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Peace with God, Chapter 11: What Is Faith?

By Billy Graham


      For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. --Ephesians 2:8, 9

      WE ARE now ready to take up the next step in finding peace with God. You are now ready to forsake your past sinful life. You are determined this change is going to take place in your life. You are no longer headed away from God, but you are moving toward His love and mercy and protection. You have made your decision. You have repented; you have chosen the right road, even though it may be a difficult one. You have chosen the road that Moses took almost 3,500 years ago when he renounced his right to the throne of Egypt and decided in favor of God!

      Moses was forty years old when he fled Egypt for fear of his life. Forty years later he came back to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. What had changed? He had made his great decision. He concluded that faith and truth in company with agony and hardship were better than wealth and fame and the absence of God's love. Few men in history have been called upon to make a more difficult decision than his.

      A Man of Faith

      Moses was a man of education and culture, a man of wealth and prominence. As the son of Pharaoh's daughter he had been accustomed to every honor, every luxury, and every privilege. The throne of Egypt, richest, most powerful, most spectacularly successful country of its time, was within his grasp.

      Yet the Bible records that "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:24-27). This passage was referring to Moses after his forty years in the wilderness with God -- not the fiery young murderer who fled from Pharaoh in fear of his life.

      Notice, it says that he "refused" and he "forsook"-- this is true repentance. And then it says he did it "by faith"! This is the next step -- faith. Moses made this decision not in a moment of overt emotionalism that some psychologists insist is necessary for religious experience. He was not motivated by frustration. He was not a hopeless misfit or an unfulfilled man. Moses was not choosing the path of God as a compensation for the rewards that he felt life had withheld from him, nor was he turning to the religious life out of boredom and apathy. He did not want for interest, entertainment, and amusement.

      A Master of Choice

      None of these arguments, or the many others so often advanced as reasons for seeking life with God, were valid in the case of Moses. He was not forced to run from the flesh and devil. He did it from choice. Moses was certainly neither weak-minded nor weak-willed. He was not a child clinging to the security of an established order. He was not a nonentity seeking recognition and prestige. He was not any of the things that those who mock religion say one must be to feel the need of salvation. Moses had even more than the dreams to which most men would aspire; and yet out of his mature judgment in the prime of life he turned his back on wealth, position, and esteem and chose instead faith in God.

      Every time I hear it said that only the hopeless and helpless, only the maladjusted need the comfort of "religion," I think of Moses.

      It has been my privilege to talk to many men and women concerning their spiritual problems. I have learned that when men and women of sound judgment reject Christ as their Lord and Master, they do it not because they find Christian doctrines intellectually distasteful, but because they seek to avoid the responsibilities and obligations that the Christian life demands. Their faint hearts rather than their brilliant minds stand between them and Christ. They are not willing to submit themselves and surrender everything to Christ.

      It is interesting to note that the two men most used of God in the Bible (one in the Old Testament and one in the New) were also the two best educated: Moses and Paul.

      Moses considered the claims and obligations of God carefully. At forty he fled, a murderer. At eighty, he returned -- a leader. He realized that if he was to embrace God he would have to do it at the sacrifice of the things that men usually hold most dear. He made no hasty examination. He came to no half-considered conclusions under sudden impulse or emotional reaction. He knew how much was at stake and he arrived at his decision with the full use of his well-trained and superior mental faculties. His final choice was not in the nature of a temporary experiment. He did not select faith as a tentative measure. It was a mature conviction with an unalterable purpose, a conviction not to be shaken by changes of fortune or the trials of long-endured privation. He carefully burned all the bridges and ships that might have made retreat possible from his new position. When Moses had his great crisis moment at the age of eighty, he committed himself totally and without reservation for all time and under all circumstances to God and His commands.

      How different was the quality of Moses' decision from that of the famous biographer Gamaliel Bradford, who as he neared the end of his life said, "I do not dare read the New Testament for fear of awakening a storm of anxiety and doubt and dread, of having taken the wrong path, of having been a traitor to the plain and simple God."

      Moses had no such fear. And neither should you fear if you turn yourself wholeheartedly to Christ now and forever by faith. Don't turn to Him saying, "I'll try Christianity for a while.

      If it works I'll go on with it, but if it doesn't I still have time to choose another way of life." When you come to Christ, every bridge has to be burned behind you, with no thought of ever turning back.

