What is Faith?
Our previous blogs have addressed God’s plan for this earth and the commitment required from us to be included in that plan. An integral part of our relationship with God is faith - having faith in Him and remaining faithful to Him. What is faith and how do we acquire it? Why do we need to have faith? How does it help us to grow closer to God and change our lives? Is faith a reliable and desirable foundation in this science based world? And should faith be based on evidence?
Firstly, faith is a requirement of God as Hebrews 11:6 clearly states:
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”.
So, what is faith? The Bible has a definition in Hebrews 11:1
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”.
Christian faith is often ridiculed as being blind faith with the above verse being stated as an example of this. As believing something one decides to be true regardless of the facts, or accepting something that relies on no evidence or any logical support whatsoever. Humans all however exercise faith every day by simply believing that something is true and acting on that belief. We usually decide what we believe on the basis of evidence. We sit on a chair as there is visual evidence that it is there to be sat on. But there is also indirect evidence. We can’t actually see the wind, but we can see its effects. We can’t actually see someone’s love for us, but we can see its actions. We can’t actually see God, but we can see His creation and read His words in the Bible. One can’t really claim the Bible to be false if it hasn’t even been read.
There are over 300 Old Testament prophecies which have been fulfilled about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible was written over a period of 1500 years by different people and their prophecies and texts correlate exactly. This is the work of God as 2 Peter 1:21 says:
“For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”
The Holy Spirit is God’s power. It was God who worked through the writers to pen the Bible. As 2 Timothy 3:16 also clearly states “all scripture is given by inspiration of God…”
Archaeological finds and texts of independent historical writers such as Josephus validate the Bible at the very least as a sound historical account. No conspiracy of humans could have pulled it off over all those centuries. Christians base their evidence of faith in God’s words and His universe. This at least gives ‘logical support’ for the Christian faith, but many still regard this as groundless as it is not proven legally or scientifically. There lies the criticism of the idea of faith. But it requires faith to reject that there is a God. Science can’t prove God’s non-existence. It depends on how one interprets or judges the quality of evidence. However, faith and belief in God is not underpinned by scientific evidence and never will have that necessity. There is much more to faith.
Faith goes beyond what we can perceive or prove with our physical senses and does not work by the rules of science. It allows us to believe in God even though we can’t see Him and that He is capable of anything. Faith is spiritual, not scientific; however science doesn’t disprove God, science is just the study of God’s creation. God is the ultimate designer and master scientist.
So therefore, the definition in Hebrews 11:1 doesn’t describe a faith that is blind, based on no evidence at all, but a faith founded on God’s words and evidence of the scriptures which gives surety of His existence, conformation of promises that have already been fulfilled as well as the assurance of the execution of His promises of salvation.
And God states in Acts 17:31 that He has given proof of His plan for the world:
“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him (Christ) from the dead."
The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:14:
“If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is also in vain”
In other words, if Christ had not risen from the grave, then Christians are deluded. This faith is not based on make believe, but true history. The gospel of Luke commences with the words:
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
This is based on eye witness accounts. And we know from historical records other than the Bible that Jesus Christ did exist on this earth as did many other individuals described in the Bible. The Christian faith is more than one of blind trust. It is a life of rational examination that challenges each of us to evaluate the evidence, form a conclusion and then share that conclusion with the world around us.
As Romans 1:20 states:
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”.
God calls on us to use our minds – to have an emotional and intellectual relationship with Him:
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment” Matthew 22:37-38
God wants us to know what we believe and why we believe it. We’re expected to delve into our Bibles and examine our faith.
“And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so” Acts 17:10-11
Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21
He also wants us to be certain and base our certainty on evidence:
“Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind” Romans 14:5
“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them…” 2 Timothy 3:14
Conviction is the result of certainty, and certainty is based on evidential confidence.
But faith is not just a dispassionate understanding of the Bible. It is a life changing action which becomes life-saving. Through individual faith and by God’s grace, the believer is offered the gift of God – salvation. The faith that saves grows as our relationship with God grows.
Ephesians 2:8 says:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast”
God calls us and opens our minds to understanding and believing. It is our faith, not our works that enables us to receive God’s grace and His gift. And hearing the words of God through the Bible, helps our faith grow:
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”.
Faith brings about a desire to build a closer relationship with God, with gratitude and love. It changes our values and desires and engenders peace and contentment.
And once we are sure of our faith, we are called to defend what we believe:
“…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” 1 Peter 3:15
Sadly, many today deny the existence of God. They practice faith, but not faith in God. Theirs is a faith based on the interpretation of science and the resulting theories (not facts) of human origin and consequently God’s nonexistence.
Society has rights and personal choices and beliefs to be respected. However, the denial of God, leads ultimately to nothing but eventual oblivion. There is no hope or assurance for life after death.
But this end is not desired by God. Death is an inevitable conclusion to all human life due to the sinfulness of human behaviour, but to those who exercise faith and truly believe in God and His promises, and who are committed to living a life of service, love and action within God’s instructions, the hope of eternal live is assured when Christ returns to this earth.
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” Titus 2:11-14
But what will Jesus observe when he returns to the earth? As He remarked in Luke 18:8 “…. When the Son of Man (Jesus) comes, will he really find faith on the earth?”
Unfortunately, not much! Not faith in him anyway. Except for a faithful few.
The Christian faith is a rational belief which is rooted and grounded in the evidence of the Resurrection of Christ and the truth of the Bible. Christians are confident of their salvation by placing their trust and faith in God’s promises to us. We have the opportunity to state assuredly as the apostle Paul did:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” 1 Timothy 4:7-8
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