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What Is Faith?

Pastor Marc Likins

Faith is a common denominator of life. Everything we do in life requires it. Mailing a letter or making a bank deposit puts faith in the post office and the bank to handle it correctly and safely. If you feel sick and you go to the doctor, you are putting faith in their diagnosis and prescription of medicine. You trust their illegible scrawl to be translated and filled correctly by the pharmacist, and you trust the directions given by the pharmacist to “take one of each three times a day.” You take those mysterious capsules and have faith that they will make you feel better.

We cannot live a single day without faith. Your walk with God is no different. You cannot go anywhere spiritually without faith—in God and in His word. You don’t need education or status or money, but you do need faith.

The Description of Faith

Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

There is no definition of faith in the Bible, but there is a description, which is close but not exactly the same thing.

Substance of things hoped for

Faith is something substantive that you can stand on and rely on. You don’t have to walk on eggshells or stand on Jello when you have faith in the God of the Bible and His word. It is not smoke and mirrors—it gives substance to our hopes. And hope is our sound assurance in God’s promises. With faith, that hope of Jesus coming back becomes substantial, something we can stand on that gives stability to our lives.

Evidence of things not seen

A successful Christian is one that is able to look above what can be seen with our natural eyes. Faith is a spiritual “sixth sense” that enables believers to understand the unseen world and bring it into the realm of experience.

We cannot see a WiFi signal, but we know it exists. We cannot see sound waves, but we are able to use our ears to interpret and understand them. In that same way, faith gives us the ability to interpret and understand the spiritual dimension by giving substance to heavenly realities that our soul can appreciate, grasp, and enjoy.

We have a saying that seeing is believing, but the Bible teaches instead that believing is seeing.

In my pastoral experience, there are often misconceptions of faith. Here are a few “faith delusions.”

1. Unthinking Faith

This is referring to “blind faith” and the idea that faith systems are not subject to logic or syllogism. We see this in the phrase “you just need to have faith” which essentially translates to “put your brain on a shelf and just trust that things will work out the way you want them to.”

I will not pretend that we can use logic and reason to understand everything; however, real faith will go beyond logic and evidence not around them. You do not have to check your brains at the door to be a Christian.

2. Blessing Faith

This idea is that everything will be easy if we have faith. We will live a charmed life of ease and prosperity, full of only good gifts from God and blessings. This vision of faith will crumble under the weight of reality, because while it is true that God gives us good gifts, sometimes they are wrapped in suffering and persecution.

3. Teaching Faith

This is referring to the idea that a life of faith just means that you hold to a set of doctrines or beliefs. And though the New Testament does refer to “the faith” as a set of beliefs (Galatians 1:23, Jude 3), generally, the concept of faith denotes something much more dynamic and active—a life lived in a trust relationship with God. Real faith rests on sound belief but cannot be reduced to a series of tenets.

4. Practicing Faith

This is reflected in broader culture when someone says they are a “person of faith,” whether they are a practicing Catholic, Muslim, Mormon, etc. This makes faith synonymous with spirituality, saying that it does not matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere. But, when we are talking about faith, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that the object of our faith is of utmost importance. The Muslim puts his faith in the Koran and Muhammed. The humanist puts her faith in herself. The materialist puts his faith in his money.

None of these can save because the object of faith is wrong. Saving faith is faith that rests upon Christ. He and He alone can save. (Acts 4:12)

5. Feeling Faith

This idea is that faith is based on depth of feeling. There is nothing wrong with feeling and emotion, but feelings are the shallowest part of our life, and salvation is the deepest work of God. God doesn’t do His deepest work in our shallowest part. There is nothing wrong with feeling good, but do not confuse feeling or the lack thereof with faith.

Our faith should not be grounded or dependent on any of these misconceptions. Do not confuse these warped versions with the real thing. Real faith is the ground beneath our hope in God’s promises and our ability to see the world through that truth.

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