“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen” Hebrews 11:1
Faith is carnally defined as the ability to commit oneself to act based on self-experience, to warrant belief without absolute proof. In other words, faith is an act of the will. You “want” to believe.
Faith is used to believe something initially. Hope fills in the gap during the time between what we believe God for and the manifestation of it.
Faith is the tangible aspect of the actions on our part, while we are in the process of believing. Faith is an action word. To have faith is to do something.
Hope in the gap is often the thing that helps us see progress. Even minor advancements along the way can provide hope. But the progress, is not what we are using our faith for, nor is the progress answered prayer.
Let’s say you are hungry and you have asked for a meal. You have faith and believe that you will get the meal you asked for. The sound of pots and pans rustling in the kitchen, the smell of food cooking, gives you hope and even anticipation that what you asked for is coming to pass. But the smells are not the meal it is only hope towards the impending meal.
When the food is done cooking and the plate of food is before you and it’s time to eat, your faith is complete, you have the manifestation of the meal. You must use your faith beyond the hope and all the way to actually being able to eat.
The definition of faith contains two aspects: intellectual assent and trust. Intellectual assent is believing something to be true. Trust is actually relying on the fact that the something is true. A chair is often used to help illustrate this. Intellectual assent is recognizing that a chair is a chair and agreeing that it is designed to support a person who sits on it. Trust is actually sitting in the chair.
Understanding these two aspects of faith is crucial. Many people believe certain facts about Jesus the Christ. Many people will intellectually agree with the facts the Bible declares about Jesus. But knowing those facts to be true is not what the Bible means by “faith.” The biblical definition of faith requires intellectual assent to the facts and trust in the facts.
Believing that Jesus is God the Son incarnate who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and was resurrected is not enough. Even the demons “believe” in God and acknowledge those facts.
“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble”. James 2:19
We must personally and fully rely on the death of Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. We must “sit in the chair” of the salvation that Jesus has provided. This is saving faith.
The faith God requires of us for salvation is belief in what the Bible says about who Jesus is and what He accomplished and fully trusting in Jesus for that salvation (Acts 16:31). Biblical faith is always accompanied by repentance (Matthew 21:32; Mark 1:15).
The biblical definition of faith does not apply only to salvation. It is equally applicable to the rest of the Christian life. We are to believe what the Bible says, and we are to obey it. We are to believe the promises of God, and we are to live accordingly. We are to agree with the truth of God’s Word, and we are to allow ourselves to be transformed by it (Romans 12:2).
Why is this definition of faith so important? Why must trust accompany agreeing with facts? Because without faith, it is impossible to please God.
“But 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”. Hebrews 11:6
Without faith, we cannot be saved. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. John 3:16
Without faith, the Christian life cannot be what God intends it to be. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”. John 10:10
Among the many components of Faith in God is believing that God actually exists. However, simply believing that God exists is not enough. After acknowledging that God exists, another crucial element of faith in God is commitment. Faith that does not result in action is a dead faith, not true faith.
“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain”. James 1:26
Faith in God that motivates us to action is not enough. For faith in God to be genuine, we must accept God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. We are not allowed to accept the attributes of God that we prefer and jettison the ones we don’t.
If we do not accept God as He is, then we are putting our faith in a false god of our own making. Much “religion” does exactly this, but any religion not based on the Bible is a designer religion with a designer god.
For faith in God to be genuine, it must be based on the genuine God. For example, the God of the Bible is triune, so true faith in God must accept the deity and personality of the Son and the Holy Spirit as well as the Father.
There is much confusion today over the nature of faith. It is reported that, when asked to define faith, a little boy in Sunday school responded, “Believing what you know isn’t true.” Many of the “new atheists” place faith over against science and evidence. They say that Christians have faith that God exists but that atheists have empirical evidence for science. Christians have faith, but scientists have knowledge. This comparison misunderstands the nature of faith in God. Faith in God is not a blind leap without any evidence or, even worse, contrary to the evidence. Faith is simply trust. The Christian trusts in God. The scientific atheist has faith in science. If an atheist uses the scientific method to discover a medicine and then takes that medicine, he is exercising faith.
He trusts his data, and he trusts that the medicine will cure him, not poison him. Some people may take the medicine with no thought whatsoever as to how it was developed or as to who prepared it. Others may only take the medicine after thoroughly investigating every aspect of the research.
One person may take it with great confidence while another person takes it tentatively. In the final analysis, anyone who takes the medicine is exercising faith in the medicine. Ultimately, it is not the strength of the faith that determines if the medicine will work, but the efficacy of the medicine. Great faith in bad medicine will not cure a person. It is the object of faith, not the strength of faith that makes the difference. Uncertainty about a good medicine will not hinder its efficacy, as long as it is taken as prescribed. Faith is not the opposite of doubt; in fact, doubt can exist even in the heart of faith.
“And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Mark 9:24)
A person can exercise faith (trust and commitment) while at the same time being unsure about the thing or person he has committed himself to. Someone once defined doubt as “faith seeking understanding.”
Some people may simply trust God because it seems intuitive. They may have been raised in a Christian home and taught the Bible from their earliest remembrance. They have seen God work in the lives of other people, and they simply trust Him. Others may only have come to faith after a thorough examination of the evidence for God. Whether the decision to trust the God of the Bible is intuitive or deliberative, it is the mark of genuine faith.
The atheist likewise may come to his atheism by intuition or after careful deliberation. In the end, he has faith that God does not exist because he trusts either his instincts or his investigation and commits himself to live in a way that is consistent with his beliefs.
Contrary to the claims of the new atheists, everyone has some kind of faith—everyone trusts something. It is impossible to live without trusting in something, even if it is only in the reliability of our five senses. The object of our faith is what makes all the difference.