The Dead Sea of Faith: When Faith Becomes Toxic

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first eight verses of the eleventh chapter. This particular chapter is one of the most well-known and beloved passages found within all of Scripture, for the language contained within it which deals exclusively on the subject of faith. Before even delving into that which is found within this chapter, I feel it necessary to pause for a moment and consider the reality that there was an entire chapter written concerning and regarding the subject matter of faith. Everything that was written and everything that is contained within the canon of Scripture is divinely ordained and divinely inspired by the Spirit of the living God, which means that nothing is found in Scripture by chance or accident. With that being said, I am convinced that it was the prerogative and desire of the Spirit of Almighty God to have an entire chapter devoted and dedicated to the subject matter of faith—faith this reality by which we are justified by. When the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews—whoever they might be—wrote concerning the subject matter of faith, they sought to present the lives and accounts of countless individuals in order to wonderfully and powerful demonstrate the scope of faith. It might very well be said that the author of this particular epistle saw fit to take the discussion of faith to an entirely different level, and to new heights, for the author wanted the audience to have a firm grasp—not only on what faith is, but also what faith looks like in action. In all reality, I am convinced that before we move any further with this chapter it is absolutely necessary for us to recognize that the entirety of the eleventh chapter is essentially one large treatise and discussion on what faith looks like in action. We cannot read the eleventh chapter of the New Testament epistle of Hebrews and not be immediately gripped by the reality that faith is more than just confidence, is more than just trust, and is more than just belief. When we talk about and discuss the matter of faith, it is absolutely imperative and necessary that we recognize and understand that faith demands action. Absolutely everything we find and everything we read in this particular chapter points to the reality—not only of what faith is according to Scripture, but also how faith is demonstrated and manifested within the earth.

THE OPERATION OF FAITH! THE MANIFESTATION OF FAITH! The more I sit and consider that which is contained within the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews, the more I can’t help but be wonderfully gripped and captivated by the awesome reality that faith is more than mere assent to a particular belief, but is actually that which carries with it action. We cannot, we dare not, we must not speak of faith without also in the same sentence understanding and speaking of faith as that which is more than simply an internal assent, an internal confidence, an inward belief, an inward manifestation within our hearts, our souls, and our spirits. To consider faith only in the realm of what is unseen to the natural eye and apart from the physical senses is utterly and completely troublesome. If we are going to truly understand the reality, the concept and the nature of faith, it is absolutely necessary that we understand that faith is about more than just what we confess with our mouths, and what we believe in our heart. Even when we consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote concerning confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our heart is not enough, for such a declaration and belief demands and requires action. It is true that what we speak and what we believe plays an integral part in our salvation, there is also the call and the demand to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. If the manifestation of salvation within our lives is about more than just confessing with our mouths and believing in our hearts, but requires and demands responsibility and works, then we must logically and naturally conclude that faith in and of itself also demands and requires action and a response. FAITH DEMANDS A RESPONSE! FAITH DEMANDS ACTIVITY! FAITH DEMANDS AN OUTLET! I would dare say that faith in and of itself cannot survive with mere mental assent, and words of confession from our mouth. Where faith ceases to do, and where faith ceases to get active, and where faith ceases engage itself in the earth, it ceases to exist, and instead fights for survival within our hearts and lives.

THE DEAD SEA OF FAITH! When you look at and study the Dead Sea at the base of the Jordan River you will discover a vast difference between this particular sea and the Sea of Galilee. Whereas the Sea of Galilee is teeming with life, and so much so that the disciples launched their ships out into the midst of it to fish, the Dead Sea has absolutely no life contained within it. Whereas the Sea of Galilee fosters life and vitality in the midst of the land of Israel, the Dead Sea fosters no such life, for it is absolutely impossible for life to be found and contained within it. If you study the difference between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea you will notice one vast difference between the two. If you look at the Sea of Galilee you will find that not only does it have an inlet—that which brings water into it—but it also has an outlet—that which allows water to flow from it. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this reality, for contained within it is a powerful spiritual principle. The principle and truth contained within this illustration is that it isn’t enough to merely have an inlet without also having an outlet. The Dead Sea has an inlet just as the Sea of Galilee does, however, the one thing the Dead Sea does not have is an outlet. Once waters flow into the Dead Sea, those waters are no longer conducive for life and vitality. The Sea of Galilee is able to bring forth life in the midst of it because of the balance that exists between that which flows into it, and that which flows out from it. I am convinced that our faith is either like the Sea of Galilee, or our faith is like the Dead Sea. What I mean by this is that our faith either has an inlet where we receive that which strengthens and gives life to it, as well as an outlet which allows it to express and manifest itself within he earth, or it has an inlet only, and yet has absolutely no outlet with which to manifest and demonstrate life and vitality and strength. I would dare say that there are countless men and women whose faith is nothing more than what I am going to call “Dead Sea Faith,” for it is quick to receive, and yet it never expresses itself, never manifests itself, never engages itself, and never extends beyond itself. Instead, it simply continues to receive within itself and exist within itself, and never extends further and beyond itself. This “Dead Sea Faith” continually receives—perhaps even receives from the Lord—and yet it never moves beyond the realm of heart and spirit. Such faith is incredibly dangerous, and can even become toxic within one’s heart and life, for just as the Dead Sea fosters death, so also can such individual’s faith also produce death.

