Scripture quotations taken from the NASB

Faith Overcomes the World (1 John 5:4)

About Faith

If you are going through a difficult time undoubtedly someone will encourage you by saying "have faith, it will all work out." One meaning is that you should be positive because being negative makes it worse. There are no guarantees. But having faith demonstrates that you are optimistic and are hoping for a good outcome. A factual prognosis may be realistic but Biblical faith has it's own rules. God "gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist" (Ro 4:17). Therefore if we follow the Bible "we walk by faith, not by sight" (1Co 5:7). We become "those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all" (Ro 4:16).

God instituted faith. He "said to Abram, 'Go forth from your country . . . to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation'" (Ge 12:1-2). Abram acted in faith and "went forth as the Lord had spoken to him" (:4). God later reminded him saying "'I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans'" (15:7). God had promised Abraham an heir saying, "'So shall your descendants be'" (:5). "'Abraham believed God'" (Ro 4:3) and "'faith was credited to Abraham'" (:9).

What Faith Is

Abraham exercised faith by believing. But it isn't mental gymnastics. "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Ro 10:17). "By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God" (Heb 11:3). Even though "what is seen" (:3) is visible they were "not made out of things which are visible" (:3). It requires faith to accept this. "For by grace you have been saved through faith" (Eph 2:8). "It is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace" (Ro 4:16). "It is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph 2:8-9). It was a promise that Abraham "would be heir of the world" (Ro 4:13) and faith ensures "that the promise will be guaranteed" (:16).

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith because it says "faith is." If the text consisted of metaphors they would be likenesses, but one part says "faith is . . . the conviction of things not seen" (11:1) which is more of a definition. We weren't witnesses when "the worlds were prepared by the word of God" (11:3) but "that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them" (Ro 1:19) and "His invisible attributes . . . have been clearly seen" (:20). This evidence is not unlike what is presented in a court case which substantiates the truth. You see the reality of what had been previously unproven when it is spelled out by God through faith. Faith is the tangible evidence which comes only from God.

Faith is Surety

"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Heb 11:1 NIV). Assurance and certainty apply to "of what" a person has confidence in will come to pass. If it is "of things" (11:1 NASB), it is from, concerning or belonging to the existence of what is desired or expected. Hope must be based upon something potentially happening in the first place. When you are hopeful you are optimistic that your expectations are reasonable. But from a Biblical standpoint it is faith from God that makes hope authentic.

God told Abraham his descendants would be as the number of stars (Ge 15:5). But the time came when "Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing" (18:11). In a natural way there was no substance for Abraham's hope. But God said "'Sarah your wife will have a son'" (:10). Therefore Abraham was "fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform" (Ro 4:21). Abraham was aware of natural impossibilities because it was "against hope" (:18). No realistic person would hope in something impossible. But Abraham "in hope . . . believed . . . according to that which had been spoken" (:18). It was with scriptural hope based upon God's promise. Faith is the substance for hope because the assurance is inherent in the promise. Also, Abraham "with respect to the promise . . . did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving Glory to God" (:20). What God had spoken contained what convinced Abraham so that he could faithfully believe in it.

Word of Faith

Faith is released by words. "By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned" (12:37). "The tongue has the power of life and death" (Pr 18:21). "The tongue of the wise brings healing" (12:18). Jesus taught "'out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks'" (Mt 12:34). The faith you have is expressed in speech. "What he says will happen" (Mk 11:23). It works because of the characteristics of the communication. Jesus said "the words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life" (Jn 6:63). He also reveals "'I am in the Father . . . [and] the words I say to you are not just my own'" (14:10).

It has to be in accordance with God's words "in you" (:7). The words are there if you meditate on the book of the law (Jos 1:8). They are there because "Your word I have treasured in my heart" (Ps 119:11). "From Your precepts I get understanding" (:104). "The unfolding of Your words gives light" (:130). "Your testimonies . . . are my counselors" (:24). "Jesus answered, 'It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God'" (Mt 4:4). He repeats it being written in verses 7 and 10. "If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa 8:20).