      They Turned Back on Their Boats

      Years ago, when the wings of the fierce Roman eagle cast an ominous shadow over the world, those audacious warriors whom Caesar led set out to conquer Britain. As the enemy vessels appeared on the horizon, thousands of Englishmen bravely gathered on the heights to defend their homeland. To their amazement, the tides and the sea destroyed most of the Roman ships. Thus the only avenue of retreat was cut off for the daring invaders. They fought with wild abandon, their escape route cut off. With such an indomitable spirit, how could they fail to conquer! Little wonder the petty village on the banks of the Tiber became the Mistress of the world!

      Just so, Christ will accept nothing less than complete surrender and absolute devotion. "And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

      Moses made his soul-shaking choice as he stood at the fork of life's highway. His judicial mind weighed all the facts that bore upon his decision. He looked long and carefully down each road to its termination. He considered all the pros and cons and only then did he decide to put his trust and faith in God.

      Moses Burned His Bridges

      First he looked down the broad road, the bright road filled with power and luxury, filled with gaiety and wine, rich in the things the world counts as pleasure. It was a familiar road. He knew it well, He had traveled it for forty years and he knew that it ended in destruction, knew that it could only lead to hell.

      Then Moses looked down the other road, the narrow road, the more difficult road. He saw the suffering, the affliction, the humiliation and disappointment. He saw the hardships and the trials, the sorrows and the pains, but by faith he saw also the triumphs and the reward of eternal life.

      A man of lesser judgment, a man of lesser experience than Moses, might have been tempted to take the first road. Egypt was then the greatest power on earth. It held command of the fertile Nile valley, the granary of the world. Its armies were invincible, its colleges and universities were setting the pattern that other centuries would follow.

      Few of us are ever asked to give up as much for God as Moses did. Few of us are ever shown temptation in such abundance and variety and asked to withstand it. Few of us have such earthly delights and pleasures spread before our eyes, and even the Scriptures admit that there is pleasure in sin, if only for a season. The pleasure is fleeting and leaves no comfort in its wake.

      In choosing God, Moses made a great sacrifice, but he also won a great reward. Great fortunes were rare in Moses' time, and few men indeed had the opportunity that he had to become the wealthiest man on earth.

      The Wealth of the World

      Today, many men can amass great fortunes. In 1923 (when fortune gathering was this country's major interest) a group of the world's most successful financiers gathered at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Even in the fabulous twenties, the meeting was an impressive array of wealth and power. Seated at a single table were the president of the world's largest independent steel company, the president of the largest utility company, the president of the New York Stock Exchange, a member of the cabinet of the President of the United States, the president of the Bank of International Settlements, the man who was known as the biggest trader on Wall Street, and another who headed the world's most powerful monopoly. Together, these men controlled more wealth than the United States Treasury! Their success stories were known to every schoolboy. They were the models whom other men tried to copy. They were the financial and industrial giants of America!

      In 1923 the widely publicized stories of these men were glamorous and exciting. They fired the imagination! They kindled envy!

      They inspired other men to try to be as they were! But in 1923 their stories were only half told -- the closing chapters were yet to be written.

      At the time these eight men sat down together at the hotel in Chicago they were each at the place in their individual lives where Moses had been when he stood at the crossroads. These men were at the crossroads also, and two paths stretched out before each of them. Perhaps they were paths they could not see, paths about which they did not care. Certainly they were paths they didn't choose to follow, and today their stories are complete. Today we know those final chapters. We can review their lives, just as we can review the life of Moses, and see which seems the wisest and the best.

      Charles Schwab, president of the steel company, lived the last years of his life on borrowed money and died penniless. Arthur Cutten, greatest of the wheat speculators, died abroad insolvent. Richard Whitney, president of the New York Stock Exchange, served a term in Sing-Sing Penitentiary. Albert Fall, the cabinet member, was pardoned from prison so he could die at home. Jessie Livermore, the "bear" of Wall Street; Leon Frazer, president of the Bank of International Settlements; and Ivon Kreuger, head of the world's largest monopoly, all committed suicide!

      These men all had money, power, fame, prestige, intelligence, and education -- but every one of them lacked the one attribute that gives life its real meaning and purpose. They lacked the one attribute that is essential to the Christian creed and conduct -- the attribute that makes conversion possible, that makes regeneration real. They refused to believe! Compare their lives with those of missionaries who have left all to follow Christ. They may die penniless and in pain, but they have died for something!

      These wealthy men had no faith, or if they did have faith, they refused to act upon it. How different the closing chapters of their lives would have been if they had been able to count faith in Christ among their treasuries.

      Moses Turned His Back on the World's Wealth

      Notice it was through faith that Moses renounced the wealth of Egypt. It was his faith that made him know that even though he might suffer privation and humiliation all the rest of his life on earth, in the end he would receive the greatest of rewards -- eternal life.

