It’s not an easy question to answer despite the billion-plus results listed with a quick Google check. Even a variety of “expert” dictionaries find difficulty in agreeing:
- Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
- Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
- Allegiance to duty or a person; loyalty.
- Fidelity to one’s promises; sincerity of intentions.
- Belief and trust in and loyalty to God; belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion.
- Firm belief in something for which there is no proof; complete trust.
- Something that is believed especially with strong conviction.
- Confidence or trust in a person or thing; faith in another’s ability.
- Belief that is not based on proof.
- Belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion.
- Belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.
- A system of religious belief.
Of course, there are themes through the definitions, but as I peruse the Google results, quotes, definitions, and blog posts, I realize people generally define faith in whatever way best suits them. Like so many other aspects of our lives, we begin with what we know and what we want, and we build assumptions based on our preferences and comfort zones. We then project the meaning we assume from our own experiences to the greater world.
We cannot define God and everything related to Him by our own definitions. Only He fully and clearly defines Himself. He created us in His image, so we have His imprint upon us; however, we don’t have all the pieces. Our understanding is limited. We’re not going to help our limited understanding by starting with ourselves and projecting what we believe on God or everyone else. When we start with what God gives us, our experiences take on a new role. They’re intended to enhance what God reveals to us. He defines truth. He defines faith. We respond by living in truth by faith.
Consider how you define faith.
What would you like to clarify with God about faith?
Pay attention to the types of questions and issues you face. What might you need to yield to God in the process of expanding your personal definition of faith into God’s reality of faith?
Be prepared to see God’s faithfulness.
There will be many who read this and slam my premise from the very start. After all, who am I to say faith can only be accurately defined by God? Who am I to say God even exists? Some will assume I’m being judgmental and intolerant. To engage in that conversation addressing such accusations, I’d have to know the accuser’s definition of judgmental and intolerant. I’ll admit that under some definitions, indeed, I am being judgmental and intolerant. I’m clinging to God’s character—at least, as well as I can humbly grasp the reality of who He is and who He created me to be. As such, I can soundly declare that God is judgmental and intolerant. Of course, He is also loving, merciful, and patient. All these qualities, and more, come together in the character of who God is. Because I’m created in His image, I am supposed to reflect the totality of His character. His love involves judgment, and I trust Him to help me discern how to approach each situation. He refuses to tolerate some behavior, yet He is merciful. Again, I seek and trust His discernment in order to know when to say what and when to be silent. It’s not easy.
So, what is faith? Begin and stick with what God says about faith. Regardless of where you are on your faith journey, whether you think it has anything at all to do with God, I hope you’ll take the next steps with me. Open your mind and heart. You might be surprised at what comes next.
Consider Hebrews 11:1.
Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.
What a great definition of faith! It’s certainly not a simple definition; it includes several aspects.
Which of the six aspects of the definition of faith do you consistently emphasize the most?
Which of the six aspects of the definition do you downplay, neglect, or question the most?
What do you feel is your biggest stumbling block to developing a pure faith in this season of your life?
Explore faith further with Pure Faith: A Study of What Faith Is and How to Live It Out Loud.