Believe in Faith

Jesus "healed all who were ill" (Mt 8:16). The people who came to him for this had faith in God (Mk 11:22). "Two blind men followed Him, crying out, 'Have mercy on us, Son of David!'" (Mt 9:27). Jesus asked, "'Do you believe that I am able to do this?'" (:28). The blind men answered, "'Yes, Lord'" (:28). Jesus responded, "'It shall be done to you according to your faith'" (:29). Then "their eyes were opened" (:30). They believed Jesus could heal them and were healed because of their faith. "'For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart'" (Mt 12:34). "'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart'-that is, the word of faith" (Ro 10:8).

A centurion asked for help saying, "'Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented'" (Mt 8:4). He said to Jesus, "'just say the word, and my servant will be healed'" (:8). Jesus responded, "'Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed'" (:13). Because the centurion believed that all Jesus had to do is speak the command Jesus said, "'I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel'" (10). "The servant was healed that very moment" (:13). The centurion had the faith and believed. A Canaanite woman asked Jesus to heal her daughter. Through their talk Jesus ascertained that she believed he could heal her and said, "'O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish'" (Mt 15:28). "Her daughter was healed at once" (:28).

Both the centurion and Canaanite woman had "great faith." They were persistent and "strong in faith" (Ro 4:20). They believed and kept their focus. If you don't, then circumstances will undermine your confidence and your faith will be too small to get what you want (Mt 14:29-31). Peter "seeing the wind" (:30) lost focus. Thomas' focus was on seeing because he said "'Unless I see . . . I will not believe'" (Jn 20:25). When he did see, Jesus told him "'be not faithless, but believing'" (:27 KJV). Jesus said "see my hands . . . stop doubting and believe'" (:27 NIV). Not having faith and doubting are synonymous. That is why Jesus said, "'do not be unbelieving, but believing'" (:27 NASB).

Hear by Faith

"'Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved'" (Ro 10:13). "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?" (:14). Fortunately "faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (:17). The Greek term for "word" is "rhema" which means uttered by a living voice. The "word of God is quick" (Heb 4:12) which means it is alive. When God speaks, it is present tense having "been granted for Christ's sake" (Php 1:29) to "believe in Him" (:29). "Having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph 1:13).

Without knowing the truth you don't have faith to believe. It comes by "listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation" (Eph 1:13). It is "hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel" (Col 1:5). It has worked in you "since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth" (:6). It is "the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation" (:23). "You have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus" (Eph 4:21).

Mystery Revealed

"The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham" (Gal 3:8). "In Him we have redemption through His blood" (Eph 1:7). It is "the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations" (Col 1:26). The Apostle Paul was a steward "of the mysteries of God" (1Co 4:1). He said "we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory" (2:7). It was hidden and God had to reveal it. Paul said "He made known to us the mystery of His will" (Eph 1:9). He said it was "God's grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery" (3:3). "This grace was given . . . to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery" (:8-9). Paul said "when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ" (:4). We base our faith on God's revelation. It "was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit" (:5). Paul told the Galations "that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man" (Gal 1:11). He said "I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ" (:12). Furthermore Paul said it was "to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles" (:16).

Paul told the Colossians that "I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit" (Col 1:25). The mystery revealed is "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (:27). It is "God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2:2-3). Paul said "the mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church" (Eph 5:32). He prayed that "utterance may be given to me . . . to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel" (6:19). He also requested that "God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ" (Col 4:3).

Paul told the Galations "we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ" (Gal 2:16). Therefore "you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (3:26). Paul explained "'I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me'" (2:20). This is the mystery (Col 1:27). "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God" (Gal 2:20). We are "those who believe and are saved" (Heb 10:39 NIV).

Have Faith

God made man in the image and likeness of God (Ge 1:26). He "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (2:7). Hebrew for "breath" means breath, wind, or spirit. "God is spirit" (Jn 4:24) and he communicates with man. "That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them" (Ro 1:19). "God has allotted to each a measure of faith" (12:3). "'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart'" (10:8). It is "with the heart a person believes" (:10). It applies to "the hidden person of the heart" (1Pe 3:4) or "inner man" (Ro 7:22).

