What exactly is faith? Is it positive thinking? Is it determining to believe something even in the face of difficulties? Do some people just have an innate ability to believe?
A definition of faith
Hebrews 11:1 tells us what faith is:
“Now faith is the substantiation of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Note 1 in the New Testament Recovery Version on this verse helps us understand more fully what this means:
“Faith is the substantiation of things hoped for. Hence, it is the assurance, the confidence, the confirmation, the reality, the essence, the supporting ground, of things hoped for, the foundation that supports the things hoped for. Faith is also the conviction of things not seen. It convinces us of what we do not see. Hence, it is the evidence, the proof, of things not seen.”
By reading this, we can see that faith is truly a wonderful thing. But simply knowing the definition of faith isn’t enough. Related to our experience of faith, we have to ask these questions:
- Where does faith come from?
- How do we get faith?
- How can we be strengthened in our faith?
Where does faith come from?
The first thing we must understand is that faith is not of us. None of us is born with a natural ability to believe. Not one person is better at believing than another. If we look to ourselves for faith, we’ll be discouraged. This is because we are not the source of faith. We simply can’t muster up faith in ourselves. These three verses in the Bible show us the true source of faith:
“To those who have been allotted faith equally precious as ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”—2 Peter 1:1
Faith comes from God. God allots, or gives, faith to us.
“The life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith of the Son of God.”—Galatians 2:20
Our faith is not only in Christ, but also of Christ. The source of our faith is the Son of God! We believe in the Lord Jesus not by our own faith, but by His faith.
“Looking away unto Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.”—Hebrews 12:2
Jesus is the Author, the Originator, of our faith. He is also the Perfecter, the Completer, of our faith. As the Author of our faith, Jesus is the origin of our faith. As the Perfecter of our faith, Jesus is the finisher and completer of our faith. He, not we, will finish what He first authored in us.
From the above three verses, we see clearly that we are not the source of faith. Faith is something given to us by God; faith is the faith of the Son of God; and Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of faith.
How then did this faith become our faith in the first place? This leads us to the next question.
How do we get faith?
Romans 10:17 tells us simply and clearly how we obtain faith:
“So faith comes out of hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
How did we first believe in Jesus Christ? It was through our hearing of the word of Christ. Someone told us about the dear Person of Jesus Christ and all He did for us in His death and resurrection. As we listened, the preciousness of Jesus was infused into us, and we began to appreciate Him. While the gospel was being spoken to us, maybe even more than one time, our appreciation of Christ increased, until eventually, a spontaneous reaction took place in us—we believed in Him and wanted Him. Previously we may never have thought much about Jesus Christ or even believed He was real, but out of our hearing the word of Christ, faith came to us.
We can illustrate this way. Let’s say you don’t know anything about diamonds. And at first glance, a diamond looks like a common piece of glass to you. But a jeweler explains to you how the diamond was formed over thousands of years, and how it underwent tremendous pressure to be produced. As you look closer, he tells you the different characteristics of the diamond to help you understand how valuable it is. He shows you how the facets on a diamond reveal its brilliant beauty in the light. The more you listen to him and look at the diamond, the more you appreciate it and want to possess it.
By recalling our own experience of salvation, we can realize how our hearing the word concerning Christ caused us to really see Him and to realize His precious worth. We began to treasure the Lord Jesus, appreciating His Person and all He did for us. Inexplicably, we found we wanted Him. We even began to love Him. Without trying to, we began to have faith in the Him. This faith is just the Christ who was preached into us becoming our capacity to believe through our appreciation of Him.
So the source of our faith is not ourselves, but the Lord. And in our experience of faith, faith came through our hearing the gospel. It didn’t come by our striving to believe or by telling ourselves to think positively. The word of Christ spoken into us imparted faith into us. This is how we initially obtained the precious faith from God.
The next question is, once we’ve received this faith from God, how can we be strengthened in our faith? Don’t miss our follow-up post on learning the secret to a life of faith!
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