Tucked away in the minor prophets, where countless Bible reading plans come to die, lies the heartbeat of holy living. Amid a vision from the Lord, Habakkuk is commanded to write these words:
“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.”Habakkuk 2:4, ESV
The righteous shall live by faith. This truth is picked up twice by the Apostle Paul to demonstrate that it was always God’s plan for His children to be justified on the basis of faith and not through the works of the Law (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11).
By way of contrast, the author of Hebrews cites this truth to bolster his argument about the essential role of faith in producing endurance in the lives of those already justified by faith (Heb 10:38). Therefore, it is safe to conclude that faith is the preeminent quality a person must possess to live a life that is pleasing in God’s sight, for without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6).
So, what does it mean that the righteous shall live by faith? It means taking God at His word. It means believing that true blessing can only be found within the parameters that God has established in Scripture, and not outside of those parameters. It means trusting that God’s favor rests on those who desire the circumstances of life to be under His sovereign control and not their own. Now, at some level, this is a principle that every Bible-believing Christian will affirm—at least in theory. But putting the principle of faith into practice in daily life is much more difficult. To lay a proper foundation for the practice of faith in daily life, it is necessary to return to the creation account.
In the Beginning
In the beginning, God created the world and everything in it, including man and woman made in His image, and He determined that it was very good. Adam and Eve enjoyed an incredible existence—an upright relationship with God, a sinless marriage, and a good creation to steward. It was a pleasure-packed life! But when the deceiver arrived on the scene, he attacked them with lies about whether they could take God at His Word. Were the boundaries God determined truly designed for their maximum pleasure and fulfillment? Or was He withholding even greater experiences of satisfaction from them on a daily basis? Seeing that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise, they both ate of the fruit to their instant harm (Gen 3:1-7). They did not believe in God’s goodness and thus fell into sin. The rest of the story is, as they say, history.
If faith was needed in the garden to resist the temptation to disobey—at a point in redemptive history when Adam and Eve had not yet been tainted by the devastating effects of sin—how much more are we sinners in need of faith to survive in a sinful world! The deceiver is just as crafty and hell-bent on human destruction as he was six thousand years ago in God’s paradise (John 10:10). Therefore, the need for faith—for salvation from sin and perseverance in holiness—remains an essential resource in today’s world.
The more opportunities I have to counsel other believers through the various circumstances they are facing, the more I find that the root of all my counsel remains unchanged: the righteous shall live by faith. Here are some practical scenarios that explore what it means to live by faith.
Living By Faith: A Few Practical Scenarios
The world attempts to sell sexual fulfillment to men and women through a variety of immoral means. The righteous man or woman does not merely abstain from sexual immorality because it’s the “right thing to do,” though it is the right thing to do according to God’s Word (1 Thess 4:3). Rather, they believe God’s good word that the only place God has designed for true sexual satisfaction and blessing is in a committed marriage relationship, and that the intimate pleasure derived from that union cannot be achieved anywhere else.
The world attempts to redefine and reorder the qualities that will be most pleasing in a future spouse. The righteous man or woman believes by faith, in the absence of marriage experience, that the qualities regarded as most important in Scripture will provide better enjoyment over the course of the relationship than those that Scripture does not prioritize.
The world attempts to persuade men and women to make logic or autonomous reason the most important factor in decision making. The cost of living is too high to be sustainable long-term. The political policies of a specific region are an unfavorable environment for raising children. Relocating near places or persons of interest will provide lasting benefits. The righteous man or woman does not allow autonomous human logic or reason to become the primary motivating factor in their decision making. Rather, they believe by faith that seeking first the kingdom of God will provide them with the wisdom they need to flourish while they sojourn on earth (see Matt 6:33).
While we could consider countless other scenarios, the truth of Scripture remains: the righteous shall life by faith. Faith is required for salvation, and it is required for holy living. Therefore, labor to surround yourself with brothers and sisters in Christ who will help you think through the circumstances of your life through the lens of faith. For it is through faith, and faith alone, that you will find favor with God and enjoy the blessings that only He can provide.