We are told in II Corinthians 13:5 to, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” The topic of faith is one that has been studied by Christians throughout the ages.
Every Christian has struggles, and as they have encountered challenges, hopefully their faith has developed. It is vitally important for us to pay attention to the little tests, for they form the basic foundation of faith upon which we must build to face the larger challenges and trials of life.
In this article, we will look at some basic principles of faith. These are not necessarily anything new, but it is good to review the basics. If we are majoring in math, we want to make sure, before we start on algebra, calculus, or other higher studies of the subject, that we understand the basics. We need to first understand how to add and subtract and how to multiply and divide, and what the principles of these basic skills are.
If we do not understand the basics, as we get farther down the line and start running into bigger problems, we will not have the skill to conquer them—in math or in our walk of faith.
“The time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and [of] Barak, and [of] Samson, and [of] Jephthae; [of] David also, and Samuel, and [of] the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of [cruel] mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and [in] mountains, and [in] dens and caves of the earth.” Hebrews 11:32–38.
In this passage of Scripture, we are given a picture of some of the trials and experiences through which the men of old, the men of faith, passed. The question that we need answered is, What did they have that carried them through? What did they possess?
Ellen White wrote: “Faith is trusting in God—believing that He loves us, and knows what is for our best good.” Gospel Workers (1915), 259. The foundation of faith begins with these two basic principles―believing that God “loves us and knows what is for our best good.”
God Loves Us
We first must settle in our minds the question, Does God love us? John 3:16 offers the answer: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” But how we answer this question depends, in a large part, on how we see ourselves, upon what value we place on ourselves. We may see ourselves as unlovable; even though we may not say it, through our daily actions we live out that reality. However, Paul said, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
“God’s love for the fallen race is a peculiar manifestation of love—a love born of mercy; for human beings are all undeserving. Mercy implies the imperfection of the object toward which it is shown.” In Heavenly Places, 12.
One of the things we must understand is that God’s love is not dependent upon who we are; it is dependent upon who He is. That is especially important to remember as we are on our Christian walk, developing our faith. We know that we are to go through trials, growing from faith to faith, “from grace to grace, from strength to strength, obtaining one spiritual victory after another.” Daughters of God, 184. The reality is that we make mistakes and we fail. We stumble; and when we do, we give the devil ammunition.
We know that God takes careful record of everything we do and all we say, but the devil is writing down everything that we do and say too. Then, when he gets us to fall, he is there to accuse us and to use those things against us. Those are the fiery darts that he hurls at us to try to discourage us and to keep us from coming to God. We need to understand that God’s love is not dependent on who we are.
It was because of sin that mercy was brought into active exercise. We cannot do anything to merit God’s love. God’s love is a peculiar love. It is a love that is born of mercy and, as Mrs. White wrote, “Mercy implies the imperfection of the object toward which it is shown.”
So, God loves us. His love is unconditional.
If you are a parent, you understand that you demonstrate love to a child in different ways, depending on whether the child is being rebellious or obedient. The Bible tells us that, “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” Hebrews 12:6. We are not to be discouraged by that, but we need to realize that how God’s love is manifested toward us is dependent upon our relationship with Him.
From the writings of Ellen White we read: “God has bound our hearts to Him by unnumbered tokens in heaven and in earth. Through the things of nature, and the deepest and tenderest earthly ties that human hearts can know, He has sought to reveal Himself to us. Yet these but imperfectly represent His love. Though all these evidences have been given, the enemy of good blinded the minds of men, so that they looked upon God with fear; they thought of Him as severe and unforgiving. Satan led men to conceive of God as a being whose chief attribute is stern justice,― one who is a severe judge, a harsh, exacting creditor. He pictured the Creator as a being who is watching with jealous eye to discern the errors and mistakes of men, that He may visit judgments upon them. It was to remove this dark shadow, by revealing to the world the infinite love of God, that Jesus came to live among men.” Steps to Christ, 10, 11.
I did not grow up in a Seventh-day Adventist Christian home. My family did attend church, and I cannot pinpoint exactly what it was that influenced me, but this was the way I looked at God. This attitude is prevalent in the world in which we live. Satan is ever there to misrepresent the character of God through the very things that God has used to represent His character.
We can see in the world in which we live today that the devil is definitely on the attack. In Revelation 12:12 we read: “The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”
In the parent-child relationship, the parent is to stand in the place of God to the child. The parent is to represent God to the child, so when the child looks to the heavenly Father, he or she understands the child-Father relationship. The problem is that this is the exception, not the norm. The world is full of broken families, and often the parent-child connection is nonexistent or strained.
The marital relationship is another way God has used for us to learn about Him. “The husband is to love and cherish his wife; and as their marriage vow unites them as one, so their belief in Christ should make them one in Him. What can be more pleasing to God than to see those who enter into the marriage relation seek together to learn of Jesus and to become more and more imbued with His Spirit?” Daughters of God, 181. But, of course, the devil is there to attack that institution as well.
With the breakdown of the parent-child relationship and the marital relationship, people do not have anything with which to relate to the love of God. They have no personal experience to help them to understand it. Then, these people come to the church, where the members are to be Christ’s representatives and reflect His character, but we see the dissension in the church, and we can see that the devil is attacking there too.
