Every day I see the words of my beloved English language being misused. What makes English both challenging and wonderful is that we have a seemingly endless supply of words to define everything under the sun. If there is even the most minute difference in meaning between two things, we make two separate words for it. Tiny does not mean small. Enormous is not exactly the same as gigantic. We don’t redefine existing words when we’re tired of their meaning. When a new definition is required, we create a new word to go with it. (And yes, I’m referring to “marriage” there.) But what good is it having such a sophisticated language that takes into account these differences when we can’t even use the words properly?
What is the definition of the word “faith”? I’m a Christian, so I see that word tossed around quite a bit. A lot of people seem to think that faith is believing in something you can’t see. They use the word faith as a noun, and they think that it has to be something specific to “God”.
But faith is not a noun. Faith is a verb. And the definition of the word faith doesn’t have anything to do with religion.
Quite simply: Faith is putting into practice what you believe. Christians do that, Buddhists do that, and you know what? Atheists do it too. Because “faith” is not specific to Christianity or any religion. And as a quick side note, the definition of the word “religion” also has nothing to do with God. Religion is whatever you believe is divine, and practicing the dictates of that belief. Since we’ve just defined faith as practicing whatever it is you believe in, then I hate to be the bearer of bad news, atheists, but atheism is a religion too. The belief in nothing is still a belief. It still comes with certain principles that are accepted, believed, and followed. Therefore, it IS a religion.
But this misuse of the word faith really gets to me. People will say, “Have faith and God will heal you. All you need is faith! Believe and be healed!” And the person goes home and sits there waiting for his miracle, thinking that’s how it works… and it never comes.
“Your faith wasn’t strong enough!” People will say to him. Let me tell you something: I would like to rip the face clean off of every person who has ever dared to utter those words to another. That is NOT how faith works. And it’s also not how healing works. Healing does not always come in the physical. Healing of the spirit is even more important. But that’s a topic for another time.
Faith requires an ACTION. Faith is not simply believing, faith is believing and doing.
Matthew 9:20 ~ “Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind Him [Jesus] and touched the edge of His cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” He said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment.”
What faith did this woman have? She clearly believed that Jesus would heal her. But if just believing that was enough, then why didn’t she just stay at home or stand on the sidelines as Jesus passed by? If her believing that Jesus would heal her was her faith, then she wouldn’t have had to touch Him. But touching Him WAS her faith. She believed and she TOOK ACTION. She pushed through that crowd and she touched Jesus. That was her showing of faith. She went and DID something in order to get better. She didn’t just sit at home and wait quietly. She went out, found the person who could help her and she was healed.
There’s also the story of the blind man, Bartimaeus. (Mark 10:46) The important part of the story is found in what the blind man DOES. “When he realized that Jesus was passing by, he called out to Him, “Have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”
The blind man DID something. He didn’t just believe. Belief + Action = Faith. He had faith that Jesus would heal him, so he called out to Jesus, came to Jesus, and he was healed. He backed up his belief with an action.
The best modern example I can give you is if I were to break my arm. Do I believe that God will heal me? Yes. But I have two choices. 1) I can do nothing and sit at home in pain for months while I wait for God to miraculously heal the break. And hey, by the grace of our Lord and His incredible creation, that bone WILL heal back together all on its own. Buuut… it won’t heal properly. Left unset, the bone will knit crooked, leaving me with an arm that’s not much good for anything for the rest of my life. Or 2) I can have faith that God will heal my arm. I can believe that God (Truth and Love) is in the doctors and nurses at the hospital; that their love for their fellow man has driven them to search for the truths of how to fix broken bones so that they heal properly. I can believe that God has provided them with that wisdom and the ability to reset my arm so that in a few months, it’ll be as good as new. So I walk into the hospital and say, “My arm is broken. Will you help me, please?” And my faith in the Lord will heal my arm. It’s God (Truth and Love) IN us, working THROUGH us. Faith was GOING to the doctor to get the help I needed.
