By Pastor Glenn Pease
In 1781 Sir William Herschel, the English astronomer, discovered the planet Uranus. He plotted the course that this new planet should follow, but for some mysterious reason Uranus did not follow the predicted orbit. Other astronomers checked his calculations and found no mistake. It was necessary for the scientists to take a leap of faith and believe that some unknown and unseen star was responsible for deflecting Uranus from its normal orbit. For 60 years speculation about this unseen body was developed.
One astronomer was so certain of its reality that he wrote in 1846, "We see it as Columbus saw America from the shores of Spain." By faith he saw the unseen, and that very year a German scientist named Galle gazing through a new telescope equipped with more powerful lenses saw for the first time with the eye of flesh, the planet Neptune, which was responsible for the movements of Uranus. There it was, visible to the eye of sense in the very spot that the eye of faith had said it must be for 60 years.
Faith is not a leap in the dark, but it is a leap in the direction toward which the light is shining. Faith follows the path of evidence, and then leaps out ahead of the evidence in the belief that the evidence will eventually catch up and support, and justify the leap of faith. Leslie Weatherhead defines this faith of the intellect as "An attitude of complete sincerity, and loyalty to the trend of all the available evidence, plus a leap in the direction of that trend."
Faith is the basis of all progress into the unknown. Faith adventures into the unknown and unseen believing that there is more to reality than is presently known. Faith is not opposed to reason, but it is faster. It runs ahead and lays hold on truths which reason is not yet capable of seeing. Reason travels by horse and buggy, while faith flies as fast as the speed of light-the light of God's Word and revelation. The man of faith is always ahead of his time because he is always living on the basis of truths that go beyond the best that reason and sight have developed.
This is the ideal that faith makes possible, but we need to be careful not to make faith everything, and put all of our resources into a foundation, and have nothing left with which to build. The servant and Apostle Peter make it clear that faith is the foundation of the Christian life. In verse 1 he addresses Christians as those who have obtained like precious faith. In verse 5 where he begins the climb up the ladder of Christian character and effectiveness, he starts with faith, and says add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge etc. We see that faith is the foundation, and is absolutely essential as a basis from which to begin the climb, but it is not enough in itself for the full Christian experience.
We are saved by faith alone, and none of these additions are necessary for salvation. Faith alone can receive the free gift of God's grace, but no Christian can be content with being saved alone. Salvation is just the start of what God has for us. To often people are content to stop at the start. There is a life to be lived for the glory of Him who saved us. We are to avoid barrenness and unfruitfulness, and the danger of falling by diligently adding to the foundation of faith all of these other values that Peter lists. Consider an airport as an illustration of the Christian life. The first thing you need is a runway. This is the foundation of an airport. It is to the airport what faith is to the Christian life. Everything else is just to increase the usefulness of an airport. If you build hangers, a tower, and a restaurant, but have no runway, you do not have an airport. The runway is the foundation, and all else must be built around it and added to it.
Therefore, before we can take any flights into the atmosphere of Christian experience we have to have the runway of faith, for it alone is the only adequate launching pad for adventurous aviation into the skies of God's blessings. Our runway of faith has already been laid by Jesus Christ, but as every good pilot learns all he can about the runway, so as wise Christians we should learn all we can about the runway of faith. It is the foundation from which all our flights to the higher Christian life must be launched. Peter tells us two interesting and valuable things about faith in this first verse. The first is-
I. THE EQUALITY OF FAITH.
The Greek word for like precious means equal honor. This is the only place the word is used in the New Testament, but outside of the New Testament the word is used to describe the equality of men in terms of political privileges. Josephus the Jewish historian says that the Jews of Antioch were made equal in honor and privilege with the Gentiles who lived there. He used this same word that Peter uses here. Peter is writing to the Gentiles, and he says they have equal standing with the Jews before God by faith. In Acts 11:17 Peter describes his reaction to God's giving the Gentiles equality with the Jews by giving them the same the gift of faith. He writes, "For as much then as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ: What was I, that I could withstand God?"
Peter is now writing to Gentile Christians, and he emphasizes the equality of faith. Faith is a runway that all have the equal privilege of using. God is no respecter of persons. He gives the gift of faith freely to all who receive His Son as Savior. Most new translations bring out the equality of faith that Peter refers to here. The RSV has it, "To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours." The NEB has it, "To those who share our faith and enjoy equal privilege with ourselves." And the Amplified has it, "To those who have obtained and equal privilege of like precious faith with ourselves."
