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Faith: What Is It? How Does It Work?

Faith: What Is It? How Does It Work?

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the substance, assurance, or title deed of things hoped for, the conviction or evidence of things not seen.

My friends, I have churned this word over and over in my mind, like waves lashing about in a raging sea in a pursuit to lay hold of the splendor, beauty, simplicity, and power of faith. I have chewed and re-chewed on this word, and this passage, over and over in my mind and heart and I admit my understanding even now is woefully incomplete concerning this glorious faculty called faith!

The entirety of the Christian experience is summed up by Paul in Colossians 2:6, “Therefore, As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” We received Him by grace through faith, and as such the entire Christian life is to be lived out in the same manner! Grace is what God does on our behalf, it is the operation of God for us, in us, and through us; but what is faith exactly?

Faith in Hebrew is the word אֱמֻנָה (emunah), which literally means security, fidelity, and firmness and carries with it the idea of immovable trust and certainty. The Greek word is the word πίστις (Pistis), which likewise means security, guarantee, or warranty and also carries with it the connotation of certainty or full persuasion. Faith, in essence, means to be immovable, established, secure, in complete trust, and fully persuaded of the reliability of the object of that trust. Simply put: Faith is complete trust and reliance upon the faithfulness of another. 

How does faith work? Hebrews 11:1 is a description of how faith works. Faith, says the author of Hebrews, is the assurance, substance, or title deed to what we hope for, or what we are confidently expecting. Faith operates primarily as a volitional faculty, it operates in the realm of our will. Faith is exercised as a decision, but this decision enables us to legally possess that which God has both done and promised through the finished work of Jesus! Faith is the title deed to what we are expecting, meaning faith gives us legal right to possess what God has done and what God has promised. Our trust in God gives us the right to possess His promises!

Not only that but faith gives these hopes, these promises, these benefits of the cross substance in our lives. This means that faith causes us to experience what God has done and what God has promised. Watchman Nee gave a great example in The Life That Wins. He said to think of faith like a man who sees a beautiful painting. The man sees it, and as such the painting is experienced. Likewise faith enables us to “see” what God has done. Now faith does not make the promises of God “real,” as though they are merely imaginary. Consider the man and the painting: Before the painting was experienced by the man through his vision the painting did in fact exist, but the painting was experienced by the man when, and only when, his eyes substantiated it. Likewise the truth of what God has promised, and accomplished, on our behalf are indeed factual and real, but they are not apart of our experience until by faith we see them.

Faith is not a feeling, nor is it an intellectual exercise, but rather faith is simply a decision to trust in God and His word. This decision gives us legal access to the work and promises of God, while simultaneously allowing the believer to see and experience the reality of this work and these promises in his or her life. Faith is how we reach out and lay hold of what God has done in Christ and make it our own. 

Beloved, will you reach out today and lay hold of the fullness that we have in Christ through the exercise of faith? All you have to do is see what God has done and promised by deciding to trust Him and His word! It is really that simple. Believe and receive all you need from the abundance of our loving Father through the finished work of Jesus! I hope that this article helps you grasp faith with more clarity and begin to live a more bold and fulfilling Christian life through the simple yet profound exercise of faith! Bless you all!

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