In 1987, George Michael recorded a song called “Faith.” When you ask many people, outside the church and even some inside the church, what “keeping the faith” means, they will give the George Michael answer. The lyrics of the song go as follows, “ ‘cause I gotta have faith, I gotta have faith, faith, faith.” Just saying I gotta have faith is essentially meaningless. In what object, person or philosophy is that faith placed? Faith is not faith unless one places that faith in something. Most people have faith in themselves and that’s a good philosophy in one sense, but not ultimately. Ultimately, faith must fully rest upon God and his promises because God is the only one that can be fully trusted in the person of Jesus Christ.
So, what does it mean to “keep the faith” or more precisely what is the motivation to “keep the faith”? First, faith must be defined Biblically. There is a story in the middle of the book of Isaiah that tells of the leader of the Assyrian army who relays a message from Sennacherib King of Assyria to Hezekiah King of Judah. It says in Isaiah 36:4 “And the Rabshakeh said to them, “Say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours”? Answering that question, “On what do you rest this trust of yours” is essential in defining what Biblical faith is. Answer that question wrong and there’s no sense in talking about “keeping the faith” because that faith would be placed in the wrong person, thing or idea.
Biblical faith is not about an idea, but about a person, the Lord Jesus Christ. Time and time again, Jesus heals people and more often than not he sends them on their way by saying, “your faith has made you well” (Matt 9:22, Mark 5:34, 10:52, Luke 8:48, 17:19, 18:42). Was their faith put in the notion that they really believe that they would be made well? No, their faith rested in Jesus who was the only one who could make them well both physically and spiritually. Faith is not separate from the person of Jesus Christ. In John 15, Jesus is speaking to his disciples for the last time before going to the cross. He wants to tell them the most important things about living the Christian life. He tells them what it means to live the Christian life by being in union with him. John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Separate faith from Jesus and that faith can ultimately do nothing.
Biblical faith is never separate from Jesus. The case could be made that faith has very little to do with belief on our part and very little to do with us. To go further, faith has nothing to do with us, in and of ourselves and everything to do with Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:13 “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” Our faith does not depend so much on us as we believe and do good works, but on God who gives faith to us as a gift and in Jesus Christ who is the faithful one. Faith depends totally on Jesus. Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” This is the definition of Biblical faith, of Christian faith, of Union with Christ.
Now that faith has been defined, the question has to be asked, as was mentioned at the beginning, what’s the motivation for “keeping the faith.” If it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Jesus, why should I do anything at all. Why don’t I just sit back and relax and let Jesus do all the work and have all the faith for me? In one sense, that is what the Christian is supposed to do. Living life in the shadow of Galatians 2:20 is the only way to live. It takes away all the pressure that my family, my job, society, my sinful nature and the devil places upon me because it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. This is good, but it doesn’t mean that I no longer have a personality or a body, mind, soul or sin in my life. It means that everything isn’t up to me.
Faith in Jesus isn’t trying really hard to believe him, it’s looking to him for life. He is the vine and we are the branches. Branches do things. Branches grow leaves and fruit and grow stronger and hang, but only because they are tied to the root or the vine. Apart from the vine, the branch dies and so Jesus says, “apart from me you can do nothing.” The opposite of that would be that with Jesus we can do all things.
“Keeping the faith” is constantly reminding myself of Galatians 2:20. The second half of the verse says that Jesus loved me and gave himself for me. The greek text says it more personally than any english translation: ζῶ τῇ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντός με καὶ παραδόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ. In effect it says that the son of God is the loving and giving himself for me one. The tense is in the aorist active participle, which means that Jesus has always been the one who has loved me and given himself for me and that he always will be the one who loves me and gives himself for me. “Keeping the faith” can be summed up with love. Not the love I have for God or others, but the love that He has for me. Nothing can change that love that Jesus has for me. He cannot love me anymore no matter how many things I do for him. He cannot love me any less no matter how much I disappoint him. His love does not change. So, the first thing to remember in the motivation to keep the faith is that Jesus loves me and always will and nothing can change that.
Since nothing can change the love that Jesus has for me, that should be motivation to live life by pleasing God and delighting myself in his promises. God promises in Exodus 6:7, “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” This is the promise that we can cling to when we come to faith in God. God is not promising that if we have faith in him these promise will be ours. No, God is promising that because he has made this promise and given to us faith, he will see it through to the end. We have not been saved from the burdens of Egypt, but from our sins and from all the expectations that we place on ourselves to perform for God’s love. Since God already loves us, we do not need to earn his love, but rather desire to please him and enjoy living in the light of his salvation. As children we live to please our parents, who if they were good parents love us no matter what. God is that way always. He is always the one who loves us and gives himself for us. So, the second thing that motivates us in “keeping the faith” is to live in the light of his salvation, his love for us and for his pleasure.