WHEN FAITH PRODUCES DEATH! Did you know that faith could produce death within your life? Did you know that faith could produce death within your home? Did you know that faith could produce death within your church? Did you know that faith could produce death within a particular ministry and organization? I am convinced that it is absolutely possible for faith to produce death instead of life within a church, a ministry, and/or an organization—regardless of whether or not we would like to believe it or not. It is absolutely possible that faith can work, and faith can produce death within a church and a ministry instead of life when it has not outlet and no expression. There are churches and ministries right now which boast of teeming with life and teeming with vitality, and yet the Lord looks upon them and declares that they are dead. Such churches are just like the church in Sardis which Jesus instructed John to write a letter to in the New Testament book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Consider if you will the words which Jesus Himself declared unto this church: “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent” (Revelation 3:1-3). Notice that when speaking to and addressing this church Jesus declared that they had a name that they lived, and yet they were in fact dead. Oh how many churches, oh how many ministries, oh how many organizations today have a name that they live, and yet they are dead? How many churches today may even have the word “life” contained within the name of the church, and yet what is found and what is contained inside is nothing more than death. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus spoke concerning the Pharisees and the religious system of His day. Consider if you will the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tith of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you scribes, and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:23-28).

I realize the concept of faith producing death within one’s life, or perhaps even a particular church, ministry and origination, however, I am utterly and absolutely convinced that such is absolutely and altogether possible. I am convinced that it is possible to have within one’s heart and life “Dead Sea Faith”—a faith which may continually have an inlet and that which pours into it, yet it doesn’t have any type of outlet. Such faith may very well become toxic within one’s heart, within one’s life, and perhaps even within the ministry one engages themselves in, for faith has always and will always need an outlet and a way to express itself. Faith has always needed a tremendous demonstration and manifestation within the earth—otherwise it ceases to exist and dies a slow and painful death. Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many individuals are right now experiencing the slow and steady decline and death of faith within their hearts and lives. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women right now aren’t even aware of the faith that their faith is slowly dying within themselves—much like water draining from a bucket that has a hole in it. Oh, at first it might be possible to fill the bucket with water, however, as time progresses, water slowly seeps through the whole until eventually the bucket is drained from its water. Imagine an individual traveling a great distance to a water hole, or perhaps even to a stream or river to fetch water, and yet the bucket they make the journey with has a small hole on the side. Oh, this particular individual might have filled the bucket full of water, and might even leave that place with water in the bucket, but as the journey progresses, water slowly begins to leak out of the bucket leaving a trail of water behind the individual. Only when they arrive at their destination do they realize that the water they thought they were carrying was no longer in the bucket. I am convinced that certain individual’s faith is just like this, for they believe their bucket is full, only to find out and discover that as time progressed, faith slowly leaked out of the bucket until it was no more. We would be incredibly wise and discerning to recognize and understand that where faith ceases to express itself, and where ceases to act, and where faith ceases to engage itself, it ceases to exist and ceases to live. Faith cannot survive on inlets alone, for eventually what will happen is there will be such a build up of what was poured in that it can actually become toxic. Even our bodies are designed the same way, for if we continually take in—eventually there will come a point where that which has entered into our bodies will pass through and pass from our bodies. Consider what would happen if we continually introduced new things into our bodies, and continued to feed ourselves, and continued to drink, and yet there was no way for us to release that which has entered into our bodies? That which entered into our bodies would eventually build up and would not only become toxic, but would also pose tremendous health risks as the days go by.

