How to Have Faith
What is faith? How do you know if you have it? Will it do what you hope it will do?
People exercise faith every day without realizing it. They go to doctors, receive prescriptions they can’t read, and take medicine they know very little about. In fact, most people do so without examining the doctor’s credentials, questioning the validity of the prescription, or investigating the effects of the medicine. They could be killing themselves, but they never think twice about it. They simply trust that the doctor knows what he’s doing and the medicine will help. This is faith.
However, such faith is insufficient when it comes to the big decisions of life: what college to go to, what career to pursue, whom to marry. These are not things most people accept blindly. They study the benefits of each college, prepare for careers, and think long and hard about whether to spend the rest of their lives with someone.
One of the most important decisions we will ever make will be where we will spend eternity. Yet many people never question their faith or evaluate what they are trusting in. However, if we are going to make spiritual decisions—life-or-death decisions—that count for both time and eternity, we should be sure we understand what kind of faith God accepts.
The New Testament defines faith in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is, first of all, an understanding that what we believe is real and not an illusion, dream, or trick.
This is why, throughout the New Testament, the writers challenged people to examine the evidence of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Luke, one of the Gospel writers, said at the beginning of the book bearing his name, “having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order . . . so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught” (1:3–4, NASB).
Real faith is faith in real things. It understands that what Jesus Christ did was historical fact, not fiction. But biblical faith is even more. Hebrews 11:1 calls it ”substance.” Faith is substance. It points to the reality of an assurance that rests securely in that in which it hopes. It is a conviction that the historical facts are not merely true in the same, mundane way as the world history you learn in school; they are truth God has revealed so that we can know Him personally.
But real faith is still more. It is not merely knowing—even being convinced— that something is true; but it involves accepting it as true for you. Not true for the church, not true for the preacher, not true for your parents, not true for your friends, but true for you.
In the mid-1900s, famous daredevil Charles Blondin regularly thrilled audiences by walking a tightrope stretched across the rapids of Niagara Falls, with a man on his shoulders. One day, as he was about to start across, he asked a man in the audience if the man believed Blondin would be successful.
“Yes,” the man replied. “You can do it!” He then asked him if he were sure that he could do it. “Yes, I’m really sure that you can do it!”
“Good,” said Blondin, “because my regular man isn’t here today, and I need you to ride over on my shoulders.”
Now the man was faced with the real issue of faith. He said he believed, but was he willing to stake his life on it?
You see, faith is not faith until it’s all you’re holding onto. Our faith is only as good as that in which it is placed. That is why we must make sure it is placed in something that can do for us what it promises to do. No matter how much you may trust your parents, religion, church, rabbis, priests, or preachers, not one of them can give you eternal life when you die. They may be able to help you now; but they cannot help you afterward, for they too must die. The problem is not that they don’t want to help you. The problem is that they have no power.
The only One who can help you is God Himself who came here as a man to die in your place and pay the penalty for your sins. He proved He has the power to give you life beyond the grave because He Himself conquered death and lives forever. He did what He promised He would do; and now He can do for you what He promises He will do: give you eternal life if you believe.
Some may say, “I don’t know if I can do that. My faith is not strong enough.” Let me answer that with a little story.
A young boy had waited for the first big freeze of winter so he could ice skate. Now that the big one had come, he ran down the snow-covered slopes to the lake, which was glistening with a newly formed layer of ice. Confidently, he ran out on the ice. But when he was only a few feet out, the ice cracked; and he fell in up to his waist. What went wrong? He had sincerely believed the ice would hold him. The problem, of course, was not with his faith but, rather, with the object of his faith.
After a few more freezes, he returned to the lake at the insistence of friends. But now he was afraid to trust himself to the lake again. He reluctantly ventured out, nervous and trembling as he went. But do you know what? Despite his faltering faith, the ice held firm.
You see, it is not the strength of our faith that matters but the strength of what we place our faith in. A weak faith may receive a strong Savior, for salvation does not depend on our power but on His.
Have you trusted your life to Jesus Christ, who can hold you up forever? To do so, you must forsake every other thing you have trusted in and trust in Him alone. Faith in Christ is not faith until Christ is all you’re holding onto. But He is able to hold you forever, all the way through eternity.