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 We've been learning what it means to be holy. The very idea of setting ourselves aside for God's purposes feels as risky as walking a cable stretched between two skyscrapers. We lack the confidence for taking that step. Further, we may be willing to place one hand in the hand of Jesus as long as we can keep the other hand free. The desire for control holds us back. At this point God offers us an essential gift for the successful Christian life-the gift of faith.

We like to think that we have surrendered all to Jesus when we have turned over to Him the ungodly activities of our lives and the dirty and selfish thought habits in our hearts. Not so. Consecration also means turning over the godly, the pure, the noble, too. We were delighted when the Spirit of God broke our taste for forbidden fruit. But anxiety sweeps in when we contemplate surrendering our job, our house, our very talents to be under His control.

One evening not long ago a family gathering at a mountain retreat was ending. Darkness had fallen over the damp yard. Grandfather prepared to step out onto the pavement at the rear door and make his way down the sloping driveway to the car. The descent would take him over uneven stony ground and irregular steps. His eyesight was dim with age and his sense of balance often betrayed him. "Stephen," he called, "I need help." His tall, strong grandson appeared. Placing his right hand on the young man's left shoulder and steadying himself with his walking stick in his left hand, Grandpa made his way gingerly, step by step, to the car. This was a shared "journey" to safety. Just so, we eagerly accept God's help when we call for it, but we want to have some control of how and when we need help.

Jesus will always share our journey, our hand in His. But, to be truthful, as we walk with Him along the stony pathway of life, consecration means putting both hands in the hand of Jesus and closing our eyes. When in faith we test His promises and see that we are safe, He responds to our faith with new indications of His concern and love. Then He provides experiences which test our faith again and again. In response we exercise our faith in our everyday affairs, and spiritual success follows. So trust grows over time. Jesus calls us onward and upward. We respond. Faith builds on faith, and faith confirms our experiences with our Lord. In all these phases of our experience, He and we cooperate. This is divine-human koinonia.

Why Is God Seeking Us?

We also discover evidence of divine-human transactions when we learn that our Father is a seeking God. His grace is always reaching out to us. Jesus told the Samaritan woman: "The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him" (John 4:23). The Author of our salvation is seeking men, women and children who are worshiping the Father in spirit (inwardly) and who are always seeking to understand the truth about Him.

Jesus came seeking the lost-those who knew they were lost and those who did not. "The Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). How attractively He portrayed His yearning for all to be reached by His loving care when He told the parables of the Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep, and the Lost Son.

That God is seeking us is an incredible truth. Why should He bother? He seeks us because He loves us dearly. Nothing in human experience can measure the height and depth and length and breadth of God's love. To love deeply, unselfishly is His nature. It's the kind of love that sets out to do what's best for us despite the cost to Himself.

Without Faith-No Christianity

Knowing that God is looking for me encourages me to put my trust in Him. Knowing that He and I can find each other in the dark, and believing it without reservation, is security with a capital S. This knowing, this assurance in Jesus, is the alpha and omega of being a Christian. Knowing what God is truly like and trusting in Him fully all the time make our holiness possible. We are told: "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. 11:6).

Faith is attaching a muscle to information. From beginning to end, our success as Christians depends upon faith. Faith led us to the cross. Faith in Jesus Christ claimed that we could be reconciled to God. Faith taught us that the righteousness of Christ may be ours. Faith shows us the pathway of holiness and explains that this separation unto God is where we belong.

Self-reliance has its place in secular affairs, but faith rules supreme in Christianity. Faith is not only important; it's essential.

What Is Faith?

In modern English we use "belief," "faith," and "trust" somewhat interchangeably. The same is true of New Testament Greek. All three English words are translations of the same Greek root word. (1) What then is faith? We'll look at Hebrews 11:1 in several translations:

"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (NRSV).

"Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see" (NLT).

"Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for; it means being certain of things we cannot see" (Phillips).

