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What is Faith?

In a recent episode of Doctor Who the Doctor disdainfully describes faith as, ‘The magic word that keeps you never having to think for yourself.’ but is that really what faith is? 

Faith is often seen as something that is opposed to the facts – as though something is true, not because it is true, but because I believe it to be so.  This is the definition of faith that the Doctor ridicules – blind belief that ignores the evidence.  But when the Bible speaks about faith it means something very different.  Biblical faith is not about ignoring the facts, it is the very opposite, faith is about carefully considering all of the facts. 

In the Bible, Abraham is described as an example of faith. The Apostle Paul puts it like this: 

Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:19-21)

At this point Abraham and his wife, Sarah, have no children and they are well-advanced in years, yet Abraham has faith in God that he will become the father of many nations. But notice the definition of faith given in this passage. Abraham is not someone who ignored the facts, quite the opposite.  We are told that Abraham faced the fact that his body was as good as dead, and that Sarah was unable to have children. Abraham did not ignore the facts or try to deny them. Faith was not a ‘magic word that kept him having to think for himself.’ On the contrary, faith considers all the facts – the fact that God had power to do what He had promised.

True faith is not wishful thinking, it is believing in a trustworthy promise.  If a good friend promises to treat you to a meal of your choice, not bringing your wallet with you is an act of faith – knowing their character, you trust they will do as they say. But to go out for a meal without any means of paying, because you simply believe someone will pay for you, is not faith, that’s pure presumption – which does not end well. 

Biblical faith is not shallow believism it is a deep trust built on a knowledge of God and His promises. This is why Paul will later write, ‘faith comes through hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.’ (Rom 10:17). Biblical faith is rooted in God’s promises, it is trusting God will do as He says. If we are to have genuine faith, then we need to hear what God says and we need to know what He is like. Genuine faith begins by hearing the message about Jesus. You can hear this message in our Sunday services as we continue to work through Luke’s Gospel, or if you would like a free copy to read for yourself, please get in contact: info@therfieldchapel.org

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