Everybody has faith.
People who invest in the stock market put their faith in equities, other people have faith in their elected officials, others in their families. Whenever I eat dinner, I have faith in my wife’s ability to cook a tasty meal.
In virtually every moment of your life, you are expressing faith in something. We know this by example, but by definition, what is faith?
Furthermore, what sets the Christian faith apart from all other expressions of faith?
What Is Faith?
Here’s the definition of faith from Dictionary.com: “Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.”
The Bible defines faith similarly: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV).
Both definitions involve confidence and trust. The difference between everyday faith and biblical, Christian faith is the object of our faith, or in what we choose to put our confidence.
The Object of Faith
Have you ever trusted in someone only to be let down? We have all had that happen at some point in our lives. We may have put our faith in someone, but they failed us. It wasn’t our faith that failed, but the object of our faith.
Your “faith” is only as good as the person or thing that you choose to put your faith in.
When I drive down the turnpike, I have faith that other drivers are paying attention to the highway and obeying the rules of the road. Every so often, though, this faith is misplaced. We call these events accidents.
Each time you sit down, you don’t first take out tools and measure the strength of your chair. You just sit in it. Why? Because your chair has proven through past experience that it can hold your weight. So, you consider it an object worthy of your trust.
Some people have faith in faith. They believe something to be true because, well, they just believe it to be true. In essence, their faith is in themselves.
So faith is only as good as its object. For Christians, that object is God himself.
Is Christian Faith “Blind Faith”?
Christians are often told they have “blind faith.” After all, the Bible says, “For we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV). This verse seems to imply that “faith” is trusting in something that you otherwise cannot see or perceive.
In one sense, that is true. I’ve never seen God. He has never spoken to me in an audible voice.
However, the atheist also exercises a form of blind faith, when he says there is no afterlife, since he has no firsthand knowledge that his statement is true. His conclusion is based on deductions he makes given certain information, while excluding all other information that he presupposes is wrong.
For the Christian, though, God has revealed himself. I know something about him by what he has made (creation) (Romans 1:20), and I also know about him from what he has said and done in the past (the Bible).
For example, from the Bible I learn that God sent his Son Jesus into the world to become a substitute for me, so that I don’t have to bear the penalty for my sins myself (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). What an incredible gift for God to give me! As the apostle Paul wrote, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NIV).
Knowing about the goodness God has shown me through Jesus’ work on my behalf makes me willing to trust him in other areas of my life too.
If having such faith based on reasonable investigation is “blind,” then all faith is blind by this measure.
The Outcome of Our Faith
Of course, there are different levels of faith because there are things we trust in to varying degrees. But the object of our faith determines the outcome of our faith.
Faith in my 401k, faith in my chair, and faith that in the afterlife I will spend an eternity with God require different degrees of faith. That’s because the stakes are vastly different for each. A broken chair might result in temporary back pain, and a failed 401k may result in several years of sparse retirement living. However, placing my faith in a false god or corrupt religious leader could mean an eternity in the wrong place.
The consequences of our faith depend on the object of our faith.
So in what, or rather in whom, have you placed your faith?
Why Put Your Faith in Jesus?
Everybody has faith. Everybody. Even people who say they trust science are simply hoping for the best. By definition, science isn’t in a position to speak about the next life or even about the purpose of this one. Similarly, religious people have faith in someone, be it in a guru or shaman or pastor or prophet or imam or rabbi or priest. The question is: Is what you are putting your faith in a worthy object of your trust?
My “Christian” faith is in Jesus Christ and his claims about himself and about his heavenly Father. For example, Jesus said that he was sent into the world by God (e.g., John 17:18; John 20:21). Jesus also said this about his heavenly origin: “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13 ESV). What an incredible claim to make!
Everyone has an opinion about the afterlife, but on what are our opinions based? It would be ludicrous for me to emphatically declare that I know what heaven or hell is like. I have no authority on the subject. After all, I’ve never been to either place. I have no firsthand experience of the afterlife. Funny enough, that can be said for everybody I know who is currently alive!
But Jesus does have firsthand knowledge. When he speaks about heaven and hell and God and salvation, Jesus knows exactly what he is talking about, because he came from heaven. My faith is in “the man of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:48 ESV). It is in him that I trust, because I believe he is worthy of my trust; he won’t let me down.
What Does It Mean to Have Faith in Jesus?
“But,” you may ask, “what are you trusting Jesus for?”
In a word, everything.
The Bible teaches that God is holy and he judges sin. Yet I am a sinner. So I can rightly expect that God will judge me. In fact, the judgment I deserve for my sin is death (Romans 6:23).
But God has made a way for me to be reconciled to him, so that I do not have to bear the weight of that penalty myself. By sending his Son, Jesus, into the world, God placed upon him my sin and the penalty for that sin. The apostle Paul puts it this way, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10 NIV).
So what am I trusting Jesus for? I trust that Jesus has taken away my sin that stood against me (Romans 8:1), that I can have new life in him, and that he has made me right (justified) with my Creator. As the Bible puts it, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1 NIV).
Jesus asked, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36 NIV). Because Jesus bore my sins and my penalty for me, I will not forfeit my soul to an eternity apart from God. The man of heaven offers me heaven with him. I trust Jesus for my very life—now and into eternity. I trust him for my forgiveness before God. In a word, I trust him for everything.
What Is Christian Faith?
The Bible says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV). God’s Word calls us into a trusting relationship with him. We must place our faith in Jesus Christ, the only object worthy of it, and certainly not in ourselves.
God has made certain promises to me in his Word, because Jesus purchased those promises for me when he bore my sins and gave me new life. I trust in those promises; I put my confidence and my hope in those promises; I live my life in light of those promises.
That is Christian faith—to put our hope and confidence in God and his Word.
Having this kind of faith is particularly important because God has promised that a day is coming when the world will be judged (Acts 17:31). Only those who trust in Jesus will be saved from this judgment (1 John 5:11-12).
So what is Christian faith? It is trusting in God and in his Son, Jesus. Jesus came from heaven, suffered, died, and rose from the dead so we might be saved from God’s coming judgment.
By initially trusting Jesus, our relationship with God is mended. But then as Christians, we grow in our faith the more we trust God’s promises, deepening our relationship with him.
To whom will you entrust your future, not just for this life, but also for the life to come?