What Is Faith?

“Faith is the reality of what we hope for,
the proof of what we don’t see.”
Hebrews 11:1 (Common English Bible)
     I am often surprised how few people really understand the notion of faith. Frequently I hear someone seeking to comfort another by saying, “You need to have faith.” Or, perhaps, I hear someone ask, “Do you have faith?” But this kind of talk about faith isn’t in our Bible. The Bible never speaks of faith as something that we get. Faith simply isn’t our doing.
     Look again at what Paul says about faith here in Hebrews, “Faith is the reality of what we hope for.” This isn’t wishful thinking or a striving to get something that we don’t possess. We don’t possess faith; we are possessed by it.
     Faith is a pure gift from God. Often the “faith” difficulty isn’t that we don’t possess it but that a relationship with God has been so neglected that the gift is no longer noticed. Take love as an example. When we are “in love” with another we don’t seek to obtain love or ask for an assurance, we simply know that it is there by the quality of the relationship. We are “possessed” by the love of another. Similarly, Hebrews teaches us that it is in the quality of a relationship with God that we are “possessed” by faith. It is an unmistakable reality. Just as the knowledge of someone’s love for us is often intangible, so the knowledge of God’s good desire for us is often intangible.
     This understanding of faith is one that provides confidence that come what may, God is with us. Gone is wishful thinking. The faith spoken of here becomes our proof that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. We don’t know the future but we know who holds the future. And that frees us from fear of the unknown.

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