Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What Is Faith?

By S. Michael Durham

(Ninth installment on faith)

I remember spending hours, days, and weeks trying to define love. I studied and thought, trying to put a handle on it. Finally I came to the conclusion that it is a little like trying to “pin down” God, which we know we can’t do. The Apostle John tells us, “God is love.” We can know God, and we can know love, but defining them perfectly will always elude us.

Faith is almost (but not quite) as hard to define as love is. The dictionaries define faith as, “a confidence or trust in a person or thing.” Certainly, it is that, but how much more do we really know about faith with such a definition? It is enlightening to discover that the Bible does not attempt a textbook or clinical definition of faith. Yet, it has a lot to say about it. It commands it, tells stories about it, and encourages it without telling us what the word means. Why? Because you don’t learn faith in books; you learn faith in life. The Bible doesn’t define faith, it demonstrates it. Faith is understood when seen in action.

Therefore, the Bible does not give us a definition of faith; rather, it gives a description of it. It declares what faith does and from that you learn what it is. The greatest description the Bible gives of faith, and the closest it comes to a definition, is Hebrews 11:1—

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

In this verse faith is more than a general belief in God and His goodness. The writer of Hebrews is demonstrating what faith does in real life situations. As he unpacks this first verse in the remainder of the chapter, he does so naming real people in real circumstances.

As you examine this statement in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews you see that faith is active. There is no passivity in faith. It is not some presumption that God is going to save your day. It is actively confident because faith sees the outcome. That is why I define faith as a God-given ability to see reality as God sees it about a situation. It is to have the eyes of God and see more of something than you did.

Reality is comprised of two realms, the physical and the spiritual. In other words, reality is made up of the things you can see and things you can’t see. The truth is, only God can see reality. We see partial reality. The unseen is invisible to us but not to the Lord. He knows what is going to happen tomorrow, and not only does He know the affairs of men, but He knows what He will do. He sees and knows all. Therefore, the only true realist is God.

When God grants to you faith to trust Him concerning a situation, the faith that He gives is like insight into a part of reality you have not seen. He gives you the ability to know what shall transpire and therefore you believe. Faith is not the labor of struggle to believe something will transpire, but it is to see that it will occur. Faith is not the mental gymnastics we often perform to overcome doubtful resistance, convincing ourselves something is true. No, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” You possess it, you see it, and it is yours. So if faith is the ability to see reality as God sees it, then one can be as certain as God about what is believed.

Faith is not omniscience. Only God knows all things. But faith gives you insight about a particular thing or event or outcome. It is how God can call “those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:17). And so can you if you have the eyes of faith.

No comments:

Post a Comment