You have to pay attention to God. "Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse" (Ro 1:20). But "even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God" (:21). It's because "a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God" (1Co 2:14). It's an eternal decision. "'Fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell'" (Mt 10:28). Paul prayed that "may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete" (1Th 5:23).

"Those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (Jn 4:24). But spiritual things are foreign to the natural man "because they are spiritually appraised" (1Co 2:14). Therefore you must become a "new creature" (2Co 5:17). When that happens "old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (:17). You become a new person "inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit" (Ro 2:29). "'That which is born of the Spirit is spirit'" (Jn 3:6). Then "our inner man is being renewed day by day" (2Co 4:16).

Grow in Faith

"The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!'" (Lk 17:5). Jesus had been teaching them and apparently they felt that they didn't have the ability to carry out what had been taught. Jesus said they would need "'faith like a mustard seed'" (:6). One time they couldn't cast a demon out and Jesus said it was "'Because of the littleness of your faith'" (Mt 17:20). Jesus explained "'if you have faith the size of a mustard seed . . . nothing will be impossible to you'" (:20). Previously Jesus had taught that "'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed . . . [which] is smaller than all other seeds; but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants'" (Mt 13:31-32). Therefore your faith must grow "but God was causing the growth" (1Co 3:6). This demonstrates "your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (2:5).

Abraham "grew strong in faith" (Ro 4:20). He was "fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform" (:21). Abraham had confidence in God. Jesus said "'Have faith in God'" (Mk 11:22). "By grace you have been saved through faith" (Eph 2:8). It is by righteousness "which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith" (Php 3:9). It is based upon "the faith of the gospel" (1:27) and "the hope of the gospel" (Col 1:23) in which "you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast" (:23). Your faith grows as you mature and it is recognizable as when Paul "heard of your faith" (Col 1:4, Eph 1:15). The Colossians had been "built up in Him and established in . . . faith" (2:7). Paul rejoiced to see "the stability of your faith in Christ" (:5). It was Paul's responsibility to be with them "for your progress and joy in the faith" (Php 1:25). He was in the "sacrifice and service of your faith" (2:17). He stated that "your faith grows" (2Co 10:15). Faith grows when you are "striving together for the faith of the gospel" (Php 1:27).

Receive Faith

Abraham was "fully assured" (Ro 4:21) of what God had promised. He attained "the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery" (Col 2:2). How is knowledge received? Paul prayed for people asking "that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Col 1:9). He prayed that God would "give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him" (Eph 1:17). It is received by the spirit. Paul prayed that "the eyes of your heart may be enlightened" (:18). God "gave us the Spirit in our hearts" (2Co 1:22). He asked for them "to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph 3:16-17). When "increasing in the knowledge of God [you are] strengthened with all power" (Col 1:10). You learn "what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe" (Eph 1:19). You "abound still more and more in real knowledge and in all discernment" (Php 1:9) "increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col 1:10). In Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (2:3). The result is that you "put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him" (3:10). You begin "to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge . . . [and are] filled up to all the fullness of God" (Eph 3:19). You attain "the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man" (4:13). You endeavor to "know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death" (Php 3:10).

Believe in Heart

"With the heart a person believes" (Ro 10:10) which is the "inner man" (Eph 3:16). Man is composed of "spirit and soul and body" (1Th 5:23). "The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground" (Ge 2:7) which is the body. The brain is a physical organ and we make decisions with our intellect. But you "believe in your heart" (Ro 10:9) which is from another capacity. That source is from when God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Ge 2:7). Job said the "'Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life'" (Job 33:4). You could limit God's creation if you only considered Solomon saying "they all have the same breath" (Ecc 3:19) or Isaiah stating, "Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils" (Isa 2:22). But a distinction is made by Solomon saying, "Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth?" (Ecc 3:22). He says "man goes to his eternal home" (12:5) and "the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it" (:7). Zechariah states that it is the Lord who "forms the spirit of man within him" (Zec 12:1). He is the "Father of spirits" (Heb 12:9). Moses referred to the Lord as "the God of the spirits of all flesh" (Num 27:16). Jesus "became a life-giving spirit" (1Co 15:45) and "breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (Jn 20:22). Therefore be careful of an "unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God" (Heb 3:12).

