People often find faith to be a vague, abstract concept. It is chronically misunderstood by both believers and non-believers. It would help if we could take such an abstract concept and break it down into smaller parts, like Lego. But the question is: can we? I believe so. In my opinion, the most important building blocks of faith are:
We must believe something. All religions have their texts which serve as the underlying narrative or story on which people base their faith. For Christians, the Bible serves that function, and Paul very briefly sums up the essence of our faith in 1 Cor. 15:3-8 (NKJV) –
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
For faith to be legitimate, our knowledge or narrative must be based on historical facts that are objectively true. Paul emphasises the critical importance of this in 1 Cor. 15:14-19 (NKJV) –
“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up – if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.”
The only legitimate faith, according to Paul, is a historical faith based on easily verifiable facts, like the testimony of 500 eyewitnesses Paul mentions here, most of whom were still alive when he wrote this letter. Without this kind of objective, historical basis, faith is mere superstition – an idea, a philosophy, or hypothesis. But faith has more components.
While the knowledge and factual basis of our faith points to the past, hope points to the future. Hope is the future-facing dimension of our faith. Peter describes it beautifully in 1 Pet. 1:3-6 (NIV) –
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”
Non-believers often mistakenly assume that “faith” only consists of a vague hope and nothing more. They are unaware of the historical basis of the Christian hope. To them, faith is a leap in the dark, while in reality it means standing on a rock of undeniable facts. Hope is a Christian’s future vision. It is not a vague, uncertain, “touch wood” type of hope, but a “living hope”, anchored in the living Christ. The next component is…
Faith without assurance or knowing is a gruelling struggle, a shot in the dark, closer to superstition or opinion than true Christian faith. Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) explains the nature of our assurance as follows –
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
To believe, is to be assured or to know…it is not just hope, it is being assured of what we hope for. As mentioned, the Christian faith is based on the historical acts of God in Christ. Even militant atheists like Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, reluctantly admits it these days. In the New Testament, the Greek word for faith is pistis. In Greek mythology, Pistis was the personification of trust, reliability and honesty. Her opposite was Apate, representing unreliability and deceit. This shows that, even in pagan religions, the historically underlying concept of faith represented reliability, truth and assurance. In 1 John 5:13-15 (NKJV), John confirms the assurance of our faith –
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…”
Our faith must bring us to knowing, to assurance…which brings me to the last component.
Trust is the present component of faith because it enables us to put our lives in God’s hands daily. The dictionary defines trust as “a firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.” Trust is the absolute core of Christian faith – we trust God because He has historically, through the millennia, proven Himself to be trustworthy. Trust makes faith personal for us, because each of us can now personally trust God from day to day, in life and in death. Furthermore, it makes our faith practical, because we can now give ourselves fully to Him, rely on Him completely, radically, every day. This kind of faith makes us fearless, strong and resilient. The Message Bible translates this radical surrender of trust as follows in Psalms 13:5-6
“I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms – I’m celebrating your rescue. I’m singing at the top of my lungs, I’m so full of answered prayers.”
Trust helps us understand that everything in our lives, regardless of how it may appear at present, is ultimately determined by God and made to work for our good. Paul summarises a life of trust well in Romans 8:1, 2 and 8:31, 37-39 (NKJV) –
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death … What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? …Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I want to encourage you to think deeply and pray about each of these building blocks of faith. Spend time on each of these, identifying it in your everyday life and seeing the gaps; take steps through prayer and study to strengthen each one. In this way you will grow strong, resilient and fearless in your walk of faith!
GOD BLESS YOU RICHLY!
Dr Jurie Vermeulen, National Director