Faith, belief—we bandy these words about so casually that we don’t think of the depths that they imply. We can believe in God, even go to church on Sundays, and never walk in faith. We can be good people and yet never be faithful. We can judge others by their beliefs and miss what informs their lives. Let’s take a look at faith and what Jesus is asking of us when he calls us to have faith. He speaks throughout the Gospels of faith as having no fear, no doubt, no worry. But faith is more than the lack of these three negatives. Faith is a bold, even audacious, readiness for action in the face of difficulties in our lives or in the lives of others. This kind of faith is born out of knowing from experience of the faithfulness of God’s love and support and power for good in our lives.
Beliefs, as I have written elsewhere, are the gateway to the life of the Spirit. They consist of head knowledge: learning from the pulpit or in Bible study or, in joining a church, the tenets of the Christian religion. Faith, in contrast, pulls together the whole of the person in a readiness to do what God asks of us; as Jesus says in the Greatest Commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”(Matt. 22:37 NIV) With the totality of onesself engaged in loving God our faith becomes huge, deep and all encompassing. Faith is knowledge in the form of personal experience of God and His ways, not book learning.
With beliefs we can sit in our pews; with faith we are required to act, to leave the pew, to do. God compels us to return the favor of his love to others by “paying it forward” as a recent movie suggested. The more faith we have the more we are compelled to act. We look at the world, not through rose-colored glasses, but realistically and compassionately, and we know that God can do anything in any situation with His inspiration through our actions.
With faith we do not pick and choose where we will apply love. We are required to apply it to our parents and siblings, to our children, to our spouses, neighbors, the thirsty, hungry, etc. Loving, respecting, giving what is needed, listening, and lending our time and attention to everyone on our path—these are the acts of faith, not just in this moment, but in every moment.
Faith this wide and deep is a gift of the Lord. We can pray for more faith, but we cannot gift ourselves with it. Only the Lord can give us this kind of faith, this is where his entire ministry is leading us, to the point where he can give us this level of faith. He will put in our path the very people he wants us to help and teach us how to do it. He will deepen us in our love for Him and give us the capacity to be truly helpful. He will tear down all barriers to success and make way for the path of love.
Faith is bold, audacious even, action-based, loving and inspired by the Lord. To live your faith is to be guided by the Lord, to be inspired by Him and to listen for His every prompt. And to live this faith is to be humbled, knowing that it is the Lord who is doing the action through us and that we are only His instruments.