The amount of confusion that exists today within the church concerning the walk of faith is overwhelming. People seem to be confounded on this issue from start to finish—from understanding that faith alone saves to understanding that the Christian life is to be a life of continual trust in God and His Word. When considering the discipline of faith in this article, we are focusing our attention not on “saving faith” but on the “walk of faith” as a Christian. In other words, we are addressing our need as Christians who have already been justified by faith to be disciplined in living a life that is marked by continual trust in the person and Word of God every single day. This is the believer’s exhortation in Hebrews 11, the great “faith chapter” of the Bible. Those who are mentioned in this chapter were all men and women who trusted in the promises and Word of God, and they are commended for their walk of faith even though, at times, they stumbled along the path of life. Their walk of faith—or occasional lack of faith—did not affect their salvation (their standing before God), but it certainly impacted their fellowship with Him and His blessing on their life.
Defining a Walk of Faith
Dr. C. I. Scofield defined faith as follows: “The essence of faith consists in believing and receiving what God has revealed.” Faith begins with possessing a knowledge of God’s Word—an understanding of who God is (His person) and what He has declared to be true (His promises). Hebrews 11:1 describes faith as “substance” and “evidence,” and Hebrews 11:3 highlights this fact. When we live and walk by faith, we believe God acted—and continues to act—based upon what He has revealed to us in the Scriptures. Thus, His Word, the Bible, is the foundation for our view of life—our belief and our behavior. Think about this for a moment: We know who God is through His Word; we know what God has promised us through His Word; we know what God desires of us through His Word; we know what is truth and what is error through His Word. Without His divine special revelation to us—the Holy Scriptures—it would be impossible to live by faith. Many people today have the idea that faith is simply a “leap into the dark.” Nothing could be further from the truth! Faith is based on the solid foundation of what God has revealed through His Word to us; it is “substance” and “evidence.”
Faith, then, becomes validated in our life as we take God at His Word (Heb. 11:13). How do we do this?
First, we discipline ourselves to possess an attitude of trust and reliance. In the day and age in which we live, this is not easy. We are continually pressured to believe in everything but the Creator-God. We are encouraged to trust in ourselves, to trust in the “intellectuals,” to trust in the “experts,” to trust in the government, or to trust in anything other than the person, work, and Word of God. Yet the discipline of faith begins with an attitude of trust in God above anything or anyone else. Notice in Hebrews 11:13 the words “were persuaded” and “embraced.” Those men and women mentioned in Hebrews 11 were humans like us who still sinned and fell short of God’s will at times, but in these verses the Lord commends them for their attitude of trust and reliance on Him. These believers sinned, just as we do, and yet they continued to live and walk by faith because they knew God’s Word and trusted in the God who gave this Word.
Second, we not only possess an attitude of trust and reliance, but we actually exhibit behavior that reflects a knowledge and trust of God, despite life’s circumstances. Notice the word “confessed” in Hebrews 11:13. To “confess” means to “see things as God sees them; to acknowledge God’s estimation.” These believers listed in chapter eleven saw life through God’s eyes rather than through their own warped and sinful viewpoint, and they made decisions accordingly. Again, they did not always live by faith or make the right decisions, but, in general, they trusted God and His Word and walked accordingly.
Why Should We Discipline Ourselves to Walk by Faith?
Our relationship with God became a reality when we trusted in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone for our eternal well-being. Clearly, faith plays a vital role in our positional standing before God. The apostle Paul declares that we are justified (declared righteous) by faith (Rom. 5:1). In addition, we are eternally secure due to the work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. So why should the discipline of faith be a vital part of our daily life and walk with God? In other words, why do we need to continue to live by faith? Let us consider two reasons.
