The Two Principles of Faith, Part I
We are told in IICorinthians 13:5 to, “Examine yourselves,
whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.”The topic of faith is one that has been
studied by Christians throughout the ages.
Every Christian has struggles, and as
they have encountered challenges, hopefully their faith has developed.It is vitally important for us to pay
attention to the little tests, for they form the basic foundation of faith upon
which we must build to face the larger challenges and trials of life.
In this article, we will look at some
basic principles of faith.These are not
necessarily anything new, but it is good to review the basics.If we are majoring in math, we want to make
sure, before we start on algebra, calculus, or other higher studies of the
subject, that we understand the basics.We need to first understand how to add and subtract and how to multiply
and divide, and what the principles of these basic skills are.
If we do not understand the basics, as
we get farther down the line and start running into bigger problems, we will
not have the skill to conquer them—in math or in our walk of faith.
“The time would fail me to tell of Gideon,
and [of] Barak, and [of] Samson, and [of] Jephthae;
[of] David also, and Samuel, and [of] the prophets: who through faith subdued
kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of
lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of
weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies
of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were
tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better
resurrection: And others had trial of [cruel] mockings
and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and
imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were
slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being
destitute, afflicted, tormented;(Of
whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and [in] mountains,
and [in] dens and caves of the earth.”Hebrews 11:32–38.
In this passage of Scripture, we are
given a picture of some of the trials and experiences through which the men of
old, the men of faith, passed.The
question that we need answered is, What did they have
that carried them through?What did they
Ellen White wrote: “Faith is trusting in God—believing that He loves us, and knows what
is for our best good.”Gospel Workers (1915),
259.The foundation of faith
begins with these two basic principles―believing that God “loves us and
knows what is for our best good.”
We first must settle in our minds the
question, Does God love us?John
offers the answer:“For God so loved the
world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever
believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”But how we answer this question depends, in a
large part, on how we see ourselves, upon what value we place on ourselves.We may see ourselves as unlovable; even
though we may not say it, through our daily actions we live out that
reality.However, Paul said, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us.”Romans
“God’s love for the fallen race is a
peculiar manifestation of love—a love born of mercy; for human beings are all
undeserving.Mercy implies the
imperfection of the object toward which it is shown.”In Heavenly Places, 12.
One of the things we must understand
is that God’s love is not dependent upon who we are; it is dependent upon who
He is.That is especially important to
remember as we are on our Christian walk, developing our faith.We know that we are to go through trials,
growing from faith to faith, “from grace to grace, from strength to strength,
obtaining one spiritual victory after another.”Daughters of God,
184.The reality is that we make
mistakes and we fail.We stumble; and
when we do, we give the devil ammunition.
We know that God takes careful record
of everything we do and all we say, but the devil is writing down everything
that we do and say too.Then, when he
gets us to fall, he is there to accuse us and to use those things against
us.Those are the fiery darts that he
hurls at us to try to discourage us and to keep us from coming to God.We need to understand that God’s love is not
dependent on who we are.
It was because of sin that mercy was
brought into active exercise.We cannot
do anything to merit God’s love.God’s
love is a peculiar love.It is a love
that is born of mercy and, as Mrs. White wrote, “Mercy implies the imperfection
of the object toward which it is shown.”
So, God loves us.His love is unconditional.
If you are a parent, you understand
that you demonstrate love to a child in different ways, depending on whether
the child is being rebellious or obedient.The Bible tells us that, “whom the Lord loveth
he chasteneth.”Hebrews 12:6.We are not to be
discouraged by that, but we need to realize that how God’s love is manifested
toward us is dependent upon our relationship with Him.
From the writings of Ellen White we
read: “God has bound our hearts to Him by unnumbered tokens in heaven and in
earth.Through the things of nature, and
the deepest and tenderest earthly ties that human
hearts can know, He has sought to reveal Himself to us.Yet these but imperfectly represent His
love.Though all these evidences have
been given, the enemy of good blinded the minds of men, so that they looked
upon God with fear; they thought of Him as severe and unforgiving.Satan led men to conceive of God as a being
whose chief attribute is stern justice,― one who
is a severe judge, a harsh, exacting creditor.He pictured the Creator as a being who is watching with jealous eye to
discern the errors and mistakes of men, that He may visit judgments upon them.It was to remove this dark shadow, by
revealing to the world the infinite love of God, that Jesus came to live among
men.”Steps to Christ, 10, 11.
I did not grow up in a Seventh-day
Adventist Christian home.My family did
attend church, and I cannot pinpoint exactly what it was that influenced me, but
this was the way I looked at God.This
attitude is prevalent in the world in which we live.Satan is ever there to misrepresent the
character of God through the very things that God has used to represent His
We can see in the world in which we
live today that the devil is definitely on the attack.In Revelation we read: “The devil is come down unto you, having
great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a
In the parent-child relationship, the
parent is to stand in the place of God to the child.The parent is to represent God to the child,
so when the child looks to the heavenly Father, he or she understands the
child-Father relationship.The problem
is that this is the exception, not the norm.The world is full of broken families, and often the parent-child
connection is nonexistent or strained.
The marital relationship is another
way God has used for us to learn about Him.“The husband is to love and cherish his wife; and as their marriage vow
unites them as one, so their belief in Christ should make them one in Him.What can be more pleasing to God than to see
those who enter into the marriage relation seek together to learn of Jesus and
to become more and more imbued with His Spirit?”Daughters of God, 181.But, of course, the devil is there to attack that institution as well.
