Faith and Belief

Authors: Robert and Erica Reynolds
Week of: October 17-23, 2021
The first word that comes to my mind when I think about faith is belief. As I think about what I believe, I think I can fairly say that I’ve always agreed that God exists, and I believe that Jesus died and rose again to save us from our sins.  But does believing all the “facts” of the gospel mean that I have faith, and furthermore, that I am walking in faith daily? As I think about this, I see faith as not solely knowledge or approval of the facts; faith requires a personal trust in Jesus.

I’ve never been skydiving, but I can wrap my mind around the concept of the existence of parachutes and how they function. I would agree that when you jump out of a plane, the parachute opens and then slows your fall down to the ground. I guess I can say I believe in parachutes. But do I have faith in parachutes? Until I go skydiving myself, where I jump out of that plane, and fully rely on and put my trust in that parachute to open and rescue me from death, I couldn’t say I have faith in parachutes. The phrase “leap of faith” seems so much clearer now!

I don’t want to belittle belief, because belief is definitely a part of faith. In 1 John 5:4-5, the “victory that has overcome the world--our faith” is described as “one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” We should celebrate having knowledge of the Lord and believing His promises since these are intangible things. 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 agrees, “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight” (ESV). 

How can we take belief a step further and live by faith?

James 2:18-19 (ESV) talks about faith in action: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” It’s a good reminder to hear that ‘even the demons believe’ and fear God. But what differentiates simply believing in God’s existence from having true faith is a personal relationship with Jesus and a commitment to trust in who God declares He is. 

David displays this faith in Psalm 52:8-9: “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly” (ESV). David was under distress at the time he wrote this psalm. He was exiled, fleeing from Saul, and had learned that Saul killed a priest who had come to his aid. I could understand if David would be hesitant to stay committed to God’s plan at this point, yet in David’s prayer, he communicates his present confidence in God’s character and his trust in the continuance of God’s steadfast love in the future. Much like 2 Corinthians 5, David showed his faith “by his works,” which meant waiting on the Lord and placing his hope in God’s promise of deliverance. David’s faith was “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, ESV).
Lord, thank You for the knowledge of Your existence and of the truth found in Your Word. Help me to continually take the “leap” from belief to faith by committing to You and placing all my trust in You and Your promises.

Food for Thought: 
As we read God's Word, God reveals many promises for our lives as believers.  Are there any biblical promises that I believe, but am hesitant to fully accept and put into action in my own life?

More Reading: 
Ephesians 2, Psalm 86, Psalm 147

Personal Note: 
One of the promises that I struggle to put into action is acceptance of God's grace. For those of you who, like me, have what is sometimes called an "achiever" personality, you can probably relate in this struggle. I believe that God is gracious and merciful, and that His grace is an unmerited favor that is of no consequence to my actions or whether I am "deserving" of this gift. I believe that God's grace is solely based on His goodness and selfless love for us, yet I keep catching myself trying to earn His favor as if there is some checklist I can accomplish to make Him proud of me.

When I sin and make mistakes, I see these as detractors on my record, even after repenting and asking for His forgiveness. I then try to rely on my own strength and willpower to please God--maybe if I just work harder, study the Bible more, pray more, focus on my faith more--then maybe I can feel less guilty about receiving this gift. It is so good to immerse myself in the Word and to continuously pray, but these actions will never get me to a point where I deserve God's grace. God's grace is based on who God is and what Jesus has done, not on what I have done or will ever accomplish. 

So for me personally, if I want to put my faith in God’s grace into action, I must stop trying to build my own righteousness and viewing my life as some checklist of achievements and failures. The first failure in my life, even the “smallest” sin, meant I would never be worthy of God’s grace. So instead of constantly feeling guilty and wanting to “repay” God, I can choose to have confidence and comfort in God’s promise. He knows I will never measure up, and somehow He still loves me enough to offer me this gift. I still have trouble wrapping my head around why He would do this for me, but the beauty of this struggle is that we will never fully comprehend the extent of God’s love and grace because it is so great: “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure” Psalm 147:5 (ESV).

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