Anyone can believe something and some people believe anything. Perhaps this is because believing takes little effort and involves no risk. Santa Claus. An imaginary friend. Real change. Or a hope or a wish -- which is oftentimes the case.
When it comes to our relationship with Jesus, however, are we called to just “believe” in Him? Is that enough? James 2:19 (NIV) addresses this,“19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.”
James teaches us that believing and having Faith are NOT the same thing.
Believing in something doesn’t make it true. For example if you witness a crime being committed, you don’t believe the perpetrator is guilty, you know the perpetrator is guilty. However, if someone tells you they witnessed a crime, you must decide based on hearsay whether the perpetrator is guilty or not. (Which explains why hearsay is not admissible in court.) You have an even chance of being right.
Believing is safe and optional. Since you make things conform to your reality through belief it is politically correct and rarely offends anyone by putting you in control of the situation, sounds comforting and sometimes makes you feel all warm and cozy like a security blanket. You validate your own opinions and label something fact or fiction.
Think about it like this: Your child comes home and tells you he went to the zoo that day. He tells you about all the animals he saw, how tall they were, how they sounded and which were his favorites. It sounds convincing so you choose to believe. The trouble was, he hadn’t gone yet. In his excitement he told you about all the things he hoped he would see when he does go to the zoo. His excitement and examples made you believe the incident was true. His story manifested itself as true because he is your son and you wanted to believe him.
Truth exists regardless of whether or not you believe in it. Our feelings about the truth have virtually no impact on it. Truth is absolute and not subjective and leaves no room for “maybe.”
Faith is spiritual validation despite what we see or what others say. But faith can be a difficult thing to develop since we generally rely on our circumstances and present conditions. We rationalize. We trust evidence, observation, logic and valid reasoning. We use science. However, science simply doesn’t offer an explanation for everything in life.
Faith is different. Our faith starts spiritually but grows each time with each piece of tangible “proof” we discover. Faith builds in us like a wall. Every brick of real evidence skyrockets our faith. Every brick of evidence connects to another piece and strengthens your faith -- or tears it down.
Think about the Easter Bunny for instance. When you were little you may have been introduced to him and with childlike innocence willingly believing in his existence. But as you grew older you began to ask questions -- the answers to which did not make sense and could not continue to sustain your belief because one answer did not validate the other or conflicted with what you were learning.
The EB delivered eggs and candy to good children everywhere and when you awoke in the morning you found your basket overflowing with goodies. But you also found empty candy bags in the trash, Easter egg coloring kits in the garbage and a half-eaten Cadbury Egg and it’s wrapper on the kitchen table and chocolate on your dad’s shirt. Hmmm.
What else does Scripture have to say about faith?
Hebrews 10:22-23,35-39 NIV "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unnervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, 'In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.' And, 'But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.' But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved."
Faith is the deposit guaranteeing something to come in the future. 2 Corinthians 1:20-24 NIV “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ. And so through him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
One thing to note, however, is that faith is more than just talk. Faith requires action and perseverance. Look at this passage from James 2:14-36 (NIV) "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,' and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."
Hebrews 11:6 (NASB) also tells us “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
Some good news emerges the moment we discover one of the best perks of having faith: When God gives a promise it's as good as done! He’ll never change His mind or recant.
In addition, we have confident assurance of Salvation. Philippians 1:6 (KJV) “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Take for example Jesus’ interaction with Thomas. When the other Apostles told him Jesus had risen from the dead this stubborn Apostle didn’t believe them and it earned him the title “doubting Thomas”.
John 20:24-29, “Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Do you suppose Jesus intentionally waited until Thomas wasn't with them to appear the first time? If this is how he had to get through to Thomas won’t He will do the same to us?
“But wait!!” You may say. “There are verses in Scripture that tell us to believe. Are we to ignore them?”
No. The intent behind the word that is used in the Bible differs greatly from our modern definition. Also, as we have discussed, believing is good … but it’s not enough.
In conclusion faith is not just a hope, it's a reality. Hebrews 11:1 KJV, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
And again in Romans 8:25 KJV , ”But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”
Stop looking at your circumstances. Quit letting feelings and what you believe or think you know dictate your relationship with Him. Don't let doubt and fear dislodge or work a hardship with your faith.
We hope this helps you on your journey with Christ. If you don't have or have never had a personal relationship with Jesus consider letting Him in. He is knocking at your heart waiting for you. Open the door. It takes little more than childlike faith and a daily willingness to learn and grow. Little by little.
You can't earn Him or be “good enough.” Please say this prayer from your heart, “Dear Jesus. I need you. Please come into my heart and be Lord of my life. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. Help me to learn and grow in you. Live through me and help me show you to others. In Jesus’ name. Amen”