With the breakdown of the parent-child
relationship and the marital relationship, people do not have anything with
which to relate to the love of God.They
have no personal experience to help them to understand it.Then, these people come to the church, where
the members are to be Christ’s representatives and reflect His character, but
we see the dissension in the church, and we can see that the devil is attacking
The apostle Paul was one of the great
men of faith in the New Testament of the Bible.There are many examples of men of faith in the Bible, but the apostle
Paul wrote so much of the New Testament that we have the opportunity to “get
inside of his head” to see the way he thought.In Galatians 2:20, he said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I
live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the
life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who
loved me, and gave himself for me.”
We must come to that point of
understanding.To help us reach that
point, Ellen White counsels, “It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful
hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ.We should take it point by point, and let the
imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones.As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for
us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened,
and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit.”The Desire of Ages, 83.We need the persistence to develop this habit.
If we go to God thinking of Him as He
was described earlier in the quotation from Steps
to Christ—as an unjust judge or a hard taskmaster—what confidence would we
have to press on until
our prayers were answered?So, we need
to understand who God is.That is where
our faith is.That is where our
confidence is—in who God is, because He is unchangeable.
“Shall not God avenge his own elect,
which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long
with them?I tell you that he will
avenge them speedily.”Luke 18:7, 8.We have
the promise that if we persevere, if we continue in faith, God will give us
what we desire.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith
[it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh
to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder
of them that diligently seek him.”If we
do not believe that, we will not have the confidence to press on and press
through the trials that come to us.
Ellen White shares what will happen
when we believe God:“When we really
believe that God loves us and means to do us good we shall cease to worry about
the future.We shall trust God as a
child trusts a loving parent.Then our
troubles and torments will disappear, for our will is swallowed up in the will
of God.”Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 100.
This is the kind of faith that we
need, that we should want to have.
“The widow’s prayer, ‘Avenge me’—‘do
me justice’ (R.V.)—‘of mine adversary,’ [Luke 18:3] represents the prayer of
God’s children.Satan is their great
adversary.He is the ‘accuser of our
brethren,’ who accuses them before God day and night.(Revelation 12:10.)He is continually working to misrepresent and
accuse, to deceive and destroy the people of God.And it is for deliverance from the power of
Satan and his agents that in this parable Christ teaches His disciples to
pray.”Christ’s Object Lessons, 166.
Jesus said, in Mark 9:23, “If thou
canst believe, all things [are] possible to him that believeth.”
In 1883, John A. Roebling, an
engineer, was inspired to build a bridge connecting New York City to Long
experts throughout the world thought that this was an impossible feat, and they
advised Roebling to forget the idea; it just could not be done; it was not
practical; such a thing had never before been done.However, Roebling could not ignore the vision
of the bridge in his mind.He thought
about it all the time.He knew deep in
his heart that it could be done.He had
to share the dream with someone else.
After much discussion and persuasion,
he managed to convince his son Washington, an up and coming engineer, that the
bridge, in fact, could be built.Working
together for the first time, the father and son developed concepts of how it
could be accomplished and how the obstacles could be overcome.With great excitement and inspiration and the
headiness of a wild challenge before them, they hired their crew and began to
build their dream bridge.
The project started out well, but when
construction was underway only a few months, a tragic accident on the site took
the life of John Roebling.Washington succeeded his
father as chief engineer on the project, but then he was stricken with
decompression sickness caused from working in the caissons.This left him with a certain amount of brain
damage which resulted in him not being able to walk or talk or even move.
Many of their associates chimed, “We
told them so.Crazy men and their crazy
dreams! It is foolish to chase wild
visions.”It seemed as though everyone
had a negative comment to make, and many felt that the project should be
scrapped since the Roebling father and son were the only ones who knew how the
bridge could be built.
In spite of his handicap, Washington was never
discouraged, and he maintained a burning desire to complete the bridge.He tried to inspire and pass on his
enthusiasm to some of his friends, but they were too daunted by the task.As he lay on his hospital bed with the
sunlight streaming through the windows, a gentle breeze blew the flimsy
curtains apart, and he was able to see the sky and the tops of the trees
outside for just a moment.It seemed
that there was a message for him not to give up.
Suddenly he had an idea.All he could do was move one finger, but he
decided to make the best use of it.By
moving this one finger, he slowly developed a tapping code of communication
with his wife.He tapped his wife’s arm
with that finger, indicating to her that he wanted her to call the engineers
again.Then he used the same method of
tapping her arm to tell the engineers what to do.
It seemed foolish, but the project was
soon underway again.For 13 years Washington tapped out
his instructions with his finger on his wife’s arm until the bridge was finally
completed.Today the spectacular BrooklynBridge stands in all its glory as a
tribute to the triumph of one man’s indomitable spirit and his determination
not to be defeated by circumstances.
We can learn a lot from this
story.We oftentimes allow ourselves to
get beaten down by circumstances.We
become discouraged.Washington Roebling
certainly had a lot of reasons to be discouraged.His circumstances seemed pretty
impossible.What was it that kept him
from becoming discouraged?It was his
focus.He was not focused on his
weaknesses.He was not focused on his
circumstances.He was not focused on the
mistakes that he may have made.He was
focused on the bridge and its completion.
Where is our focus?It is easy to get drawn into looking at
ourselves, looking at our trials, and looking at everything that we are going
through, and become discouraged.When
that happens, we are looking in the wrong direction.
Again, consider the counsel of the
apostle Paul: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but [this] one
thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto
those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the
high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 3:13, 14.
Paul had many reasons to be
discouraged.He had many trials in his
life—he was being chased around by the unbelieving Jews from city to city; in
Ephesus, he was attacked by the craftsmen who made the idols of Diana,—but he
could not be deterred from his goal of character perfection.
be continued …
Jim Stoeckert is a Steps to Life staff member.He lives in Wichita,
Kansas, with his two sons.He
may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.