If one aspect of “keeping the faith” is to please God, the question must be asked, what pleases God? Maybe a better way of asking the question would be who can please God? Obviously, God is not pleased with sinners, otherwise He would not have sent His Son to die for sinners. So, sinners cannot please God. Only righteous people can please God, but who is righteous? Those who have faith are righteous. Hebrews 11:6 says “without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” This gets back to the point that faith is not essentially believing, although it is that, but it is essentially being in Union with Christ. The only one who can please God the Father is God the Son and all those who have put their faith in Jesus. The work of Jesus in all of his obedience and his salvific work on the cross pleased God and continues to please God because when he looks at us in Union with Christ he no longer sees the sinner who displeases him he sees the saved sinner who is in Jesus. He no longer looks at our sin when he looks at us, he looks at us and sees Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says this so well. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The righteousness of God is what pleases God.
This righteousness of God that pleases God produces love. It produces love for God and love for others. Those others are our enemies (Romans 12:9-21), our neighbors (Galatians 5:14) and our brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 4:7) The truth is that as much as the world talks about love, love outside of faith in God proves to be unfruitful. We cannot love without “keeping the faith.” Love and faith are not separate either. Love is tied to faith as faith is tied to Christ. The apostle John in his first epistle writes, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Going back to Galatians 2:20 with Jesus being the one who loves us and gives himself for us. Jesus gives us himself as a gift. When we open up the box of this gift, if you will, we find love and faith. When we get down on ourselves as Christians, we sometimes say, “I need to be more loving.” The only way to be more loving is to have more faith and the only way to have more faith is to look at the love that Jesus has for us as our motivation for loving others. Faith and love are inextricably tied together because they aren’t just nice ideas, they are words to describe Union with Christ.
Another motivation of “keeping the faith” is the Holy Spirit. Obviously, Union with Christ does not mean that Jesus is with us bodily, physically, as he was with the disciples 2,000 years ago. The Holy Spirit is with us as He was with Jesus his entire life. The Holy Spirit that we receive is the same Holy Spirit that enable Jesus to live a life of faith in obedience to God. The Holy Spirit produces faith and trusting in him is what enables us to “keep the faith”. When we read the Bible, we read it by faith in the Holy Spirit. Faith that the Holy Spirit produced the words of God’s Word (2 Peter 1:21). Part of “keeping the faith” as simple as it may sound is reading scripture. But, reading scripture apart from the guiding of the Holy Spirit is like spitting in the wind. The Holy Spirit helps us as we read to understand the Bible by faith. The Holy Spirit helps us in to keep the faith by showing us Jesus in all of scripture, both Old and New Testaments.
The Holy Spirit also helps us to pray. Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Its kind of funny that perhaps the most important lessons to learn in “keeping the faith” is to shut up. The apostle Paul describes here in Romans 8 that we don’t know what to pray for or don’t know how to pray. The Holy Spirit comes and lifts our prayers up to God without us saying a word. Groaning is important in “keeping the faith.” Newborn babies don’t have to say a word to get their parents attention. They really don’t even have to cry. All they need to do is make enough groaning sounds to alert their Mom and Dad that they are hungry or need a diaper changed. We don’t need to say a word to God in prayer in order to get his attention. “Keeping the faith” means trusting that the Holy Spirit communicates our needs, wants and things we don’t understand to God. The Holy Spirit is the most important person to us in “keeping the faith.” He does things that we can’t do, that we couldn’t possibly do no matter how much “faith” we had in ourselves.
This subject is inexhaustible, but the final thing to be said here is that the motivation to “keeping the faith” is relying on each other. While relying on God in the persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is everything that we need to have faith, we also live in a world with other people. We live in a world with broken families, broken churches, broken marriages, friendships and relationships. Those broken relationships can be put back together and healed by faith in God. Faith in God inevitably will produce a loving heart and a loving heart will shine in a world of brokenness. So, the final motivation to “keeping the faith” is to heal broken relationships. Again, this it is not all on us to heal, it is all on Jesus work in us and through us to draw people to Himself and draw us closer together in our earthly relationships.
I believe the goal of the motivation to “keep the faith” is love for God and others. That statement is so glossed over in day-to-day life, but if we can focus on what Paul says in Galatians 2:20 that Jesus loved us and gave himself for us, we will have all the motivation that we will ever need to “keep the faith.” The only way to “keep the faith” is to look at Jesus.