Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 4:13-25 in the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). Note 1-3 insights or questions.
Reflect: The story is told of a preacher who claimed that a man strung a cable across Niagara Falls and then walked over and back across that giant chasm of rushing water on the cable, pushing an empty wheelbarrow. A crowd gathered on the shore to watch this dangerous feat, and the daredevil addressed the crowd by asking if they thought he could do it again. One man said, “Yes, I think you can.” “Then get into my wheelbarrow,” said the tightrope walker. “Not on your life,” said the man! Then comes the moral of the story. “You see,” said the preacher, “He believed the man could do it, but he didn’t have faith.”
Faith may be one of the best known “religious” words in our vocabulary, but it has been used so many times, in so many different contexts, with so many different designations that it has almost lost its meaning. Perhaps we need to define our terms.
What do you think when you read each of these statements?
I have faith in my wife (or husband).
I have faith in my brain surgeon.
I have faith in this bridge.
Are any of these based on solid evidence? Do some of them seem to reflect feelings, wishes, or emotions? Are some, perhaps, based on mathematical probabilities?
What about these statements? Are they the same, or are they different? If they’re different, how so?
I have faith in Jesus.
I believe in Jesus.
I trust Jesus.
Could we compare those statements to these?
I have faith in this bridge.
I believe in my physician.
I trust my dentist.
Unfortunately, neither an English thesaurus nor a biblical Greek dictionary does much to help us. The words faith, trust, and belief are interchangeable in both languages. So, the critical question the jailer in Philippi asked, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30-31), can legitimately be answered,
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” (King James Version)
“Have faith in the Lord Jesus . . .” (Contemporary English Version)
“Put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ . . .” (New Life Version)
But if each of these terms suggests a different requirement of us, what, indeed, must we do to be saved?
Recalibrate: Do the words faith, trust, and belief mean different things to you? If so, does that complicate your understanding of what God desires from you?
Respond: Search your heart. How would you grade your level of trust in God? How can you?
Research: Look up the words faith, trust, and belief in a dictionary or a thesaurus and see if you can find any significant or subtle differences in their meanings.
Remember: “So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift . . .” (Romans 4:16, NLT).
Dr. Mark Johnson is executive director of the public health department in Jefferson County, one of the most populous counties in the state of Colorado. He received his medical training at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University and is board certified in preventive medicine and public health. He is chair of the vision board at Boulder Adventist Church where he is a regular preacher. Mark is married to Diane Johnson and they have two adult children and three granddaughters.
The Bible says, “So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift . . .” Romans 4:16 (NLT). Say these words with your little one every day this week: “Jesus gives the best gifts.” Point out the beautiful flowers, the animals, the fruits and vegetables, the sunny days and the starry nights. Thank Jesus in prayer together.
Have you ever been promised something? The Bible says, in Romans 4:16, that “the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift.” What promise is Paul talking about? Read Romans 4:13 (ICB). Paul says that Abraham and his offspring will get the whole world. Wow! When God made this promise to Abraham, he and his wife Sarah were very old—probably older than your grandparents—and they didn’t have any children. Can you imagine what they must have thought? Why do you think Abraham believed the promise?
Check out Genesis 18:1-15 and 21:1-8 for the story of Abraham. God made Abraham a huge promise. A promise that didn’t seem very realistic in Abraham’s life. Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands at one point to fulfill God’s promise on their own terms. Do you think that having faith in God means that you take matters into your own hands? What would be some really unrealistic promises you wish God would make to you? Abraham is applauded for his faith many times throughout the Second Testament, but when we look at his story, his faith doesn’t seem to always be perfect and rock solid. Ask God for forgiveness for times when your faith was a little bit shaky. Ask Him to strengthen the faith you have now.