First, God’s Word tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Impossible! As Christians, should we not desire to please and bring glory to the very One who paid so great a price for our eternal salvation? Of course, our ability to please God begins with the new birth—the moment we trusted in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. But if we are to enjoy fellowship with God and please Him, we must continue to walk by faith as Christians. It is very possible for us to grieve the indwelling Holy Spirit of God by failing to exercise faith and daily walk by faith (Eph. 4:30). Why is a lack of faith (unbelief) so detrimental to our Christian life? We cannot please, honor, or glorify our Creator and Redeemer without actually trusting His Word and acting accordingly. Unbelief is telling God we know better than He does—if we refuse to believe God, then we are placing our trust in something or someone we esteem to be more knowledgeable than the Creator of the universe. Unbelief is telling God we are wiser than Him—we are actually standing in judgment of God rather than allowing Him to judge His own creation. Unbelief is telling God we will do just fine without Him—we will find satisfaction in life apart from what He requires of us. Unbelief is, in essence, idolatry of self—something characteristic of the world and the age in which we live. When we fail to believe God, we think that we know better, and this attitude is truly self-idolatry. Interestingly, the Bible tells us that the last days will be marked by those in the church who, just like unbelievers in the world, are completely enamored with themselves and idolize themselves (2 Tim. 3:1-5). They will only listen to religious leaders who tell them what they want to hear in order to gratify their own desires (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
The second reason why we, as believers, need to continue living by faith is because without a walk of faith, the Christian life becomes difficult and miserable. We will not enter into the “rest” God desires for us. Please read Hebrews 3:12-4:2, for these verses implore the Hebrew Christians to refrain from sliding back into legalistic Judaism but, rather, to press forward in their walk with God by faith in order to enter into God’s rest. Hebrews 3:12 reveals that when we do not live by faith, we are actually “departing” from fellowship with God. Remember—this is written to Christians (“brethren”). It is very possible for believers to break fellowship (not relationship) with God due to a failure to exercise faith in the promises of God, and this broken fellowship results in a lack of peace and rest. When we do not live by faith, we are self-deceived due to sin (Heb. 3:13b). We often think we can “figure it all out” on our own and live according to our own ideas, feelings, or emotions, but to live this way is to be deluded. In fact, when we do not daily live by faith, we become more tolerant toward sin and hardened by it. We begin to rationalize our behavior and devise excuses for our sinful attitudes and actions. This only leads to a lack of peace and rest in life because we are choosing to believe and live according to the standard of the world around us—a standard not only that is anti-God but that continually fluctuates with the whims and flow of the culture. This can never bring true, lasting peace and satisfaction in life. Rather, it pulls us away from fellowship with the very One who loves us and knows what is best for us. The world may offer what seems to be pleasure and satisfaction, but it is empty and worthless in the long run. We need to beware of failing to live and walk by faith lest we become self-deceived by sin and therefore more tolerant of it and hardened by it. The Bible warns us not to become “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13b), which leads to misery and bitterness that affects not only us but also those around us (Heb. 12:15). A walk by faith, on the other hand, enables continued fellowship with God and a peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7).
Why Trust God’s Word and His Promises?
Why should we discipline ourselves to live and walk by faith? The answer is simple: because we have a strong and true foundation for our faith. Unlike the fallible ideas and opinions of men that fluctuate from day to day, the truth stands firm for all the ages. The object of our faith is of utmost importance. Everyone is exercising faith in something or someone for his or her eternal well-being. Most people today are trusting in their own feelings, ideas, or experiences. Many are trusting in the words of another fallible person. Others are trusting in whatever seems reasonable or logical to them. Yet as Christians, we are trusting in the Creator and Redeemer who has revealed Himself to us through His Holy Word. If we have trusted the person and work of Jesus Christ for our salvation, should we not also trust Him in all things, at all times? God’s Word makes it abundantly clear why we should exercise faith in our Creator-God at all times. What does Scripture tell us about the strong foundation of our faith? It reveals several important truths in which we should rest.
First, it reveals that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Num. 23:19). He not only tells the truth, He is truth! It is impossible for any error to come from the mind or mouth of God. Everything that God says is true and will come to pass according to His time. We may become discouraged because God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. In fact, His timing is not our timing (2 Pet. 3:8). Therefore, we sometimes doubt because God does not act according to our own wishes or our timetable. Yet God is true, and He cannot lie.
Second, Scripture reveals that God’s record concerning His Word and His promises is perfect. Prior to his death, Joshua reminded the Israelites of this fact when he said, “Ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof” (Josh. 23:14). Everything God has declared is true. We do not need to worry about any inaccuracies in the Bible. Because God cannot lie, His Word is perfect and totally sufficient to equip us to every good work (2 Tim. 3:15-17). The accuracy of Scripture is rooted in the character of God who “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2).
Third, God is completely able to do whatever He has said (Rom. 4:21). As the almighty Creator and Redeemer, He alone is able and strong enough to fulfill all that He has promised. Although man is weak and unable to always keep his word, God is omnipotent (all-powerful) and cannot fail.
This leads us to our fourth reason to trust God and His promises: God is completely faithful to His Word (2 Cor. 1:20; Heb. 11:11)—He is faithful to fulfill all that He has promised. Many of His promises have already been fulfilled, and, just as certain, He will fulfill in the present and the future everything He has declared.
Finally, we must understand that because God is the One who made us, He knows us best and knows what is best for us. As fallible human beings, we often think we know what we need, but God truly knows what we need and what is best for us as His children. He has given to us “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). Our responsibility is simply to exercise faith in Him—to trust Him—and live accordingly for our good and His glory.
How Do We Discipline Ourselves to Walk by Faith?
Please read Hebrews 12:1-3. The word “wherefore” in verse one is important, for it links the previous chapter with the truths addressed in this text. The author of Hebrews had just spent forty verses highlighting the importance of faith and the many examples of men and women who walked by faith. Now, in chapter twelve, he uses the analogy of a runner when addressing the spiritual discipline of faith. We, like those believers in chapter eleven, are to “run with patience the race that is set before us,” and this certainly requires discipline and diligent persistence. How, exactly, do we discipline ourselves to walk by faith each day?
