The Bible is the most ancient of religious texts, and it contains the core tenants of the Abrahamic faiths – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. But what does the Bible say specifically about faith?
In one sense, the Bible focuses mainly on living out a life of faith rather than defining it, so it is difficult to pin down an exact definition. However, a few key passages throughout its pages provide some helpful guidance. The book of James, for example, is a good starting point for exploring faith, as it emphasizes that faith is not just something one should believe, but an action which can be seen in someone’s life.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?. . . Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14 and 17). This illustrates that faith without deeds is empty, and suggests that faith should be expressed in concrete ways.
In Hebrews, a book of the Bible devoted to faith, explains faith like this: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). In other words, faith involves both trust and obedience. It is an unwavering surety in things that cannot be seen, and the willingness to carry out the commands of God even when we cannot comprehend the outcome.
In the New Testament, we see Jesus commanding his followers to trust in him. “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed,” he says, “you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move” (Matthew 17:20). Here, Jesus links faith with confidence and emphasizes its power to move mountains, literally and figuratively. Ultimately, this trust in God is the essence of what faith is.
The Bible also reminds us that faith is tested continually. In 1 Peter vividly illustrates this concept, describing the circumstance of hardships in life as a furnace which temper one’s faith and make it stronger. The Bible also assures us that God will always be present despite our challenges and difficulties, and that we can find comfort in him.
The Role of Patience
The Bible emphasizes the importance of patience in developing faith. In Galatians, we read “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). This verse reminds us that waiting patiently and continuing to do what is right is essential to nurturing faith. Patience also serves to align our thinking with God’s will, reminding us that we are not in control and that we must trust God to lead us.
We also learn from the life of Joseph, the son of Jacob, that our circumstances do not matter if we exercise faith. Joseph is sold into slavery and endures much suffering, yet ultimately prevails and is reunited with his family. This story emphasizes the importance of continuing on in faith, even when circumstances may seem bleak.
The Role of Relationships
The Bible also speaks about faith in the context of relationships. For example, we learn from the book of Proverbs that “a faithful friend is a sturdy shelter” (Proverbs 18:24). This verse suggests that those with strong faith are like those with strong relationships; we are able to weather storms and find strength in one another.
The Bible also emphasizes that we can have faith in our own convictions, despite the urging of those around us. Despite the intense pressure from his peers, Daniel refuses to disobey God and pray to idols (Daniel 6). This story reminds us that having faith and standing up for our beliefs is more important than giving in to the pressure of others.
The Challenges of Faith
Although faith is a powerful force and foundational belief of the Abrahamic religions, it is also a challenge. We read in the book of Hebrews, “You were made to endure hard times” (Hebrews 10:36), reminding us that faith is not without adversity. By acknowledging the challenges, we can become stronger in our faith and more prepared to face future struggles.
We also learn from Job, a man of immense faith and financial stability, that faith can be tested when life’s greatest comforts and stability are threatened. Despite Job’s losses, he holds firm in his faith and commits himself to God. This highlights the power of faith despite difficulties and shows that faith is not about success in the material world, but a commitment to God.
The Rewards of Faith
The Bible also articulates rewards which come from having faith. In Proverbs, wisdom and understanding are bestowed upon those who have faith: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). This verse hints at the endless possibilities that come with having faith, and promises security and direction in all of our endeavors.
In the life of David, we also see evidence of the reward of faith. We are told of the immense faith he had in God, and eventually, after prevailing in many great battles, he became the anointed king. This story shows us that perseverance in faith is rewarded, and that ultimately, God will protect those who put their trust in him.
The Power of Faith
The Bible contains numerous examples of people exercising faith, and it is clear that faith is a power which God uses to accomplish his will. We read in the book of Isaiah, “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13). This passage highlights the power of faith and God’s faithfulness in coming through in our time of need.
Jesus also reminds us that we possess a power of faith, and encourages us to use it. In Matthew, he tells his followers to “never lose faith in me” (Matthew 17:20). With this command, Jesus is telling us to trust in our faith, and to trust in God. It is this trust that can empower us to effect great change in our lives and in the world.
The Purpose of Faith
The Bible also offers many examples of faith in action. In the book of James, for instance, faith is described as an action of doers, not just of believers. It is this action of faith that James believes is the catalyst for transformation. He writes, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14). This passage reminds us that faith must be demonstrated through action.
In the New Testament, we also learn the ultimate purpose of faith. Jesus commands his disciples “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mark 16: 15). This passage demonstrates how faith connects to mission and to service. We see that in order for faith to have real purpose, we must apply it in the world and have a commitment to helping those around us.
The Gifts of Faith
The Bible also describes the benefits of having faith. We read in 2 Corinthians that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). This verse suggests that those with strong faith have a generosity of spirit, a willingness to share and forgive, and a sense of joy in their giving.
In the New Testament, we read of the spiritual strength that faith can give. Jesus tells his disciples that “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” (Matthew 10:8). This passage reminds us that even in our darkest hour, faith may still remain. Faith helps us to rise above our circumstances and find strength even in weak moments.
The Sacrifices of Faith
The Bible also suggests that faith comes at a cost. Jesus’s parable of the sower illustrates the risks of having faith. In this parable, Jesus explains that some may accept the message of faith and it will bring them abundant blessing, but also that some may wither in the heat of strife and face hardships for following God’s will (Matthew 13: 1-23). This parable highlights that following God’s way may mean forsaking our own interests or the criticism of others.
Other Old Testament heroes show us the importance of making sacrifices of faith. We read in the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal that Elijah is willing to do whatever it takes to demonstrate his faith in God and defeat his opponents (1 Kings 18: 17-40). Here we see that faith, while beautiful, can also be difficult and demanding at times.
The Teachings of Faith
Finally, the Bible speaks of the teachings of faith. We are told in Isaiah, “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Here, not only are we commanded to share our faith, but also that we should strive to create a future generation of believers and to pass on our beliefs with conviction. The Bible also instructs us to be “teachable” (Proverbs 9:9), and to imbibe in both the teachings of God and of those around us in order to strengthen our faith.
We also learn from the book of Timothy that it is important to remain grounded and focused on the teachings of faith. Timothy exhorts us to “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). Here, Timothy emphasizes the importance of continuing to spread the gospel and the teachings of faith, even if the audience is not receptive at times, in order to further the kingdom of God.