Faith — What Is It? Why Is It Important? How Does It Grow?
There are six basic doctrines in Christianity and Faith in God is the second one, which indicates that it’s a foundational element of Christianity. Why? Here’s why:
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Faith is so important because it’s impossible to please God without it. What exactly is faith?
What is Faith?
Faith is belief, but not in the sense of believing in fairy tales or casual mental assent. It is belief based on:
- what is intrinsically obvious,
- accurate knowledge, whether scientific, spiritual or otherwise,
- genuine revelation by the Holy Spirit,
- or some combination of these three.
Let’s consider examples of the first three. Regarding #1, someone may say that they believe in the concept of God as Creator because it’s obvious that the earth, universe and all living creatures were intelligently designed. Or someone may believe homosexuality is intrinsically wrong because the design and function of the sexual organs is obvious (tab ‘A’ fits into slot ‘B’). In each case the person believes based on what is clearly palpable. Concerning #2, people may believe they have a brain even though they’ve never seen it because medical science has proven it through dissecting human remains, brain surgery, etc. So the person believes based on sound data. Regarding #3, some may turn to God because the Holy Spirit revealed reality to them and they believed it. Their belief is based on the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible calls faith the substance of things hoped for and being certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). The Amplified Bible amplifies the original Greek text:
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].
Hebrews 11:1 (Amplified)
Faith is the “title deed” of the things we hope for; that is, the things we righteously desire. In short, faith is the substance that brings the world of hope or desire into reality!
In the Gospels, for instance, people would come to Jesus hoping for healing and after receiving it the Lord would say something like “Your faith has healed you” (see, for example, Mark 5:25-34). Faith was the substance that brought them what they hoped for, healing. They were certain—convinced—that the power of Christ would provide the healing they needed even though they couldn’t yet see it physically.
Faith for Salvation & Eternal Life
I trust you’re seeing why faith is necessary to receive God’s gracious gift of reconciliation and eternal life. After all, how can someone receive a gift from someone s/he doesn’t even believes exists? For example, if you said you had a gift for me and I responded by saying I can’t receive it because I don’t believe you exist, would you still force the gift on me? Of course you wouldn’t. More likely, you’d be irked at my stupidity and arrogance. The same principle applies to those who reject the gospel. When you come across people who do this, be sure to pray that the LORD open their eyes to the truth, i.e. reality.
Did you ever wonder why faith is so important to receiving salvation? Because faith is nothing more or less than believing God. That’s precisely what Adam & Eve failed to do when they were tested in the Garden of Eden and that’s why they fell (see Genesis 2:15-3:24). In other words, the fall of humanity came about due to unbelief and therefore humanity’s restoration is dependent upon belief.
Everyone has Faith, but Not Necessarily Faith in God
In a sense, every human soul has faith, which explains why we’re incurably religious as a species. Even those who claim to not believe in God develop belief systems and institutions that have all the earmarks of what is generally perceived as “religion.” *
* For instance, secular humanism — essentially one-in-the-same as Far Left “liberalism” (aka LIEberalism) — has its own cosmology, its own miracles (i.e. the idea that everything originally sprang from nothing, which conflicts with the scientific axiom of biogenesis — life only proceeds from life), its own beliefs in the supernatural, its own “churches” (public schools & universities), its own “high priests” (godless professors & teachers), its own “saints” (thugs), its own rites, its own sacrifices (e.g. abortion & infanticide), its own godless worldview and its own explanation of the existence of the universe. While this may be generally true, it shouldn’t be misinterpreted to mean that all professors, public school teachers, scientists, judges, etc. are godless Left-wing LIEberals because that’s not the case.
Belief in God is simply a part of our make-up; it’s in our spiritual DNA. Heck, creation itself inspires belief in a Creator; more than that, creation screams out God’s existence (Psalm 19:1-4 & Romans 1:18-20). To suggest that everything in the universe came about through accident and that there’s no Intelligent Designer is like expecting a Boeing 747 to emerge out of a metal scrapyard after millions of years. It’s absurd.
Unfortunately, as Paul put it, unbelievers “are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts” (Ephesians 4:18). In other words, they have faith in God but they’ve willingly hardened their hearts to it, consciously or subconsciously. Why? For a number of reasons, such as not wanting to give up some pet sin, but often simply because that’s how their godless culture brainwashed them and they choose to run with the pack rather than go against the flow and face the negative repercussions thereof. And so they deny obvious reality.
Hardening their hearts to their intrinsic faith in God, they redirect their faith to something else, like a godless government party and the politicians thereof; or the idea that humans originated from apes even though there’s zero evidence of a “missing link”; and so on.
Repentance and Faith
It’s interesting that repentance and faith are the first two basic doctrines of Christianity (of the six) because these are the conditions to receiving God’s gift of eternal salvation:
I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
We effectively “turn to God” via the gospel through repentance and faith.
‘Repentance’ inexplicably has a negative connotation in modern times because people misinterpret it to mean that God is trying to prevent them from having a “good time.” But sin can only bring a “good time” superficially because underneath the surface pleasure is misery and death for “the wages of sin is death.” This is an axiom.
Take, for instance, the “party” lifestyle. When I was a teen I did drugs and drank frequently. It became a lifestyle and it was difficult for me to imagine life without constant “partying.” After several years I wisely quit. This was before I became a believer. In essence, I repented because repentance is simply the resolve — the mental decision — to change for the positive, along with the corresponding action. Why did I quit? Because, although the “party” lifestyle delivered a quick fix to escape reality and have a “good time,” they couldn’t deliver the goods in the long term. Instead they brought hangovers, depression, broken relationships and bondage.
