Friday, September 14

Rethinking "Faith"

Heb 11:1 has been a popular catch-phrase for the “Faith Movement” since its inception. In the popular teaching it is read as a definition, making “faith” an actual “substance” in a materialistic sense, as if there were a “spiritual” realm that could be manipulated with proper use of this “substance.” Different methods are employed, such as visualising the desired goal (usually some material benefit- a new car is typical.) or “confessing” it to be accomplished. This brings in some interesting questions, such as who is Lord, and who the servant. The more we read that meaning for “faith” the more the Bible becomes a guidebook for manipulating our earthly circumstances and seeing ourselves as lords over Creation;. The real knowledge, and love, of God become merely details in the canvas on which this grand self-portrait is painted. Other people think of faith as an inner force that can be developed so that we can “will” things to happen by our “faith.” Others make it a strong, inner, emotion, or an outward attitude (“Keep the faith, baby!”). Trying to read the Bible, the book of faith, with any of these pictures in mind can lead to some pretty twisted understandings.

So what is faith? The Greek word from which we translate faith is pistis. It can mean belief, or adherence, or trust; or it can mean faithfulness. Interestingly, it does not have any definitions that we can take as a form of power or a substance to be manipulated. (Interestingly, the whole affair of constructing a mental model to use as a means of gaining some benefit has always been the core of idolatry. The images just make it easier to focus!)

In the first instance, using faith as a force or a substance takes us to a view of the “believer” as an individual with an inner power, some sort of spiritual key, to make things happen the way he intends. With sufficient “faith” he is perfectly capable of saying, “My will be done,” and so it is. In this kind of world the “believer” is much like the silly mouse in the “Sorceror's Apprentice” Even if he did have that kind of power he would not be qualified to use it, and in the trying becomes more the caricature of a wizard than the picture of an obedient child or self-sacrificing servant of Christ.

Rather than go into scholarly word studies around the original Greek, we can look at “faith” by looking at what a person with it looks like. The first thing Jesus told His disciples was “Follow Me.” Not “Follow your own desires and assume they're from Me,” but, “Follow Me.” So if faith means following, faith says, “Not my will, but thine be done.” This is borne out when His disciples asked Him,

Make our faith greater." And the Lord said, "If your faith was only as great as a grain of mustard seed, you might say to this tree, Be rooted up and planted in the sea; and it would be done. But which of you, having a servant who is ploughing or keeping sheep, will say to him, when he comes in from the field, Come now and be seated and have a meal, Will he not say, Get a meal for me, and make yourself ready and see to my needs till I have had my food and drink; and after that you may have yours? Does he give praise to the servant because he did what was ordered? In the same way, when you have done all the things which are given you to do, say, There is no profit in us, for we have only done what we were ordered to do.” (Lk 17:5-10 BBE)

The faith-full disciple is the one who sees his life only in context of his relationship with his Lord.

But there is another element here: No single disciple carried this request to Jesus, and His answer did not speak to any single one. The group asked, and the group was answered. Was there a time when an individual disciple went to Jesus with a request that was not selfish, and dealt with as such? Jesus called twelve men to follow Him more closely than the larger group that was also following Him, and His teaching, mostly about the Kingdom, was all in a group setting. One time that He did spend time with just one was when He was restoring Peter after his time of betrayal. While He does speak to each Christian (He promised, “My sheep hear My voice!”) He calls us to follow Him, together.

So if we have faith in God, we will be following (identifying with) Jesus, not counting our lives to be our own, but dedicated to serving Him, and all this as members of His Body, the Church.

Is there more to faith than this? Aren't there more details to flesh it all out for a better view of just what faith is? Surely, there is. We read, “The just shall live by faith,” so the more we obey in these three basic points, the better we will understand the rest! Three steps that continue to lead us in that direction: Listen, Understand, Obey. It's all about Jesus!


  1. I like this, Robert. Being called to follow Him requires a response from trust and love and these are intertwined. I don't trust one who doesn't love me. And it is very difficult to love one I don't trust. Following Jesus is only possible when he listen, understand and obey. We really have to work on doing all 3 of things better, at least I do. Sigh.

  2. Thanks, Alice!

    That's really the starting place then, isn't it? He first loved us, so we can trust Him, and by His Spirit that trust transforms us so that we can obediently, and joyfully. learn to love as He loves- no conditions,

  3. Trust and obey. That is the key. Thanks for this post. God bless.


  4. Just saw what you wrote and thought you might like this song! Check it out at

  5. Thanks, Magda! Looks like good stuff! I marked it for when I get my sound fixed. Going over seven pages of this stuff, hope there was a blessing for you on one of 'em!


So what's your take?