Living by Faith in the Midst of Unbelievers

by Steven Chan
26 September 2010

Maintaining faith in God in the midst of unbelievers is a real challenge. This is all the more so when the unbelievers are supposed to be those who profess to believe in God.
How does one maintain one’s faith amidst such great lack of trust and dependency on God – especially amidst those who profess to trust in God?

The Bible tells of the account of a young shepherd who was also the youngest in his family. His father asked him to bring some food to his older brothers who were fighting the Philistines. When David got there, he saw how terrified the army of Israel was in the face of the challenge by Goliath of the Philistines. I Sam 17:24 observes that “all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.”

Was David similarly affected? As a young man, he could have been excused for being fearful as well. His older brothers were similarly afraid of Goliath as he was a giant (I Sam 17:4) – about nine feet nine inches tall! No one in the army of Israel was prepared to face Goliath in battle. Why was the army of Israel so afraid of Goliath? They were people who ought to know the power of God. But somehow they failed to learn to trust God for His deliverance – unlike their forefathers who had trusted the Lord when they crossed the Red Sea and conquered the land promised by God. Their forefathers acted in faith; their children no longer shared that faith! They were God’s people but they no longer really trusted the Lord in all circumstances. They no longer had real faith in God. They probably have “a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof” (2 Tim 3:5). They had essentially become unbelievers!

The young shepherd David responded differently not out of youthful brashness but because he had been living a life that was dependent upon God and he knew that his God was a deliverer in his everyday living as He had delivered him from adversities. He had learned to trust God and His power to deliver him during difficult and challenging circumstances. David knew that on his own, he could not have overcome those adversities. He acknowledged that God had been with him and had helped him overcome those challenging situations. He had demonstrated courage to act positively because of his faith and trust in God.

In I Sam 17:34-37, the young shepherd related his experience with God: “Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, the LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.”

The apostle Paul shared the same experience in 2 Cor 1:8-11: “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; Ye also helping together by prayer for us…”

Paul noted that the challenges that he faced “was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (ESV).

The key point is that our many afflictions, sufferings, trials and adversities are meant to “make us rely not on ourselves but on God”. Our God is no ordinary being; He raises the dead! He raised Jesus from the dead and He will raise us from the dead. If He has power to overcome death, what can He not do (Rom 8:31-39)? So, Paul declared that he viewed life’s challenges as occasions that should cause us to understand the need to rely on God and not on ourselves. This is what faith in God entails: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”(Heb 11:6)

Are we living our lives with complete trust in God as we seek to serve and glorify Him? The faith of some may have been shaken because they felt that God had not helped them in the past although they had prayed and trusted Him. But brethren, trusting God requires that we live our lives consistent with His will. If we live our lives outside the will of God, can we realistically expect God to bless us and grant us our requests and prayers?

Listen to what the Bible says in James 4:2-4: “You desire and do not have … You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (ESV). “Whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”(1 John 3:22). “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him”(1 John 5:14-15).

Brethren, God is not to be treated like someone whom we can simply ask to do our biddings without respect and regard to who He is and what He wants us to be. Sometimes, in our prayers, it sounds as if we are giving instructions to God! Lord, do this and Lord do that…Lord, bring the absentees to church…Lord, feed the poor….Lord, comfort the afflicted – while we ourselves do nothing to bring the absentees, feed the poor or comfort the afflicted (James 2:14-17).

God is to be viewed as our Lord, Master, Guide and Shepherd through life and we need to be obedient to His Will and while living for Him, we can then ask for His blessings and guidance to help us fulfill His will in our lives. Then whatever we ask from Him, we can be confident that He will grant us our requests. And even if He does not give us our requests, we need to learn as Paul shared in 2 Cor 12:7-9 to trust God regardless as God will still provide us with His grace to enable us to bear with such situations: “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet (discipline) me, lest I be exalted above measure.  Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Are we believers in God and His power to deliver and reward us? Or, are we like the Israelites as we face the Goliaths of our lives? “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) Will we stand firm in our faith, trust and dependence on God in the face of all sorts of challenges in our lives? Can we stand like David in the midst of many unbelievers – so that our faith will stand out as light in the midst of darkness – and thereby bring deliverance to ourselves and to those with whom we labor?