“Nevertheless, will the Son of Man returning, find the faith upon the earth?” (Luke 18:8).
Jesus puts a rhetorical question here but in the Greek it is expressed with the interrogative particle ara, which implies a negative response; moreover, “faith” here is expressed with a definite article, so the sense of it is that He expects to find faith, but not “the faith”. That begs the question, “What does Jesus mean by the faith?”
“Faith” is the translation of the Greek pistis, which is also commonly translated as “trust” and “belief”; in fact, true faith means firstly “belief”, which is an acceptance of truth, and secondly, “trust”, which is acting according to that truth; to believe the truth but act in a manner that is inconsistent with it is not “the faith”, but hypocrisy.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own wisdom” Proverbs 3:5).
In this world, our lives follow one of two paths; by direction of God’s hand, or by happenstance; many people have faith, yet live by happenstance or self direction, but what Jesus refers to as “the faith” is to live by direction of God’s hand alone, thus being prepared for life in the eternal kingdom of God where there is no such thing as happenstance or casual occurrence; all is under God’s hand.
All Christians have the quality of “belief” in various capacities; that is, they believe the truths revealed in the Word of God, although those beliefs might be corrupted by the deceptive work of Satan and his demons through the doctrines of men; so that leads us to consider the quality of “trust”.
Trust occupies a very one-sided space in modern Christian theology; we trust God to do things for us; to save us, to forgive us, to take us to heaven; but how many trust God to do things that He wants to do; to change us, to break us, to chastise us, to teach us Himself? Modern Christian practice is to trust God for salvation for our souls, but not with Lordship of our lives.
“Offer the sacrifice of righteousness and trust in the Lord” (Psalm 4:5) says the Psalmist, and, in truth, trusting in the Lord is a basic prerequisite of righteousness; they are two sides of the same coin and there can be no righteousness where there is no trust; “belief” is only half way there as far as saving faith is concerned. Trust is the righteous sacrifice that is acceptable to the Lord and faith without trust is a reproach to Him.
How then do we trust God? Trust is not a passive thing; it is something that we must do positively and consciously. Trusting God means getting out of His way and relying on Him; waiting for Him to reveal to you what to do in any situation. On the face of it, this may seem somewhat childish, and it is; we must be like children; utterly dependent upon our Father.
When children are born they are totally dependent upon their parents for everything; without parental care and attention babies would surely die; as babies grow and become children they learn to become more independent in some things; then, as adults, they are completely free of any necessity to depend upon anyone. Then, as believers, we must learn to become dependent again; this is the hardest lesson of all; to give up our hard won independence, for which we have been trained by our parents since infancy, and voluntary surrender our decision making capacity to another; but this is the essential ingredient of “the faith” that Jesus is talking of and has called us to.
An example of trust that we can learn from the life of Jesus is that we can trust Him to let us come in to His presence and to have Him with us continually in our life in this world. But He will not be there against our will; we must make room for Him; if we empty He will fill; only as we come out of this world can we go in to His; you cannot have a foot in both camps, although that is what we try and do; be at peace with the world and be at peace with God also. That neglects what Jesus said; “It is not possible to be a servant of God and Mammon” (Matthew 6:24), and “mammon” includes all that is of the world, including the religions of men.
We can also trust God to speak to us; indeed, this is a core promise of Christ to His followers. “My sheep hear My voice” (John 10:27) He said. But the same fundamental principle concerning God’s promises applies in this case too; if we are to hear, we must make the effort to tune out to the world and take time to listen to that voice; and we must ask Him to speak and wait for Him to answer before acting on our own.
Isaiah was listening when He heard the Lord ask; “Who shall I send and who will go for us?” and he volunteered for the job “Here I am. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).
Samuel too, was in his bed but heard the Lord calling and got up from his bed to answer the call; “Speak, for your servant hears” he said (1 Samuel 3:10). We are told that, in those days, the word of the Lord was rare (1 Samuel 3:1); one of the reasons was that no-one was listening to God; the priesthood had been corrupted, priests honouring their families more than God and growing fat on the sacrifices and offerings of the people.
We must allow God to speak; He has something to say to each one of His children which is for them alone; it is not necessary to consult with others; we need to be like Paul; “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:16). If we empty ourselves, He will speak; that is His promise and that is the experience of many. Sadly, there are too many Christians today who do not expect to hear, who do not take time to listen and who are satisfied with the words of other men.