Something I’ve struggled a lot with is the concept of faith. What is faith? How is it different from belief? How do I know I have enough? It something I’ve prayed about a lot lately. Something I’ve been seeking the answer to.
Now I’ve finally at least begun to understand.
The first thing I’ve learned is that faith and belief mean two different things. Belief is the acceptance that a statement is true or something exists. Faith is an attitude of trust in something for the purpose of enabling it to do something for you. You can believe pretty much anything – like a thought or an idea. But with faith, it has to actually be in an object. You can’t just simply have faith. Just like love – you can’t just be in love. Love has to have an object. Belief is required to have faith, but you don’t need faith to have belief.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “step out in faith” at some point in your life, but never “step out in belief.” A good example of this is from a Pastor by the name of Charles Price, about his experience the first time he went bungee jumping.
So, I tell you, it was probably the most nervous thing I’ve ever done in my life. And I could have stood back on the bridge, away from the end of the plank, and I could have said, “I believe this cord is strong enough to hold me, because actually the rope is attached to a short elastic rope, which is made up of thousands of strands of elastic, and he told me, if one of these strands is broken, the whole rope has to be discarded.” I could have stood back and said, “I believe that would hold me,” but I would never do a jump that way, I had to go out on the end of that plank, put my arms out, and as he counted me down, just fall, and I’ll never forget the sensation of leaving that plank and just free-falling, those hundreds of meters, look up the… whatever it was, and uh…seeing the river racing up to meet me, and thinking “I’m gonna die.” And suddenly the rope reached its full length, and the elastic began to stretch, and they’d measured in such a way that it went within three feet of the river, and then bounce back up again.But the point is this: I could not experience the adequacy of the rope, unless I was prepared to jump off the end.
As you can see, it’s much more than just simply believing something, it’s trusting and stepping off the edge. Faith isn’t about you or how much faith you have – it’s about the object you place your faith in that determines it’s validity. You don’t see the evidence of faith in by what you do for the object, but by what it does for you.
For example, you could have a whole lot of faith in some thin ice, but we both know, that if you stepped on it, you’d sink. However, you could have very little faith in some thick ice, but you could step on the ice and walk across it without sinking.
Earlier this year I began working my way through reading the Bible totally through – Genesis to Revelation. The other day I finished reading Numbers and began Deuteronomy. I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve heard the story of Moses and how he lead the Israel slaves out of Egypt and, you know, parted the Red Sea (I mean, happens every day, right? Not big deal). But you see, Moses didn’t do it alone. It was God’s plan. God’s power. He was the one who brought salvation to these people. Moses was simply the messenger. He relayed God’s words to the people and obeyed what God told him to do.
After Israel was rescued, God made a covenant with them and promised he would give them the land of Canaan, which was overflowing with milk and honey. All they simply had to do was have faith in him and follow the laws he gave them. Simple right? Well, apparently not for Israel.
Very shortly after, in Numbers 13-14, they began to grumble and get angry and impatient with God because he wasn’t giving them what they wanted, when they wanted it and how they wanted it (sound familiar to anyone else?). So they began trying to do things on their own. God tells Moses to send a group of 12 people to spy and scope out the land of Canaan for 40 days. They come back and say it’s everything God said it was. It overflowed with milk and honey, just like he said it would and they even brought back proof of its fruit. However, all but two spies (Joshua and Caleb) say that the city is too fortified and the Canaanites are too strong. They’d never be able to fight them and win. All the people began to grumble and weep. They rebelled against God. They were angry with Moses and wishing they had never left Egypt and decide to head back.
God became so angry with them and tells Moses he’s going to send fatal illnesses among them and disinherit them, but Moses reasoned with him and God changed his mind and instead said that none of them would see the land of Canaan except for Joshua and Caleb.
Now I know it may sound harsh but, look at it from God’s point of view. He saved these people. He parted the Red Sea for them so they could get away quickly. He provided them with food and water. He’d done so much already to prove himself and they still didn’t believe that he could help them capture this land and defeat those in it. I don’t know about you, but that would hurt me. I know I’ve had times in my life where I proved myself trustworthy and dependable and still had someone doubt me. It sucks.
All of Israel believed in God. They interacted with him and knew without a doubt he existed. They even continued to work to obey and follow his laws. But none of them, except for Joshua and Caleb, had faith in him. They didn’t trust in his promises. Yet, despite all that, while they were faithless, God stayed faithful. Just as he does for us even now.
There are two verses I hear a lot of people use out of context as a way to scare people and make them feel like they are just too bad for Jesus to save them. They’re too sinful and they’re not doing enough for God to make it worth it. The first is Matthew 7:21
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
And Matthew 7:23
“And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’”
I don’t know about you, but the first time I heard this verse (and several times they’re after) it struck fear into my heart. Would I be one of those people? When I died would Jesus tell me to depart from him? That he never knew me? Would I not be good enough? Would I not have done enough? Would I have sinned just one too many times?
However, let’s look at the passage in the context:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Notice how it changes things? Gives it a whole new meaning when you see the verses that come before or after. The will of the Father is for us to believe on the Son. To place our faith in Jesus. In what he completed on the cross. (John 6:40) If you notice, the people Jesus is talking about came to him and told him about all the good things they did for him and in his name. They added on their good works and trusted them to get them to heaven instead of Jesus. They didn’t have full and complete trust in what Jesus did for them and were still trying to earn their way there. They were looking at they’re own ability instead of God’s ability, just like the Israelites.
Christianity is more than just a simple belief that it’s true (that Jesus was a man and the Son of God who died on a cross and rose again three days later), but confidence and trust that it’s true. Trust in Jesus and his payment for all of it on the cross. Without faith, it does nothing for you. Without faith, we can’t please God. (Hebrews 11:6) Everything and anything we do have to be in faith – in trust and dependence on him. Anything not done in faith is sin (Romans 14:23b).
It’s such an easy and simple thing that we have to do. God made it so easy for us. Salvation is a gift, not a reward. It’s not something you need to work for and earn. God wants to save you. All he requires from us is to have faith in him and what he’s done for us. Jesus says we just need to have faith even as small as a mustard seed. (Matthew 17:20)
Yet we make it so complicated. I know I still struggle everyday with times where I feel like I need to make sure I’m good enough. But we have to step out in faith – in confidence and trust in what Jesus did for us. To let go of our pride. To stop trusting our own ability or performance to get us there. There is nothing we can do for Jesus, but yet he does everything for us. It’s all about him. Not about us. About what he is doing for us. He is mighty and powerful and promises to save us.
All we need to do is have faith.