That the Christian life is lived “by faith” is a prominent message in the New Testament. But how do we do it? It is great to understand the theology and theory, but we all want to know, “How do we put it into practice? What does living by faith look like?” I can measure laws and law-breakers; I can measure rule-keeping and rule-breaking; I can measure a life lived by works. But faith? That’s a little too nebulous; a little too out there in a world that we can’t see, smell, or touch. But it is exactly how God intends us to live. So how do we bring faith to our every day experience?
Think of your Christian experience as a big circle. We start with a faith challenge. Something in our lives that doesn’t make sense. Some crossroads where life isn’t working. One path available to us is to walk by sight – seeking to explain everything in terms of consequences for our past actions, or finding the victim or beneficiary in each situation, or laying blame on God, our spouse, our co-workers, etc for what is happening. The other path is to let God’s revealed Word guide our thoughts. And when we take this route, we are choosing to walk by faith. We understand that no matter what it looks like on the outside, our life is defined by what God has said and promised, not by our circumstances. We choose to live as if Christ is living His life through us. We act according to the influence of Christ living His life through us. We hear the voice of Jesus and we follow. When we do this, we are walking by faith.
When we walk by faith, the crushing influence of our external circumstances begin to lessen. We find that in the middle of our challenging situation, we experience peace and joy and the fruits of the Spirit, because we are walking in the Spirit. We experience God’s incredible spiritual blessings. We experience success in our spiritual walk. In short, we begin to see and feel in our daily lives what walking by faith looks like.
In the middle of this spiritual blessing, our enemy, the devil, comes along and stirs up trouble. He reminds us of situations, some minor and some dire, where it looks like God has given up on us. He accuses us of some besetting sin and tells us we are never getting better. He blames God and encourages us to do the same regarding a chronic illness or wayward child. We are back to a faith crossroads.
And just like the last time we were here, we choose to walk by faith. We believe by faith that God is good, despite the fact that at times the evidence suggests the opposite. We believe by faith that we have been set free from sin’s power and by virtue of Christ living His life through us will overcome our besetting sin. We believe by faith that God has a training program for us, His child, marked by good gifts and a good plan. In short, we choose to walk by faith rather than by sight.
Do you see the circle we are on?
- We face a faith challenge.
- We make a righteous choice by God’s power inside us.
- We choose to walk by faith.
- We experience the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
- Our faith grows stronger as we experience God’s blessing.
- We face a faith challenge.
And the circle repeats itself. The beauty is that as we continue to make righteous choices and exercise our faith, our faith gets stronger. Does that mean the choices get easier as we go along? I don’t know if easier is the right word. The challenges become different as God, through His sovereign training program, conforms us more and more to the image of His Son. Walking by the Spirit, walking by faith is not some distant goal for the super-spiritual saint. It is how you and I, children of and home to the Living God, are designed to live. And it is available to us right now. It is our path to spiritual maturity – our sanctification.