Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What Is Faith?

There are perhaps few more variously understood words in the language than faith. What does the Bible mean by faith, and how does that differ from the various other ideas that exist about it?. Scripturally, faith is believing the promises of God (Romans 4:16-22; Hebrews 11:13-16; 6:13-20). Because of this, faith is contrasted with sight, which is the possession of the thing promised (2 Corinthians 5:7; 4:17,18; Hebrews 11:1). This is not opposed to reason, but to our initial reaction to circumstances (Hebrews 11:24-27; John 20:26-29). One of the fallacious assumptions involved here is that we are basically rational creatures, who will always follow the most reasonable and logical course of action. The truth is, we are all too often driven by our feelings and desires. And this is why, from a Christian perspective, faith is a virtue. I am convinced there are good reasons for believing Christianity is true, nor do I see it as a virtue to believe something you think untrue in the teeth of reason. As for the genuine intellectual challenges, these must be met and dealt with. But when I am facing trials. Or I am looked down on for my faith, or even just feel out of place among those who do not share my beliefs. Or when I would find it convenient not to be encumbered with these Christian moral scruples in a particular situation. That is when faith comes in. It continues to trust and follow God in these types of circumstances (Proverbs 3:5,6; Hebrews 1:6; Psalms 46:10).

This faith may involve two different, though not necessarily incompatible, ideas. It may involve trusting God for deliverance (Matthew 8:5-13; 9:27-31; 17:14-21). Or it may involve trusting God even if there is not immediate deliverance (2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Hebrews 11:35-40; Daniel 3:16-18). It is not simply faith in our faith, but faith in a Person who works everything according to His will (Ephesians 1:11; Romans 8:28; Isaiah 43:13). But it is trusting in Him, whether or not He immediately delivers us from the situation. It builds our character in the long run, as we trust in Him (James 1:2-4; Matthew 6:33; Isaiah 40:31). Now basic to this is our faith in Him for salvation (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9). We do not now see eternal life or the resurrection or the kingdom of God fully realized on earth (John 14:1-3; Romans 8:24,25; 2 Peter 3:8-13), but we put our faith in God for it. Therefore, our faith is not a mere knowledge of the facts (even demons have that: James 2:19), but a trust in God that He will fulfill His promises. Therefore, faith is not some sort of a leap against reason. It is not positive thinking or a way to manipulate God. Nor is it mere adherence to a set of facts (though this may be a necessary preliminary). It is reliance on God, that He is truthful and will do what He has said (Titus 1:2; John 17:17; Romans 3:4).

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