How do you define faith?
As Christians, we purport that we have it, but what is it that we have?
In Christian circles, I have always heard faith referred to in a subjective way. It is a personal relationship we have with God. Often faith is treated like a private experience, “just between me and my Lord.” This secret relationship is ok but it leads to many Christians feeling like it matters less what they believe; they are just proud that they believe anything.
But this subjective approach makes it hard for the Christian to define faith…
The personal relationship with God does make sense in one aspect. We are all unique human beings and therefore God does mean something different for each one of us. No one’s perception is quite like another’s.
However, Jesus claimed it does matter whom and what you believe. In James, we see Jesus declaring that “no one comes to the Father except through Me” [14:6]. Peter’s words are similar: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]. Jesus told Thomas to “reach here with your finger” showing him objective proof of His resurrection.
Faith is still a matter of irrationality for many Christians. Hebrews 11:1 states that faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Since many people never see their hopes come to fruition, clinging to faith seems like clinging to an impossible dream.
We don’t have the privilege of seeing Jesus perform miracles like the Disciples did and yet even they had their weak moments. Matthew 8:26 has Jesus calling His disciples “you of little faith.” They had seen the miracles and those facts formed the backbone of their faith.
Yet at times even this was not enough for them.
So here we are again; what is faith? Bingham Hunter* defines faith as a “rational response to the evidence of God’s self-revelation in nature, human history, the Scriptures and His resurrected Son” [Hunter, 153].
But here is where we fall short on faith: “total personal commitment, the willingness to entrust the whole of one’s being to God without reservation” [Hunter, 153]. Even though it is hard to think about, it is in the moment of death where we can commend ourselves totally to our Lord and Savior. Jesus commended Himself to God when His moment of death occurred on the cross. The martyr Stephen commended himself to God when he met his death at his stoning: “Lord Jesus receive my spirit.” At those moments a believer puts trust in God himself, His character, His ability and the truth of His promises.
What is faith? It is the moment where we have to turn to God and God alone. Having faith in our faith will not be enough. Hunter goes so far as to say that having faith in our faith is a “fatal mistake.” Jesus and Stephen faced death certain that their hope for resurrection was well placed in God.
As Christians, we often define faith as something we need to exercise, but faith is a gift which God gives us because we cannot exercise it on our own. We are blinded by Satan but God justifies us by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Salvation is received by our personal faith in God, but even faith is a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8 “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
So how do we define faith? It is an intersection between a sovereign God and man. God offers the gift of faith to us.
We have to make a personal decision to accept it.
*author of The God Who Hears