What spurred my change-for-the-positive, that is, my repentance? I saw the obvious truth, believed it, and changed accordingly. The same principle applies to receiving God’s grace of salvation through the gospel of Christ. We see the truth, believe it, and change accordingly. Repentance is the mental resolve to change for the positive in accordance with God’s will and the corresponding action.
Repentance and Faith are Not Works
This shows that repentance and faith are not works, but rather the natural reaction to realizing the truth, which is simply the way it really is. It’s the wise response to seeing the truth.
Here’s an illustration: Say a man sincerely believes that 2 + 2 = 5. This is a false belief whether he believes it’s true or not. So I go to him with four stones and plainly illustrate that 2 stones plus the other 2 stones equals four stones, not five. He clearly observes the truth — the way it really is — and therefore believes and hence changes his mind. He now believes that 2 + 2 = 4, which is the truth, reality.
You see? Repentance and faith are not works, but simply the natural response to being exposed to the truth. Only a blind, indoctrinated fool would see the truth — the way it really is — and reject it in favor of his/her incorrect belief.
Everything in the New Covenant is by Faith
Our covenant (contract, agreement) with God is a covenant of faith and so everything in our covenant is by faith. Do you want eternal salvation? It’s by faith. Healing? It’s by faith. Intimacy with God? Faith. Answers to prayer? Faith. Power to overcome? Faith. Grace to fulfill God’s will? Faith.
In light of this I find it perplexing when I come across Christians who are “anti-faith” because it’s a total oxymoron, sorta like naming a fellowship “Faith Baptist Church.” (That’s a joke). They defend their position on the grounds that there have been some extremists in the faith movement, but every movement in the body of Christ inspired by the Holy Spirit has its lunatic fringe. You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!
Faith and Perseverance (Patience)
One thing about faith needs to be stressed: Faith must be combined with perseverance — that is, patient endurance — or what you’re hoping for will not come to pass. This is why the Bible says:
We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
This is just common sense. After all, faith isn’t really faith if you give up. It might be temporary, fleeting belief or mental assent, but it’s not the faith that can withstand the time of testing, which includes the wait before the manifestation (Luke 8:13). Even salvation can be lost if one doesn’t persevere in the faith, as shown in this passage
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation — 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.
We have eternal security in Christ. The Lord said so and it’s 100% true (John 10:27-30). But eternal security is not the same as unconditional eternal security because reconciliation with God and eternal life are the result of faith in the message of Christ, the gospel. In other words, if it takes faith to be saved, a person who doesn’t persevere and thus gives up on faith is no longer saved. I’m not talking about someone experiencing doubts, but rather giving up on faith in Christ altogether. It’s the difference between struggling & stumbling and utterly falling away in outright rebellion. You can read important details here.
Faith IN GOD
Someone might argue that the second basic doctrine of Christianity is technically “faith in God” (Hebrews 6:1-2) and therefore only refers to believing the LORD personally. Yes, it refers to believing the LORD personally, but faith in God also includes believing whatever the LORD has created that testifies to His existence or will.
For instance, all creation is a physical testimony to the existence of the Almighty and therefore inspires faith (belief) in the Creator. One of the reasons I was an agnostic and not a strict atheist before I accepted the message of Christ is because the earth & universe and all living things cried out that there was an Intelligent Designer (Psalm 19:1-4 & Romans 1:18-20). I simply wasn’t stupid enough to be an atheist, keeping in mind that true atheists stubbornly say they know there is no Creator with almost zero doubt. This, by the way, shows that they have faith, just not faith in God.
Consider also the testimony of God’s amazing Word: The Lord is truth and His Word is truth and therefore His Word testifies to His existence (John 14:6 & 17:17).
Faith in God, not Faith in Faith
The doctrine of faith in God shows that our faith is the result of knowing the LORD — which means the result of relationship — as well as knowing God’s word & promises. So it’s faith in God, not faith in faith.
In other words, the power in biblical faith stems from its object — God. Genuine faith must have an object and that object is the character of the Almighty Creator. It’s not something in our flesh that makes faith work, but rather the character of God combined with the faith that spring from our reborn spirit and the indwelling Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5 & 1 Corinthians 6:19). Faith (belief) is simply the natural response to God, his Word and his creation. This prevents faith from becoming a human work and gives all the glory of our faith exploits to the LORD.
This is an encouragement to go deeper in your relationship with the Lord and to grow in the knowledge of God’s Word and the promises thereof (2 Peter 3:18), as well as the promises the Holy Spirit gives to you personally.
How Does Faith Grow?
The starting point for every believer is faith because our covenant with God is a covenant of faith. ‘Covenant’ means “an agreement or pact having complete terms determined by the initiating party, which are also affirmed by the one entering the agreement.” A good English word for covenant is contract. All Christians have a contract with Father God through Christ by the Holy Spirit. This is the New Covenant or New Testament. Everything we receive in our agreement with the LORD is by faith because “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
The Bible says that every believer has a “measure of faith” otherwise they wouldn’t be a believer (Romans 12:3). It’s a done deal — “God has distributed” the measure of faith to everyone who’s a believer. It’s a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9) and every believer starts with the same measure.
However, it’s clear from the Scriptures that faith can grow. For instance, Jesus noted the “little faith” of his disciples on occasion (Luke 12:28 & Matthew 14:28–31), which shows that they could’ve had more faith. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3 Paul observed that the faith of the Thessalonian believers was “growing more and more” and in 2 Corinthians 10:15 he clearly expected the Corinthians’ faith to “continue to grow.” Your faith can likewise increase, but it’s dependent on YOU adding the seven qualities relayed in 2 Peter 1:5-7 — goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual (Christian) affection and love.
You’ll note that there are seven virtues. This is fitting since the number 7 is identified with something being “finished” or “complete” in the Bible. Thus, if you are diligent to add these seven qualities to your walk you will be complete as a man or woman of God. Praise the Lord! You can read more here.
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