There’s no shortage of books about faith. That being said, the concept of biblical faith is too important to be taken lightly. With every new addition to the conversation, we have the opportunity to grow, mature, and progress in our faith if we will take the practical lessons of God’s Word and make timely application.
Michael Gifford’s new work, The Essence of Living Faith: Real Live Christianity, gives a thoughtful, yet simple, approach to the discussion of faith. The 158-page book is nothing revolutionary in one sense—it surveys biblical faith through the lens of the eleventh chapter of Hebrews—but in another sense it is profound. By taking a biblical approach to a biblical subject, Gifford has removed much of the mysticism that often clouds the minds of men when thinking about faith. Early in the book, Gifford gives a working definition of faith that he employs throughout the volume: “In short, faith is a conviction regarding the truthfulness of everything that has been revealed to us in God’s Word, whether regarding events that have already taken place or episodes still in the future,” (3). Using this understanding of faith, the author makes frequent reference to the fact that faith comes through a hearing of God’s Word (Rom 10:17).
In the opening paragraph of chapter three, Gifford gives three important elements fundamental to faith:
“Living faith is expansive, extensive and expensive. It is expansive in that it is continually growing (Luke 17:5; 1 Peter 2:2). It is extensive in that living faith contains many essential elements such as those we are discussing in this book. It is expensive in the sense that it costs those who have it their material goods, their time, their abilities, and even their very lives as we saw in the example of Abel (Genesis 4:1-8),” (25).
You’ll notice that Gifford focuses on “living faith” and contrasts such with “dead faith” much like James (Jam 2). He summarizes the book in the chapter thirteen in stating, “It’s great to learn lessons from the Bible, but it’s even greater to apply them,” (143). The lessons are taken from the lives of the faithful listed in Hebrews 11 and are numerous. Living faith involves a holy attitude and a daily commitment (Chapters 2-3). It respects God’s power and accepts God’s will (Chapters 4-5). Faith conquers doubts while giving sacrificially, looking and planning ahead (Chapters 6-8). Faith fears no one but God (Chapter 9). The type of living faith seeks spiritual wealth while transcending earthly troubles (Chapters 10-11). True faithfulness does not stop short; instead, it perseveres by accepting the evidence and making application (Chapters 12-13).
Gifford’s book is comprised of an introduction, a conclusion, and thirteen chapters, making it easily adapted to the typical quarterly study. Each chapter concludes with an extensive section of questions: five true-or-false questions, five multiple-choice questions, 5 fill-in-the-blanks verses, and fifteen questions for discussion (although the seventh chapter only had fourteen of the latter).
The chapters themselves are short, simple, and easy to understand. As such, The Essence of Living Faith is well suited for teenage or pre-teen class, though the depth of the concepts surrounding faith would not be lost on a more mature audience.
Gifford concludes his book by writing:
“Dead faith has no more ability to overcome the world than an army of dead men has the ability to conquer a city. Dead faith cannot be victorious. Dead faith is an attempted compromise with God. It is an effort to please God while continuing to serve Satan. Such an effort always has, does and always will fail…Dead faith is a white flag of surrender waved in the battle for our souls,” (153).
The Essence of Living Faith serves as a spur in the flank of Christians with a noncommittal attitude. Because of the truths contained therein, Gifford’s word has the potential to restore the wavering faith of some and instill faith in others. While not a reference work, The Essence of Living Faith serves its purpose—providing a thirteen-week course on faith that is accessible and well written. Teachers, you would do well to consider it for youth next class or study.
***Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free in exchange for my review. I was under no compulsion to present only positive aspects of the work. All thoughts are mine and should be tempered with a loving Christian disposition.