What Is Faith? 5 Lessons from Scripture

We know we’re supposed to have faith. But what is faith? What does it look like? What are the rewards for having it? 

1. Faith Is “the Assurance of Things Hoped For”

Perhaps no single person in the Bible discusses faith more than Paul. He lists faith among the fruits of the spirit, along with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).

St. Paul also defines faith for us as

the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

But what are the benefits of faith when it’s so easy to lose that hope and conviction?

2. Faith Is a Reason to Live

According to Paul, faith is what gives us the energy and reason to live. 

In the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul writes,

The Righteous shall live by Faith.”

Romans 1:!7

The same line appears in his letter to the Galatians (3:11).

3. Faith is an Agent of Healing

Faith isn’t just something to get us out of bed in the morning. In many places in the Bible, and in the Gospels in particular, faith is an agent of physical healing. In the three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), Jesus uses the expression “Your faith has healed you” no fewer than seven times.

Jesus had the power to heal these people whether they believed or not. But, because humans have free will, our choice to embrace the gift of faith allows us to be willing agents in God’s mission of healing. This is also shown through figures in the Gospels who lack faith.

When Peter steps out of the boat to walk across the water to Jesus, it’s only when he becomes afraid that he begins to sink. Jesus chides Peter:

Oh man of little Faith, why did you doubt?

Matthew 14:31

It was not Christ’s weakness or unwillingness that made Peter sink. It was Peter’s own lack of faith.

Faith not only sustains us; it strengthens us. The Book of Acts tells us that the heart is “cleansed through Faith, (15:9), churches are “strengthened through Faith, (16:5) and our sins are forgiven and we are sanctified through faith (26:18).

To bring in a perspective from the Old Testament, the Book of Proverbs tells us that

A faithful man will abound with blessings.”

Proverbs 28:20

Again, this is not because God is unwilling to bless us unless we are faithful, but because our faithfulness opens the door to the blessings that God wants to give us.

4. Faith Lets Us Show God Our Needs

Until he had his doubts, Peter demonstrated his faith by stepping out of the boat in the first place. Demonstrating faith as a way of attaining God’s blessing is another recurring theme throughout the Bible and the Gospels in particular.

On several occasions, Jesus works a miracle for someone because He “saw their faithfulness” (Matthew 9:22; Luke 5:20; Mark 2:5). We may not have physical access to Jesus to demonstrate our faithfulness in the way Peter did, but we don’t need to.

In the story of the centurion’s servant, the servant is not present but is healed from a distance when the centurion intercedes to Jesus on the servant’s behalf. Jesus tells the centurion,

Be it done for you as you have believed.”

Matthew 8:13

5. Faith Is a Shield

Finally, faith is a defense. It is described several times as a shield. 

St. Peter tells us that we are “guarded through Faith (1 Peter 1:5). Paul instructs us to

take up the shield of Faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the Evil One.

Ephesians 6:16

How Much Faith Do You Need?

The Psalms regularly talk about “Faith to the Heavens” but Jesus tells us,

If you have Faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move hence to yonder place,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”

Matthew 17:20

The Lord requires us to have faith but does not ask us more of us than we can give.

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