What does faith look like?
In American culture we usually associate faith with belief. For many it isn’t even just belief, but specifically belief without evidence. To be a person of faith means to believe things without evidence, or even,contrary to evidence.
That is not how the Bible talks about faith.
Belief and faith are connected. Belief is the starting point of faith. The writer of Hebrews wrote; “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6; NLT)
Without belief faith could not exist.
That is because belief is the seed of faith. Belief needs to be planted and watered for the plant of faith to emerge.
The plant of faith is seen in how we live. James made it clear that our faith is seen in how we live when he wrote:
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? (James 2:17-20; NLT)
From this passage it appears that people have always struggled with keeping faith within the realm of belief, rather than having it influence the way we live. Let’s be honest, it is hard to actually live a life of faith. To act on what we say we believe means that we have to trust God, that we have to lay down our wills, that we have to sacrifice, and that we have to obey. This is not easy, especially when it makes us outsiders to the culture.
Over and over again the examples of faith that we have in Scripture are examples of people who trusted God at great risk to themselves. Hebrews 11 is a perfect example of this. In this chapter we have the examples of Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. Each one faced their own opposition and difficulty to follow God. At the end of the chapter we discover this:
But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half,* and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:35-38; NLT)
These people were faithful, and as a result they experienced a level of persecution that few of us can even imagine. And that is precisely what we want to keep faith in the realm of belief. The minute that our belief spills over into our actions there becomes the possibility that opposition and persecution might come our way. In this way faith will make life more difficult.
I understand how difficult it is to actually live a life of faith.
When I was in college at Nebraska Christian College I had a roommate from China for one semester. David was in his mid-thirties and wanted an “American education.” He had a hard time getting accepted to a college in the United States, but he eventually found out about Nebraska Christian and applied. In spite having no Christian background David was accepted by NCC. His plan was to stay at NCC for a year and then transfer to another college.
Towards the end of the semester David asked me, “Are you a Christian?” The question stunned me, but he went on to explain that all he ever saw me do was play video games and watch movies. In my defense I did study, read my Bible, and pray at times when he was not around, but he raised a valid question: how was my life different from the way of the world?
Faith is more that what we believe, it is also about how we live. This is why James stressed the reality that faith and works belong together. Our belief needs to influence our actions. That is what living a life faith is all about.