What is Faith?

The Bible frequently speaks of faith. For all it says, one should conclude that it is an important quality. In fact, Hebrews 11:6 says, “…without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” This is how important faith is to God. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him! People refer to their system of beliefs as their faith. But faith as the Bible speaks of it is not that. A word that parallels “faith” is “trust.” For example, Proverbs 30:5 says, “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.” Trust in God’s pure Word, in what He says, is faith.

Hebrews 11:1-3 provides a definition of faith. It says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” To the earthly mind things that are hoped for, or not seen, are unimportant. They cannot be proven to be, and so are of no earthly good. Or, they are beyond hope of attaining, and so are not worth pursuing. God has made many promises in His Word. Faith believes what He has promised. These verses also speak of creation, that it came into being by the Word of God, made of things which do not appear. Since God can do the one, and we can see it around us, we can trust that He will keep His promises. Faith gives substance to the unseen.

The importance of faith to God can be seen in an exchange between Jesus and Peter. In Luke 22:31, 32 we read, “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Jesus’ revelation clearly referred to the fact that Peter would deny Jesus. Consider what Jesus said about how He had prayed for Peter. If we were to pray for him, knowing that he would fall like he did, our prayer would be that Peter would be prevented from denying Jesus. Perhaps we would pray that he would be busy or in some other way miss the confrontation. Or, that the Lord would keep him from denying Jesus. Jesus’ prayer focused on the thing that pleases God; “That your faith fail not.” Notice that Jesus also gives Peter an assignment for afterward, “strengthen your brethren.”

Job was a man that endured great trials of loss. In fact, He lost everything he had, including his children. As we read in Job 1:20-22, upon hearing the report of his losses, “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, and said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” That last statement is characteristic of faith. Despite the heavy trials that had befallen him, Job refused to shake his fist at God. How unlike the typical reaction of mankind, that is, to do as Job’s wife suggested, “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) Instead, Job tore his clothes, shaved his head, fell on the ground and worshipped God. Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. He did not blame God for what had happened. He trusted Him in it, counting Him worthy of praise despite it. Faith trusts God even at the worst, just like Job did. His loss did not make him blame God.

Sara had reached the age of ninety. A little more than twenty years before God had promised Abram that he would have an heir. God promised Abram that He would bless the nations through his heir. And Sara had not had a child. She suggested a plan by which Abram gained a son. But God told Abram that that son was not the one He meant. Sara would bear the heir. Then came the day when God told Abram that Sara would bear that son. In Hebrews 11:11 we read, “Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.” This detail is told only in Hebrews. But it reveals Sara’s heart. Her faith, her trust in God, was such that she concluded that God was faithful. The passage of time did nothing to the truth of God’s promise. We learn that the passage of time diminishes promises that people make. This is because people are frail. They either forget or are incapable keeping their promise. But such is not with God. He is eternal, and well able to keep His promises. Not only that, but He remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:14) and with that in mind, would never make a promise that He could not fulfill. Sara’s ability to bear children did not prevent God from keeping His promise to Abram. Hebrews tells us that she counted God to be faithful, and so was able to have the promised heir. Even her dead body did not keep God from keeping His promises.

Interestingly, Matthew 3:16, 17 tells us, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And Jesus said in John 8:28, 29, “Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” Remember Hebrews 11:6 where we were told that without faith it is impossible to please God. Even Jesus Christ lived His life in dependence on His Father. Speaking of Jesus, Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:23, “…Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously…” Jesus, too, lived a life of faith.

Does Jesus pray for us that our faith will fail not? Do we endure the things that come our way, praising God, not blaming Him? Do we trust God though His promises seem long in coming, counting Him as faithful? Do we commit to the Father Who judges righteously, like Jesus did? These are elements of faith well worth considering and pursuing.

Have faith in God, what can there be
For Him too hard to do for thee?
He gave His Son; now all is free;
Have faith, have faith in God.

Have faith in God, and trust His might
That He will conquer as you fight,
And give the triumph to the right;
Have faith, have faith in God.

Have faith in God, press near His side;
Thy troubled soul trust Him to guide;
In life, in death, whate’er betide,
Have faith, have faith in God. (Daniel W. Whittle)