Ask a child what faith is, and he or she will probably tell you that it’s “trust in God”, or “believing in God”. Sounds easy!
Ask any Bible student the question, “What is faith?” and he or she will probably give you the following answer:
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1
Maybe it’s not so easy after all. This verse tells me that faith is a very difficult concept. First of all, what is it that we hope for, and what is it that we do not see? Hope in the Bible talks of the hope of God’s glory, and the hope of Christ and the good news of the gospel. That good news is the news of the coming kingdom of God, and it is that which we hope for.
We do not see God at the moment, and we do not see Jesus either. The word of God which has been given to us allows us to see those invisible things, and read about God’s purpose with the world. The Bible is a window through which we CAN see God and Jesus, and it offers us proof of those things we cannot see by its accuracy, internal consistency, historical details, and fulfilled prophecies.
But how do we get faith in the first place? And how can we increase our faith when we are being asked to believe in something intangible?
If, as children, we went to Sunday school, or our parents told us about God, we probably believed them automatically. Faith seemed natural, and we did not doubt that there was a God in heaven looking after us.
But sooner or later some incident, or simply the passage of time, will make us question that faith and look at its roots to see if we truly have a substantial faith or not. We may experience a serious illness or some kind of suffering. We may become overwhelmed by the suffering at large in the world. Perhaps we doubt God’s existence without physical proof. Perhaps unbelievers around us ridicule our faith and undermine the Bible.
The apostle Paul tells us how to get faith, and encourages us to grow our faith:
Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17
So if we want to verify our faith, if we want to question it, we shouldn’t be looking to man’s explanations – we should continue to read the Bible, and the words of Jesus. This means that when we feel spiritually low, or that our faith is lacking, we should do the one thing we probably don’t want to do – read our Bibles!
Faith is still a difficult concept. The problem is that if there was an empirical proof of God’s existence, no faith would be required, and God would not know who His true believers are. By requiring us to have faith, he knows that we are truly interested in finding Him. Having faith does not negate a logical approach to believing in the existence of God, and does not mean we don’t need to study the Bible, but it gives us a quiet confidence in the things that we read, knowing that the kingdom we hope for will not be long in coming. Sometimes it’s best to go back to basics and look at things the way we did as children:
In God I trust; I will not be afraid. – Psalm 56:11