What is the nature of true faith? How do we know if we really have it or not? What is the way that it manifests? The answer to these questions comes through our text today, plus we see it very clearly in a well-known Old Testament passage.
Paul and Barnabas had fled to Lystra from Iconium where the preaching of the Gospel divided the people. The Gospel does not bring peace and unity into the world. It brings hatred and division, sad to say. If a pastor preaches unity with the world, he’s saying something the Bible does not. Jesus said this plainly in Matthew 10:34-39:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Very often, those who bring the Word of God are persecuted. People hate being reminded of their sin, their need to repent and to surrender their will to the Lord Jesus. They want to do what pleases them rather than God, and they prefer the pleasures of sin for a season rather than the righteousness that gives them a right relationship with God.
In Iconium, despite the signs and wonders they performed in God’s Name, Paul and Barnabas had to flee with their very lives at stake. When they arrived at Lystra, they didn’t hesitate to continue preaching the Word of God. They had a fire in their bellies that would not be quenched. They would speak of God and Christ whatever the consequences.
There in Lystra they encountered a man crippled from birth who had never walked. Surely, he had given up all hope of ever walking and being like others around him. He couldn’t live a normal, productive life; all he could do was beg and depend on the charity of others. Yet, look at what happened.
Paul spoke and doubtless preached the Gospel. When this man heard; he believed. Conviction rose up within him that Paul spoke the very Word of God and every syllable was true. It created in him something beyond what he’d ever experienced. Faith rose up that Jesus Christ was the Son of God; there was none like Him. The Word that Jesus brought eternal life beyond the misery of this human existence, because God loves us and wants to redeem us from this sin-drenched world, was a message that resonated deeply in this man.
His eyes locked on those of Paul. When the apostle saw his intense and believing gaze, he knew without a doubt that God wanted to heal him. In some fashion, the Holy Spirit spoke to Paul and caused him to boldly proclaim healing in the Name of Jesus.
Would his healing have occurred without this evidence of faith that he showed? Who knows? There’s no doubt in this episode that the man’s faith was crucial to his being healed.
Where else have we seen faith like that? When the Jews were exiled to Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar built a golden image to himself and required all his subjects to bow down before it. Daniel was elsewhere when this narrative occurred, so this trial of faith was not for him. Only Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the Jewish nation refused to pay homage to Nebuchadnezzar by bowing to this idol.
The king threatened to throw them into the fiery furnace for their disobedience. He gave them an opportunity to reconsider. What did they do? They said not a chance. The God they believed in was so powerful in their lives that they had absolute trust in Him. They knew that Yahweh was real, that Sheol was a place they didn’t want to go by denying Him, and that faith in the Lord was a necessity. They would not bow to any idol. Yahweh was the One and only God they would obey.
Look at their refusal in Daniel 3:16-18:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Their faith was so rock solid that they knew – they KNEW – that Yahweh would deliver them. But that faith extended even further. If for some reason, God didn’t keep them from death in the furnace, they would worship only Him anyway. Nothing would prevent them from complete allegiance to Yahweh.
This is another example of what we call believing loyalty. King David is most famous for this as a man after God’s own heart. Believing loyalty says that a person will trust, obey, and follow God above everything else. No other god, no idol, no enticement of any kind, will cause this person’s heart to desire anything or anyone else but the One true God.
In the description of the crippled man, this is what transpired. Faith rose up in him as believing loyalty. For that, God rewarded him with the incredible healing that enabled him to walk for the first time in his life.
If our faith is as deep as these examples, what might God do in our lives? He wants nothing more from us than total surrender, trust, and obedience. God wants our believing loyalty. He is worthy. Shall we give it to Him?