(please read the following scripture before you continue this article: Hebrews 11:1,6)
The apostle Paul provides the best definition of "faith" we can find: Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see, a definition which is in itself a paradox:
1. “CONFIDENCE and HOPE” seem to be two opposite concepts. For example, a student may say at the beginning of a school year: "I hope I'll pass" because he has no certainty about it. If, on the other hand, he is confident about it, he has no need for hoping. Yet in faith these two concepts go hand in hand.
2. The second definition is just as troublesome for the modern mind, by now accustomed to believing only in what it can see and touch. Yet Paul puts together ASSURANCE and INVISIBILITY.
Faith is presented to us in the Bible as a NECESSITY (Hebrews 11:6) and, at the same time, a GIFT from Heaven. The renowned Italian journalist Indro Montanelli used to say: "If faith is the gift of God, then it's his own fault if he didn't give it to me!". What Montanelli couldn't understand is that this gift is available to everyone: it's up to each one of us to accept or refuse it.
If we want to find a modern simile to transalte this concept, we may say that Elohà has sent each and every one of us a blank check: whoever trusts in Him, will go to the bank to cash it and will personally write in the amount. That is, each one of us decides IF he/she is going to have faith, and HOW MUCH faith he/she is going to have: both these decisions are up to mankind!
Therefore, it is utterly important that we understand what faith means in all its aspects. We shall now examine five fundamentals of a strong faith:
Faith allows us to believe without any need for evidence. Let's look at a couple of examples.
a) Bible inspiration
We believe that the Scriptures were inspired by our Maker and we have many "signs" to back up this fact, but no proper "proof" in the scientific sense of the term.
For example, the fact that the Bible was written over the course of 1600 years by different authors from different centuries, cultures and backgrounds yet it never contradicts itself, leads us to believe that there must have been a superior intelligent mind - that of Elohà Yahuweh - who supervised its writing.
Moses laid out a body of laws on hygiene and nutrition which have been proved valid by modern science, to the extent that renowned doctors and researchers have stated that mankind has lost a valuable heritage in forfeiting them: this fact leads us to believe in Moses' claim that he received those instructions directly by God, all the more so because they contradicted the beliefs enforced by medical science in his time and in the centuries to follow. In the words of Professor Luciano Pecchiai, a renowned pathologist in a pediatric hospital in Milan: “As far as the Bible is concerned, we have forsaken its wisdom; that also happened because the Church, after Galileo was proved right, tried to avoid further embarassment by saying that the Bible only contained religious truths and not scientific facts. As a consequence, we lost an important cultural heritage which must by all means be recovered: all the more so because science has been proving its soundness for many years.” (excerpt from "La Repubblica" of 1-17-1986)
The fact that biblical prophecies uttered years, centuries and sometimes millennia beforehand came true with the utmost precision leads us to accept the prophetic gift which is at the base of such predictions. If the prophets who claimed to have received visions or revelations from Elohà were just lunatics, then how come have they always got it right?
However, it must be admitted that all these arguments on biblical inspiration are not the same sort of evidence as we find in 2+2=4. Without faith, it is impossible to believe in the divine hand behind the writing of the Bible.
b) Creation
We likewise believe through faith that what is written in chapter 1 of Genesis is trustworthy and that Elohà Yahuweh - and not chance - is the creator of all life forms. We have a lot of evidence for this fact, but no real proof, as no one could have possibly witnessed the beginning of life!
A famous French scientist once said: “Probability theory tells us that it is impossible for life to have sprung up by mere chance...However, since God does not exist, we must conclude that this remote chance must have occurred all the same!".
It is easy to see that there is nothing scientific about such an argument, because it takes as an assumption what is only a philosophical hypothesis: "God does not exist...!" Rather than recognizing the facts and humbly admitting that science cannot account for the spontaneous generation of life - which proves the need for a creative intelligence - ysome "scientists" prefer to believe what is contradicted by facts. The premise "God does not exist" impairs all the consequent argument.
I once read in a scientific book the example of a bunch of apes at a typewriter: what are the chances that they could accidentally write such a complex work as the "Divine Comedy" if they were left to it for centuries? None at all, according to logic, none at all according to probability theory...That is why us believers think that it takes more blind faith to theorize spontaneous generation than it takes to believe in the Bible's tale of creation. But these are all FACTS, NOT PROOFS.
Let's look deeper into this matter with a more concrete example: biochemists have discovered that a single bacterium contains no less than 1500 enzymes, and that without counting other complex chemical compounds. Enzymes are proteins, and each one of these is made up by a few hundred amino acids. Each enzyme is very complicated and carries out a specific biological task...
The letters in this sentence are laid out in a specific order, so that the sentence can be written and understood. Enzymes work in much the same way. The twenty different known types of amino acids, which combine into long chains to build up an enzyme, must be in just the right place in order for each enzyme to perform its specific function properly. If we look at the possibility that these chemical agents may combine according to chance-driven processes, many scientists are ready to admit that there is no way that amino acids could have made up enzymes accidentally. Mathematicians deal with this issue from the point of view of probability laws. Consider what follows: if there are three elements (1,2,3), there will be six possible ways to group them, that is: 123,132,213,231, 312,321.
