What do Christians mean when they talk about faith?
Not Simple Confidence
First, it’s not the same thing other people talk about when they say things like “you’ve got to have faith,” or “Just have faith and everything will turn out all right.” In those cases, people seem to mean a kind of generic confidence or hope—a sense of determination that we WANT things to turn out well, and therefore, mysteriously, somehow they WILL turn out well. It’s almost a kind of magic—a belief that our desires can shape the universe. That isn’t what Christians mean by faith.
Not Signing Up to a List of Doctrines
Faith is also not simply signing up to a list of doctrines, the way you might sign a petition or a political statement. Simply saying “Yes, I agree with this” has its place in Christianity, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all of faith.
Not a Transaction
Faith isn’t a transaction either. Wait, that sounds a little weird. What we mean is, some people think that faith means saying a special prayer or doing a particular action (like walking forward during a church service) and in exchange God promises not to send you to hell. Kind of like buying fire insurance or life insurance. That isn’t faith—that’s a deal—and a really weird one, if you think about it. Why would God be interested in mere mumbo-jumbo?
Faith Is Trust
So what IS faith, then? Faith is trust. Faith is taking God at his word, saying “Yeah, I believe you, I know you’ll keep your promises” and resting on that fact. It’s similar to the faith you have in that special friend or family member—the one who never lets you down, so when they say something, you can relax and be sure they’ll do it.
Faith Is Trust in a Person
Christian faith is faith in a person–in Jesus Christ, who is God who has come into our world as a human being. Christians aren’t just trusting in some generic God-figure like the one in comic strips. We trust in Jesus, the same person you can see in action in the Bible. Try here if you’d like to see what he’s like.
Faith Is Trust in a Person Who Is Trustworthy
And the reason we trust in him is because we’ve always found him to be trustworthy in the past. All his words and actions show that he cares about us—that he tells the truth, doesn’t shower us with false promises, or say things in order to manipulate us. It’s clear from his words and actions that he wants the best for us, even to the point of laying down his own life for us. And since he has risen from the dead, we have an ongoing loving and trusting relationship with him. All our experience with trusting him in the past leads us to believe he will continue to be trustworthy in the future.
Benefits of Faith
To be sure, there are plenty of benefits to this kind of trusting, loving relationship. The best thing, of course, is that we have Christ himself—God himself who loves us and makes us part of his family. He is his own best gift—you know, the way you love a family member not for what they can give you, but because they themselves are what you take delight in? It’s like that.
But there are other things, too—specifically, his promises. And there are a ton of those. Some of them are:
- Forgiveness and cleansing for the wrong things we’ve done;
- A new heart to replace our old bad attitudes that make us sick inside;
- Power to love and serve our neighbors, even and especially when we don’t much want to;
- A new, perfect, everlasting life to look forward to, where there will be no more evil and no more sadness;
- Resurrection from the dead on the day when he finally comes back to remake this universe;
- God himself living in us to teach, guide and help us—God the Holy Spirit.
These are just a few of the promises he has given us, and we trust that he will keep those promises. We see some of them starting already in this life, as we live it day by day, trusting in Jesus. But we know that there is much, much more to come. And we look forward to it with joy. That’s what it means to live with faith in Jesus.