Experiencing the Power of Faith
Heaven’s hall of fame has a place for you.
For the past 25 years researchers have been examining the relationship between faith and religious belief more closely. Faith makes a positive difference in our physical, mental, and emotional health. Although the research is continuing and we do not have all the answers, we know enough to know that faith matters. Well-known universities, national public health research institutions, and privately funded health organizations are all coming to similar conclusions. A strong belief system can be a foundation for improved health.
Here are two specific examples of what a dose of spirituality can do for you:
A survey conducted in California revealed that worshippers who participate in church-sponsored activities are markedly less stressed over finances, health, and other daily concerns than nonspiritual types. Other studies have shown that spirituality contributes to reduce suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, criminal and divorce rates. According to a Columbia University study, women with pious moms are 60 percent less likely to be depressed in 10 years than women whose mothers aren’t so reverent. Another study has shown that daughters belonging to the same religious denomination as their mothers are even less likely (71 percent) to suffer the blues; sons were 84 percent less likely.1 So as a result of these and many other similar studies, scientists are coming to the conclusion that a strong belief system can be a foundation for improved health.
Faith Makes a Difference
Let’s explore genuine biblical faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).2 Faith looks forward, since it is the “substance of things hoped for.” The word translated “substance” means “foundation” in the original language, which indicates that faith is the very foundationof our lives. But faith also looks up because it is the “evidence of things not seen.”
Faith is the assurance that ultimately God will fulfill all our dreams. Faith believesGod will strengthen us to triumph over every difficulty and overcome every obstacle until the day when we receive our final reward in His eternal kingdom.
Ellen White clarifies the nature of biblical faith: “Faith is trusting God—believing that He loves us and knows best what is for our good.” 3 Thus, faith energizes our entire being and encourages our hearts. Faith renews our hope. Faith lifts our vision from what is to what can be. Faith believes God’s promises and receives God’s gifts before they are realized. Faith is healing.
Heaven’s Hall of Fame
This is the kind of faith that enabled the heroes of the Old Testament to face all sorts of challenging circumstances and remain loyal to God. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and the other heroes of Hebrews 11 had one thing in common— faith—a faith that sustained and supported them throughout their lives.
Hebrews 11 lists the heroes of faith down through the ages. Their names hang high in heaven’s “hall of fame.”
Surprisingly, the first example of faith is a person who dies. There is no miraculous deliverance here: “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks” (verse 4). Scripture tells us that Abel was a righteous man, yet his faith got him killed.If he didn’t have faith, he would have lived. Cain did not have faith, and he lived. Abel had faith, and he died. This may seem strange to people who have a mistaken understanding of genuine faith. Faith does not always result in a Hollywood ending, but true faith hangs on.
Let’s consider Enoch, the next in this royal line of faith:“By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (verse 5). If Enoch didn’t have faith, he would have died. Enoch has faith and he lives, but Abel has the same quality of faith and he dies. Throughout Hebrews 11 each of these worthies of faith teaches us how to trust God. Enoch trusts Him in life, and Abel trusts Him in death.
Note the contrast between Noah and Abraham. “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household” (verse 7). Noah’s faith led him to do just what God said even though to the majority of people in his day it must have seemed ridiculous. Noah obediently followed God’s instructions. He trusted God. For 120 years he kept building an ark in spite of the fact that there was no rain. Now, that’s faith.
Abraham’s experience is just the opposite: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going”(verse 8). Abraham’s faith led him to leave the security of his homeland and venture out into the unknown.
What contrasts! Abel died by faith, and Enoch survived by faith. Noah stayed by faith, and Abraham ventured out by faith. And the contrasts continue throughout the chapter.
Sarah conceived a child by faith when she was 90 years old. Years later Abraham took the child, Isaac, to Mount Moriah at God’s command to sacrifice him. God honored Abraham’s faith and delivered the child. The same God who asked these parents to believe He would give them a child asked them to believe when He commanded them to sacrifice the child.
Faith is not telling God what I want, believing He will give it to me. Faith is an abiding trust in God regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We may be facing a life-threatening illness or enjoying good health. We may be perfectly content in our home or facing a move and dreading it. We may be prospering financially or struggling to pay the mortgage. We may be enjoying a great marriage, or the relationship may be strained. We may feel very close to God, or we may feel distant from Him. Faith is not dependent on our feelings or our circumstances (Hab. 3:17-19).
Each of the worthies of faith in Hebrews 11 had one common thread running through their lives: They trusted God.
Increasing Our Faith
What do you do when your faith is weak? Listen to Romans 12:3: “As God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” When we make a conscious choice to reach out to this all-loving, all-powerful God and trust Him, He places within our hearts a measure of faith. Thus, faith is a gift God gives us. The more we exercise that gift, the more it grows. Faith grows as we learn to trust God in the trials and challenges we face in life. There are times in our lives when faith grows in the most difficult circumstances. Sometimes moments of greatest desperation are moments of greatest faith.
Our faith also grows as we meditate upon God’s Word. As the truths of the Bible fill our minds, our faith grows. Scriptures affirm this divine reality: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). The more we fill our minds with God’s Word, the more our faith will increase.
Trust in God energizes our entire being. It strengthens us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Even in times of a life-threatening illness, our faith soars above what is to what will be. We grasp the “blessed hope” and rejoice in the glory of Christ’s return when sickness will be abolished forever.
Until that day we live by faith in Jesus, the one who is the true source of all healing.
- In Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1997.
- Texts in this article are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903), p. 253.