Faith Presented

"Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Ro 10:17). Is the Old Testament less relevant than the New Covenant? When you consider that what happened to Israel was "written for our instruction" (1Co 10:11) it is applicable. We are no different than them. "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours" (Jas 5:17). They had to follow God themselves and God doesn't change (Mal 3:6). "They were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ" (1Co 10:4).

God led Israel "performing wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and in the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years" (Ac 7:36). "He led them with the cloud by day, and all the night with a light of fire" (Ps 78:14). The Lord said, "'Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth'" (Dt 4:10). Moses said, "'You, O Lord, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them'" (Nu 14:14). Later he said, "'Has anything been heard like it? Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived?'" (Dt 4:32-33). "'To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord, He is God; that there is no other besides Him'" (:35).

Therefore, when we read this we, too, can comprehend. It provides the faith we need. "'Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life'" (Dt 4:9).

Faith Demonstrated

Moses recounted saying, "'You were not willing to go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God'" (Dt 1:26). They "gathered together against" (Nu 14:35) and grumbled against (:27) God. They "turned back from following" (:43), did not listen to his voice (:22), and spurned (:11) God. "The Lord said to Moses,. . . 'How long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?'" (13:11). God said "'they are a people who err in their heart, and they do not know My ways'" (Ps 95:10). Moses said, "'You did not trust the Lord your God'" (Dt 1:32).

Joshua and Caleb were optimistic. Caleb said "'we will certainly overcome it'" (Nu 13:30) because "'the Lord is with us'" (14:9). He said that God "'will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes'" (Dt 1:30). God said, "'My servant Caleb . . . has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully'" (Nu 14:24). Caleb said "'do not fear'" (:9), but the people said, "'Our brethren have made our hearts melt'" (Dt 1:28). They did not know God "and said, 'Because the Lord hates us . . . [he will] deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us'" (:27). But Moses knew better saying, "'the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you'" (4:31).

Jesus encountered the same problem. The religious authorities observed, "'This man is performing many signs. If we let him go like this, all men will believe in Him'" (Jn 11:47-48). Jesus tried to deal with their unbelief saying, "'But if I do them, though you do not believe in Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father'" (10:38). "Though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him" (12:37). Jesus asked, "'When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?'" (Lk 18:8). Israel "failed to enter [the Promised Land] because of disobedience" (Heb 4:6). "The word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard" (:2). "They were not able to enter because of unbelief" (3:18). Therefore "let us hold fast our confession" (4:14) because "we who have believed enter that rest" (:3).

Faith in the Power of God

Faith has different applications. Christians believe in "the" faith which is professing "by" faith what Christ accomplished on the cross through "having" faith in the power of God who brought it to pass. It is because of faith that God "has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light" (Col 1:12). It motivated Paul to "press on toward the upward call of God" (Php 3:14). It is an upward direction because God "raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:6). This is "at His right hand in the heavenly places" (1:20). We are "buried with him in baptism and raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead" (Col 2:12). "As He is, so are we in this world" (1Jn 4:17). Jesus said, "'They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world'" (Jn 17:14). "Our citizenship is in heaven" (Php 3:20). But if heaven and earth are mutually exclusive then how can you be in two places at once? You have a heavenly "position" while in an earthly existence. However, the latter can be upgraded. It is Christ "who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to himself" (:21).

"To the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it" (Dt 10:14). "It pleased the Father . . . to reconcile all things to himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven" (Col 1:19). His purpose is "the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth" (Eph 1:10). It is "the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name" (Eph 3:15). "God highly exalted Him" (Php 2:9) "far above the heavens . . . to fill all things" (Eph 4:10) "so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth" (Php 2:10). You have a position in heaven even though you live on earth. God "has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph 1:3). There is even the responsibility to disseminate "the manifold wisdom of God . . . through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places" (3:10). But you must "put on the full armor of God . . . [because] our struggle is . . . against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (6:12). Take up "the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one" (:16). Therefore, since "you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on things on the earth" (Col 3:1-2).

