What is Faith?
In the book of Hebrews, the Bible defines faith as “the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things (we) hope for, being the proof of things (we) do not see and the conviction of their reality” (Hebrews 11:1, Amplified). We are hoping to reach heaven, a world we cannot see, and faith gives substance to our expectations. Faith can be a title deed to things we cannot see. The word faith comes from a Latin word fidere, which means to trust, believe, or have faith. Faith has been defined as an “unquestioning belief” in God, religion, an idea, a person or organization. Faith generally means having a strong conviction, deep trust, reliance upon, or loyalty to something. Your faith can also refer to a religion or system of beliefs. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for faith is emuwn which means to trust, or have faith. In the New Testament the Greek word for faith is pistis, which means to trust, believe, have faith or rely upon.
The Nature of Faith
A matter of greater controversy within the religious community is the nature of faith. Many apparently entertain the illusion that redemptive faith is merely a willing disposition to trust in Christ as one’s Savior, independent of any further acts of obedience. Such a notion is quite alien to the truth. Let’s explore the true, New Testament meaning of faith.
First, faith involves a conviction grounded in evidence. Nowhere does the Bible suggest that one make a blind leap into belief without adequate evidence. When Paul began proclaiming Christ, following his conversion, he set about proving that Jesus was the Messiah based upon solid historical evidence (Acts 9:22). Our own faith is anchored in the credibility of the biblical record, which is substantiated by ample evidence itself.
Second, once one arrives at a conviction that Christ is the Son of God (with the various truths that are attendant to that), he genuinely must be disposed to trust the Savior for the salvation that only he can effect. No person with an inkling of biblical knowledge would affirm that man has an innate ability to produce his own redemption. The verb pisteuo occasionally is rendered by the word “trust” (John. 2:24) or a form of the same (Rom. 3:2; 1 Cor. 9:17; Gal. 2:7).
Third, the New Testament clearly indicates that faith involves much more than having a conviction concerning the Lord, or even a willingness to trust him. Faith also involves submitting to the divine will in obedience to Heaven’s requirements.
Why Do We Need Faith?
Although critics may scoff at the need for faith in God and His Word, the Bible reveals a dimension of knowledge that is clearly missing in our modern secular world.
From the Scriptures we learn that we have all sinned (Romans 3:23). As a result of knowingly or unknowingly breaking the laws of God (the biblical definition of sin (1 John 3:4) we are subject to a penalty of death for all eternity. However, by putting our faith in the fact that Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins we can be forgiven of our sins. This is what it means to be justified by faith (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16). In order to put your faith in Jesus Christ you need to prove that He really did exist, that He was who the Scriptures say He was, that He really did die and that He was resurrected. Knowing that you know the real facts builds faith.
A Christian must also live by faith (Galatians 3:11). This means changing your life so that you begin to live by every word of God (Deuteronomy 8:2–3; Matthew 4:4). You will start keeping the Sabbath and the Holy Days, to obey God (Leviticus 23) and to follow the example of Jesus and the early church (Luke 4:16; Acts 17:1–2; John 7:1–10; 1 Corinthians 5:7–8). As you step out on faith and begin to observe these commanded assemblies with other true Christians you will begin to understand God’s plan of salvation for mankind and the true purpose of life.
Your faith and practice of these biblical concepts will actually begin to set you apart from the rest of society you will be different. This is what is meant when the Bible says you will be sanctified [set apart for holy use] by faith (Acts 20:32; 26:18).
The Bible reveals we are healed by faith (James 5:14–15), we will be saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8) and rewarded according to our faith (Hebrews 11:6). Healing involves trusting God for what only He can do. Salvation will include receiving eternal life and becoming part of God’s family when Christ returns to judge mankind (1 Corinthians 15; Romans 8:14–17). The reward for those who grow and overcome will be to rule as priests and kings with Jesus Christ in the coming kingdom of God (Daniel 7:27; Revelation 2:26; 5:10; 11:15–18). When you have proven to yourself what the Scriptures actually promise, your faith will grow.
Building Faith in Our Lifes
The challenge facing each of us as Christians is, how do we build real faith? What is involved? This is nothing new and is not limited to our present age. Even in the first century as Christ was beginning His church, “…the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith’” (Luke 17:5). They knew they needed more faith and they asked for guidance. Peter later writes that we must give diligent effort to increase and add to our faith (2 Peter 11:5–11). But what must we do? Consider the following 7 steps.
- Ask God for more faith: Jesus instructed His disciples to ask, seek and to knock (Matthew 7:7–12). James offers the same advice (James 1:5). This is why the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith. We can do the same. Pray earnestly about this.
- Prove what you believe: Follow Paul’s admonition (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and prove that God exists, that the Bible is His inspired word, where the true Church is and who are God’s true ministers. Prove what the Bible actually says, and hold fast to what you prove to be the truth.
- Study what the Bible reveals about faith: Read and meditate on the examples of faith described in Hebrews 11. Read the original accounts in the Old Testament. Determine what lessons you can draw from these accounts. Learn and grow.
- Stir up God’s Spirit: Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. God gives His Spirit to those who repent and obey Him. Pray, study, meditate and fast regularly. Nourish and use God’s Spirit. Doubts will disappear as our faith grows (2 Timothy 1:6–7).
- Live by faith: Put into practice what you read in the Scriptures. Trust God and His Word. If the Bible says to do it, then do it don’t argue with the Scriptures. A writer stated that; “We live by faith or we do not live at all. Either we venture or we vegetate. If we venture, we do so by faith simply because we cannot know the end of anything at its beginning. We risk marriage or we stay single. We prepare for a profession by faith or we give up before we start. By faith we move mountains of opposition or we are stopped by molehills.”
- Endure trials that will arise as you strive to live by every word of God: Enduring and overcoming the trials will help us build both faith and patience (James 1:2–4). It has been said, “If we desire to increase faith we must consent to its testing.” Remember that God has promised to get us through the trials (1 Corinthians 10:13) and the trials He allows are for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).
- Don’t compromise or deny the true faith: The Bible warns repeatedly about false teachers who will undermine and overthrow the faith of others by promoting misleading doctrines and ideas. We are also told many will depart from or discard the true faith. However, the Scriptures clearly state there is one faith and one body (church), and it is the job of the ministry to promote the unity of the faith (Ephesians 4:4–6, 12–13). The role of the church is to maintain true doctrines (1 Timothy 3:15–16, Acts 15). This is why it is so important to know where God’s true Church is today and what the Bible actually says. The Scriptures are not to be interpreted as each individual sees fit in his or her own mind (2 Peter 1:20). This only leads to confusion, which damages and destroys faith. As we approach the end of this age and Satan increases his attacks on true believers, we will have to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude :3).
NOTE: Faith is hard and does not come easily. Just like the muscles of the body, faith must be exercised to grow. You may go one inch the first day, two inches the second day, three inches the third, etc. Just like with any other activity into which you are growing, faith must be exercised every day.