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Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and
certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

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Do you remember how you felt when you were very young
and your birthday approached?  You were excited and anxious.
You knew you would certainly receive gifts and other special treats.
but some things would be a surprise.  Birthdays combine assurance
and anticipation, and so does faith!!!  Faith is the conviction
based on past experience that God's new and fresh surprises
will surely be ours.

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Two words describe faith:  sure and certain.  These two qualities
need a secure beginning and ending point.  The beginning point of faith
is believing in God's character - He is who He says.  The end
point is believing in God's promises - He will do what He says.
When we believe that God will fulfill His promises even though
we don't see those promises materializing yet,
we demonstrate true faith (see John 20:24-31)

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Faith is a word with many meanings.   It can mean faithfulness (Matthew 24:45)
It can mean absolute trust, as shown by some of the people who came
to Jesus for healing (Luke 7:2-10).  It can mean confident hope (Hebrews 11:1).
Or, as James points out, it can even mean a barren belief that does not
result in good deeds (James 2:14-26).  What does Paul mean when,
in Romans, he speaks of saving faith?

We must be very careful to understand faith as Paul uses the word,
because he ties faith so closely to salvation.  It is not something
we must do in order to ear salvation - if that were true, then faith would
be just one more deed, and Paul clearly states that human deeds
can never save us (Galatians 2:16).  Instead, faith is a gift God gives
us because He is saving us (Ephesians 2:8).  It is God's grace, not
our faith, that saves us.  In His mercy, however, when He saves
us He gives us faith - a relationship with His Son that helps
us become like Him.  through the faith He gives us, He
carries us from death into life (John 5:24)

Even in Old Testament times, grace, not deeds, was the
basis of salvation.  As Hebrews points out, "it is impossible
for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4).
God intended for his people to look beyond the animal sacrifices to Him,
but all too often they, required sacrifices.  When Jesus triumphed over
death, He cancelled the charges against us and opened the
way to the Father (Colossians 2:12-15).  Because He is
merciful, He offers us faith.  How tragic if we turn faith into a
deed and try to develop it on our own!  We can never come to God
through our own faith, any more than His Old Testament people
could come through their own sacrifices.  Instead, we must accept
His gracious offer with thanksgiving and allow him to plant
the seed of faith within us.

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