Shelby G. Floyd
I do not know of any topic that is more important than the subject of faith.
Our text is found in Hebrews chapter 11 in verse one, where Paul said, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This will serve as our basic text, but we will go in further pursuit of the importance, the nature and the power of faith.
THE NATURE OF MAN
First, I want to talk about the nature of man. God made man in such a way that he is adapted for faith. For instance, God made man with eyes and ears and many other organs of his body. We see that the more we study human anatomy the more we see the wisdom and power of God. God made eyes, but he also made a beautiful world for the eyes to see. In other words, he made beautiful objects for the eyes to see. God made ears so we can hear, but he also made beautiful sounds for the ears to hear—the harmonies and the melodies of nature.
What good would it have done if God had made eyes and ears and there wasn’t anything to see or hear? The very fact that God made eyes and ears implies that there must be objects and sounds, or eyes and ears would be foolish! And so seeing and hearing are the mediums through which we see the objects and hear the sounds which God put in our world.
Now God created man with the capacity of faith or belief. What good would it do for man to be able to believe if there was nothing in which to believe? If there were no objects of faith, what good would it do for God to create man with the capacity of faith? So, the very fact that faith is adapted to man, just as sight and hearing are adapted to the objects and the sounds of this world, so faith which is adapted to man, implies that there must be the objects which faith looks forward to.
MAN WALKS BY FAITH
The Bible teaches that we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). This is true physically, mentally and spiritually. Man walks by faith whether he realizes it or not. For instance, let us take the realm of the physical world. And you know that when you were born into this world you inadvertently started walking by faith physically? Observe the little infant in the mother’s arms. That little child has no reason to experience so that child cannot walk by reason or experience. The child therefore walks by faith. The child trusts the mother to feed it at the proper time. If the child is sick, it trusts the mother to give it the proper medicine. If there is some danger that would harm the child, the baby trusts the father and mother to look after its safety. An infant child is more dependent upon someone else than any of God’s creatures. All of the animals have instinct and in a few days after birth can fairly well take care of themselves. But that is not so with the human infant. It is totally dependent upon someone else for a long time. So that little infant is dependent for its welfare physically upon faith and trust. It must trust the father and mother.
Secondly, let us consider the mental realm when the child reaches six or seven years of age. The child is taken to the nursery or primary school. The child walks into the classroom and sees a lot of strange looking characters on the board. The teacher says these characters are the A, B, C’s of the whole alphabet. Well, the child doesn’t know that these are what the letters are called, but he must trust the teacher. Therefore it is by faith in the teacher that he learns the sounds and the names of the letters.
Then, in the realm of mathematics, the science of numbers, the teacher again instructs the student. He doesn’t know that 2+2 = 4, but he must have faith in his teacher. As the child grows older, he begins to develop some of his own reason and experience in the physical and mental world. But still he must walk by faith. The longer we live and the older we get, we only supplement our faith by reason and experience, but we still are walking by faith.
Now should it be thought strange then, that man should walk by faith spiritually? We must trust what God tells us in his revealed word, because man does not live by reason alone. The prophet Jeremiah said, “It is not within man that walks to direct his own footsteps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Therefore, like a little child, we must trust God and the Bible is right when it says, “We walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We walk by faith physically, mentally and spiritually.
Now faith is greater than sight. We’re going to study further about the nature of man. God gave us five senses: hearing, seeing, smelling, taste, and touch. Now, every facet of knowledge and understanding that we have in our minds came to us through one or more of our five senses. Every impression and perception in our minds came through our five senses. If we were deficient of all five of our senses, we would be without any knowledge. But, we walk by sight when we use our five senses just for the present life or the present world. So, those who just live for this life walk by sight. In other words, they are living just by their five senses. In that sense, they are not far above a mole, and owl, or a bat. They are living strictly by the flesh.
But when we live by faith, our world for us enlarges and increases. By faith we can bring the past and make it a present reality. By faith we can also reach out into the future and see and understand things that are yet to be. By faith in human testimony, I can visualize ancient Rome and the coliseum, where the gladiators came out and fought for their lives with wild beasts. By faith, I can visualize ancient Babylon, with its river running through the center of the city; with its high and beautiful and mighty walls, with its hanging gardens which made it one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. I can go back by faith in human testimony and bring back the past and make it a present reality. I did not live or have any experience in those worlds, but by faith I can live as if I were in those times. I did not live in the days of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but by faith in human, historical testimony, I believe that such men lived and were presidents of our country.
STORY FROM A PSYCOLOGY CLASS
That reminds me of a story which I heard recently. It seems a psychology class was visiting a state mental hospital. As they were going around through the halls, one of the students of the psychology class, met one of the patients and he said, “what is your name?” He said, “my name is Abraham Lincoln.” The student replied, “Well, that is strange. The last time we visited here you said your name was George Washington.” The patient said, “That is right, but that was by my first wife.”
We can know by faith Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. This man did not know whether he was Abraham Lincoln or George Washington. But we can know by faith that those men lived and died and were presidents of our country, even though we didn’t live back there and know them by any of our five senses.
But even faith comes to us through two or three of our five senses. God addresses the evidence of the Bible through our seeing and hearing. In fact “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). And we either have faith by hearing God’s word preached orally or audibly. Faith also can come to us through seeing, because the things in the Bible are written “that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing we might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31). So, we can see that faith is addressed to the nature of man, through the avenues of seeing and hearing. Therefore, if one cannot see or hear God’s word, it is going to be difficult to have faith. But if you can hear God’s word preached to you, or if you can see and read it in the Bible, then you have the capacity to believe or have faith. Helen Keller had faith in God’s word through the tactical sense of touch. The word of God was communicated to her through touch with the system of Braille! We live by faith from birth to death: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:6, 1). Faith and obedience saves us by the object of our faith—Jesus Christ!*
*Shelby G. Floyd presented this sermon November 13, 1977 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142