Other definitions of faith are: "unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence" (2) "Faith is a relation, an attitude, a disposition of man toward God. It implies a readiness to receive with joy whatever God may reveal, and to do with joy whatever God may direct." (3)

Our text in Hebrews 11: 6 says that in approaching God, we must believe that He exists. Since I cannot see Him or hear Him or feel Him, I realize that I must stretch to a higher step. That step is very difficult. It's moving forward when you can't see where you're going to place your foot. With such faith we please God.

Faith Appears in Everyday Life

When our children were preschoolers we lived in a house that had a four-foot retaining wall on one side of the driveway. Naturally they liked to take a tentative step onto that high wall-quite a risk-then quickly back off. Sometimes Daddy would stand below and invite them to jump into his arms. At first that was too much. Too much trust. Too much faith. They loved Daddy, but they weren't sure that it was safe to jump.

Occasionally Daddy would position himself right at the wall and place his hands beneath their arms. "Just lean toward me," he would say. They leaned. He held them and moved slowly back, their feet dragging off the top of the wall. Soon they were safe on the ground. As time passed and the routine continued, they became more confident, hardly noticing that Daddy was inching away from the wall. At last they could stand on the wall and throw themselves with abandon into Daddy's arms. Faith begins small and grows with experience. When, in times of stress and doubt, we are able to stand of the wall and jump into Jesus' arms, even when we see only His promises, we know that we have bonded with Him. We know our faith is working.

When we first hear the call to holiness, we're tentative and fearful. We're hesitant to put our trust in anyone but ourselves. As we stand on the wall of friendship with Jesus, feeling quite leery about full consecration, He reaches up and tells us to lean into His arms. We do. We trust. Just a little bit. Finally, after months perhaps, we throw ourselves with abandon into His arms. Our faith has broken the shackles of uncertainty. Our desire to be His, totally His, has been purged of fear by His patience and our faith.

Abram and his clan had moved from the city of Ur and settled at a place called Haran. That was the beginning of faith. One day God spoke to Abram and told him to leave Haran. So Abram left "not knowing where he was going" (Heb. 11:8). By faith, by trusting in God, he went forth and entered the land he was to receive as his inheritance. Still his faith was immature. He failed more than once. When he was very old God told him to sacrifice his son of promise, and immediately he set out to obey. Now his faith was mature. This time there was no hesitation, no wavering.

God's calls to Abraham throughout his life were calls to holiness, that is, to separate himself from the familiar, from the ungodly, from comfort, and to attach himself to God. Every step he traveled on his journey of separation was an experience of holiness. Each crucial decision to obey God's will for him required faith.

Faith Is Basic for Spiritual Growth

Faith leads us through conversion to our new life in Christ. Then, as we move onward from our first experiences in the Christian walk, faith continues to be essential. It must empower every step in righteousness that we take. After we have received the Holy Spirit by faith, do we then set faith aside and begin to trust in our own common sense in order to grow in Christ? No, no! The onward and upward life with Jesus is still a life of faith. The decisions we are called to make-wholeheartedness, purity, submission to God's will for us, and the transformation of our characters-must be driven by faith. First, there was faith unto salvation. Now there is faith unto Christlikeness. Faith is our strength, and holiness is the attitude of devotion and submission by which we become partakers of the divine nature.

Purity of purpose, cleanliness of heart, and a mature faith should be our mind-set as we come to the throne of grace daily: "Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:21, 22).

When a child is missing after school, the whole town turns out to find him. They put aside their duties and business activities as well as their cooking for supper. It's a very important task. Just so, our searching for God is a very important task. We must put our daily routine aside from time to time and, in solitude, seek and find God anew. He is not hard to find, for He is seeking us too. Maybe the night is dark and the stony path slippery. "Father, I need help," we call, and He comes.

Each time we put our growing faith to work, we build confidence in God's fellowship and guidance. We are more and more willing to make leaps of faith, separating ourselves from the love of possessions and from the thought patterns of the lost. At first we were afraid of carrying the cross, but now, because our faith is strong, we can say with Paul: "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:19, 20).

We live by faith.