The more I walk down the road of life, the more I become aware of how little I know. It is the unexpected elements that are assuredly present in every person’s life that guarantees such a realization for all but the totally ignorant or the innocently naïve. Socrates, a Greek philosopher who lived nearly five-hundred years before the birth of Christ, said it well when he said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.” Socrates did not know Christ; therefore, he was correct in what he said. He never knew the “Truth.”
As a Christian, a believer of Christ, the ever-growing experiences garnered through the days, weeks, and years of my existence lead me to two points of understanding. First, it becomes quite easy for me to see that perfectionism is a fallacy. I try with the utmost conviction to “do the right thing” at all times. While I have come to accept that my decisions can sometimes present themselves as impulsive, and often bold, most are extremely thought out and calculated. And usually, my intentions are meant to be “good.” Yet, I go astray (Isaiah 53:6). Whether it is the devil or self-idolatry, manifested in the various forms of pride, I make decisions that are not completely “good.” As scripture states, “all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).” It is my belief, that not one of us can do anything “good” without it being the work of the Holy Spirit. God is the sole source of all that is good; therefore, apart from God we are truly dead. Without God, we are nothing (John 15:5).
This leads me to the second point of understanding reinforced through that which God has revealed to me in the accumulated experiences representing my life—I am completely dependent on God. Just as “apart from God we are nothing,” nothing is impossible with Him (Luke 1:37). God created me. I am His. While I may, on occasion, act rebelliously to this reality; nonetheless, that is the reality. There may be atheists reading what I write and thinking, “Perception is reality.” I encourage such people to ponder whose perception truly matters if God does exist. Regardless of spiritual beliefs, I would make the case that most people agree with the first point I make within this note. Obviously, atheists will disagree with my second point. And if I further clarify my God as the one true God described in the Holy Bible—who came down from heaven to provide those who believe in Him salvation—then all but Christians (and maybe a few off-shoot cults) will disagree with my second point. What is it, then, that creates this divergence in understanding? Faith is a word that I have begun to view as marginalized by society at large. Some people consider the word “faith” to be synonymous with “belief.” Others would suggest that a better synonym for “faith” would be “trust,” as demons believe in God, yet do not possess faith. Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides the following definitions:
- a: allegiance to duty or a person: loyalty b (1): fidelity to one’s promises (2): sincerity of intentions
- a (1): belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2): belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1): firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2): complete trust
- : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially: a system of religious beliefs
The definition to which my note follows most, and to which I will try to extrapolate from, would be “belief and trust in and loyalty to God.” I would argue, however, that to say that “faith” is simply “trusting in God,” does not go far enough in explaining it. Christians are guilty of stating that “faith” is essential, while keeping its powerful Truth at an arm’s length. And while I am attempting to unpack the meaning and importance of “faith” within the remainder of my note, it is not my belief that I can fully achieve what I attempt. My purpose is only to encourage greater investigation and personal exploration to what I truly believe “faith” represents. The faith to which I refer requires belief. It requires trust. It requires action that is promulgated by that belief and trust.
One of those actions is continuous pursuit to know God better. It is an inexhaustible endeavor, as God escapes all boundaries of knowledge other than His own. Though, He will reveal His character to those He loves. And in knowing God, His believers will love Him. And in loving Him, they will obediently serve Him. And in obediently serving Him, they will please Him and glorify Him. Such faith, however, is a gift from God:
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
This is such an important aspect of faith to understand! We cannot earn it. We do not receive it from merit. And because of this, anyone who has truly been blessed by God to possess faith should not treat its presence in their being as a sign of superiority. Conversely, it should encourage the presence of humility and graciousness toward others. While professing Christians often will say that they “came to Christ,” it is my view that Christ came to His believers through the gift of faith given to them.
1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.
This brings forth the question, “How do we know we possess faith?” Faith bears fruit.
Matthew 7:16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?
James 2:14-26 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
The book of James reinforces the more modern phrasing, “Talk is cheap.” I can say that I have faith, but if I never depend on it to DO SOMETHING that brings forth FRUIT, the opposite is supported. Though, what about all those people who serve others selflessly, but do not believe in God? Is that not faith? Faith has both fruitful works and God-focused intent. If we serve because it makes us feel good, that does not make us “good” in the eyes of God. If we do good deeds in front of others (Matthew 6:5) to be “perceived good,” that does not bring glory to God. Those who are consumed by Christ will serve others with the intention of being obedient to God and loving Him. These people are moved by the Holy Spirit and capable of pleasing their Heavenly Father. It is confronting fear with love, out of our convictions in Christ’s crucifixion and subsequent resurrection (Hebrews 11:1). It cannot be said enough that faith brings us into relationship with God through Christ.
Christ is the fulfiller of the Covenant of Love, in which Christians are beneficiaries through the faith they did not earn. Christ represents His followers corporately as the Head of the Church. The fact that Christ is without sin, presents His followers to His Father faultless. God, being a just God, knowing that His creation cannot keep the requirements of the covenant designed on their behalf, interceded by making the covenant with Himself for our behalf. As Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Therefore, it can be said that Christians are loved by Jesus, who views His Followers as friends. What an awesome Lord!
In closing, I want to bring faith back into a “personal reality” scenario. What does faith mean to me? How does it impact my life? Faith is the hope I have in my Lord’s life. It is the gift that allows me to engage in His Word, and pursue relationship with Him. It is my greatest teacher of love, grace, hope, and humility.
Faith is the lens through which I look through life and see my Creator’s presence everywhere. Faith is the vehicle that I use to journey through my life, with the end destination being my Father’s home. Without faith, I am nothing and have nothing. Yet, with Faith, I have everything I need. And for that I am blessed, loved, and thankful. Have faith.