Faith needs the Holy Spirit to see what God wants from man. And especially from those who partner with the Holy Spirit. Jesus charged the leaders of his day with spiritual blindness, for not seeing their guilt (John 9:41). Saul, who became Paul, persecuted the followers of Jesus in blind anger and hate, until the Holy Spirit came into his life. It was then that Paul discovered the grace of Christ Jesus (Acts 9). Paul began to look at faith through the eyes of grace.
James, however, understood faith best in deeds and work (James 2:14-26). The simple truth is that the Love of God, that has come to man in Jesus Christ, has both grace and deeds. Faith has to take root in man’s spirit and then grow up to be the light for man’s journey through life. In fact, before man can believe in anyone or anything, man must believe in himself. Man must believe that he can step outside of himself and face the known, as well as the unknown. Life is full of surprises! And man has to have faith, that must grow strong enough, to overcome the disappointments, the hardships, and the tragedies of life. No “One” better than the Spirit of God can join the human spirit to gain the strength needed to overcome a sinful world. Therefore, blessings come to those who believe without leaning on physical evidence (John 20:24-29). Faith must become confident and strong enough so that one can walk on water (so to speak) and presume that it is solid ground (Matthew 14:25-31). Always remember that man is not a bird or a fish. Paul and the writer to the Hebrews had to spent time to built up the faith of their followers. And, the end result of faith must lead to love; for the two are like brother and sister. It is a marriage performed by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Paul knew about the partnership with Christ’s Spirit:
But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely men?
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are fellow workmen for God; you are God’s field, God’s building.
According to the commission of God given to me, like a skilled master-builder I laid a foundation and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one build on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble — each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.
Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s (I Corinthians 3:1-23).
About this we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers,you need some one to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food; for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties by practice to distinguish good from evil.
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrines of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God with instruction about ablutions, the laying on of hands the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt. For land which has drunk the rain that often falls upon it, and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed; its end is to be burned.
Though we speak thus, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things that belong to salvation. For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake in serving the saints as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promise (Hebrews 5:11-6:12).
Abraham became an Example of How to Grow in Faith by Trusting God
God’s Spirit had preceded Abram to Canaan. And God’ Spirit prepared Abram in faith for the environment, which would become the home of his offspring. Abram had to plant in faith and God helped him grow. Canaan was, at the time, already a God-conscious country. The priest of God Most High, Melchizedek, became Abram’s friend. When God made Pharaoh returned Sarah and Pharaoh compensated Abram. Then, there was king Abimelech to whom God spoke in dreams about Abraham. God did shelter Abraham and He was patient with him — just as He is with all of us (II Peter 3:9).
From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb, and dwelt between Kadesh Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man, because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a man’s wife.” Now Abimelech had not approached her; so he said, “Lord, wilt thou slay an innocent people? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that u have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me; therefore I did not let you touch her. Now then restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you; and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you, and all that are that are yours.”
So Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants and told them all these things, and he men were very much afraid. Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said to him,
“What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What were you thinking of, that you did this thing?” Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. Besides she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. And when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, He is my brother.’”
Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves, and gave them to Abraham, and restored Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you, dwell where it pleases you.” To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver, it is your vindication in the eyes of all who are with you; and before every one you are right.” Then Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. For the LORD had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife (Genesis 20:1-18).
Faith Does Not Grow by Itself, Someone Must and Does Plant it, But Beware of the Planter
Jesus compared faith to a tiny mustard seed, which can grow up large enough for birds to nest (Mark 4:30-32). God gave a “spirit” to every human being! And that “spirit,” in every human being, can allow God’s Spirit to plant the right kind of faith, which can grow into a useful human being, and even be a shelter for his fellow beings. It is unfortunate that some of us take a lifetime to realize it and even to grow our faith. However, some of us never grow up. It took Abraham one hundred years to grow a faith that turned him from a taker to a giver. For the first hundred years, Abram wanted to know what God could give him? And God did even gave Abraham a son even at his old age. Then, when he became Abraham and his spirit made room for God’s Spirit, he was ready to give back his son Isaac to God. Abraham’s love for God had become greater than his love for his son. Is it any wonder that God reciprocated by returning his Son Jesus the Christ to Abraham and his follower in the faith, for the love their father and founder had for God? In addition to loving God, Abraham began to love his fellow sinful men. And Abraham even tried to save Sodom and Gomorrah.
And After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And Abraham said, “Here am I.” And the Lord said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer hum tere as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; and he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the ass; I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of he burnt offering, and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. Then Abraham put forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “here am I.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD will provide; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply you descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba (Genesis 22:1-19).
Then the men (who came to announce the birth of Isaac) set out from there, and they looked toward Sodom; and Abraham went with them to set them on their way. The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him? No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” Then he LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry which has come to me; and if not, I will know.”
So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham still stood before the LORD. The Abraham drew near, and sai, “Wilt thou indeed destroy the righteous with th wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous with in the city; wilt thou then destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom Fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Abraham answered, “Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Wilt thou destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him and said “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place (Genesis 18:16-33).