Faith is a common word in Christianity. You might see this word artistically written and beautifully framed in someone’s home, or you might have “faith” emblazoned on a journal, shirt, or hat. The theme of faith is consistent in traditional hymns and modern Christian music. And it’s commonplace to say things like, “I just need to have more faith,” or you might ask someone who is going through a difficult situation, “How is your faith?”
When you look at that art, put on that shirt, open that journal, hear those songs, and say or ask these things, do you ever pause to think about the meaning of the word and what it means to truly live by faith? With faith being such an omnipresent word in Christianity, it can start to become simply something that is talked about without considering the meaning.
As Christians, we can become blind to the meaning of this important part of being a Christian. Since faith is such a central tenet of Christianity, let’s take a closer look at what faith is, the examples of people living by faith in the Bible, what Jesus said about it, and how we can live by faith.
A definition of faith
Merriam-Webster defines faith as “something that is believed especially with strong conviction.” This makes sense as a simple definition for Christians. If you claim to be a Christian, you are claiming a conviction that Jesus is the son of God, lived a perfect life, died for the sins of the world, and rose from the dead to conquer death. You believe that — based on the truth of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection — Jesus is coming back to earth to raise the dead and usher his followers into eternal life in heaven.
How the Bible defines faith
In Hebrews 11:1 (NIV), the Bible takes that definition a step further saying, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” The Living Bible translation puts this another way:
“What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead.”
Whereas the world’s definition simply equates faith with conviction. You can have faith that a bridge will carry you across a gap because you can see that the bridge is well-built. The Bible makes it clear that the Christian faith is being confident about things that we cannot see. We trust and hope in Jesus as our bridge to save us and take us into eternity, though we have not seen him walk the earth. Jesus says in John 14:6 (NIV).
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
For those of us today, we were not alive when Jesus walked the earth as a man, but we have faith that Jesus died and rose from the dead. Though we weren’t there to hear it, we have faith that what Jesus said is true, when he told the disciples, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3 NIV).
Jesus is saying that he is going to leave the disciples, which is recounted in Acts 1:6-11, but he’ll return to take them where he is going, heaven. Even though we weren’t there to hear Jesus speak this promise, we have faith that it is true. It’s this conviction and trust without seeing that sets the Christian faith apart.
Examples of faith in the Bible
Hebrews 11 points us toward many of the stories from the Old Testament as examples of faith, including:
- Abraham – By faith, he offered his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice, even though this son was the one God had promised to bless his offspring. He had faith that God would be able to keep his promise and raise Isaac from the dead.
- Moses – By faith, he led the Israelites out of Egypt to the Red Sea. In the face of the Egyptian armies closing in on them, he led the Israelites across the Red Sea on dry land. He had faith in the power of God to protect the Israelites against incredible odds.
- Rahab – By faith, she welcomed the Hebrew spies into Canaan, protecting them. She had faith that protecting these spies was the right thing to do.
This chapter names many others who “were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39-40 NIV).
Where does faith come from?
Scripture makes it clear that faith is a gift. It isn’t something we earn on our own.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).
Now, you might be asking, “How do I receive this gift of faith?” Romans 10:9-10, 17 (NIV) says:
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
By hearing and believing in the good news of Jesus, God freely offers the gift of faith. And this faith is founded and perfected by Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). He established this faith by enduring the cross, scorning its shame, taking on our sins, overcoming death, and taking his place at the right hand of the throne of God.
Steps to walk by faith
Walking by faith is not a simple thing to do. It’s letting go of what is comfortable and running fast after what we hope for. It’s giving the direction of your life over to God.
Like the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 2:20 (NIV), “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Paul is saying that his old way of living is gone, and Christ is now living through him as he walks by faith in the plan Christ has set before him.
Consider these three ways to pursue a faith journey:
1. Surrender your desires to God
James 4:7 calls for us to “submit ourselves to God.” And what Paul describes in Galatians 2:20 is fully laying down his old life to embrace something new. That is surrender. There are so many things, people, and ideas that we can follow. Put those aside and surrender your life to Jesus and the desires he has for you.
2. Refocus on the eternal
We know that “what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” according to 2 Corinthian 4:18. It’s so easy to let what we see in this world consume us — our jobs, our hobbies, our possessions, and other earthly pursuits. All these things will ultimately fade away. But we know God is eternal. He reminds us of this in Revelation 1:8 (NIV).
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.
That’s why it’s important to keep this life in the perspective of eternity, trusting God. How would living a life of faith in light of eternity change the way you approached each day?
3. Build your life on God’s Word
It’s impossible to live by faith and not allow God’s Word to be a lamp for your feet, and a light to your path (Psalm 119:105). The Bible is alive and active, and it judges the thoughts and attitudes of your heart (Hebrews 4:12). It is also “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Jesus summed up the importance of God’s Word and the impact it has on our faith in Matthew 7:24.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
The Word of God is our rock. It speaks truth into our lives, and it helps support us as we walk by faith.
Take this opportunity to consider your relationship with faith. Do you feel like it’s something you earned? If so, reconsider Ephesians 2:8-9, which makes it clear that faith is solely the work of God. This is so that no one can take the credit for themselves. When we make faith anything but a gift from God, we cheapen the price that Jesus paid on the cross for our sins. Now is the time to give glory to God for the faith you possess. Thank God!