Characteristics of Faith, Part 1 - Bob Sawvelle - silhouette of a man walking toward a sunset in a field

Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon in Arizona? If you haven’t, I encourage you to make the trip; it is a natural wonder to behold. If you have gone, you experienced something beautiful and breathtaking. You viewed the vastness of this magnificent canyon with its vibrant colors and imagery that pictures or video can’t fully represent. Think for a moment as you stood there, overlooking the canyon. What were you seeing? How did objects appear in the distance of the canyon? What were you feeling as you gazed into the canyon? The vastness of the canyon impacts one’s senses and perspective on God’s creation.

Now, think for a moment about faith. Did it ever occur to you that faith ‘sees’? Faith sees in the distance, beyond the expanse of the ‘canyons’ in front of us, to apprehend the promises of God. The eyes of faith grasp the enormity of what God is revealing and offering to us and believes that all things are possible with God! In fact, I believe for some of you reading this, God is offering you something, inviting you into something, that is just on the other side of the ‘canyon’ that is in front of you—but it takes faith to cross and receive the inheritance of the promise.

Let’s talk this week and next about “Characteristics of Faith.”

God is the Originator of Faith

The writer of Hebrews states, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” Heb. 12:2 NKJV

When I want faith, I must seek Jesus. Real faith is faith that comes from Christ, imparted to us by the Spirit—it’s grace.

Jesus taught the disciples to have God’s faith, “And Jesus answering saith to them, `Have faith of God;Mark 11:22 YLT

Faith isn’t something we just ‘work up’; faith is a gift from God, imparted by the Spirit. Genuine mountain-moving faith comes from God as a gift. In fact, each of us has received a portion of God’s faith given to us. Look how Paul described the measure of faith given to us,

Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you.” Rom 12:3 CEB

Faith can be received only as it is imparted to us by God himself. Either you have faith or you do not. God gives us a portion of faith to believe and then to mature as we follow him. Faith, therefore, is both a gift of God and a fruit of the Spirit. If you want more faith, look to Jesus and ask! In addition, position yourself by reading God’s Word, prayer, worship, and serving Jesus as he leads. As you partner with Holy Spirit, your faith will increase, and the impossible will become probable!

Faith perceives as fact what is not revealed to the natural senses. Faith believes God’s promises to make unseen realities available on earth.

Characteristics of Faith

Faith is forward-leaning, it hears, sees, speaks, endures and receives what is promised before the manifestation.

Faith Hears—Faith comes through a posture of hearing and listening.

Being able to hear God’s word positions you for an increase of faith. Consider what Paul wrote,

 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word (rhḗma) of God.” Rom. 10:17 NKJV

The English word for word comes from the Greek word rhḗma. To understand this word better, let’s examine an account in Luke with the birth of Jesus.

You remember the story; the shepherds are out in their fields at night when God’s angel appears an announces to them the great news of the Messiah’s birth. After the angelic pronouncement, they say to each other, “let’s go see this thing (rhḗma)…”. Luke 2:15 NKJV

See this thing—what? Were they doubters of what the angel just declared to them?

The Passion Translation says of this verse,

Let’s go! Let’s hurry and find this Word (rhḗma) that is born in Bethlehem and see for ourselves what the Lord has revealed to us.” Luke 2:15 TPT

Let’s hurry and find this Word (or manifestation in the Aramaic text) that is born to us.

The Greek word rhḗma means “that which is said or spoken,[1]an active word,[2]a happening to which one may refer—‘matter, thing, event.’[3] Rhḗma then is “an active word, that causes a manifestation or event.”

Let’s look at Rom. 10:17 in The Passion Translation, “Faith, then, is birthed in a heart that responds to God’s anointed utterance of the Anointed One.” Faith is birthed in the heart that responds to God’s anointed utterance, or to the Word spoken in season, by Jesus!

For me, God’s word, or anointed utterance, comes in subtle impressions to my spirit. Holy Spirit gently speaks and invites me to ‘believe what God is offering.’ As I choose to respond, grace is imparted for me to believe and act.

