What Is Faith?

This is a beautiful post from my mom about faith. We often hear this word tossed around: “Just have faith!” But…in what?? And then if we decide to have faith in Jesus, we start to wonder, “Should I do more good works to pay Him back for saving me?” Check out my mom’s insights on this topic. You can also read more of her articles on her blog here!

What is faith?

We all wonder about this word, used so often in our culture.  Many chick flicks tout faith as the answer to any difficult situation. “Just have faith.” “Just believe.” One question usually remains unanswered: Faith in what?

Before we can answer the “What is faith?” question, we must know the object of our faith.

  • Is it goodness you believe in?
  • Or your faith might merely be a statement of optimism.
  • Or perhaps you believe in yourself — your own strength and ability.

Faith as described above is indefinable. At best, it is wishful thinking, and perhaps at worst, it could become the worship of idols.

If, however, Jesus Christ — who by the power of the Holy Spirit died and rose from the grave — is the object of your faith, then the definition is this: Confidence and hope in things unseen (see Hebrews 11:1).

Simple enough. But what does it mean?

I hope that all my dreams (the good ones that is) will come true. Is that faith?

I also hope it won’t rain tomorrow…

Several sections of scripture come to mind when thinking about faith and what it means:

Ephesians 2:8-10: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

What?! We are not saved by good works, yet we were created to do good works. How can this be?

James 2:26: As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Aren’t deeds the same thing as works? If so, how can I be saved by faith without them?

Hebrews 11:

vs1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

vs4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did…

vs5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death…

vs23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him…

vs35 …others were tortured and refused to be released…

vs37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two…

vs39 They were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

In defining faith in Christ Jesus, another question begs attention: To work or not to work?

Let’s reword this question: How are works related to faith?  Can my works purchase my salvation?

Romans 4 addresses this question. In verse 2 Paul writes:

Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

This verse makes two presuppositions:

#1 – We are all wicked (see Isaiah 64:6 and Romans 3:10).

#2 – God is not and cannot be obligated to grant us salvation (see Romans 9:15-16 & 11:6).

It seems pretty clear that faith involves works. Confusion often enters in this seemingly circular reasoning: Faith requires works; salvation is free — no works required; yet salvation is by faith. How then can I be saved without works?

The key here is in the perceived value of my works. Am I earning a wage (aka, heavenly currency) by working, or are my works a result of living by faith?

In the first example, I try to pay God back for my salvation through my good deeds. I’m never certain to have enough heavenly currency so I strive to rack up points in hopes of balancing out my own perceived wickedness or undeserving self. This type of works leaves me exhausted, frustrated, and uncertain of where I stand with God.

True works of faith arise from a completely different part of the psyche. These works are a result of believing that God truly exists, and then acting accordingly. 

You believe the government exists and so you pay your taxes and abide by the laws of the land without really thinking about it. You aren’t  gaining points with the government; you are just living in light of its existence.

More simply put, you walk into a building and take the elevator without ever meeting the architect and the builders. You trust their ability to construct the building, and you believe it is safe. You act on that belief. Your action of walking into the building and using the elevator isn’t a premeditated act to gain the favor of the architect, it’s merely a work of faith.

God wants us to live a life — a full life — always acting as though we are sure He exists, and that He is who the Bible says He is.

As Christians, our works of faith should be part of our everyday lives.

“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:15-18)

Are you certain God is your provider? If so, you can give to this brother or sister freely with no worries for yourself because you have faith.

Faith leads to deeds, not to premeditated works. If God is real, I live a certain way, and if He is not, I live in a different way.

My daily life deeds are an indicator of my faith.

Now let’s bring our definition of faith full-circle:

Faith is believing (for sure) in Someone I cannot see (Jesus Christ), and living daily life as though that Someone were present with me always.

Instead of “What Would Jesus Do?”, we can simply think: “Jesus is here with me.”

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