At church today, we had the question asked of us, “What is faith? How would the world at large define it, and how would we—as Christians—define it?” We realized that there is a disconnect that happens when the world hears us speak of faith. Most people, when they hear the word “faith," might think of one of the definitions that Merriam-Webster’s dictionary gives: “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” This is certainly not a Biblical way of thinking about faith.
Never does the Bible speak of someone believing in God on the basis of nothing. God does not expect us to believe that he exists with no proof. He has given us minds and made us able to rationally think about things—and not just so that we might be able to solve a Rubik’s cube, but so that we might know he exists.
A Biblical Definition
So what does it mean to have faith? A holistic Biblical definition of faith might be this: faith is hope and trust that God exists and is loyal to his word, based on what he has revealed to us and what he has done in the past.
Even when it comes to practical day-to-day life, we won’t typically put faith in just any random person. That’s why we ask for résumés and put more trust in friends whose actions prove faithful as time goes by.
God doesn’t ask us to believe in him with no reason. He has a résumé. The very creation of the world speaks to who he is, and his actions among his people display his character.
God's reputation is wrapped up in what he has done. We see God's creative power in the formation of this world. The universe was created by the power of God's word. No matter what you believe about the formation of the universe, we are all witness to the fact that God created everything out of nothing. He displays his glorious power by making something from nothing and by bringing life from death.
In one Biblical story, Rahab—a prostitute in Jericho—heard about what was happening with Israel. She was witness to the fact that God made something big out of the less-than-nothing people of Israel. She spoke of how she heard about the reputation of God—how the Lord caused the Red Sea to swallow up the Egyptian army and how Israel destroyed the Amorite kings. She spoke of a great fear that fell upon her own people. Because of the reputation of God, she therefore had faith and acted upon it by welcoming and protecting the Israelite spies.
Israel themselves, through oral and written stories, preserved the reputation of God. They told the stories of how God brought them out of slavery and brought them out of exile. How he punished and disciplined their own soul-destroying sin and yet still was faithful to them as if they were his bride. They constantly reminded themselves of these stories.
More Than Israel
Today we still have these stories of God—the amazing things he has done. But we have even more than the stories of Israel. We have individual stories; we have testimonies of how God has remained faithful in our own lives. These are not just stories of antiquity. These are active, living and breathing stories of right now. We were a bunch of nobodies, like Israel, and he makes much of us through his active working in our lives. How we were once a slave to sin and how he has freed us from that bondage—how we were spiritually dead and he has made us alive.
We were addicts and abusers and hateful and prideful and vain and broken—and he has made us new. He has given us his Spirit and empowered us to make an image of heaven right here, right now on earth. His reputation is worked out in our lives as he multiplies his saving power among us. And even when we make mistakes, his saving grace is there to pick us right back up and move us forward.
One day his saving power will fully come to realization. For now we see only stories of his power—we see in part. One day, we will no longer see dimly—we will see the full saving power of God when humanity is freed from its’ exile. Sin and death will be defeated, and we will find ourselves in the unhindered presence of a grand and glorious God.
For now our lives are a witness to this reality to come. Our faith is based on what we have seen. And our hope lies in what will come.
Let us allow God to make much of himself through our very lives. Let us watch as his saving power unfolds across all of human history and right into our own lives.