By Jerry Harris
When I came to The Crossing in Quincy, Illinois, 25 years ago, I fashioned a mission statement of helping people find “an intimate personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” The thought that a real relationship with Jesus was even possible was a game changer for many in our church and community, and it shaped our impact on the world around us. If I understand that the “what” of my faith is defined in my relationship to Jesus, and if a relationship is what I want, then the next logical step is the “how.”
I think the “how” of faith begins with the conviction of personal surrender. A faithful person is one who is convicted to personally surrender their will to Jesus. We tend to quantify faith using statements like, “I wish I had more faith.” But it’s not really about having more faith so much as having more Jesus.
It’s not about how much faith you have but who your faith is in.
We all have a similar amount of faith, but we distribute it differently. Is our faith in ourselves, others around us, worldly things, or God? We grow our faith by taking that faith out of the bank of ourselves and putting it in the bank of God. So, more Jesus means more faith.
Faith not only is a conviction of personal surrender, but it also should be evidenced by changed conduct that is inspired by that surrender. My relationship with Jesus will affect my conduct. If it doesn’t, then my relationship isn’t real.
Hebrews 11 offers illustrations of how our convictions change our conduct. Faith gives us the proper understanding of creation. Abel tapped into faith to offer a proper sacrifice to God. Enoch’s conduct was so pleasing to God that he was spared from death. Noah’s conduct was to build an ark at God’s command. Abram’s conduct was to leave home because of his conviction of personal surrender. God worked through Abraham’s faith to give him a son even though his wife was beyond the age of childbearing; then later, Abraham displayed his faith in his willingness to offer that same son as a sacrifice back to God.
By faith, followers of God blessed others, spoke and instructed, and defied ungodly authority. By faith, Moses refused the life of a prince of Egypt. By faith, God’s children applied blood to their doorframes and passed through the Red Sea. By faith, they marched around Jericho. By faith, Rahab forsook her pagan ways for a better way. These heroes serve as models for our faith today. The strength of our conviction is seen through our conduct.
If we continue through Hebrews 11, we find that the conduct of our faith is not based on a perceived outcome. Many of the “ancients” (v. 2) mentioned in these verses endured hardship and death because of how their convictions spoke through their conduct. We even learn there is a greater blessing associated with a faith that holds fast in spite of the circumstances or the outcome. The writer exclaimed, “The world was not worthy of them” (v. 38), describing those who endured such difficulty. That is much greater praise than “well done good and faithful servant.”
But to behold Jesus is to see a perfect picture of faith. And as powerful as these examples of the past are, they fall short of what we experience on this side of the cross. Only after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection was access granted into the deeper relationship that comes through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. What could be seen only from a distance before that first Easter can now be experienced as never before.
Ultimately, faith is a response. It’s always God who initiates. We love him because he first loved us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He was always there first. Grace came first. Our faith—as imperfect, fragile, and inconsistent as it is—opens the floodgate of a grace that can carry us all the way to and through the gates of heaven. Our faith will someday become obsolete and be replaced with sight. But until then, it will be the substance of all we hope for and the evidence for all we cannot see.
The cloud of witnesses cheer us on! A racecourse has been marked out, one that requires endurance and perseverance. Heavy burdens and entanglements of sin will hinder us and potentially disqualify us, but if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, an imperfect faith in a much greater grace will get us home.