There is perhaps no greater declaration concerning the danger of “Dead Sea Faith” than in the New Testament epistle which was written by James the half-brother of Jesus. In the first chapter of the epistle we find James declaring that “pure religion and undefined before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). With these words James begins to set the stage and set the tone for that which he will write in the second chapter concerning the tremendous relationship that exists between faith and works. Perhaps the most stunning and surprising declaration found and contained within this passage of Scripture is when James emphatically, without hesitation and without reservation declares that “faith without works is dead.” Notice that he doesn’t state that faith without works can die, or even that faith without works will die. Notice that James didn’t write that faith without works may experience death depending on the individual and the circumstances. James didn’t suggest that faith without works is dead, while at the same time suggesting that it is possible for faith to survive and live without and apart from works. What you find and what you read in this passage of Scripture is an emphatic and powerful declaration that faith without works is entirely and completely dead—past tense. Essentially faith without works is just like the Dead Sea which cannot harbor, produce and even facilitate life within itself. Faith without works cannot be sustained, nor can it continue without and apart from an outlet and the means to express itself within the earth. Consider if you will the words which James writes in the second chapter of the epistle beginning with the fourteenth verse and continuing through to the final verse:

“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham out father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see them how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when he had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14-26).

As surely and as certainly as the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews is a chapter about faith, it only has three verses within it that actually describe what faith truly is. If you study and examine the entire eleventh chapter of this epistle, you will notice that of the many verses contained therein, only three verses actually give any clear definition or explanation concerning faith. The first and most obvious reality concerning faith within this chapter is found in the first verse of the chapter, for the author opens up this chapter emphatically declaring that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). When defining and describing faith, the author begins by declaring that faith is the substance of things hoped for, thus connecting faith and hope together, and that which we allow ourselves to hope for in this life. Within the very first verse of this chapter we find the author describing and defining faith as having substance—ground and/or confidence—concerning and regarding things hoped for. What’s more, is the author goes on to write and declare that faith is the evidence of things not seen, thus bringing us face to face with the reality that faith is not only connected to confidence, but also evidence. We dare not miss or lose sight of the tremendous reality of what is contained within the first verse of this chapter, for the author makes a simple, and yet profound declaration concerning that which faith is. As you continue on in this particular chapter you will notice that the author goes on to further declare that it is through faith that we understand that the worlds were famed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. Oh please don’t miss the tremendous significance of what is found and continued within this verse, for when we are speaking about and discussing faith we must recognize that it has as its root and foundation an understanding that the worlds were famed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. Thus, our faith begins in what we find in the very first chapter of the Old Testament in the book of Genesis, for in it Moses declares, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Thus faith, not only believes that God created the heavens and the earth, but faith also believes that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which we see were not and are not made of things which do appear. What’s more, is that faith “believes that God is, and that He is a rewarded of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). In essence, not only does faith believe in the creation and work of God in the earth and in the universe, but faith also believes that God is—that He is the eternal, omnipotent, omnipresence, and omniscient one who dwells in eternity. The manifestation and expression of our faith is fueled by our trust, our confidence and our belief in the reality that all things were created and sustained by the word of God, and that God truly is and is a rewarded of those which diligently seek Him.

In the first eight verses of this New Testament chapter we find the author declaring that without faith it is impossible to please God—a reality I am convinced is directly connected to the declaration that faith without works is dead. The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews declared that without faith it is impossible to please God, and James declares that faith without works is dead. There is one verse in particular within this passage of Scripture that is actually quite telling and quite revealing, for immediately prior to the author declaring that without faith it is impossible to please God, the author spoke of Enoch and declared that “before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5). You will notice that the author doesn’t provide any details concerning and regarding Enoch and how he pleased the Lord, and even the account of his life in the Old Testament book of Genesis provides very little detail concerning his life: “And Enoch lived with sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methusaleth three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: and all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: and Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:21-24). The only thing we find and read in the Old Testament book of Genesis was that Enoch walked with God. Essentially we can deduce and conclude that walking with God and pleasing God are synonymous with each other, and are intrinsically linked and connected with each other. In the fifth verse of the eleventh chapter the author declares that Enoch had the testimony that he pleased God, and in the very next verse the author goes on to write and declare that without faith it is impossible to please God. Thus, upon reading these words we can logically conclude that Enoch was able to please the Lord with, by, through and according to his faith. It was his faith, which allowed him to walk with God for three centuries before he was translated that he should not taste death. Consider the reality of what was written in this particular chapter, for most of us will be lucky if we live an entire century upon the earth. Let’s so we do manage to live for a full century—at what age did we begin following and serving, walking with and pleasing the Lord? Eighteen? Twenty? Twenty-five? Let’s say we lived to one hundred years old, and we started walking with the Lord at the age of twenty-five. That’s seventy-five years of walking with the Lord. Consider that in light of Enoch walking with God for three hundred years, and that his walking with God was of such a nature and caliber that he bore the testimony that he pleased God. Please note and please understand that I am in no way suggesting that how long we walk with the Lord determines whether or not we truly pleased him. If that were the case, then there would be countless men and women within Scripture who would not have the testimony that they walked with, and even pleased the Lord.