God is the author of equality where it really counts. There are numerous inequalities among men in temporal matters, but all are free to receive the gift of faith. All saved people are equal in the faith that Peter refers to, for it is saving faith, which is not of man, but the gift of God. All who receive it do so equally. There is no one who is more or less saved than another. All who are saved are equally saved. There are degrees of sanctifying faith, but not saving faith. This means all pilots in the realm of redemption have the same solid and precious runway. We all launch from the same foundation which is a gift of God. The second thing we see is-
II. THE EXCELLENCE OF FAITH.
It is not only a runway we can all use equally, it is in excellent condition. It is precious says Peter. It is of great value and to be highly treasured. Peter loved the word precious. He used it more than all the rest of the New Testament writers put together. In his first letter he calls the trial of our faith more precious than gold that perishes. He refers to the precious blood of Christ, and to Christ as the living stone chosen of God and precious. He says unto you which believe He, that is Christ, is precious. Now in this chapter in the first 4 verses he refers to precious faith, and to precious promises.
It is not hard to tell what Peter valued most in life. His value system was not materialistic at all, for all of the things he counted as precious revolved around Jesus. Faith was one of these precious values that all believers had in common, and so all believers were equally rich in the values that really matter. Faith is precious for at least two good reasons that the Bible stresses. It is precious because it is-
It is powerful first of all to save. "He that believes shall be saved; he that believes not shall be damned." There is no power but the power of faith that can save. It alone makes the difference between heaven and hell. Faith is also the power that enables the believer to persevere and overcome. "Faith is the victory that overcomes the world." Faith provides the energy necessary to endure to the end.
In September of 1949 a 19 year old Navy seaman by the name of William Toles of Rochester, Michigan was washed overboard from his carrier without a lifejacket. It was 4 in the morning, and he was far out to sea off the coast of Africa. No one saw him, and he knew his chances of being rescued were almost nil. Doubt and despair would have led to drowning, but he had the resource of faith. He kicked off his dungarees; tied knots in the legs, and used the seat to trap air in the legs to inflate them. He fashioned his own lifejacket, and then he prayed continually, "Please God-let me be rescued."
He gained such good control of his fears that he even tried to sleep by resting his head against the inflated leg of his dungarees, but the waves kept slapping him awake. By morning he was sick from the waves and from swallowing too much water, but he kept praying assured he would be found. At three in the afternoon he was spotted by sailors on an American Export Lines freighter and was rescued. The captain of the freighter could not explain what compelled him to switch the course of his ship from its usual course, which would have taken him several hundred miles away from the spot where Bill Toles was asking for God's help. Thousands of such experiences have happened to believers. The unbeliever will say it is coincidence, but the believer will recognize it as the power of faith which makes it so precious. To say that faith is powerful is an understatement. It is like saying that the H-bomb is really dynamite. Faith is the power that can rescue from the literal sea and from the sea of sin. It is also precious because it is-
Peter said in his previous letter that it is not like gold which perishes, but is everlasting and indestructible. It is this quality that makes it so precious. Quality makes a great difference in value. A diamond is carbon in a unique and permanent state which gives it a quality that makes it precious. Quantity cannot match it. What bride would be satisfied if her groom tried to please her with quantity, and brought her ten tons of coal rather than a diamond ring? She would not consider the coal precious, but she would the ring. The Christian faith is the diamond amidst the tons of the coal of natural faith.
Every person has some measure of natural faith. We trust in men, money, and machines, all of which is necessary, but none of which gives permanent assurance and security. Only Christian faith can give this, for it alone is based on the eternal righteousness of Christ. Christ is the foundation of the foundation of faith. Even a runway needs to have a foundation, and faith has its foundation in the righteousness of Christ says Peter.
We have only looked at a couple of the great values of faith. It's equality and excellence makes it precious. May God grant us the wisdom to exercise this precious gift, and experience in the present the unseen but certain victories of the future. Robert and Mary Moffat worked and prayed for 10 years in the Bechuana Mission of Africa without a convert. Mary was not limited to the dark present, however, for she had faith in the promise of God, and she said, "We may not live to see it, but as surely as tomorrow's sun will rise, the awakening will come."
Friends urged them to give it up, but she asked that a communion set be sent to them. This was fantastic faith or folly. Only the future could determine which. When the future spoke it spoke for faith. In 1829 a great spiritual awakening swept the mission. Prayer and Christian hymns filled the air, and for the first time the Lord's table was prepared. The communion set that Mary ordered three years previous had just arrived the day before. If this was an isolated case we would not make much of it, but it happens all the time in Christian history because of believers who build their lives on the foundation of faith.