians to help them understand that the Holy Spirit worked miracles in their lives by their faith in God, and in the promise of the resurrection in Christ Jesus rather than in works of the law. By faith they came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah and by faith they accepted Him as their Saviour. By faith they, like Abraham, walked away from the things of this world to embrace and trust in the faith that God had measured out to each of them.

Abraham walked out of the land of Ur and into a wilderness. He exercised his faith in God, not needing the details of what was before him, being willing to leave his old life behind. Abraham led a most difficult life compared to us today. His home was a tent, and he had no country of his own. He was a true sojourner and pilgrim. His faith in God was so great that he followed wherever the Spirit led and did not complain about his plight. He let his works prove his faith in God’s word and believed in His promises. He not only professed belief in God, but showed his faith by his trust and obedience to His word.

“ ‘Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the friend of God.’ James 2:23. And Paul says, ‘They which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.’ Galatians 3:7. But Abraham’s faith was made manifest by his works. ‘Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?’ James 2:21, 22. There are many who fail to understand the relation of faith and works. They say, ‘Only believe in Christ, and you are safe. You have nothing to do with keeping the law.’ But genuine faith will be manifest in obedience. Said Christ to the unbelieving Jews, ‘If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.’ John 8:39. And concerning the father of the faithful the Lord declares, ‘Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.’ Genesis 26:5. Says the apostle James, ‘Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.’ James 2:17. And John, who dwells so fully upon love, tells us, ‘This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.’ 1 John 5:3.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 153, 154

If there is one thing that God’s remnant people can learn, it is how to exercise their faith in God. If we were honest with ourselves, how many times has the Spirit urged us to do something, but we did not listen? One of the hardest things in the Christian walk is to set our own desires aside to follow the voice of Jesus. If we truly have faith, we would be willing to trust His guidance. Sometimes that guidance goes directly against our own desires. Trusting God to know what is best in our lives is the true meaning of being faithful. Stepping out in faith to do God’s work is to demonstrate that trust. The measure of faith given to each of us is exactly what we need to do our part in His work and, through that work, our faith will grow and reproduce itself over and over.

“If we would be growing plants in the Lord’s garden, we must have a constant supply of spiritual life and earnestness. Growth will then be seen in the faith and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no halfway house where we may throw off responsibility and rest by the way. We are to keep advancing heavenward, developing a solid religious character. The measure of the Holy Spirit we receive will be proportioned to the measure of our desire and the faith exercised for it.” In Heavenly Places, 336

“Our faith should lay hold upon God, and we should expect success. The great multitude was fed with a very meager supply. Let our scattered supply be placed in missionary work, and God will multiply it as we shall impart to others, so that all may eat and be filled. We are not to stop our work and measure our advance in the work by the means at hand. To do this is to show a very limited faith. As God said to Moses, so He says to us, ‘Go forward.’ We are to diffuse the gospel over the whole earth, and, be our means large or small, we are to plan and work in faith, realizing our responsibility as God’s human agents to whom He has given this great work. Then stop fretting over the evils that you cannot help and do your work in sincerity and faith, that your characters may be formed after the divine pattern.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 2, 284

Many do not know how to exercise their faith. They have kept it safely hidden lest anyone might steal it. In Jesus’ parable about the servants and the minas, we see that only those who use their faith will see an increase (Luke 19). The answer is quite simple, if we listen to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit as He guides us in doing the will of God, we will be exercising our faith in the way God wants us to use it. We must be willing to step out in faith, not worrying about the where or how, to be ready to follow where He leads.

Some are urged to hand out a pamphlet, others to minister to the needy by providing food or clothing, while others are called to leave their home to reach people of a far-away land. Some can work in their neighborhoods, others within their homes among their family members or children. But each must listen carefully to the urging of the Holy Spirit and not turn away because it seems too hard or uncomfortable. Jesus knows each heart and what is needed to fulfill His purpose in our lives. We must want to use our faith so that it will grow and influence others towards salvation and lead them to follow God’s plan for their lives.

Revelation 14:12 says, “Here is the patience [perseverance] of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” What is the “faith of Jesus”? As His people, we must have this faith. Jesus said, “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” John 8:29. Jesus had perfect trust that His Father would lead Him down a perfect path of righteousness. The essence of the faith of Jesus was obedience to His Father. Perfect faith works in conjunction with what we do.

If Jesus had not had this kind of faith, and I say this reverently, He would never have qualified as our sacrifice. He would have been blemished and unfit, and all would have been lost. Only the perfect, unblemished Lamb of God could be the ultimate sacrifice to save mankind. The faith of Jesus had to be expressed in perfect obedience to all of God’s holy law. He added nothing nor did He take anything from it; He accepted it as it was written and obeyed even unto death. What a powerful example Jesus set for us. And like we must be, He was guided by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Remember, Jesus laid aside His glory and power to be born a man, clothed with our nature. In this way He demonstrated the power of faith so that we could live a perfect life. I do not believe we fully appreciate the trust Jesus showed by setting aside all He had in heaven to come to this earth as a man. “But made Himself of no reputation [laying aside His divinity], taking the form of a bondservant [slave/servant], and coming in the likeness of men [the nature of fallen man]. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:7, 8

God expects those who bear the name of Christ to represent Him in every way—pure in their thoughts and words, noble and uplifting in their actions and deeds. There will be nothing of self in the life of the true Christian, for self has died. And once they have reached this state of purity, they then are to draw those around them nearer to the Saviour.

