Faith is a tricky thing. And much of what is tricky about it isn’t merely in whether or not we have it, but also in whether or not we understand what it is about it that is actually pleasing to God.
If by “faith” we simply mean religious activity or affiliation with a religious body (e.g., “I go to such-and-such church”) then we’ve totally missed what God means by faith. Is it really important to get this right? Is it truly necessary for us to understand what God means by “faith” and “belief in Him”?
Well, frankly, God seems to think that it is important for us to understand His point-of-view on the matter for He makes some very direct remarks about it. For example, He says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:1-3 ESV).
This kind of “faith” is not just an invocation of a higher power. It is a radical reliance upon the provision and power of a loving heavenly Father Who sent His Son to accomplish for us what we could not. Living a perfectly righteous life, thereby totally vindicating the Law of God, and then suffering and dying in our place of judgment for our sin were all beyond our reach. So if the mercy and strength of God was mobilized to effect for us so great a salvation (see Hebrews 2:3), are we then willing to acknowledge our confidence in His promise by aligning our lives with His desires for us, our families, our churches, and our communities?
Inasmuch as we are willing to do so, we truly have faith. Faith is simply a confidence in God’s power that affects our values, priorities, attitudes, and actions. Are you sick? Biblical faith moves you to seek guidance and consolation in His Word, the Bible, and then to say, “God can heal me. And if He chooses to not bring healing, it is simply because He has a great good that He will reap through it.” Are you facing financial difficulties? Jesus Himself knows what it means to trust the Father day-by-day for sustenance. Again, as you look to adjust your life and attitude to God’s plan for living, faith teaches you to trust God to meet your daily needs and to find peace in knowing that your heavenly Father hears your prayer to “give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
And speaking of bread, don’t miss the most important Word on faith of all… that believing in Jesus Christ is the most crucial step you or anyone else can ever take in regard to spiritual life… in regard to anything, for that matter. “Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He has sent…Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He Who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’… Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst… Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life…. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh” (John 6:29, 32b-33, 35, 47-48, 51 ESV).
So how does one “eat” this spiritual bread anyway? Jesus answers it Himself in John 6:47, “… he who believes has eternal life.” One eats spiritual bread by spiritually devouring it: we take in His Word, digest it, and then rely upon its sufficiency. Relying on the sufficiency of His promise that Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection have accomplished for us open access to His throne is the kind of faith that pleases Him. “…We have been sanctified (made clean and set apart for the purposes of God) through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…. We have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus… let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” (Hebrews 10:10, 19, 22-25 ESV).
Faith isn’t really that tricky after all. Faith that pleases God isn’t an accumulation of good deeds and isn’t even about earning righteousness on our own merits (no one can measure up to God’s standard of righteousness on his own anyway). Nor is it some magic power we use to get what we want or make God do what we want Him to do. And it isn’t even always feeling secure and tranquil, although many believe that unless they “feel” their faith, then they must not have it. Faith is simply choosing to rely on our Lord’s Word, trusting in His goodness and power to help us in whatever needs we’re facing, and taking whatever steps in life that are in keeping with that reliance and trust.
Are you hungry for more of God in your life? Then visit Him in His Word. Fellowship with Him in a church that is truly seeking Him. As you see more and more clearly what God is like, and what He asks of you, trust Him enough to do as He asks. Be the kind of person He wants you to be in your heart, your family, your work, and your worship. Discover that He is indeed the bread of life that abundantly nourishes your spirit for this life and prepares your soul for the next.
Pastor Thom Mollohan leads Pathway Community Church in Gallipolis. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.