The Bible talks a lot about faith. It defines faith: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). It stresses the critical nature of faith: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (v. 6a).
It teaches that there are two aspects of faith: acknowledgment (a judgment of the mind that something is true) and trust (a decision of the will to act upon what the mind believes). The Bible assures us that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). Mental acknowledgement leads to trust, which leads to obedience.
Though the Bible is filled with many positive examples of faith, I believe that the most powerful illustrations of transforming faith are captured in what I call “power phrases of faith,” as seen in the following Bible accounts.
“Even If He Does Not”
Daniel 3 gives the account of three young Hebrew men who were exiles in a foreign land. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego served the Lord God. Because of their strong faith in God they refused to worship a massive golden idol. The enraged king threatened to throw them into a blazing furnace. When the king extended one final opportunity to escape the fire they boldly responded, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand” (3:17).
Faith! Faith in an all-powerful God who can do anything. Faith that no king or fire was greater than the Lord God. However, their next words required an even deeper faith: “But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (v. 18, emphasis mine).
Even if he does not! That’s faith! Not faith in miracles, or in a particular outcome. The faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego was centered in a God of absolute power and perfect wisdom. They chose to trust and obey God regardless of how he chose to respond to their crisis.
True faith trusts God when he does not perform a dramatic demonstration of power in our life. It trusts God when things do not turn out the way we prefer or request, and when he does not grant the healing or material blessings we seek.
In Daniel 3 God intervened to protect the three men not only from death, but also from any evidence they had been in a furnace. The courageous faith of the Hebrew men helped to transform a pagan king into a believer who announced to all present that they should praise the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Faith is an unwavering trust that God is completely capable, but also knows best in every situation. Let’s trust him even if he does not follow our chosen plan or schedule.
“Because You Say So”
Luke 5 introduces another power phrase of faith. One day along the Sea of Galilee Simon Peter boldly proclaimed what I like to call his other good confession. “Simon answered, ‘Master we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets’” (v. 5, emphasis mine). Christians have long looked with fondness at Matthew 16:16 as Peter’s good confession, since there he declared his unwavering belief that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
However, Peter’s response in Luke 5 may very well express his faith in a much deeper way. In Matthew 16 Peter acknowledged his intellectual acceptance of Jesus’ Messiahship. In Luke 5 he proved that his faith reached the level of deep trust.
Jesus’ command to try catching fish out in deeper water (Luke 5:4) must have seemed outlandish coming from someone who was not a fisherman by trade. Peter indicated in his response that he and his fishing partners had already fished all night without success, but he still responded with one of the most submissive faith statements in all of Scripture: “Because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
In other words, Jesus’ command did not make sense to Peter, but he trusted Jesus enough to do it anyway. That is faith!
It’s one thing to proclaim our intellectual acceptance of Jesus’ Lordship. It is quite another thing to respond in complete submission, “Jesus, I don’t fully understand, but because you say so, I will do it anyway.”
Faith without works is dead. The actions that follow our words make all the difference in the world. Speaking these “power phrases of faith” from a submissive, trusting heart is a great beginning point.
Tom Claibourne seeks to walk by faith alongside other believers at the Bethlehem Church of Christ, Winchester, Ohio.