Once after I had experienced a profound disappointment, I got to philosophizing aloud with God. I got to asking God why He didn’t just show Himself plainly to everyone already. If He planned to do it one day – e.g. to each of us after we leave this life – why not do it during this life? If one day we would “know even as we are known” – why not let us know now? It just seemed like God was playing a big game with us in wanting us to “walk by faith” until we die. I was ready to know and see now and not have to depend on faith thank you very much. Then suddenly a thought popped into my head as though from God Himself: “What makes you think faith is only for this life?” So that’s what got me interested in understanding faith from a Biblical perspective…
Jesus spoke much about faith. For instance, He told some people who He had healed of ill-health, that their faith had healed them. He stated that it was unbelief in other districts had resulted in not many miracles there. He preached the good news that the Kingdom of God is at hand and urged people to (repent and) believe the Gospel. He spoke in definitive terms about knowing God and His will, but this knowledge neither replaced nor clashed with the need for faith.
Faith is presented as something that is essential in drawing near to God, and as a choice we make, and as a moral imperative since “what is not of faith is sin.” (Rom 14:23)
Paul tells us that the Gospel message is the power of God for salvation for all who believe it, and that Christ’s death was about engendering faith in us.
I make sense of all of this, by understanding faith as confidence and trust in another person, including especially, God Himself. All relationships depend on mutual faith/trust/confidence. The main differences in a relationship with God compared to a relationship with other people is that God is a Person on whom we are ultimately completely dependent on, and who is ultimately responsible for everything that happens in His universe. Consequently, we expect more of him than of anyone else we know. Reciprocally, by reason of his knowledge of all our thoughts and feelings, He is expectations of us are completely realistic – never too low and never too high. Thus the faith required to have a relationship with God is greater and more wide-ranging and more profound in it effects on us and upon the relationship than the faith required to conduct one’s human-human relationships (every relationship from reading another’s writings and seeing people on TV, through to relating to strangers on the street, to raising children and sharing the years with a life partner).
The quality of all our relationships is directly proportional to the mutual trust, confidence, belief or faith in the other exercised by the members of the relationship. This is the reason, I believe, that Jesus and the Scriptures emphasise faith so much – because faith is the backbone of relationship. If we are to enjoy God fully forever, our faith in God needs be maximised. As the kite only flies against the wind, and as muscle only increases against resistance, so faith can only grow in the times where doubt is also possible – against, or in the midst of suffering.
Faith is not a binary quantity. Just a faith in a marriage partner can develop in strength and nuance, so our faith in God needs to grow. The more we trust that God is love and all wise and powerful, the more we can be obedient to His revealed will. Jesus’ trust in the Heavenly Father was enough inspire Him to go obediently to the injustice, pain and grief of the Cross. His trusting obedience completely supported Jesus’ teaching that God is full of loving kindness and utterly faithful. Pacifism requires a huge degree of faith.