Just hoping and believing that something will happen is not faith. Faith is doing whatever is in your power to MAKE it happen. Yes, it’s still the Lord doing the work, but God is not our bitch (if you’ll excuse the expression). God expects His children to grow and not stay dependent babies our whole lives. God gives us wisdom and understanding, and He expects us to USE it. God has made this incredibly complex reality. He’s laid out how things work and why. He’s given us all of the rules and tools that we need to survive, and He fully expects that we will, on our own, go out and do what’s necessary. God has already said, “If you do this, you’ll get that. Follow this and be blessed; follow that and reap a curse.” We’re not pre-programmed robots. We make our own choices. But the Truth is unchanging and shows no favouritism. If you stick your arm in an airplane propeller, it will chop off your arm. That will be the result whether you’re a Christian, an atheist, or anything else. Truth has said, “Don’t stick your arm in there because if you do, you’re going to lose it.” If we choose to ignore that? That’s on us, not on God.
People say there are no miracles today. At least not the kind of miracles that Jesus did. But are we blind? Miracles are not just POOF and something supernatural happens. Isn’t my reset, perfectly aligned, completely healed and good-as-new arm a genuine, bonafide miracle? Are the strides that mankind has made in health care and medicine not a miracle? A man can have his heart REMOVED FROM HIS BODY AND REPLACED WITH ANOTHER MAN’S HEART and he LIVES. I want to scream, “What more do you people want!?” The Bible says that the whole of creation cries out in evidence of God, and boy, does it ever. And yet people say there are no miracles and there is no God. People can’t even recognize Him when He’s standing right in front of us.
In Romans 12, it says that to every man is given a measure of faith. And Romans 3:3 says, “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all!” As I said, God has already laid out the rules and determined what actions will result in which reactions. God doesn’t change His mind. Having faith is having the ability to divide Truth from Falsehood, and to choose to love or to hate. If we choose to do the wrong thing (lack faith, doubt the Truth), then we’ll suffer for it, and through no fault of God’s.
Perhaps the best example in the Bible of faith being belief + action is Abraham. Abraham was nearly 100 years old when Isaac was born, and his wife, Sarah, was 89. God told Abraham that he was going to have a son, and Abraham believed that. But no where does it say that Isaac was immaculately conceived. Sooo… how do you think Isaac came to be? Remember, faith requires an action. Abraham and Sarah didn’t just sit around waiting for God to drop a baby into their waiting arms. No. They believed that God would give them a son, and so they did what was necessary to make that happen. If you need me to spell it out, Abraham had sex with his wife until she got pregnant. It’s as simple as that. And I’m sure that was no small feat for two people so advanced in age!
But that is what faith is. Putting into practice what you believe. Abraham showed faith by trusting in what the Lord had said and by DOING the action that would make it happen.
Understanding what faith means is important. Because remember: For by grace are we saved, through faith… And we are justified by what we believe, but we are saved by what we confess. Confessing that Jesus is Lord is an ACTION. Just believing isn’t what will save us. There is an effort required on our part. We have to DO something.
Matthew 8:5 ~ “When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this on, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come’, and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, He was astonished and said to those following Him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.”
The centurion recognized that Jesus was God — Truth and Love made visible in bodily form, the immortal God taking on mortality — and he knew that all Jesus had to do was SPEAK it, and it would be made so. And so it was. His faith was his action of going to the Lord in prayer, and believing.
Matthew 17:14-20 ~ “When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before Him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
FYI, it’s not talking about being prostrate on the floor while you starve yourself.
Isaiah 58:9 ~“Then you will call (prayer), and the Lord will answer; and you will cry for help, and He will say: ‘Here am I.’ If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed (fasting), then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noon day.”
Note: Today’s paintings are: Jean Provost’s “Abraham, Sarah and the Angel”, 1520s (header image); Paolo Veronese’s “Christ Healing a Woman with an Issue of Blood”, 1548; Nicolas Poussin’s “Jesus Healing the Blind of Jericho”, 1650; William Whitaker’s “Abraham and Isaac”; and a painting of Abraham and Isaac by an unknown artist.