Author: Ron Graham
The true faith in Jesus Christ is ancient —it stands the test and wins victory. "In all these things we are more than conquerers through him who loved us" (Romans 8:37)
"Having been justified by faith... through our Lord Jesus Christ... we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope. Now hope does not disappoint..." (Romans 5:1-5).
One can immediately have "access by faith into God's grace", however that new faith must develop into a robust faith that holds onto the hope of glory, even in the midst of tribulation.
When one is first converted to Christ, it is understandable that one's faith may need to be sheltered and nurtured for a time. However, some Christians seem never to grow out of that nursery faith.
Those who endure the testing of their faith find great reassurance. They can encourage others, as Paul did: "The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. We are more than conquerers through him who loved us. We suffer with him that we may be glorified with him... the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed" (Romans 16:20, Romans 8:16-18,37). Then we will shout, "Victory! Victory! Victory in Jesus!"
Christians are "those who are of the faith of Abraham" (Romans 4:16) . If Abraham's faith was anything at all, it was a tried and tested faith. Is your faith like that? Abraham, "contrary to hope, in hope believed" (Romans 4:18) . He had to have faith in promises that seemed impossible in the face of physical weakness. Yet his faith and hope were rewarded, and a son, Isaac, was born to him and Sarah in their old age.
But then Abraham had to go "from faith to faith". He had to demonstrate "the obedience of faith" that would make him take, at God's command, the life of Isaac, his only begotten son of promise. When God saw that Abraham's faith was true to the test, God spared Isaac at the last moment.
What was the reasoning behind Abraham's faith? He believed God could give "life from the dead" (Romans 4:17) . Abraham and Sarah had been "dead" in a sense. Sarah was barren. Abraham was aged. Their bodies were incapable of procreation. Yet Isaac was conceived. Abraham had received Isaac "from the dead" in a figurative sense.
In Hebrews 11:17-19, this is taken a step further: "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac... his only begotten son... accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also had received him in a figurative sense." Abraham reasoned that if he obeyed the command to kill Isaac, he would receive him from the dead a second time.
This faith of Abraham is a paradigm or pattern for us. Is your faith like his? In your trials and troubles, though you "are killed all day long" (Romans 8:36) do you trust that God "gives life to the dead" (Romans 4:17)?
Sometimes it's easy for us to reason like Elijah. He pleaded with God saying,"Lord they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life." But what was God's reply? "I have reserved for myself seven thousand men who bow no knee to Baal" (Romans 11:2-5).
When we feel alone, desolate and threatened, we need not despair, for "we are more than conquerers through him who loved us" (Romans 8:35-39) . Our faith must say, "None of us lives to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die we die to the Lord. Therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living" (Romans 14:7-9).
The rest of this lesson provides you with some insights into your own troubles which test and develop your faith.
(1) The test of a corrupted environment. "Sin entered the world" (Romans 5:12). "God gave them over to vile passions... filled with all unrighteousness, immorality, wickedness, covetousness, malice..." (Romans 1:21-32). "There is none righteous, no not one" (Romans 3:10). We hear constantly of community lawlessness and violence. We may have to live and work amid moral depravity. This evil all around us can be a bewildering test of faith.
(2) The test of concern for the lost. "I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart..." (Romans 9:2). "My heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved" (Romans 10:1). The people in our community we know to be lost, and we wish to reach them, but we feel ineffective and overwhelmed. That can test our faith.
(3) The test of strife and divisions. "I urge you brethren, note those who cause divisions contrary to the doctrine you learned, and avoid them" (Romans 16:17) . Even when we manage to remain uninvolved, it is demoralising to see the arguments and division which occur in our planet, our nation, our friendships, our families, and our church. This also tests our faith.
(4) The test of troubles not our own. "Weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15) . The suffering of a loved one can be more painful to us than if the pain were our very own. Other people's sufferings can sorely test our faith.
(5) The test of persecution. "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse" (Romans 12:14) . We may suffer simply and directly because of what we believe. People may hate and hurt us through religious prejudice, and thereby severely test our faith.
(6) The test of frustration. "I often planned to come to you, but was hindered until now" (Romans 1:13, 15:22) . Our faith is tested when our best intentions are frustrated, our plans to serve God are hindered, and we come up against our own limitations.
(7) The test of personal responsibilities. "Render to all their due: taxes to whom taxes... owe no man anything..." (Romans 13:7). As if the worry of meeting our obligations when we have financial problems were not trial enough, there are always those who advise us to cheat the system.
(8) The test of being watched. "Why do you judge your brother? ...for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ... Do not let your good be evil spoken of" (Romans 14:10,16) . Not only the Lord in heaven, but plenty of people here on the ground are watching us. We know these people make judgments, both fair and false. We try to do the right thing and to have our actions rightly understood. This can burden our faith.
(9) The test of our own weaknesses. "The good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I do" (Romans 7:19) . The habits we cannot seem to throw off, the lives we live that are so far below our ideals, our deep sense of unworthiness... these failures test our faith.
(10) The test of correction. "Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the word of God" (Romans 10:17) . As we progress "from faith to faith" (Romans 1:16-17), the word of God may lead us on to new understanding, and show us perhaps that we have been in some error. It is a challenge to accept this correction; and this also tests our faith.
(11) The test of not seeing. "If we hope for what we cannot see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance" (Romans 8:25) . Our faith reaches back into ancient history; stretches far into the unchartered future; and even in the present embraces realities beyond the perceived natural world. Our faith is tested by our own dim conception of the things in which we believe, amid ubiquitous skepticism. For some this intellectual battle can be very distressing.
(12) The test of not understanding. "How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33) . We praise God for his deep wisdom and his wonderful ways. But we don't always understand them. When trouble and suffering come into our lives, we don't understand why, or what the end will be. We know God knows, but we don't know what he knows. That can sometimes be the greatest test of all to the Christian’s faith.