We are called by God to live lives of continuous faith. We are not to be tossed back and forth like a boat on an ocean, rocking between faith and unbelief (James 1:6). This kind of “faith” – a waffling, swayable faith – turns out to be no faith at all.
This was the plight of the Israelites who came out of Egypt during the Exodus. They were an unbelieving generation, doubting God’s power and promises. They heard the good report of the 12 spies who went into the Promised Land, and they saw the huge clusters of grapes. Yet they doubted. They didn’t believe God would bring them into the Promised Land. They suffered a life of wandering and then death in the wilderness (Numbers 14:20-23).
That generation never saw the Promised Land because they did not believe. True, continuous faith is faith that holds on even in moments of questioning and despair. It is believing even when your mind cannot get itself into a believing framework.
Perhaps it is better said like this: True faith is the wanting to believe, even when nothing else matches up. This makes it an act of our will, even as it remains a gift from God. A desperate father once cried out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Jesus honored that faith.
“For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:14). The census of God’s people found in Numbers 26 is the second census recorded in the book. The first took place at Sinai, and all (but two) of those people died in the wilderness, not having entered into the Promised Land because of their unbelief.
Those wilderness graves are a reminder to us to keep our faith right down to the “end.” This requires an act of the will – an almost desperate desire to believe – and it requires help. We must help each other.
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12). When the writer says “every day,” we assume he means it. Our words of encouragement to one another ought to come quite often.
And we must be good listeners. Caleb and Joshua were the only two of the old generation to enter the Promised Land. They lived lives of continuous faith.