What is faith? This may seem a difficult question, as faith is not something we can see or touch, and it may mean different things to different people! But what does faith mean to a Christian?
Faith is choosing to believe
First of all, the Christian faith means that we believe that the Bible is true, it is God’s Word to mankind, and it is tested and unchanging. Faith is also total trust in God, in His love for me, and in His power to help me no matter what happens to me in life. “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 (NLT).
Faith is a decision to believe, it is a choice, not a feeling. I choose to believe in Jesus Christ, that He died for my sins, and that by believing in Him, my sins will be forgiven. The promise is clear. “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NCV). It is faith in a Person that saves those that believe, not faith in a certain religion or a set of rules.
Every Christian will agree that salvation is a gift, not something we can get by our own efforts. “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT).
If I have sinned, the first, very important step is to admit it, be sorry for what I have done and turn away from my sin. But I still cannot save myself! “The payment for sin is death, but the gift that God freely gives is everlasting life found in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (GW). To receive this gift, I must believe in and personally accept God’s gift to me in His Son. The forgiveness of sins is a wonderful beginning and brings great joy to every true believer in Jesus.
What comes next?
So I am saved by grace when I choose to believe. What happens next? Do I still need faith? Yes! I need faith if I want to live a life that pleases the Saviour I believe in. Though my sins are forgiven, I will still be tempted many times by the sin in my human nature.
The next verse in Ephesians 2 tells us what God’s plans are for us after we have given our life to God. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 (NLT). So God has planned something far greater, and even more wonderful for us after we have believed Him for forgiveness.
It is also written, in Romans 5:10 (GNT): “We were God's enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God's friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ's life!” Jesus’ life was a life of action. To be saved by His life, I need a faith that leads me to action. Paul calls it the obedience to the faith. (Romans 1:5.)
Jesus is our great Example, and the One who began our faith and who will perfectly finish it. (Hebrews 12:2.) All the heroes of faith in the Old Testament acted on their faith. They did something. Every one of them believed – and acted! By faith Noah prepared an ark, by faith Abraham obeyed, and so on. (Hebrews 11.)
Go to action!
John writes simply: “The Word [Jesus] gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.” John 1:4 (NLT). It is this light of Jesus’ life that I need to walk in – go to action with! If I really want to obey God’s good laws of life found in His Word, I will soon find myself in a battle against the sin that I find in myself, in my nature. This is what is called the good fight of faith in 1 Timothy 6:12.
To win these battles, I need to believe in a power outside of myself, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in Jesus who has promised that He can save me completely. (Hebrews 7:25.) It has nothing to do with my feelings, which can go up and down. But when I believe God, and take a firm decision to obey his laws that are found in the Bible, even against my feelings or my human understanding, then God goes to action too! He sends grace and help, and He gets all honour when it succeeds!
Faith opens the door to an overcoming life! By faith, we can truly overcome sin as Jesus overcame! “This is the victory that overcomes the world – our faith.” 1 John 5:5. I believe in His power to save me from all the sin I am tempted to. I believe that when I take up my cross and say No to the sin I am tempted to, just as Jesus did, I will overcome.
The Bible also calls this “being crucified with Christ”. “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.
Faith is something very precious to have! It is not something we can see or touch, but Jesus said to doubting Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29. Peter also writes: “You have not seen Christ, but still you love him. You cannot see him now, but you believe in him. So you are filled with a joy that cannot be explained, a joy full of glory. And you are receiving the goal of your faith - the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9 (NCV).
The result of this faith can be seen! The disciples saw it in Jesus, and as Christians we should come to this same joyful and glorious life – by faith!