Faith is Optimistic

An idiom is an expression whose meaning cannot be derived from its words. "Pie in the sky" is such a phrase. You know what it means only from experiences having heard it used in certain contexts. It means that an idea or plan is so unrealistic or impractical that it will never materialize. It is an empty promise or impossible dream. Such a person has his "head in the clouds" meaning that he is a dreamer and out of touch with reality. The empty wish is "pie in the sky" meaning that it won't come to pass. There's a phrase criticizing a religious idealist who is "so heavenly preoccupied that he's no earthly good." In 1911 a labor organizer named Joe Hill wrote the phrase about pie in a song criticizing the Salvation Army song "In the Sweet Bye and Bye." He was critical of preaching which contained promises of future rewards but did little to alleviate suffering in this life. He wrote, "You'll get pie in the sky when you die." But "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb 11:1). It is not false hope as in the idiom above. But there is a caveat. Proverbs 13:12 says "hope deferred makes the heart sick." When you become depressed it's possible to lose faith if your expectation vanishes. Nonetheless, "'Though He slay me, I will hope in Him'" (Job 13:15). Don't assume you must accomplish something unilaterally as Israel "presumed to go up to the hill country" (Nu 14:44) and their enemies defeated them. Sari assumed that "the Lord has prevented me from bearing children" (Ge 16:6) and it resulted in Ishmael being born (:15). At the right time the Lord said "Sarah your wife shall have a son" (18:10) even though she was "past childbearing" (:11). Therefore cast "all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you" (1Pe 5:7). Moses' solution is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul . . . [and] follow the Lord your God and fear Him . . . [and] listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him" (Dt 13:3-4). It is "'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts" (Zec 4:6).

Faith Inherits

When you inherit something it is passed down from an ancestor and you have legal right to possess it. Terah took his family from Ur "to enter the land of Canaan" (Ge 11:31). After he died "the Lord said to Abram, 'Go forth from your country . . . to the land which I will show you'" (12:1). He also said, "'I will make you a great nation'" (:2). "By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance" (Heb 11:8). Then he was told, "'Your reward will be very great'" (Ge 15:1). But he didn't see how it was possible because his only heir was his head servant (:2). God replied, "'One who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir'" (:4). Then God directed him, "'Count the stars, if you are able to count them . . . so shall your descendents be'" (5). Consequently Abram "believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness" (:6). "God has granted [the inheritance] to Abraham by means of a promise" (Gal 3:18). God said "'I have made you the father of a multitude of nations'" (Ge 17:5) which took the form of a covenant. God said, "'This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male shall be circumcised'" (:10). It was a "sign of the covenant" (:11), and without it, a person "'has broken My covenant'" (:14). God then said, "'I will give you and your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God'" (:8).

In order to accomplish this it would have to be a miracle, but that would prove that only God could do it. When the "Lord appeared to Abram" (Ge 17:1) he said, "'Indeed I will give you a son by her . . . and she shall be a mother of nations'" (:16). "By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive . . . since she considered Him faithful who had promised" (Heb 11:11). God told Abram, "'You shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him'" (Ge 17:19). Furthermore, God said, "'I have chosen him . . . in order that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him'" (18:19). They sang, "'Thou wilt bring them and plant them in the mountain of Thine inheritance, . . . Thy dwelling'" (Ex 15:17). This was Mount Zion in the Promised Land where the temple was later built. Joshua was told by Moses, "'Go with this people into the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance'" (Dt 31:7).

Your Inheritance

In the garden God told the serpent that Eve's seed would bruise him on the head, and his would bruise hers on the heel (Ge 3:15). This was what the future had in store. He also foretold to Abram that his descendants would be "'strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years'" (15:13). Through God's planning and action "we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will" (Eph 1:11). God brought Israel "'out of Egypt with a mighty hand'" (Dt 9:26). He told Israel, "'I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and . . . redeem you with an outstretched arm'" (Ex 6:6). "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us" (Gal 3:13). Moses prayed, "Do not destroy your people, even Your inheritance, whom You have redeemed through Your greatness'" (Dt 9:26). God had adopted Israel. "'They are Your people, even Your inheritance'" (:29). "'The Lord's portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance'" (32:9).