As you read the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews, you will notice that while it is a chapter dedicated and devoted to faith, very little time is spent actually defining what faith truly is. The only facts we are given concerning faith is that it is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, and that without faith it is impossible to please God. In addition to this, the only other truths we are given concerning faith is that through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear, and that those that come to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarded of them that diligently seek Him. It is necessary and imperative that we understand this very important reality, for it is incredibly easy to get caught up in defining faith that we completely lose sight of the demonstration of faith. In fact, I would dare say there are men and women among us in the body of Christ who care more about defining faith than they do in actually demonstrating faith in the earth among men. There are men and women who will search the Scriptures through and through in order that they might be able to define and explain what faith is, and yet they have absolutely no interest or desire in the demonstration of faith among men within the earth. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—what good is your definition of faith if there is no active demonstration and manifestation of faith among men within the earth? If we are truly honest with ourselves when reading the eleventh chapter of this particular epistle, we must admit that this chapter spends less time defining and describing faith than it does in presenting the demonstration of faith within the earth among men. In fact, I would dare say that the author of this particular epistle was not so much concerned with defining and describing faith as they were in presenting the demonstration of faith within the earth among men. I am utterly and completely convinced that if we are going to truly understand the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews, we must understand it in light of the words which James wrote in his epistle, for James believed sand emphatically declared that faith without works is dead. The more I read and the more I consider the eleventh chapter of the epistle unto the. Hebrews, the more I am convinced that this chapter is a powerful declaration of the movement, the operation, and the manifestation of faith within the earth. Moreover, the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews can be described as an account of “the life of faith”—faith that is alive through action within and upon the earth.

You will notice within the first eight verses of this chapter that the author mentions four specific Old Testament individuals by name—Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham. The author begins almost at the very beginning of time and creation to describe and present faith in action. When writing concerning Abel, the author of this epistle declared that “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Hebrews 11:4). When writing concerning Enoch the author wrote the following words: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not. Found, because God had translated him” (Hebrews 11:5). Concerning Noah the author of this epistle wrote: “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of righteousness which is by faith” (Hebrews 11:7). Finally, concerning Abraham the author wrote: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing wither he went” (Hebrews 11:8). Notice within the first eight verses the demonstration of faith among the lives of these four men—Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice, Enoch had this testimony that he pleased God, Noah moved with fear, preparing an ark to the saving of his house, and Abraham went out, not knowing whither he went. Thus faith, offers sacrifice(s) unto God, faith moves with fear and brings salvation to others, and faith goes on not knowing where one might be going. Two interesting realities found within these eight verses is concerning that which is not seen, for Noah built an ark not having seen rain upon the earth, and Abraham went out not knowing where he was going, and not having seen the land which was before him. Both of these realities go back to what is stated in the first verse when the author speaks of the evidence of things not seen. There is this tangible, visible and physical demonstration and manifestation of faith within our lives, yet it is directly linked and connected to that which cannot be seen—at least perhaps not right away. Noah had not seen rain fall upon the earth, and yet he built an Ark when the Lord declared unto him that he was going to send rain upon the earth and consume the earth in and with a flood. Abraham had not seen the land to which he was journeying and traveling, and yet he went out and traveled according to the word of the Lord.

Oh that we would recognize and understand such realities found and contained within this passage of Scripture, for the Lord isn’t so much interesting in our ability to define and describe faith, as much as He is interested in us demonstrating faith within and upon the earth. There are countless men and women among us within our churches who are able to define and describe faith with the best of them, and they are able to skillfully explain it to others, and yet when it comes to the demonstration and manifestation of faith within their lives, they have absolutely no demonstration, manifestation of expression of faith. James wrote that faith without works is dead, and I would dare state that definitions and descriptions of faith are dead without, apart from and absent a demonstration and manifestation of faith. The entire eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews is not about us understanding what faith is as much as it is about what faith looks like and how it operates within the earth. Perhaps the single greatest question you and I must ask ourselves is what that demonstration and manifestation of faith looks like within our hearts and lives. I am convinced there are countless churches, ministries and organizations that need to engage themselves more in demonstrating faith more than defining and describing faith. I believe that God is not at all impressed, nor is He at all pleased with your ability to speak about faith, and to speak to the subject matter of faith. The author of this epistle declared that without faith it is impossible to please God, and yet James declared that faith without works is dead. Oh that we would understand the tremendous connection between these two realities, for it is true that without faith it is impossible to please God, but it is also true that that faith with which we seek tp please God with is dead absent works—absent a demonstration and manifestation among men within the earth. The question I will leave you with is whether or not you are willing to cease defining and describing faith, and even cease reading the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews as a definition of what faith is, and more as a declaration of what faith looks like and how it operates within the earth. When it comes to our faith—our definitions are incredibly shallow and means absolutely nothing compared to the actual demonstration of faith within and upon the earth among men.

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