      Men like Cutten and Schwab might have thought Moses a fool. They would have said, "A bird in the hand is worth far more than two in the bush." They would have said, "Look, you know what you have in Egypt. You know what a man of your brains can do to manipulate this wealth and power. Play your cards right and Egypt will control the world. You can get rid of all the competition and run things your own way." That's what they would have said, because that's the way they thought, that's the way they operated, that's the way many of them amassed their fortunes. They would have laughed at a person who said he believed God or had faith in Christ. They would have said, "Faith isn't good business. It isn't smart."

      The Bible teaches that faith is the only approach to God. "Anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). The Bible also teaches that faith pleases God more than anything else. "Without faith it is impossible to please him" (Hebrews 11:6).

      People all over the world torture themselves, clothe themselves in strange garments, disfigure their bodies, deny themselves the necessities of life, spend much time in prayer and self-sacrifice in an effort to make themselves acceptable in God's sight. This may be all well and good, but the greatest thing we can do to please God is to believe Him.

      I might go to a friend and flatter him, but, if after all my flowery phrases I were to tell him I did not believe him, every flattering thing I said would have been in vain. I would have built him up only to let him down.

      Belief Is Essential

      The greatest way we can please God is to believe His Word. It would seem that Christ was almost pleading for faith on the part of His hearers when He said, "Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake" (John 14:11).

      The Bible declares that faith is absolutely essential. You ask, "Well, if faith is so important, what is faith? What do you mean by faith? What is a definition of faith? How can I know if I have proper faith? How much faith must I have?"

      Wait just a minute -- not so many questions at a time! I'll try to answer them as we go along.

      The Bible teaches, time and time again, that we can have salvation only through faith:

      "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved -- you and your household" (Acts 16:31).

      "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12).

      "And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:29).

      "To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness" (Romans 4:5).

      "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).

      "But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved" (Hebrews 10:39).

      "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).

      The Nature of Faith

      Are we actually saved by faith? No, we're saved by grace through faith. Faith is simply the channel through which God's grace to us is received. It is the hand that reaches out and receives the gift of His love. In Hebrews 11:1, we read, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Weymouth has translated it this way, which makes it easier to understand, "Now faith is a confident assurance of that for which we hope, a conviction of the reality of things which we do not see." Faith literally means "to give up, surrender, or commit." Faith is complete confidence.

      I have never been to the North Pole, and yet I believe there is a North Pole. How do I know? I know because somebody told me. I read about it in a history book, I saw a map in a geography book and I believe the men who wrote those books. I accept it by faith.

      The Bible says, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). We believe what God has to say about salvation. We accept it without question.

      Martin Luther has translated Hebrews 11:27 this way, "For he held on to Him whom he saw not just as though he saw Him."

      It is not some peculiar, mysterious quality for which we must strive. Jesus said we must become as little children, and just as little children trust their parents, so we must trust God.

      Suppose I were driving along the road at fifty miles an hour and I came to the crest of a hill. Would I immediately slam on my brakes, stop my car, get out, walk up to the top of the hill, and look over to see if the road continues? No, I wouldn't do that. I would trust the highway department of the particular state in which I was driving. I would continue at my normal rate of speed, secure in the knowledge that the road continued on ahead even though I couldn't see it. I would accept it on faith. So it is with saving faith in Christ!

      Three Aspects of Faith

      Again, as in repentance, there are three things involved in faith. First, there must be a knowledge of what God has said. That's why it's so important for you to read the Bible. That's why it's important for you to know something of the teaching of the Bible concerning the salvation of the soul. Just to know that you are a sinner and that Christ died for you is enough knowledge. Knowing no more than John 3:16 could be enough knowledge. Many have been converted on less. But on anything as important as this you should be as well informed as possible and the only place to learn about salvation is in the Bible!

      Many people say, "But I cannot understand much of the Bible, therefore I don't try to read it." That is not the wise attitude. There are many things in the Bible that I do not understand. My finite mind will never understand all about the infinite. I do not understand all about television, but I do not refuse to turn on my television set. I accept it by faith.

      But God does not ask the impossible. He does not ask you to take a leap in the dark concerning conversion. Believing in Christ is based on the best evidence in the world, the Bible. Even though you do not understand it all, you can accept it at face value because God said it. One of the first attacks the devil makes on man is to get him to doubt the Word of God: "Yea, hath God said?" (Genesis 3:1). If you begin doubting and putting question marks over God's Word, then you're in trouble. There must be a knowledge that you are a sinner. You must have the knowledge that Christ died for your sins and that He rose again for your justification. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very heart of the Gospel. That must be believed and accepted as a minimum for conversion.

