We talk so often about faith and our need to have faith, but exactly what is faith? How would you describe it? In the Bible, faith is used in two different senses. First there is the faith that consists of the things you believe. The doctrines and teachings that you believe are from God and that you must follow composes your faith. Second, when you show trust in someone, such as God, accepting what they have said without questioning the truth of their statement, then that too is faith.
In Hebrews 11:1, we see that faith is the foundation of the things we hope for in the future and the proof of the things we cannot see. To say that the chair you are sitting on exists is not due to your faith. You can see and touch the chair. Its existence is a fact. However, to state how the world came into being is a matter of faith. We did not see it come into being and we cannot reproduce it today so we can examine the process. When evolutionist state that the world evolved into its current state, they are making a statement of faith. They cannot prove they are right, they can only state what they believe happened. Similarly, Christians believe that God made the world. There are many pieces of evidence supporting this belief, but we cannot prove it as a solid fact.
Even when we talk about our plans for the future, we must accept those plans as a matter of faith. The future has not happened yet, so we cannot consider it a fact. We cannot even make things happen just the way we would like them to occur. There are too many things that are outside of our control. Therefore, when we talk about our future plans, we are expressing our faith in what will happen.
Take a moment to read John 9:1-41. This chapter not only tells us about Jesus healing a blind man, but we also learn details about how people reacted to this miracle. Notice that it did not require faith to see that the blind man was healed. It was a provable fact. The leaders of the Jews proved by many witnesses that the man was born blind and had been blind all his life. The man, himself, was evidence that he could now see. It also did not require faith to know that Jesus did the healing. Again, witnesses, including the man, testified that Jesus did "something" to the man. Faith only comes into play when the people had to decide how Jesus did the healing. In other words, did Jesus' power to heal come from God or from some other source. That was the part that was not seen.
Turn a bit further and read John 12:9-11. Notice once again, it did not require faith to say Lazarus was raised from the dead. All knew that he died after a lingering illness. He had been in the grave for four days. Now he was living among them once again. It also did not require faith to know that Jesus raised him from the dead. Many witnessed Jesus calling Lazarus from the grave. Faith comes into play when we decide by whose power Jesus raised Lazarus. The Jews hated the strength of this evidence so much that they plotted to kill Lazarus because the people were believing in Jesus.
As Christians, there are many things in which we believe. It all starts with Genesis. We believe that God created the universe and this world from absolutely nothing (Hebrews 11:3). There are some who claim to be Christians who have trouble with this concept, but if a person does not believe this, then it will affect your entire view of the Bible. If you cannot trust the Bible to tell the full truth about how the world began, then how can you trust later parts of the same book? Because we believe God created us, we then strive to please our Creator (Hebrews 11:6). Christians believe that the Bible is God's spoken word, written in the original languages exactly as God desired, and that the Bible contains everything we need by which to live (II Timothy 3:16-17).
The Bible is filled with many examples of people with strong faith. Abraham left his home to travel to a foreign land which he had never seen before. After arriving, he accepted it as an inheritance for his children even though he did not possess the land, nor did he have a child to whom to give the land. He believed it was his, simply because God said it was so. Later, God blesses him with a son, the child Abraham longed for his whole life, but then God tells Abraham to sacrifice him. Abraham sets out to do it, simply because God said to do it.
Noah built an ark for 120 years, suffering ridicule in a world that probably never saw rain, simply because God said He was going to flood the entire world. Noah had no evidence that such things were possible, but Noah believed God.
Mary was told she would bear a son, though she would remain a virgin. The son she would bear would be the savior of all mankind. As unlikely as this sounds, Mary believed the messenger because God said it would happen.
Notice in the various accounts of people of faith, their faith is always shown by the person's actions. None of these people said "I believe you Lord" and then did nothing. If they had done nothing, then we could say that they did not truly believe (James 2:17-26).
The same requirement of belief remains for us today. God's Word tells us how to be saved. We know that His Word is binding and that one day we will be judged by it (Hebrews 2:1-3). We cannot just listen to God, we must do something about what He has told us (James 1:22). We must believe God, trusting Him with our lives (Mark 16:16). We must repent of our past sins, turning to a new life (Luke 13:3-5). We must demonstrate our faith by confessing that Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:35-37). We then must be baptized to die to our old way of life and to join Christ in a new life (Romans 6:3-6). To that new life, we must remain obedient for the remainder of our days (Matthew 7:21).
The question is: Do you trust God? Are you willing to do what He has asked of you, even though it sounds unlikely? Are you willing to follow after Him, even though you will not see evidence of the salvation you hope for until after you die? How much faith do you have in God?