Live By Faith
The apostle Paul was one of the great men of faith in the New Testament of the Bible. There are many examples of men of faith in the Bible, but the apostle Paul wrote so much of the New Testament that we have the opportunity to “get inside of his head” to see the way he thought. In Galatians 2:20, he said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
We must come to that point of understanding. To help us reach that point, Ellen White counsels, “It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit.” The Desire of Ages, 83. We need the persistence to develop this habit.
If we go to God thinking of Him as He was described earlier in the quotation from Steps
to Christ—as an unjust judge or a hard taskmaster—what confidence would we have to press on until
our prayers were answered? So, we need to understand who God is. That is where our faith is. That is where our confidence is—in who God is, because He is unchangeable.
“Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.” Luke 18:7, 8. We have the promise that if we persevere, if we continue in faith, God will give us what we desire.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” If we do not believe that, we will not have the confidence to press on and press through the trials that come to us.
All Things Possible
Ellen White shares what will happen when we believe God: “When we really believe that God loves us and means to do us good we shall cease to worry about the future. We shall trust God as a child trusts a loving parent. Then our troubles and torments will disappear, for our will is swallowed up in the will of God.” Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 100.
This is the kind of faith that we need, that we should want to have.
“The widow’s prayer, ‘Avenge me’—‘do me justice’ (R.V.)—‘of mine adversary,’ [Luke 18:3] represents the prayer of God’s children. Satan is their great adversary. He is the ‘accuser of our brethren,’ who accuses them before God day and night. (Revelation 12:10.) He is continually working to misrepresent and accuse, to deceive and destroy the people of God. And it is for deliverance from the power of Satan and his agents that in this parable Christ teaches His disciples to pray.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 166.
Jesus said, in Mark 9:23, “If thou canst believe, all things [are] possible to him that believeth.”
In 1883, John A. Roebling, an engineer, was inspired to build a bridge connecting New York City to Long Island. Bridge building experts throughout the world thought that this was an impossible feat, and they advised Roebling to forget the idea; it just could not be done; it was not practical; such a thing had never before been done. However, Roebling could not ignore the vision of the bridge in his mind. He thought about it all the time. He knew deep in his heart that it could be done. He had to share the dream with someone else.
After much discussion and persuasion, he managed to convince his son Washington, an up and coming engineer, that the bridge, in fact, could be built. Working together for the first time, the father and son developed concepts of how it could be accomplished and how the obstacles could be overcome. With great excitement and inspiration and the headiness of a wild challenge before them, they hired their crew and began to build their dream bridge.
The project started out well, but when construction was underway only a few months, a tragic accident on the site took the life of John Roebling. Washington succeeded his father as chief engineer on the project, but then he was stricken with decompression sickness caused from working in the caissons. This left him with a certain amount of brain damage which resulted in him not being able to walk or talk or even move.
Many of their associates chimed, “We told them so. Crazy men and their crazy dreams! It is foolish to chase wild visions.” It seemed as though everyone had a negative comment to make, and many felt that the project should be scrapped since the Roebling father and son were the only ones who knew how the bridge could be built.
In spite of his handicap, Washington was never discouraged, and he maintained a burning desire to complete the bridge. He tried to inspire and pass on his enthusiasm to some of his friends, but they were too daunted by the task. As he lay on his hospital bed with the sunlight streaming through the windows, a gentle breeze blew the flimsy curtains apart, and he was able to see the sky and the tops of the trees outside for just a moment. It seemed that there was a message for him not to give up.
Suddenly he had an idea. All he could do was move one finger, but he decided to make the best use of it. By moving this one finger, he slowly developed a tapping code of communication with his wife. He tapped his wife’s arm with that finger, indicating to her that he wanted her to call the engineers again. Then he used the same method of tapping her arm to tell the engineers what to do.
It seemed foolish, but the project was soon underway again. For 13 years Washington tapped out his instructions with his finger on his wife’s arm until the bridge was finally completed. Today the spectacular Brooklyn Bridge stands in all its glory as a tribute to the triumph of one man’s indomitable spirit and his determination not to be defeated by circumstances.
We can learn a lot from this story. We oftentimes allow ourselves to get beaten down by circumstances. We become discouraged. Washington Roebling certainly had a lot of reasons to be discouraged. His circumstances seemed pretty impossible. What was it that kept him from becoming discouraged? It was his focus. He was not focused on his weaknesses. He was not focused on his circumstances. He was not focused on the mistakes that he may have made. He was focused on the bridge and its completion.
Where is our focus? It is easy to get drawn into looking at ourselves, looking at our trials, and looking at everything that we are going through, and become discouraged. When that happens, we are looking in the wrong direction.
Again, consider the counsel of the apostle Paul: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but [this] one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13, 14.
Paul had many reasons to be discouraged. He had many trials in his life—he was being chased around by the unbelieving Jews from city to city; in Ephesus, he was attacked by the craftsmen who made the idols of Diana,—but he could not be deterred from his goal of character perfection.
To be continued …
Jim Stoeckert is a Steps to Life staff member. He lives in Wichita, Kansas, with his two sons. He
may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.