“And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the Gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.” Colossians 1:21–23

For most believers who live in nations blessed with the heritage of western civilization and in what remains of “cultural Christianity,” we find ourselves wondering about the strength of our faith. Is it a faith robust enough to survive physical persecution? Is it made of the same Hebrews 11-quality raw material as the faith of our longsuffering, stalwart forebears? How does one know the mettle of his faith before he is levered into the breach, or released by the hand of God into the crucible? Paul’s words in Philippians 1:29 give pause for thought: “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”

My thoughts run to the Apostle Paul, who endured “in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses…in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings” (2 Corinthians 6:4–5) and “in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often…five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked: a night and a day I have been in the deep, in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles…in the city…in the wilderness…in the sea, in perils among false brethren…besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:23–28). Despite all this, the faith God planted in Paul was unshakeable. What Paul learned and shared about faith in his letters is well worth consideration by the “flabby” saints of today.

Paul speaks of faith as a living, grounded reality that motivates, of its own accord, in the heart and mind of the believer, just like Hebrews 4:12. From his teaching in Acts through his last letter to Timothy just before his own death, Paul reveals faith’s design, its source, its nature, and its effect. Faith, in simple terms, is to believe what God says. It is taking God at His Word and living in obedience to His Word. Faith is only as strong as its object. Authentic faith has as its object God’s name (Romans 10:13).

The way faith is designed to function in your life begins with the information found in the Gospel, that Jesus Christ died in your stead paying the penalty for your sin, that He was buried, and then rose from the dead because of your justification (Romans 4:24f). This body of factual doctrine is the focus of God’s Word, holding all His promise to you. Salvation is granted at the same time as a sinner recognizes the truth of God’s redemptive work in your behalf (1 Corinthians 2:5). Not only are you to recognize the facts but you are to trust them, relying on them alone for your soul’s eternal security. Trust will always be revealed by your obedience, for you not only recognize the facts of salvific doctrine and completely rely upon them, but you revisit them regularly as you obey Him. Belief will always translate into life.

Faith’s source is God, it is by His grace (Ephesians 2:8ff; Philippians 1:29, 3:9). This embedding with faith is a transforming thing for every believer. God changes you by saving faith. Peter teaches the fact that when a man is born again he receives a new nature (2 Peter 1:4), is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17f). Your faith is essentially in His faithfulness. God is faithful and His faithfulness is answered by the faith in His children (1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Timothy 1:12, 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3).

Faith’s nature is often invisible to the bearer until it is required to act. Just as your human nature is known by your actions, so your new nature will be revealed by your actions. Just as a deer is not easily recognized when it stands motionless in the woods, faith seems unquantifiable when there is nothing to test it. But that does not mean it is not there; if God has planted faith, it is there and will be revealed in action. This is James’ argument in James 2:24. Faith is effectual in those who have faith (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Faith is not all talk, it does not tout itself (Romans 3:27, 10:3f), it acts in obedience to God’s Word. Faith is sincere (1 Timothy 1:5), it abounds (2 Corinthians 8:7), and it is assured (2 Timothy 1:12).

Faith’s effect is always robust (1 Timothy 1:19). Just as in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 7:24ff, the house of one’s life built on the rock-solid foundation of Jesus Christ will stand the tests of the storm; it will not fail, and it will not collapse, because God is faithful! The Apostle Paul would heartily “amen” the words of 1 Peter 1:7. Take firm hold of this shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16; 1 Corinthians 16:13) just as Isaac Watts wrote in 1719, “Unshaken is the sacred hill, and fixed as mountains be—firm as a rock the soul shall rest, that leans, O Lord, on Thee!” Trust and obey.