      Second, the emotions again are involved. The Bible says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 1:7). Paul said, "The love of Christ compels us" (2 Corinthians 5:14). Desire, love, fear -- all are emotions. Emotion cannot be cut out of life. No intelligent person would think of saying, "Let's do away with all emotion." To remove all personality from deep feeling is impossible. We cannot imagine life without the warm overtones of feeling. Suppose we had a family where everyone acted only from a cold sense of duty. Suppose I asked my wife to marry me after I had explained to her first of all that I had no feelings for her at all.

      As Dr. Sangster says, "Carry the same principle over into religion. Require that the herald of God announce the offer of His King, freely to pardon and fully to bless, but firmly forbid that any transport of joy should accompany either the announcement of the news or its glad reception, and you ask the impossible."

      There is going to be a tug at the heart. Emotion may vary in religious experience. Some people are stoical and others are demonstrative, but the feeling will be there.

      When Churchill gave his masterful speeches to the British people during the war, he appealed to logic, but at the same time he made his audience feel. I remember hearing him one time in Glasgow. He challenged my thinking, but he made me feel like standing up and shouting and waving a flag! When you fall in love with Jesus Christ your emotions are bound to be stirred.

      Third, and most important of all, is the will. It's like three little men -- one is named "Intellect," the second is name "Emotion," and the third is named "Will." Intellect says that the gospel is logical. Emotion puts pressure upon Will and says, "I feel love for Christ," or "I feel fear of judgment." and then the middleman, called Will, is the referee. He sits there with his hand on his chin, in deep thought, trying to make up his mind. It is actually the will that makes the final and lasting decision. It is possible to have the intellectual conviction and the emotional feeling and still not be properly converted to Christ. Faith has legs. "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:20).

      An Example of Faith

      I heard about a man some years ago who was rolling a wheelbarrow back and forth across Niagara River on a tightrope. Thousands of people were shouting him on. He put a two-hundred-pound sack of dirt in the wheelbarrow and rolled it over, and then he rolled it back. Then he turned to the crowd and said, "How many of you believe that I can roll a man across?"

      Everybody shouted! One man in the front row was very excited in his professed belief. The man pointed to this excited professor and said, "You're next!"

      You couldn't see that man for dust! He actually didn't believe it. He said he believed it, he thought he believed it -- but he was not willing to get in the wheelbarrow.

      Just so with Christ. There are many people who say they believe on Him, who say they will follow Him. But they never have gotten into the wheelbarrow. They actually never have committed and surrendered themselves wholly, one hundred percent to Christ.

      There are many people who ask, "Well, how much faith does it take?" Jesus said only the faith as of "a grain of mustard seed."

      Others ask, "What kind of faith?" It is not a matter of any special kind of faith. There is only one kind, really. It is the object of the faith that counts. What is the object of your faith? The object of your faith must be Christ. Not faith in ritual, not faith in sacrifices, not faith in morals, not faith in yourself -- not faith in anything but Christ!

      Now the Bible teaches that faith will manifest itself in three ways. It will manifest itself in doctrine -- in what you believe.

      It will manifest itself in worship -- your communion with God and the fellowship of the church. It will manifest itself in morality -- in the way you live and behave, which we will discuss in other chapters.

      The Bible also teaches that faith does not end with trust in Christ for your salvation. Faith continues. Faith grows. It may be weak at first, but it will become stronger as you begin to read the Bible, pray, go to church, and experience God's faithfulness in your Christian life. After you have repented of sins and accepted Him by faith, then you must trust Him to keep you, strengthen you, enable you, sustain you. You will learn more and more how to rely on Christ for every need, in meeting every circumstance, and every trial. You will learn to say with Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

      When you have saving faith in Jesus Christ, you have taken an additional step toward having peace with God.

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See Also:
   Chapter 1: The Great Quest
   Chapter 2: The Indestructible Bible
   Chapter 3: What is God Like?
   Chapter 4: The Terrible Fact of Sin
   Chapter 5: Dealing With the Devil
   Chapter 6: The Despair of Loneliness
   Chapter 7: After Death -- What?
   Chapter 8: Why Jesus Came
   Chapter 9: How and Where to Begin
   Chapter 10: What Is Repentance?
   Chapter 11: What Is Faith?
   Chapter 12: The Old and the New
   Chapter 13: How to Be Sure
   Chapter 14: Enemies of the Christian
   Chapter 15: Guidelines for Christian Living
   Chapter 16: The Christian and the Church
   Chapter 17: Am I My Brothers Keeper?
   Chapter 18: Hope for the Future
   Chapter 19: Peace at Last
   Chapter 20: The Day After

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