What Is True Faith?
Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as follows, “Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].”
This verse about faith is a favourite among Christians, and has to be one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. I’m guessing it is quoted only second to a few other popular verses like John 3:16 and John 10:10.
In spite of its popularity, I can’t help but wonder how many Christians have a healthy understanding of what this verse actually means. Hebrews 11:1 is one of those verses in the Bible on which we have to meditate often, and it is one of those key verses which we should hope to get deeply rooted in our hearts for what it truly means.
Many Christians use this verse to help them anchor their faith around specific things they are praying for. For example, many stand on this verse while they pray for and are trusting God for healing, a new job, for getting rich and for gaining wealth, for falling pregnant, and the list goes on and on. Depending on where you are in your walk with God, this is not necessarily wrong. However, this verse goes a lot deeper than just hoping for answered prayer regarding our personal wants or needs.
God’s Definition Of Faith
To discover the possible deeper meaning behind Hebrews 11:1, let’s look at the kind of faith God was hoping Moses would have when He called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. In Exodus 3 we read about how God spoke to Moses through the burning bush, and how He instructed Moses to go to the Pharaoh to demand that the Pharaoh should let God’s people go.
Understandably, Moses was afraid, and in Exodus 3:11 Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
To this God responded, and in verse 12 God said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve and worship God at this mountain.”
What is fascinating about God’s response is that, apart from speaking to Moses through the burning bush, God did not offer Moses another sign to encourage him to go. The sign which God gave Moses, was a sign he would be able to see only after he was obedient and did what God had called him to do. God’s view on the matter was clear: He had spoken to Moses in an undeniable way, and Moses had to act out of faith. After all, from God’s perspective the exodus was already a done deal, and Romans 4:17 says, “… [God] gives life to the dead and speaks of the non-existent things that [He has foretold and promised] as if they [already] existed.”
Initially, Moses tried to work his way out of what God was calling him to do. However, Moses still ended up being the one who led the Israelites out of Egypt, and Hebrews 11 hails Moses as someone who is an example of what it means to live by faith. Hebrews 11:24-25 say, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25because he preferred to endure the hardship of the people of God rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” In verse 26 we read that Moses “looked ahead to the reward [promised by God].”
This incident at the burning bush, together with the definition of faith as described by Hebrews 11:1, is vitally important if we want to get greater understanding of what faith really is.
Faith Is A Shield
Ephesians 6 talks about faith in the context of hardship or difficult times, and verse 16 says, “Above all, lift up the [protective] shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
In biblical times it was not uncommon for archers to light the tip of their arrows before firing on the enemy. Because of this, it was not unusual for soldiers to soak their leather shields in water, which in turn served the purpose of quenching the fiery arrows fired upon them.
Using the analogy of a shield that can quench the fiery arrows of an adversary, we learn from Ephesians 6 that real faith has the ability to act as a shield during testing times.
Faith Is A Channel
Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God.”
As we can see from this verse, we are saved by grace, through faith and not by faith. The reason why we receive grace through faith and not by faith is because salvation is a gift, and not something we get by our good works. Faith serves as a channel through which we receive salvation, as opposed to receiving it by faith which could be seen as good works.
Furthermore, just as we receive salvation through faith, we similarly receive the manifestation of every other promise we might receive from God through faith as well. Faith is like a channel that links the natural realm with the spiritual realm, and it is through this channel that we experience the manifestation of the supernatural into the natural.
Faith Is A Catalyst
In Luke 17:6 Jesus said, “If you have [confident, abiding] faith in God [even as small] as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree [which has very strong roots], ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea’; and [if the request was in agreement with the will of God] it would have obeyed you.” In Matthew 17:20 Jesus made a similar statement and said, “…if you have faith [that is living] like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here to yonder place, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”
In both examples Jesus said our words have the ability to cause miracles to happen. However, we also see that faith is required as it acts as a catalyst for our words to have the kind of power which Jesus was talking about.
When we read these Scriptures we can deduce that dead faith, which can also be referred to as blind faith, is faith that is outside of God’s will. This is in contrast with faith that is alive, which is faith that is in agreement with the will of God. This faith that is alive is similar to that of a mustard seed which has the potential to become a tree or even a forest, if allowed to bear fruit and multiply.
Faith Comes By Hearing
Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the [preaching of the] message concerning Christ.”
True faith, or faith that is alive like a mustard seed, is rooted in the message of the gospel. The more time we spend hearing the Word of God, the more authentic our faith will be. As we read the Bible, we learn what the will of God is. As we gain understanding of what God’s will is, more faith is deposited into our hearts.
Perhaps the greatest test of our faith is when we have to fully surrender our lives to Jesus Christ. To call Jesus “Lord” means we acknowledge Him as the owner or master of our lives. It means we no longer live for ourselves, but for Him. The things that we used to want are no longer important to us, unless they are still important to God. Instead, what we want and how we live our lives becomes more and more aligned with the Will of God as we seek Him in everything we do.
Jesus warned that if we are not willing to fully surrender our lives to Him, we cannot be His disciples and He cannot be our Lord. In Luke 14:27 Jesus said, “Whoever does not carry his own cross [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow after Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me] cannot be My disciple.”
In another example, Jesus showed a young man, who has become known as the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10, that merely keeping God’s commandments is not enough. While the man said in verse 20 that he had kept the Law since his youth, verse 21 says that Jesus answered him with love and compassion, “You lack one thing: go and sell all your property and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have [abundant] treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].” Verse 22 says, “But the man was saddened at Jesus’ words, and he left grieving, because he owned much property and had many possessions [which he treasured more than his relationship with God].” While there is nothing wrong with having possessions, this particular incident exposed the condition of the man’s heart. To lay down your life with all your own desires and dreams is truly a great test of your faith.
Faith Has An Author
Hebrews 12:2 says, “focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith.” If faith has an author, it also means there can be a counterfeit. While the world may have faith in many things, true biblical faith originates from Jesus.
The verse continues by saying of Jesus, “…who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].”
Jesus is the author of faith, but He also perfected it by enduring the ultimate form of hardship – the shame and pain of the cross. Other translations says Jesus is the author of our faith. If we want to endure and overcome hardship, it requires faith that originates from Jesus. This faith will then carry you through and help you to overcome.