It’s kind of funny, I’ve had this subject thrust at me like three times this past week. People posting on Facebook. Thoughts that interrupt my attempt to fall asleep and result in me scrawling an illegible “believe” on my hand in total darkness. (Which same writing next morning got the line “I know that sounds like a cat poster, but it’s true” stuck in my head all. day. long.)
What is faith? You hear music artists singing all sorts of nice sunshiny things about faith and believing, but most of the time I wonder if they really know what they’re singing about. Because people make faith sound like some sort of mystical something you have to conjure up. If you can “just believe hard enough” it will come true. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like wishing on a star, not faith. Whups.
But really, what is faith? People always quote Hebrews 11:1 and it confused me for a long time because it didn’t really seem to give any kind of concrete answer:
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Then last year I heard someone defined faith simply as ‘dependance on God.’ “Now dependance on God is the assurance of things hoped for…” A little better, but it’s still not very clear. I think the problem is that whenever we read all these “something is something else” verses like they are definitions. Like “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The definiton of the fear of the Lord isn’t “the beginning of wisdom” any more than “the assurance of things hoped for” is the definition of faith (or dependance on God).
Several months ago I started doing a little studying up on the fear of the Lord and in the process I sat down and looked at that verse about the beginning of wisdom. I discovered, you can replace the “is” with “produces”. Light bulb! The fear of the Lord produces the beginning of wisdom. In other words, wisdom starts with the fear of the Lord. I believe that Hebrews 11:1 is kind of the same concept. “Faith [dependance on God] produces the assurance of things hoped for…” In other words, the assurance comes *from* faith. Why? Because when you’re depending on God, you have that assurance that He will hear and answer and lead and protect and that He works all things for good.
That makes much more sense than this nebulous mental believe-really-hard-wishing-on-stars idea that we tend to have about faith. I already defined it as dependance on God, but I think there’s actually two parts to the definition of faith that you can’t quite see with that one. But let me back up a bit. That night that I scribbled “believe” on my hand in the dark; I wrote it because I had been thinking about how to define it. The definition I came up with was “to percieve something as truth and to act accordingly.” And I’m not talking about flippant ‘believing’ right now. This is believing that actually manifests itself in our lives. It’s very simple. You can tell what a person believes because of what they act on. If you percieve that the floor is sturdy enough to hold your weight, you walk across it. Now, it has nothing to do with whether or not the floor is actually strong enough – you might find out that what you “percieved as truth” was actually false…and fall through the floor. But we can still tell you believed it, because you acted on it.
Faith – dependance on God – is the same way. When you percieve His word as truth, you act on it. If you don’t act on it, you might think you believe it is truth but you actually don’t because it never resulted in action. Faith, like my amateur definition of ‘believe’ is two parts. You don’t just sit there and ‘believe hard enough’ and God will do something. Depending on God isn’t a passive thing. Yes, it is looking to Him to provide, but then it is acting on it. That’s why James wrote about faith without works being dead. Faith without works is dead (aka. nonexistent) because actions are an inherent part of dependance on God. It’s kind of like saying a campfire without smoke is dead. If you don’t have any smoke, you probably don’t have any camfire. Smoke is proof of a campfire. Actions are proof of dependance on God. If you depend on God, you will act like it.
So here’s a question. What do your actions say you are depending on?