by Eric Dunbar
If you were to ask the question, “How would you define faith?” you’re likely to get ten different answers from as many people. Trust, belief, confidence, conviction, and optimism are good definitions of faith. The Bible says faith justifies the ungodly. So, how would “you” define faith?
People have faith in other people, and faith in all kinds of things, but what makes faith work? You can’t touch faith, you can’t see faith, so how would you define faith? The only way you know faith exists is because you believe it does.
The Bible defines faith as the substance of things that you hope for, and the evidence that you have faith is your belief in the unseen. (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is a spiritual substance. It is built on a spiritual foundation. Faith justifies the ungodly, makes the deaf hear, the lame walk, and the blind see. Your faith is what pleases God, not your works. Though you can’t see God, He is real.
How Does Faith Work?
“Name it and claim it” is a popular phrase among many believers who claim to have faith. But does this phrase accurately describe how faith works? Is this how you would define faith? The Bible has a lot to say about faith. Faith justifies the ungodly, but how does faith work?
There are two levels of faith: little faith, and great faith. The things you hope for will not materialize just because you “name it and claim it.” Getting results depends on your level of faith. Little faith produces little results; great faith produces great results. Jesus said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). To develop little mustard seed faith into great mountain-moving faith, you must trust God rather than trust your emotions.
Faith Comes by Hearing
God is not a feeling; God is a person. If your faith based on what you feel about God, then your faith is not stable. You cannot develop sound faith based on what you feel. Romans 10:17, teaches us that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Note that faith does not come by what you feel, nor does it come by having heard the word of God. Don’t deceive yourself. The word you heard on Sunday is as good as dead on Monday if you don’t revisit it.
What am I saying? The implication here is that faith comes by continually hearing… and hearing, and hearing, and hearing the word of God. The more you hear God’s word, the greater will be your faith. Faith fearlessly trusts God; it does not focus on the circumstances, neither does faith have regard for the consequences of its actions.
Faith Justifies the Ungodly
When you define faith, take this into consideration: faith justifies the ungodly. The gospel declares: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:21-24).
“He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike—an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 17:15). How can it be that faith justifies the ungodly when the Bible condemns the wicked? It is because God in an extraordinary act of mercy revealed the remedy for sin. God traded places with the guilty. The Judge of the universe exacts judgment, declaring, acquittal for the unrighteous. declaring, “You are not guilty!”
When faced with a difficult situation, hold on to your faith and do not waver. In difficult situations, I thought of past situations that at the time seemed unconquerable. In the 1980s I had a serious drug habit. I was addicted to crack cocaine. I wanted to quit using crack, but I couldn’t. Neither counseling or drug rehabilitation worked. I even tried the 12-Step Program and church but to no avail.
I believed the church was my protection. But when I became addicted to crack, I found out that going to church had nothing in common with having a personal relationship with God. With regards to my drug habit, my church friends told me to have faith in God. I knew what they meant, but I didn’t know how to have faith in God, and none of my friends could tell me how to do it. So I turned to the Bible for answers, searching for anything on the subject of faith. Faith is the substance of things we hope for; it is the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). My hope was alive, but I didn’t understand the evidence part. The only evidence I saw was that I was strung out on a substance that was killing me.
Faith and Righteousness
Then one day, while searching my Bible for scriptures relating to faith, the light came on. Although I sought righteousness, I had not attained the righteousness of God. In seeking God, I got caught up in working to be justified. God justifies the ungodly by faith, not by works.
The Bible says, “But Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame (Romans 9:31-33). For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:3-4).
Faith Believes God
Seeing that Israel did not obtain righteousness by their works, the question turned from faith to righteousness. How could I obtain righteousness? Then I read this: “What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness’. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Romans 4:3-4). The Scripture said that I could obtain righteousness by believing in Him who justifies the ungodly. Who is it that justifies the ungodly, but Jesus? “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Now it was all coming together for me. Receiving by faith is directly connected to attaining righteousness. There are two ways to obtain righteousness. by doing or receiving. Either you do everything that is written in the law, or you believe that Jesus fulfilled the law on your behalf. I concluded that the reason my faith did not work was that I was trying to earn righteousness by trying to do. I had faith that God would deliver me, but only if I could attain to righteousness.
Righteousness Comes by Faith
When I came to the understanding that righteousness comes by faith in Christ, faith took on a new meaning for me. I learned that I was made righteous by the sacrifice of Christ instead of by the things I do. I immediately experienced healing and deliverance from my drug addiction and I have been drug-free ever since.
So if you were to ask me to define faith, I would answer, “Faith is confident trust that I have whatever I ask of God simply because I know He loves me.”