Faith: Sell, Tell, or Do?

Gen 25:29-34 Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. Esau sold his birthright for food. He had more faith in the food to satisfy him than in God. This illustration shows faith can, in some sense, be sold. Selling out is not a good idea, though.

Mt 7:21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Tell of your faith, but live your convictions else your words will not be heard by man or God.

Heb 11:8-9 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. Faith isn’t to be sold or told. It is to be lived. By living, I mean doing. By doing, I mean acting upon your convictions. To say you believe something (to tell) means nothing if you aren’t living the life of which you speak. Of course the great commission commands us to go forth and spread the Good News, but even in the going we are acting in faith. The act of telling is an act. Even so, the telling presupposes a lifestyle of action, living out the articles of what you believe. Else the telling is just wind rustling the leaves.

This post is an excerpt (Question 6.2) from my book Ask James one.

About Lance Ponder

Christian author of "Ask James one"; public speaker; husband and father. Available to speak on Creation and the Gospel.
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6 Responses to Faith: Sell, Tell, or Do?

  1. Todd Beal says:


    I initially began writing this comment in your on-site comment box. I enjoyed your examples of a practical approach to faith in the real world, as is your forte, and thought I would quickly say thanks. But one thought led to another and I switched over to Microsoft Word for the long haul. Nine hours later, here I am with another huge comment. Ever since I experienced faith I just cannot stop thinking about it. It is so fundamental to a right relationship with God, yet sadly you are one of the very few who actually talks about it other than in passing. Faith is not an elective, it is crucial, and unfortunately we mostly sidestep it in today’s religious lollipop cultural approach to Christ. So, at the outset I want to thank you for stoking the fire yet again. It was your statements about faith in action that prompted this longer version of my original comment, which then pulled me deeper into the inner workings of faith.
    Faith is necessarily action-oriented; not that faith itself is action, but that it compels one into action for its rock-solid, irrevocable assurance. Of course there exists the possibility for someone to receive faith and yet not act on it, but if a person truly does receive faith, his heart is necessarily already open to acting on its guarantee of outcome. I believe it would require blatant conscious disobedience for someone to receive faith and then say, “No, I will not act on it” – a most hard to process anomaly, but reminds me of Satan’s willful act of disobedience despite his ultimate knowledge of truth.

    So what happens to our faith if we refuse to act on it? Faith without works is dead, dead in that the enablement we receive through its assurance, or title deed, goes away; hence no more faith. One could think of dead faith as the equivalent of salt that has lost its flavor. The existence of salt and the flavor of salt are mutually inclusive, if one goes away, so too does the other. The same goes for faith. Faith and its empowering essence of spirit-compelled action are also indivisible; if one exists, so too does the other. So, if I claim that I have faith, and at the same time lack the spiritual power to act on that faith, I am equivalently saying, I have salt that has no flavor. Faith absent the spiritual power to act is human-based unfounded belief, not divinely-given spirit-filled, Faith.

    This is why I have a very big problem with statements like, “Have faith. Just increase your faith. Trust God. Exercise your belief in God’s promises.” These types of statements are certainly well-meant by the person who speaks them, but in the end, they are merely vague unsubstantiated notions that do nothing but facilitate spiritual impotence. Spiritual faith is not belief, nor is it trust, but rather it facilitates the very belief and trust required of us to keep that faith alive. We can believe all day long that God is who he says he is, we can believe all day long that God’s promises are true to very last detail, but until – through an open and obedient heart – we receive faith concerning these things that the Bible speaks of, we are limited to believing only the Bible’s trustworthy information about them. We cannot act upon them because we have no faith concerning them, and therefore cannot believe in them, only the information about them – rendering them dead to us. Furthermore, once we do receive faith – and thereby have something substantial in which to place our belief and trust – we must then act on that faith or consequently lose our ability to do “what” its assurance is compelling/empowering us to do. Faith without works is dead, and consequently, spiritually, so are we without faith.

    The more I dive into this subject, the more I realize why most of us don’t understand it, let alone authoritatively teach it. Discerning between the various elements that faith involves, requires an undistracted, and carefully laid out, spiritually in-tune, subtle, discerning train of thought. We use faith, trust, and belief so interchangeably, and so commonly, that except we divorce ourselves from commonplace teaching, and spiritually retrain our mind to distinguish their separate meanings, we really have no basis for understanding them. I think we naturally sense that there is a distinct difference between them, but the required mindset for consciously grasping the essence of their separate meanings is so subtle, so non-blatant, so unusual to normal human thinking, that we either give up prematurely or simply don’t go there, and decide instead to elementarily lump all three together – as if they are slightly the same thing.

    Well, I could go on and on pouring out my thoughts but I think I have said enough for now. I have a long way to go in my understanding of the various subtle complexities and intricacies that faith involves, but I know enough to know that faith is not only real, it is powerful, and without it we are as weak as the mighty oak whose taproot dies in the soil that feeds it.

    Thanks Lance, for another thought provoking post.

    • Lance Ponder says:

      “Faith is necessarily action-oriented; not that faith itself is action, but that it compels one into action for its rock-solid, irrevocable assurance.”


      You get it! Many give it lip service, but only some actually get it. This is an uncomfortable “inconvenient truth” to many who wear the Christian label as if it were Abercrombie and Fitch. I know you’re not the only reader who gets it, but when I read your thoughts and having had a chance to get to know you a little, I can see you really do understand. The simple fact you get it is itself a witness, a testimony to the power of the word that cuts like a sword through the false reality of the matrix in which we live much of our lives to the real truth that is pure and living, not merely the approximation of life. With this in mind you can see why I am a fan of sci-fi, because well told sci-fi stories explore this distinction and provide allegory for true reality so that like a parable of Jesus, we can make those comparisons that lead us to his truth.

      • Todd Beal says:

        Yes Lance, I have thought many times about just how eerily similar life is to The Matrix. It is only through Christ’s empowerment that we step into reality and see it for what it truly is. And you know what’s interesting, until one steps outside the Matrix of delusion, one will see that delusion as real and sensible, while still sensing there is something amiss.

  2. Pingback: Is Faith the Same as Trust or Belief? | Truth Behind Reality

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