February 9, 2023
Dear friends, in the last month of 2022, I had the opportunity to serve in a church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
There are three passages in the Bible that may puzzle the believer: “So we see that they could not enter because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:19). “Now I want to remind you, though you already know, that the Lord saved the people out of the land of Egypt and afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” (Jude 1:5). “Now, brothers, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which you have received, and in which you stand. Through it you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached to you, unless you have believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).
It may seem strange that all three texts speak about and are addressed to the children of God. How did it happen that they were witnesses of the glory of God in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night, heard the voice of God with their own ears and saw the hand of the Lord leading them through the wilderness, and did not believe? Can there be no faith in all this? Surely there must have been faith. But why then did they die and could not enter the Promised Land because of unbelief? Doesn’t that sound like a contradiction? And then, how can a person believe in vain as the Apostle Paul says? Doesn’t one exclude the other?
The fact is that the Lord looks at the concept of faith in a completely different way than we do as human beings. The answer lies in a well-known verse of Scripture: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). The NLT version puts it this way: “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for …” In other words faith is the realization of things we hope for. It becomes our reality, not just a religious belief or some form of self-hypnosis or self-suggestion. The most neglected word in the biblical definition of “faith” is “substance” or “reality”, “realization”. In other words, is it a living faith? And if so, how does it reveal itself in our lives?
James writes: “What does it profit, my brothers, if a man says he has faith but has no works? Can such faith save him? … So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But a man may say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God; you do well. The demons also believe and tremble. But do you want to be shown, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? … Do you see how faith worked with his (Abraham’s) works, and by works faith was made perfect? You see then how by works a man is justified, and not by faith only … As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.” (James 2:14, 17-20, 22, 24, 26).
James understood what true faith means – that which works with deeds. What does it mean? This means that if I really believed in the Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, then I not only accept Him as a certain historical figure, but also everything that relates to Him, what He spoke and taught. My heart is permeated with His life, which is evidently reflected in mine through thoughts, words, works, actions, behavior because it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. Christ became my life. Now life and death are all in Christ and through Him and by Him. This is my nature, essence, heart, into which love has been poured out by His Spirit. Now I don’t have to do something, but I want to, because I became a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
Dear brother and sister, how about my life and yours? Is your faith living or dead? Interestingly, when addressing the seven churches in the book of Revelation, Jesus begins with the same words: “I know your works.” Why not your faith or your love? Because genuine faith and love manifest themselves in works. “My little children, let us love not in word and speech, but in action (deed, practice) and truth.” (1 John 3:18).
May our Lord leave us with these precious words to meditate on: “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:26)
God bless you!
Max Volkov in Christ