By Aaron Brown, Crosswalk.com
Faith. A five-letter word with a whole lot of meaning. The word appears time and time again throughout Scripture, referencing a relationship between man and God. There’s faith that we have as an individual and faith we share as a community.
When Christians learn about the church in the Bible, we often refer to this group as the “early church.” They provide an example of what faith looked like at the time. Since the advent of the early church, today, the church has grown and expanded to innumerable denominations and sects.
While Christ may not have desired for the church to grow into so many variations, the common denominator between each of us is faith. But what exactly is faith? We could simply say that according to Scripture, faith is a belief in God, a conviction in someone we know to be real, though He is not seen.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight,” Paul proclaims (2 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus spoke to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29).
If faith is merely a belief in God, then that would not explain colloquial expressions like, “I have faith in you,” or “I have faith things will work out.” Neither references our relationship with God. Faith is then a belief in anything not seen by the physical senses. This explains faith in the general sense, but when studying Scripture, we need to keep both ideas in mind.
Sometimes characters have faith in God directly. Sometimes people place faith in God regarding their circumstances. In either scenario, faith leads them to belief in a positive outcome because of God’s character. This is the way the early church viewed faith, and this is the same way we understand the concept today. As Christians, the word faith is imbued with religious meaning no matter the context.
A question remains, however. What does it really mean to have faith? Anyone can claim to have faith in God, in a person, in a situation, but how would evidence of that faith appear? The Bible not only gives us an understanding of faith but also how faith is best displayed.
How Does the Bible Showcase Faith?
Intimacy with God (Book of Job)
As we know, faith requires a belief in God. When someone is described as having strong faith, their conviction goes beyond a simple belief. They know of God’s existence and have an understanding of His will and character. In other words, they have a level of intimacy with God. Job provides us with a great biblical example.
During his ordeal, he suffered greatly. Some of his pain came from Satan’s trials. Some of his pain came from the way others treated him. All the while, God’s love for Job never changed. Job entered his season of suffering with a belief and understanding of God. This initially helped him face his situation with confidence. When his friends and wife spoke ill of him, he withstood their hurtful words. He possessed a faith that held him steady.
Later into his tough season, after he was stricken with physical illness, Job started to question God. The doubt and concern he expressed to the Lord was another indicator of his intimacy. He had a relationship with God that allowed him to ask questions. What’s more, Job is introduced to readers as a blameless man in the first chapter. He was blameless because he lived life according to God’s precepts.
We learn from Job that faith is a relationship with God. While we can believe in him, we deepen our understanding by communicating with Him and undergoing various experiences. We can and should also display that faith in front of others, not to brag, but as an indication of where our allegiance lies, just as Job did. And when others turn their backs on God or us, our faith should remain strong.
Community (Book of Ruth)
Ruth was a Moabite woman who took on Naomi’s, her mother-in-law, faith. She sought companionship and community with Naomi following the death of her husband. Naomi too had been widowed. Together they found comfort in common grievances. In their relationship, Ruth also built her faith in God, something she may not have found without Naomi.
Later in her story, again through her relationship with Naomi, Ruth met the family's redeemer, Boaz. He married Ruth after they met in one of his fields, a place ostensibly God led her to be. Naomi found faith, developed that faith, and reaped blessings from God.
The same applies to us today. We may or may not have faith on our own. Adding ourselves to a religious community will help solidify, challenge, and develop what we know of God. People can encourage us when we are down and deliver wisdom when we are lost.
Trust in God (Book of Psalms)
David faced several obstacles during his life. Some were external like Goliath and Saul. Other battles were internal, like his sexual lust. Whether he acted out of virtue or vice, David displayed an unquestionable trust in God. Psalm 13 gives us insight into just how much faith David had in God. In this song, he sings about his troubles and even asks hard questions of the Lord.
Despite the questioning, he ends the song on a note of certainty. While his suffering may persist and his enemies be plentiful, God’s character is unchanging. Due to the depth of his faith, David knows this. If faith is belief in things unseen, David knew he had a good ending no matter what. The same is true for us though we struggle to believe the sentiment, no matter what life is like, faith in God leads to a happy ending in this life or the next (Romans 8:28)
Obeying God’s Will
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me—nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” ( Luke 22:42)
What greater example of faith is there beside Jesus himself? Our Savior dedicated Himself to the faith. He prayed, took time to be alone with God, and found community. He embodied the tenets of Christianity. He is the reason for Christians today. From His own words, we glimpse a reminder that life is not always what we want. We will encounter scenarios that God may desire for us, though we want otherwise. Still, faith leads us to obey God’s will. His will reign supreme over our own, and the voice of other people.
Jesus went so far in His obedience that He met His death, Still, as we learned from David, believers always have a happy ending in this life or the next. Jesus was raised again, further serving as evidence of the power of faith.
What it Really Means to Have Faith
The early church’s understanding of faith has provided the modern-day believer with a foundation. Through studying Scripture and past theological teachings, we know that our faith may start one way, but much like a seed grows with time, so should our faith. A faith that grows inevitably leads to these three benefits.
- Faith allows us to see God in all situations.
- Faith allows us to give up control.
- Faith brings hope to the direst of circumstances.
Even when we don’t understand God’s will or the situations that we face day to day, we should imagine faith as a guiding light. We don’t have to rely on what we feel when we have what we know. And now we know what it really means to have faith.
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Aaron Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo.