What it Means to Have Real Faith

Faith. It’s something we talk about it. It’s something we encourage each other to have. It’s something we know we need. But is it really something we practice? Hebrews 11:6 tells us without faith, it’s impossible to please God. So obviously it’s pretty important. But what is it really? What does it mean to have faith and practice faith in the one true God?


Devotional Scripture: Genesis 50
Key Verse: “Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” Genesis 50:25


According to Hebrews 11, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph figured it out. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac…” “By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.” “By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.” “By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.”

By faith, by faith, by faith….why were these men credited with having faith? Because it was belief in the promise of God that prompted their actions.

You see faith isn’t hoping God will come through for me. It isn’t throwing a penny into the wishing well of dreams in anticipation of a desirable outcome. It isn’t crossing my fingers behind my back. Faith at its core is believing God will do what he’s said he will do. Period. End of story.

Not because I say the right words or ask enough times, but because He is faithful. On the flip side, if God hasn’t said he will do it, I can’t have faith that he will. I can ask. I can hope. But I can’t have faith.

And therein lies a major problem with today’s Christianity. We often pray and ask God to do something for us. We close our eyes and believe really really hard that he can and should do it, assuming that’s how you have faith. Then we wait patiently (for at least an hour) and end up discouraged when things don’t turn out the way we think they should.

But the question is – am I simply believing God for something I want or something he’s actually said? It’s only faith if I’m believing God for something he’s actually said. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph believed God for what he said. (Reason #1,245,377 for knowing my Bible. It makes “walking by faith” a whole lot easier.)

Thus with nothing back in Canaan but a small piece of land he took from the Amorites (Gen. 48:22) and a cave bought by Abraham, Jacob was adamant he not be buried in Egypt, but in Canaan. Because he wholeheartedly believed the promise of God that the land would one day be theirs.

In spite of the odds. In spite of the fact they were no longer living there. In spite of the fact it currently belonged to a myriad of other people groups and sounded ridiculous, Jacob insisted.

So Joseph made it happen. With the pomp and circumstance of royalty, Jacob’s body was embalmed and taken to Canaan. It was quite the caravan. Verse 7 says along with Joseph went, “All the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household.” Everyone except the kids. (Maybe they were in school. Just kidding. Kind of.)

Oh and also “chariots and horsemen. It was a very great company” (v. 9). Meaning Pharaoh’s army, probably for protection since they were entering a foreign land. What I want to know is who was back at the palace taking care of Pharaoh if all his servants were with Joseph? Very generous of the king.

When the Canaanites saw the entourage and heard “the very great and grievous lamentation” on the threshing floor of Atad, they renamed the place Abel-mizraim, which means “the mourning of Egypt”, figuring it must have been someone of great importance.

But Jacob wasn’t great because of who he was or what he’d done in life. He wasn’t mourned for seventy days by the people of Egypt because of his contributions to society. (Just two days short of the required time of mourning for a king by the way.) He was mourned and lamented and celebrated solely because of his relationship to Joseph.

My friend, it’s not about who you are or aren’t. It’s not about what you’ve done or will do or won’t do. It’s about your relationship to Jesus. It’s about faith. Do we believe God is who he says he is? Do we believe God will do what he’s said he will do?

If so, our actions will show it. Because faith without works is dead. It has no validity. “Show me your faith apart from works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). It’s how Abraham and Isaac lived. It’s how Jacob and Joseph lived. And it’s how you and I need to live.

Confident in the promise of God. Confident in his faithfulness. Confident in his sovereignty. So much so that even when it looks unlikely, even when the odds are against us, even when it seems ridiculous, we testify to the goodness of God by declaring no matter what – bury me in the land of Canaan.

Take my bones, as Joseph made them swear. Proclaiming to a lost world – “I don’t care how it looks right now. I don’t care how absurd you think I am. I believe in the promise of God.” Could there be anything more impactful to the next generation than a church who takes God at his word?

Not holding God accountable, but believing God powerful. And then acting accordingly.

Beloved of God, the patriarchs lived their faith with action based on the promise of God. They may have withered from time to time, but they didn’t give up. Faith in God required something of them, and this hasn’t changed. It requires something of us too.

So whether it means we give trusting God will provide. Whether it means we acknowledge him before men, knowing he’ll acknowledge us before the Father. Whether it means picking up your cross or laying your most prized possessions down. Go and do it. Live by faith. Believe God will do what he’s said he will do and act accordingly. Because he who promised is faithful.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Are you trusting in God for something he’s said or something you simply want?

Alas we have come to the end of Genesis. It’s been a wonderful ride (at least from my vantage point). God has proven himself faithful chapter by chapter. So today I ask you, what difference has it made in your life? How have you been encouraged through our study together? How have you been challenged? I’d love to hear from you.

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