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 all pretty good definitions of faith. But 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, and the only way you know faith exists is because you believe it does. Faith is a real substance but it is a spiritual substance, and because faith is a spiritual element, your faith must be founded on a spiritual foundation.
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). Understand that it is your faith that pleases God, not your works. Whoever calls on God must believe that He is real, even though He cannot be seen.
“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? 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.” The kind of results you get from having faith 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.
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 be deceived: 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.
When you are faced with a difficult situation, hold on to your faith without wavering. Whenever I am faced with a difficult situation I think on past situations that at the time seemed unconquerable. In the 1980s I had a serious drug habit. I was addicted to crack cocaine. My life was being destroyed right before my eyes, and there was nothing I could do about it. I wanted to quit using the drug, but I couldn’t. I tried drug counseling, drug rehabilitation, the 12-Step Program, and church, but none of these things worked for me.
I was brought up in the church, and because I went to church, I believed that I was protected from anything. But when I became addicted to crack, I quickly 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. In Hebrews 11:1, it is written: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I surmised that I have hope, 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.
Then one day, while still searching my Bible for scriptures relating to faith, the light came on as I read from the Book of Romans.
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.”
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.
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 on 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. It occurred to me that receiving anything by faith is directly connected to whether or not I could attain to righteousness. Let me explain. There are two ways you can attain to righteousness: (1) by trying to do everything that is written in the law, or, (2) by believing that Jesus fulfilled the law on your behalf. So I concluded that the reason my faith was not working was that I was trying to earn righteousness by trying to do everything that was written in the law, an impossible feat for any person to perform. I had faith that God would deliver me, but only if I could attain to righteousness.
When I came to the understanding that righteousness comes by faith in Christ, faith took on a new meaning for me. After learning that I was made righteous by the sacrifice of Christ and not by what I do, or do not 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 the question, “How do you define faith?” I would answer, “Faith is confident trust that I have whatever I ask of God simply because I know He loves me.”