Andrew Fountain - What is Faith?


Sermon notes - What is Faith?

  • Can anyone give me a definition of faith?

My goal today is to answer the question:

What is faith?

  1. How the word “faith” is used in our culture
  2. What it really means
  • Does anyone know where this quote comes from?

“I find your lack of faith disturbing?”

  • Anyone know where this is from?

view video

Who said this?

“Faith is believing what you know ain’t so”

  • Mark Twain in Huckleberry Finn
  • But you can’t live your life without any kind of beliefs
    • Every time I drive a car or ride the subway I am trusting the mechanical systems
    • Every time I go to the doctor or the bank I am putting faith somewhere
  • So this is a cute saying, but not true in real life

Another quote:

“I’m writing a letter to the Great Pumpkin because the Great Pumpkin comes every year and he gives toys to all the children.”

“When are you going to stop believing something that isn’t true?”

  • He persuades little Sally to wait most of the evening in the pumpkin patch with him
    • when the Great Pumpkin never arrives, Sally is very angry because she has lot a whole evening’s candy from trick-or-treating.
  • Does it matter that the Great Pumpkin doesn’t really exist?
    • Well it mattered to little Sally!
  • But according to this odd youtube video, Apparently not!
    • It really doesn’t matter that you are believing something totally false
    • As long as you believe something.
    • If you believe it, then that’s what counts.

Just have faith?

pumpkin at:

  • Is it really true that the important thing is to have beliefs
  • even if they are not based on anything real?
  • view video
  • But do people seriously believe that?

Faiths Act (Tony Blair)

  • Will your church to be part of a multi-religion faith group?
  • About Faiths Act: Why is faith important?
  • “At the heart of Faiths Act is the belief that faith can be a Force 4 Good.
    When people of faith act together they achieve more than they can alone.”
  • So it doesn’t really matter if what you believe is true, because faith itself is a “Force 4 Good”?
  • So if I wrote to them and said “I believe in the great pumpkin, can I join your organization” they would probably say yes.
  • what if I said that I believe that Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, is really a lizard

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

Image source: top10lists

  • And I truly believe it (some people do)
    • What would they say? Do you think they would accept me?
  • Here is another quote for you:

“I don’t believe it!”
“That is why you fail”

  • “Faith” is a way of tapping into some impersonal power

view video

  • Luke Skywalker’s X-wing was stuck in a swamp
    • By believing strongly enough, Yoda was able to lift it out.
  • Let’s think about whether this works out in real life?
  • Would we try and apply this logic to medical beliefs?
    • Some people believe that if you get a wound, you should keep it as clean as possible
    • Others say you should rub cow-dung into it
    • It doesn’t really matter as long as you really believe it!
    • If you truly believe it, your Faith is a power that will heal you



Image source: Meng Chwen

  • What are these?
    • How were they used? (problems were due to too much blood pressure)
  • George Washington had a sore throat and told his doctor.
    • The doctors applied leeches and when he was no better, more leeches
    • and more until he had lost 5 pints of blood
      • you only have around 8 pints! Most historians...
    • Was his problem that he didn’t believe in leeches?
    • No, his problem was that he did!
  • To sum up: there is a dangerous misunderstanding about faith in our culture today
    • We’re sensible enough not to apply it to health or finances (but having said that...)
      • We understand how stupid that would be
    • But for the really important things, like our destiny, there is confusion!
  • Faith is this abstract power, and it doesn’t really matter if it is true
    • If you believe that Mark Zuckerberg is really a lizard
    • or the Great Pumpkin
    • it’s not the thing you trust in, but the faith itself
  • Unfortunately it’s simply not the way life works
    • It really does matter who or what you trust
    • Think of it with people: some people are trustworthy and some not...

What faith really means

  • We’ve looked at:
    1. How the word “faith” is used in our culture
  • Now:
    1. What faith really means
  • So the only really important questions are:

Important Questions

  1. “What do I need ........ to do for me?”
  2. “Is ........ capable of doing this?”
  3. “Can I trust ........ to do it for me?”
  • These are questions we ask of:
  • The doctor, dentist, lawyer, teacher, banker, insurance agent, taxi driver
  • Your own eternal destiny
  • I’d like to substitue “trust” for “faith”
    • Means the same without the “mystical” overtones
    • e.g. I trust my doctor. I have faith in my doctor
  • Jesus asked people to trust him in two ways:
    1. trust his teaching
    2. trust him as a person (which of course are very closely connected)
  • Jesus came teaching that there is another life after this one
    • In fact, we can begin this new life right away, even before we die
    • He called this new kind of life, his kingdom
  • But he didn’t just say this, he demonstrated the power of this new life
    • For example, when his friend Lazarus died:

John 11:21–27

  1. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
  2. Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
  3. Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
  4. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
  5. She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
  • Jesus claimed that he himself had the power to take people through death and out the other side
    • He demonstrated that to Martha by raising someone from the dead who had been buried for four days
  • But that’s ok if you were there!
    • You may say “If I saw someone physically rise from the dead, then I would believe”
    • Actually that’s not totally true: If we are determined not to believe something, then we will deny any evidence
  • In fact, there is abounding evidence that Jesus was telling the truth
    • One of the best evidences is the way he continues to “raise from the dead” people who are living lost lives
    • He takes them from a dead life to a living one
  • A while back I showed a video of David Berkowitz, the evil serial killer who terrorized New York city till he was caught
    • He would leave phone calls for the police, taunting them about when he was going to kill next
    • Yet Jesus Christ has transformed him into a wonderful person. Life from the dead
    • You can go and visit him and see for yourself (you’ll have to go to the prison)

Jesus says John 10:10,11

  1. …I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
  2. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
  • He promises a new kind of existence
    • So what does it take to have this life that Jesus offers?
    • If you are looking for an easy quick fix, you’re out of luck, because what it takes is everything:

Mark 8:34,35

  1. And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
  2. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
  • If there’s no cost, there’s no faith
  • Now that requires faith
    • If I said I had a way of giving you more strength physically
    • But it required you to die, and allow me to bring you back to life
    • that would require faith
  • So Jesus says, give me everything
    • and I will give you back 10 times as much
    • but you must be willing to surrender your whole life to me
      • It’s not an abstract “I have to have faith in Jesus”
      • But: following Jesus means I have to make changes in my life and I’ll do that because I trust him.
    • No cost, no faith
  • It’s the kind of faith that if Jesus turns out to be wrong, you’ve lost everything
  • What he offers is not just this life, but life in the age to come
    • How can I believe in that if I can’t see it?
    • Jesus came back from the dead, and there were many witnesses—we can talk more about that sometime
      • And there’s actually a lot of other evidence for an unseen world
    • But you can actually begin to experience his new life now
      • And as you do, you will grow in your trust for the age to come
  • And this trust grows, like it would if you kept going to a good doctor
  • The next step: talk to Jesus and make a commitment to stop trusting in anything else, including yourself, and trust in him.
  • But trust is not an on-or-off switch
    • There’s enough trust to become a follower of Jesus
    • But trust grows in any relationship
    • Growing as a Christian is growing in this trust
  • How do you grow in your trust of something?
    • Simply by doing it our more
  • Do you believe that working out every day would make you feel better?
    • I guess so
    • But if you did it, then this belief would grow.
  • My challenge to you is to work out the faith muscle in 2018
    • What does that mean? —more of that to come, but to start with
    • commit to some time with Jesus every day (just like the work out)

Updated on 2018-01-09 by Andrew Fountain