Attempting to Define Faith

Faith is one of those things that is hard to pin down to a simple definition. As evidence of this, Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary offers the following definitions:

  • “allegiance to duty or a person” (as in, “lost faith in the company’s president”)
  • “fidelity to one’s promises”; “sincerity of intentions” (as in, “acted in good faith”)
  • “belief and trust in and loyalty to God”
  • “belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion”
  • “firm belief in something for which there is no proof” (as in, “clinging to the faith that her missing son would one day return”)
  • “complete trust”
  • “something that is believed especially with strong conviction (especially a system of religious beliefs)”

Because the word “faith” can be used in a non-religious way, many of these definitions have nothing to do with Christianity. However, even if we try to define faith in terms of the Christian having faith in God, the definition still doesn’t come easily. Someone might say, “But the Bible’s definition of faith is found in Hebrews 11:1: ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things seen'” (N.K.J.V.). Yes, that is the Bible’s definition of faith, but I’ve always found that definition difficult to apply to real-life situations. It’s like it’s filet mignon from an expensive restaurant when I’m looking for a can of Campbell’s vegetable beef soup. In other words, it’s a little too poetically lofty for the day-to-day grind of my lunch-bucket life.

Any casual search of the internet will produce “faith” quotes from famous Christians, and some of the quotes are quite good. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “Faith is taking the first step when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King. Jr.
  • “Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.” Corrie Ten Boom
  • “I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” Phillip Yancey
  • “The issue of faith is not so much whether we believe in God, but whether we believe the God we believe in.” R.C. Sproul
  • “True faith rests upon the character of God and asks no further proof than the moral perfections of the One who cannot lie. It is enough that God has said it.” A.W. Tozer

One other definition that I really like comes from Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, the renowned pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel for almost 30 years. In a sermon entitled Spiritual Depression, Jones defined faith in an exceedingly practical, down-to-earth way. I’ll offer his definition as the close to this post, and hopefully we can all put the definition into practice as we walk each day with Jesus. Jones said:

Faith is a refusal to panic. Do you like that sort of definition of faith? Does that seem too earthly and not sufficiently spiritual? It is of the very essence of faith. Faith is a refusal to panic, come what may.

This entry was posted in Adversity, Belief, Commitment, Doubt, Faith, God's Sovereignty, Trials, Trusting In God, Worry and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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