The laws of probability tell us that there is one chance out of six that the exact combination could occur accidentally. This is written as: 1x2x3 = 6. But if the number of elements rises from 3 to 5, the possible combinations become 120. If we add just one more element and bring the total to 6, the possible combinations jump to no less than 720. The probability that one of the 1500 proteins which are needed to form a bacterium...a protein of 200 amino acids lined up in their right sequence, might occur by mere chance is only one out of 1026 0 x 202 00 (that is 1 followed by 260 zeros multiplied by 2 followed by 200 zeros).
Just to give you a better idea of how huge these numbers are, let's consider that the number of electrons that might be contained in the visible Universe within a range of five billion light years, without leaving any empty spaces, amounts to 101 30, that is 1 followed by 130 zeros...a trifle compared to the numbers we've quoted above. Yet, if by some "miracle" this had happened all the same, the outcome would have been one single molecule. But for life to start, billions of tons of molecules of different proteins and DNA would be needed. Mathematically speaking, it is impossible that such a probability would ever occur.
For us this is EVIDENCE that our faith in life as the creation of a superior intelligence - the personal Creator spoken of by the Bible - is reasonable. However, all of this is not meant as a mathematical demonstration of the existence of Elohà, because the reality of our Maker escapes the human mind and always needs faith to be accepted.
So far, we've been taling about evidence...But what evidence did Noah have that one day it would have rained on earth? None at all, because that had never happened yet.
Had anyone ever heard of city walls falling down because an army had gone round and round them with priests palying their trumpets? Yet Joshua and all the people of Israel believed that Jerico would be taken that way, because they had faith in the word of Elohà and they achieved a great victory.
Had anyone ever heard that a man could walk on water? Yet Peter believed that, at Yahushua's command, he could do it and he did it. He only began to sink the moment he lost his faith, and he was reproached by his Master for this reason.
Had anyone ever heard that a leper could be healed of his devastating disease by diving in the river Jordan for seven times? Naaman himself had never heard of such a thing, yet - after some hesitation - he believed and he experienced a great miracle.
Matthew 10:34-37; with a challenging speech, Yahushua poses the possibility for faith to be a cause for division within the very heart of the family. No one but our Father cares more about unity in the family, but not at the cost of any of its members' faith.
In the North-west of the U.S. a young architect named Randy had accepted Yahushua as his Master and teacher. Within seven years of his conversion, during a preacher's visit in his community, he felt himself called to the ministry.
He was thirty years old and already a millionaire. He was setting up a famous supermarket chain at that moment of his life. He lived in a luxury house on the gulf.
When she heard of his decision, his wife asked for a divorce, but he could hear the call of the Master of Masters and did not want to renounce. He gave back his degrees and became a pastor; in the divorce, his wife took most of his money and his house. He obtained custody of his two children and went to live in a small apartment; he felt rich and happy. The community he had been entrusted with was in the town centre, only counted some twenty members and was constantly decreasing.
Rumors spread, everyone wanted to hear the former architect-millionaire who had chosen to preach salvation in the Messyah; a year later his congregation had grown to 150 members.
Here is an example of faith bearing a lot of fruits without encouragement from the family, even from the person who should be closest to you: your companion.
We sometimes have to go through this disheartening experience...Our brothers not only fail to encourage us, but positively discourage us with their criticism, gossip or lack of love. They sometimes discourage us without even realising they are doing it. But if our faith only depends on our brothers' approval or affection, that means we haven't been dwelling in the Messyah's Spirit long enough. We need to achieve a faith which does not depend on external encouragement. Otherwise, what will become of us if we should witness apostasy in the brothers we held in esteem, or if we should live the years before the Messyah's return - when we might be called to bear witness to our faith - totally separated from our brothers?
Matthew 15:22-28; here is a biblical tale which exemplifies this very premise: the Canaanite woman. Yahushua proves her faith down to the core. He knows that Jewish people call pagans "dogs" and - also in order to teach his disciples a lesson - he appears to discourage her from keeping to beg for a miracle. How would we have reacted?
Our trust in God's promises must be so deeply rooted that we never give up, not even when faced with His silence. In order to grow, our faith must be tested to the breaking point, then - at the right time - He will give us his extraordinary encouragement.
Another biblical example: Elohà Yahuweh asks Abraam to sacrifice his son Isaac. The Omnipotent's silence lasts for the whole lenght of the journey: three long days during which the patriarch storms his brain with every possible question and asks for confirmation without receiving a reply. Only the first terrible command from God keeps echoing: “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Only when his faith overcomes God's silence is that terrible burden taken from his shoulders: He speaks, and stops the hand that was about to sink the knife in the young child.
In that occasion, Elohà reveals the great project He conceived for the salvation of mankind. Abraam understands - like no other man will ever be able to - the greatness of the Father's sacrifice in giving up his only son for the redemption of sinful man.
So here is the secret: I decide I am going to trust in Elohà Yahuweh hour by hour, day by day, without worrying about tomorrow and without caring about how I feel or the incouragements I do or do not receive:
When we will have understood that, we will have discovered the secret of the faith which can move mountains!!
May Yahuweh help and support those who give themselves up and devote themselves to fully doing HIS will.