There was no selfishness in the life of Christ. Bearing our nature, He lived a life wholly devoted to the service of others. God’s word to us is, “Be ye therefore perfect.” Matthew 5:48 KJV. And that we might obey this word, He sent His only-begotten Son to live a perfect life in our behalf. At our disposal, we have His example and the strength by which He lived this life. In thought, word, and act, Jesus was sinless. Perfection marked all that He did. He points us to the path that He trod, saying, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24 KJV

Is it any wonder Paul writes, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5. If we have the mind of Jesus, we will have perfect faith and trust. His perfect obedience is our example. Jesus was not presumptuous; He did not go further than His Father led. We must be on guard lest we overstep where God is leading us. Satan is always ready to pervert our faith, if possible. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by Satan, He was urged to use His faith to test God. But Jesus maintained His faith in the Father.

“The Redeemer of the world wavered not from His integrity and showed that He had perfect faith in His Father’s promised care. He would not put the faithfulness and love of His Father to a needless trial, although He was in the hands of the enemy, and placed in a position of extreme difficulty and peril. He would not, at Satan’s suggestion, tempt God by presumptuously experimenting on His providence. Satan had brought in scripture which seemed appropriate for the occasion, hoping to accomplish his designs by making the application to our Saviour at this special time.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 282

Ancient Israel faced many trials, and perished in the desert because they lacked faith. Jesus told the parable of the wedding feast which addresses this lack of faith in His people, from ancient Israel of the wilderness to the Israel of Jesus’ day and finally spiritual Israel today. As God’s people, we will face many trials and be tested to see if our faith is great enough to see us through our own time.

“There are two classes in our world. The Lord has sent out the message to those who are represented by the first class, who have had great privileges and opportunities, who have had great light and innumerable blessings. They have been intrusted by the Lord with the living oracles. They are represented by the class to whom the king sent an invitation to the marriage feast. Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that are bidden to the wedding; and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready; come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise; and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth; and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good; and the wedding was furnished with guests.’ ” The Review and Herald, April 2, 1895

The wedding guests are those who have heard the message of salvation through Christ, some have accepted the message as truth while others scorned it. The wedding feast is the coming of Christ and all who have heard the message were called. Those who had been given great knowledge and the testimonies of the apostles and prophets, did not appreciate what was given to them. Their faith waned in the face of daily life and trials and they did not cherish the gift they were given. They squandered their time to prepare for the feast they knew was at hand, and in the end, rejected what had been given them as a testimony of God’s love for the world.

So, the King sent out His servants, who were few in these last days, to give out the final call to accept the invitation to become one of His true followers. They did not go to the people who had squandered the previous truth, but to those who had not yet heard the message. The call was to come out of Babylon and into His truth, and many heard the message. Some came out of curiosity, others out of firm belief. Those who had not developed faith, trust, and obedience in God were cast out. They had a desire to follow, but, in the end, their faith was not exercised, and they lost salvation.

“How few respond to the gracious invitation of heaven. Christ is insulted when His messages are despised, and His gracious, winning, liberal invitation is rejected. Those that were bidden to the marriage feast at first, began to make excuses. They allowed minor things to occupy their attention, and lost their eternal interests out of their reckoning. While some made temporal interests their excuse, and were totally indifferent toward the messages and messengers, others manifested a spirit of determined hatred, and took the Lord’s servants and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. A power from beneath moved upon human agencies who were not under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit. There are two distinct classes—those who are saved through faith in Christ and through obedience to His law, and those who refuse the truth as it is in Jesus. It will be impossible for those who refuse Christ through the period of probation to become justified after the record of their lives has passed into eternity. Now is the time to work for the salvation of men; for probation still continues.” Ibid.

God has been faithful to us in every way. He has endured our sinfulness with compassion and mercy, and in His perfect faithfulness sent His Son to us. His righteousness is without measure. “Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist.” Isaiah 11:5. “Your testimonies, which You have commanded, are righteous and very faithful.” Psalm 119:138. Considering that God is faithful to us and to His word, we have nothing to fear if we in return give our will over to Him. We must exercise our faith by stepping out of our comfort zone and into a faithful walk with Jesus.

Faith, trust, and obedience is our only avenue to happiness in Christ Jesus. Obedience to His commandments, obedience to His Spirit’s leading, obedience in the face of no evidence except our faith in Him who promises to be faithful in all things. We must trust in the power of the Creator of all that exists. If He can create the wonders we see around us, we can trust, by faith, that He will lead us to do greater works in His name than we can imagine. We just have to trust and obey.

Michael C. Wells is director of Anointing Oil Ministries.