What is Faith? (& 3 of the Most Commonly Asked Questions about Faith)
Published on June 8, 2023
If someone asked you: “What is faith?” What would you say?
Would you quote Hebrews 11:1 or Webster’s?
We use the word readily enough. We identify as people of faith. We decorate our clothes and jewelry with the word, even tattoo it on our skin.
Yet when life darkens our skies with the arrows of temptation, fear, and anxiety, do we use faith as the shield it was meant to be?
What is this gift we were given? Do we wrongly equate faith and belief? And how do we keep this faith strong when the world shatters around us?
Let’s find out.
What is Faith?
Have you ever thought about what Christianity looks like to an unbeliever?
We believe in a triune God that became a man. A man who led a sinless life and paid the ultimate price to save us from eternal damnation. And a Holy Spirit that not only raised Him from the dead but lives within us to this day.
Trying to wrap our brains around most of that is a lot!
Of course, that is overly simplistic, but when boiled down to its essential parts, being a Christian is all about faith.
The first appearance of the word can be found in Genesis 15:6, where Abraham believed in the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness. Here, the word believe comes from the Hebrew word aman, which means supporting, confirming, and faithful.
Aman is where we get the word amen and is the root of the most used Hebrew translation of faith emunah. Emunah also has the additional characteristics of firmness, fidelity, steadfastness, and steadiness.
By taking the essence of both the root word and its derivative, faith is the steadfast support of our belief that Christ is our Lord and Savior and that life without Him in it leads to an existence without true purpose.
Thankfully God doesn’t require us to be perfect to follow Him. Just to have faith the size of a mustard seed to make an impact on this world (Matthew 17:20). And He has given us a book full of beautifully broken people to show us how to do just that.
Examples of Faith
Faith is the one theme that makes all the sordid stories in the Bible make sense- the one legacy our brethren left behind for us to follow and emulate.
Because of faith, Noah built an arc moved by a holy fear of a flood he had never seen before (Hebrews 11:7).
Because of faith, Abraham left all he had known to live in tents on the land God promised him, not knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8).
Because of faith, Sarah conceived the son of promise when her childbearing years were behind her (Hebrews 11:11); a son Abraham was willing to sacrifice, hoping God would provide a substitute (Genesis 22: 1-19).
Because of faith, Moses trusted his speech impediment would not stand between the people of Israel and their freedom (Exodus 4:10).
Because of faith, Queen Esther pleaded to her quiet God for discernment and wisdom to save her people from certain death (Esther 4:16).
Because of faith, Daniel and his friends stood against King Nebuchadnezzar, knowing that deliverance would come and their belief in the living God would be founded (Daniel 3).
And because of faith, a scared teenage girl believed the angel Gabriel when he told her she would bear the son of God and everything would be well (Luke 1:26-38).
All these people faced insurmountable odds against powerful enemies, uncertainty, and death. Yet despite it all, their belief in the steadfastness of their God was enough to cement their faith into a beacon that would lead generations to come.
What, then, is the difference between what they believed in and the faith it produced?
What is the difference between faith and belief?
Faith and belief are used interchangeably and are often considered synonyms of each other- but there is a subtle difference.
Belief is commonly known as something we consider true, but faith is the firm belief or trust in something or someone.
James 2:19 reminds us that we do well to believe there is one God. “Even the demons believe and tremble.” However, belief alone will not save us. Belief alone makes us no different than our enemies.
We believe Christ was the son of God.
We believe He died and rose again- the perfect sacrifice to blot out our sins.
Our faith lies in believing His blood sanctifies us before a holy God. And when we accept this heart, mind, and soul, we claim our place with Jesus in the kingdom to come.
Such a powerful promise doesn’t come void but requires a transformation of the believer from the inside out.
Faith without Works is Dead
“But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:20).”
This passage is often misquoted, misinterpreted, and misused.
James is not implying that we are saved by works. In fact, Ephesians says, “by grace, you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast (2:8-9).”
But it does mean that our faith’s inner workings should be reflected in who we are and how we live our lives.
Ephesians 4:25-32 encourages us not to grieve the Spirit with lying, stealing, bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking. But instead, meditate on things that are “true, noble, just, pure, lovely and of good report (Ephesians 4:8).”
Often times we don’t exercise our faith because we like who we are. We see no issue with our habitual sins; years of indulging in them have made them commonplace.
But brother…sister. God has called you to be holy, just as your Father is holy.
You don’t have to wrestle with temptation, addictions, and sins alone.
By putting our burdens on the only power that can heal all our brokenness, we open our hearts to the amazing work of the Holy Spirit. And eventually, the things of the world that you found so appealing once will lose their luster- and you will be free to pursue God’s purpose for your life.
What is the true meaning of faith?
With everything said and done, what is the meaning of faith?
Faith, my friend, is the ultimate gift.
1 Corinthians calls Christ the first fruit for those who have passed on. Simply put, he paid the entrance fee to heaven for all who would be saved in His name. Faith is how you get your name on the list.
And all you have to do is claim it, test it, and walk it.
How do you keep the faith in times of trouble?
Like any other muscle, faith must be tested and strengthened over time. As a follower of Christ, you were never promised an easy life.
But “we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; perseverance, character and character hope (Romans 5:3-4).”
Besides being the ultimate gift, faith it is a powerful weapon.
According to Ephesians 6:16 we must take on the shield of faith, which will “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”
Having sound faith means you’ll be ready for anything the world throws at you and, in the end, reap the rewards of your trials.
So how do we do this? By constant prayer and through God’s word.
God’s word is how we get to know God, His plans for us, and how to walk out our faith.
Prayer is a one-way chat with the Almighty.
He longs to hear from you every day, and when you meet Him in prayer, you will be astounded by how personal your relationship with Him will grow.
There is something very comforting about taking all your troubles to the Creator of the Universe. And the closer you get to Him, the smaller the worries of this world will seem.
Onward Christian Soldier
The world today is spiraling out of control.
The wrestling match between us and the powers of the darkness Paul spoke of in Ephesians is playing out before our eyes.
It is a war that has already been won, but the battles happen daily in the corners of our hearts and minds.
Now it’s the time, Soldier, to gird yourself with the whole armor of God, using the shield of faith to deflect the arrows of lust, greed, anger, anxiety, and all manner of evil.
Faith is the gift we never deserved and the weapon we didn’t realize we had.
Fortify your faith with the Word, listen to it – speak it into the air like a fragrant offering to your God.
And lay it all at his feet in prayer.
The time to walk out your faith is now.
By J. Harrington