God's plan began long ago since "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4). "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham" (Gal 3:8). This understanding "in other generations was not made known to the sons of men" (Eph 3:5). "For ages [it] has been hidden in God who created all things" (:9). "He predestined us . . . according to the kind intention of His will" (1:5) and made it "known to us . . . according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him" (:9). It is the "manifold wisdom of God . . . in accordance with the eternal purpose" (3:10-11). It is an all-encompassing plan. It is a "view to the redemption of God's own possession" (1:14) "to bring to light what is the administration" (3:9) "suitable to the fullness of the times" (1:10). "Since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions . . . those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance" (Heb 9:15). God has "qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints" (Col 1:12). It is an "inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Eph 5:5). "The reward of the inheritance . . . is the Lord Christ whom you serve" (Col 3:24). This conforms with God telling Abraham, "'I am thy exceeding great reward'" (Ge 15:1 KJV). It results in "that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:7).

Survive by Faith

I grew up when there was constant fear of a nuclear war with Russia. It was believed that godless propaganda produced people who became antagonistic to our way of life. Is it possible to program the mind of someone so they become a particular kind of person? "As he thinks within himself, so he is" (Pr 23:7). You might call it a mind set. In this sense you could expect retaliation to threats because it's "survival of the fittest." But with Christians it is "with the heart a person believes" (Ro 10:10). The Bible often uses the heart as a metaphor for the spirit. You are "renewed in the spirit of your mind" (Eph 4:23). You should "'love your neighbor as yourself'" (Lev 19:18). We "live by his faith" (Hab 2:4) because "we walk by faith" (2Co 5:7). "By faith Sarah . . . considered Him faithful who had promised" (Heb 11:11). "By faith [Moses] . . . endured, as seeing Him who is unseen" (:27). Others had a longer time horizon and "these people died in faith, without receiving the promises" (:13) but they "saw them from a distance" (:13 NIV). However, "God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect" (:40 NIV).

Christ said "'you will be hated by all nations because of My name" (Mt 24:9). He also said "'an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God'" (Jn 16:2). Some were tortured . . . , experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment . . ., stoned . . . [and] were put to death with the sword" (Heb 11:35-37). It is because "the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God" (Ro 8:7). That is why Jesus said "'I did not come to bring peace, but a sword'" (Mt 10:34). But there should be a point of commonality. However, as citizens of the same country even Republicans and Democrats violently disagree. People in the same geographic region start wars of ethnic cleansing. "'Nation will rise against nation'" (24:7). It will "wear down the saints" (Da 7:25) "but the people who know their God will display strength and take action" (11:32). They "by faith conquered kingdoms . . . and obtained promises" (Heb 11:33). They "escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, [and] became mighty in war" (:34). They all "gained approval through their faith" (:39) and "God is not ashamed to be called their God" (:16).

Overcome by Faith

In the New Testament "He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father" (Rev 1:6). In the Old Testament the priests "shall be clothed with linen garments; and wool shall not be on them while they are ministering . . . [because] they shall not gird themselves with anything which makes them sweat" (Eze 44:17-18). In Christianity doing anything that produces sweat is considered doing it "in your own strength." One of Christianity's basic tenets is that "by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph 2:8). But even though faith is from God it must be exercised. Jude said he "felt the necessity to write you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 3). "'From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force" (Mt 11:12). It sounds like exercising faith is hard. It is "tested by fire" (1Pe 1:7) and "the testing of your faith produces endurance" (Jas 1:3). "Whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith" (1Jn 5:4). On an individual level "the faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God" (Ro 14:22). "God has allotted to each a measure of faith" (12:3). "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith" (2Co 13:5). But if you doubt yourself then your "eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin" (14:23). Your relationship with God is strengthened when you exercise faith. Nehemiah was the kin's cupbearer. One day the king asked why he was so sad. Nehemiah told him the truth and the king asked how he could help. Then Nehemiah's rapport with God was demonstrated when, on the spot, he "prayed to the God of heaven" (Neh 2:4). God's answer was instantaneous and Nehemiah requested to be sent to Judah to rebuild the city (:5). On a group level God gives various workers "for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith" (Eph 4:12-13). Paul told them they should be "standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel" (Php 1:27). "'He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne'" (Rev 3:21).