For example, God at numerous times has ‘nudged me’ to purchase sound equipment for our church. The first such occurrence was a Sony Cassette and CD Player, or “boom box,” before we planted the church here in Tucson. He simply said, “I want you to go and buy a Sony Cassette and CD Player, you’re going to need it for the work that I have for you in this city!” We hadn’t been in town a month, I had only about $100 in our ministry account, and God was starting to direct us toward church planting—and it came in incremental steps of faith and obedience. But as I “heard the word,” faith was imparted to act. I look at the sound equipment we have in our new sanctuary, and I stand in awe at the faithfulness of God, but I had to respond when the “anointed utterance” came!

Faith also comes from hearing God’s anointed utterance—now. While yesterday’s word is important, and often key words can be directive over a lifetime, we must learn to hear “now” as we are led by the Spirit.

Abraham and Sarah were promised a son, and 25 years later the son of promise, Isaac was born. Sometime later, God directs Abraham to offer Isaac on Mt. Moriah as a ‘sacrifice.’ Abraham obeys God, and proceeds to the place where he prepares an altar, binds his son, and prepares to sacrifice him! God sends an angel and speaks, “Spare your son!” And God provides a ram in the thicket for Abraham to sacrifice. To say that Abraham was tested is an understatement! Here’s the point: Abraham “heard God speak,” but as he obeyed, he had to “hear a NOW word.” Isaac represented a promise that could have died without Abraham’s ability to hear God in an ongoing fashion.

God often comes in ways that offend our minds. To recognize what God is communicating and doing, we must be a people of his Spirit and Word.

Many didn’t recognize the goodness of God when He came as a little baby, born in a humble stable. The religious leaders and most of the people didn’t recognize the Messiah walking in their midst—performing miracles, healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead. Why? They didn’t recognize the Spirit upon his words and actions. Jesus’ words were grace-filled, “favor that gave enablement.” Jesus said to the disciples who continued to follow him, “the words that I speak to you are Spirit and they are life.” John 6:63 NKJV

Faith Sees—Faith always sees through God’s eyes and from his perspective.

Our perspective, apart from the faith of God, is limited in clarity. I happen to be nearsighted and need prescription glasses to see in the distance. If I take my glasses off, everything in the distance appears blurry. Without God’s “prescription faith glasses,” I can’t see clearly in the distance. Remember my Grand Canyon illustration? Without my prescription glasses, everything is blurry in the distance as I look out over the canyon. For many of us, we’re trying to see in the distance, where God is offering us the impossible through his promises, but it is impossible without God’s prescription faith glasses!

The story of God showing Abram the promised land illustrates this truth, After Lot separated from him, the Lord said to Abram, “From the place where you are standing, look up and gaze to the north, south, east, and west, because all the land that you see I give you and your descendants forever.”  Gen. 13:14-15 CEB

Abram’s nephew Lot took the ‘best’ land. But God then shows Abram the land of promise. Lot couldn’t see it, and until God revealed it to Abram, he couldn’t see it either. But once God revealed to Abram the land, he could “see by faith” what God was offering. Faith then was imparted, and Abram could act on what was revealed to him.

Sometimes our vision is too small or is distorted. People often “see” themselves through the negativity of the past. It could be failures, wrongs, hurts, offenses, judgments etc. that rob us from “seeing” clearly what God is saying “now.” Again, for some reading this, I believe God is revealing a “broad horizon” in front of you, but it takes faith eyes to see it! Ask God for fresh vision, new clarity to see what he is revealing to you in this season. Perhaps like Abram, you are about to receive a tremendous promise and breakthrough!

The Spirit of Christ enlightens the heart of everyone. Yet there are multitudes of people who are unaware of his presence all around them and they are unable to “see.” It takes faith to see God amid contradiction and chaos that surrounds us. For many of these people, fear has shut down what was in reach. Remember, the kingdom of heaven is at hand—your hand isn’t very far from you! Sadly, many of these people have no perception and are unable to recognize or see what God is making in plain sight.

I’ll pick up next week with faith that speaks, endures and receives! May his presence open your ears to hear and your eyes to see what he is offering you in this season!



For a more in-depth look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “Characteristics of Faith, Part 1”


[1]Henry George Liddell et al., A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 1569.

[2]Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 505.

[3]Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 161.

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