1. We Must Take the Time to Know God and His Word
First, the discipline of faith begins with knowing God and His Word. Living by faith is not a blind leap. On the contrary, it is predicated upon understanding the object of our faith. Even those who reject God and His Word are living by faith—they are basing their rejection on their own mind, their own understanding, their own standard, their own interpretation of life. In order to walk by faith, believers must know God’s Word. The basis for following the examples of those who have gone before (as described in Hebrews 11) is to know the truth of their stories found in Scripture (Heb. 12:1a). Beyond that, we must know the content of “the faith” and the promises of God to us. This comes only through the study of His Word.
Second, we can exercise the discipline of faith by getting to know the Lord better throughout our life. The author of Hebrews exhorts us to look unto Jesus (Heb. 12:2a) and “consider Him” (Heb. 12:3). We will not walk by faith unless we know the One who serves as the focal point and foundation of our faith, and the more we get to know Him, the more we will trust Him as we walk daily with Him. Once again, remember that faith is not “blind.” Rather, it is based upon a person—Jesus Christ—and His Word.
2. We Must Choose to Trust God and His Word
We exercise the discipline of faith not only by knowing God and His Word but also by making a conscientious effort to choose to trust God—it entails an act of our will. Notice that the author of Hebrews continually uses imperative language; that is, he issues commands or exhortations to do something (“lay aside,” “consider”). We can conscientiously choose to do it or not. Every day we make choices and decisions. If God is foremost in our heart and mind, if He is our priority, and if He is the one we aim to glorify as we yield to the indwelling Holy Spirit, then we will take the course of action in life that coincides with His will and Word. Notice, again, Hebrews 4:2, for here we find that God’s Word did not profit the Israelites in the wilderness because they chose not to believe Him! They were the problem, not God!
3. We Must Deliberately “Lay Aside” Weights and Sins
If we are to live and walk by faith, we must “lay aside” anything that diverts our focus from God—the object of our faith (Heb. 12:1). The author of Hebrews places those things we must “lay aside” into two categories: weights and sins. Again, consider the analogy of a runner in a race. In order to run effectively, the disciplined runner must not become encumbered with anything that would slow him or her down.
First, we must “lay aside” any weights that are keeping us from moving forward in the Christian life with our eyes of faith set upon the prize. Some beliefs or behaviors may not be inherently wrong or sinful, but if they tend to weigh us down from running the race effectively, we must lay them aside. For example, people or relationships can be a weight (see Gal. 5:7-9); hobbies or interests can become a weight if we spend our time engaging in them at the expense of our spiritual well-being; even beliefs or personal passions—such as politics or social issues—can become a weight if they keep us from remaining focused on God’s will for the believer in this age.
Second, we must “lay aside” sins that tend to “easily beset” us. The author of Hebrews is painting the picture of a runner becoming ensnared or tangled up by something clinging to him or her. These sins can entail particular beliefs (false doctrine); these sins can stem from our own pride or laziness; these sins can entail wicked passions such as lust, covetousness, or idolatry. Ultimately, any belief or behavior—lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, pride of life—that is contrary to the person or Word of God is sin that must be confessed and forsaken. Sadly, sin often easily entangles us and keeps us from running as we should. Thus, we must fervently discipline ourselves to “lay aside” and forsake weights and sins.
4. We Must Continually Look Backward and Forward
In order to live the Christian life in the present, we must understand that who we are as believers is rooted in the past. A “backward look” is a vital part of learning to discipline ourselves to walk by faith. This “backward look” is not a focus on ourselves or our past but on what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on Calvary’s cross. Thus, a disciplined life entails a continual backward gaze at what Jesus has done for us and a constant attitude of thankfulness for our great Savior and our great salvation. Jesus is the “Author” of our faith, and we must always look back to the cross. When we consider Him and focus on what He has done for us, we will be motivated to trust Him continually. If we trusted Him for our eternal well-being, we should certainly trust Him in our daily walk. In addition, we can also look back and see how God has worked things together for good in our life even though we could not see it at the time. A recognition of this fact will lead to continual thankfulness that keeps us focused and disciplined to live by faith even though we might not understand our circumstances in the present.
Not only must we look backward to the cross, but we also must look forward and gain a glimpse of the reward that awaits the faithful believer. Jesus is both the “Author” of our faith (the backward look) as well as the “Finisher” of our faith (the forward look). He will be faithful to see us through to the end even though we are not always faithful to Him. The apostle Paul tells us that while we are not yet “glorified” in the physical sense, our glorification is as good as done (Rom. 8:30)! We need to recognize this fact and live each day walking by faith, realizing that awards await the steadfast believer. Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, for this text highlights the importance of discipline in relation to being found faithful in the end.
The time God has given us on earth right now is all the time we have to prove ourselves faithful to Him. The Lord commended those men and women recorded in Hebrews 11 because they used their time for His glory even though within their lifetime they never tangibly received what the Lord had promised (Heb. 11:13, 39). They were not perfect (and neither are we), yet their lives were marked by trust in the promises of God. Because the very object of our trust—the person and Word of God—is true, our faith is “substance” and “evidence” (Heb. 11:1), for it rests upon a sure foundation (1 Cor. 3:11). May we discipline ourselves to walk by faith every day!
— By Pastor Matt Costella. Reproduced from Foundation magazine, Issue 1, 2022.