Many people say with confidence, that they ‘believe’ in God. Many of these same people think that this is enough to guarantee that their sins are forgiven and gain them admission to Heaven. However, is this simple ‘belief’ in God enough? Is this ‘belief’ the same as the ‘faith’ spoken of in the Bible? Let us examine this concept a little closer.
True faith is more than simply ‘believing’
While ‘faith’ surely includes the element of ‘belief’, they are not one and the same. Certainly one must believe that something, or someone, exists before it is possible to put one’s faith in that person or thing. However, I can believe some things that do not affect my life. I believe China exists, but I do not live my life any differently because of my belief. The Bible tells us that this type of ‘belief’ is not true faith and will not result in a saving relationship with God.
To put one’s ‘faith’ in something, or someone, means that one is putting his or her trust in that person or thing. Who or what one trusts can have far-reaching, even eternal, ramifications. It means reliance on, dependence upon, that person or thing. I can say that I believe a plane can take me from here to there, but if I’m afraid to get on it, I reveal that I have no ‘faith’ in that plane. Also, if I do not get on the plane, I have no reason to expect it to take me anywhere. I must exercise my ‘faith’ in that plane, by boarding it, if I am to receive the benefits it offers.
True faith results in a changed worldview
When we have true saving faith in Jesus Christ, we see the world and its system in an entirely different way. The Holy Spirit enlightens us as to the true nature of things and actually causes us to think differently, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). We are instructed to make this a goal of our spiritual life, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). If we truly are Christians, dedicated followers of Jesus Christ, we will grow more to see our existence the way God sees it.
Simply to say “I believe in God” means very little if it is merely coming from the lips and not from the heart.
Faith results in changed actions
I have heard of, and have known, some people who claim to be followers of Christ; however, their lifestyle remained the same after they became Christians as it was before they became Christians. They still lived the same way, talked the same way, and had the same mindset as they did when they were living in rebellion to God. Were they exercising true faith? Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15), meaning that our actions will reveal the change our heart has gone through when we became His true followers. Conversely, if our lives do not exhibit a change of allegiance from self to Jesus, we have good reason to doubt our salvation is real at all. John writes, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (I John 2:3). True faith is evidenced by a change in the way we act.
Faith results in changed priorities
If anything in our lives is more important than God, our priorities are misplaced and we should examine ourselves to see if we have truly given our lives to Christ. If our lives are focused more on our jobs, our favorite sports team, the next new technological toy, our love life, or anything else that diverts the center of our attention away from God, we should question the validity, or at least the maturity, of our faith.
Some areas that reveal the focus of our hearts are:
Our finances: If we are so focused on how much money we are making, or how high up the corporate ladder we can climb, we must readjust our focus…our focus is on wealth instead of God. Also, on the other side of the coin, if we are so worried about not having enough money, our focus is on our need rather than on the One who provides for those needs.
Our thought life: What we spend out time thinking about reveals a lot about what we think is most important in our lives. While it is not wrong to think about things other than God, when we think about things to the extent that any thoughts of God are pushed out of our minds, we are in danger of shipwrecking our faith (1 Timothy 1:18-20). The Bible tells us to “pray without ceasing” (2 Thessalonians 5:12) which simply means keeping the lines of communication open between you and God at all times.
Our priorities: How we spend our time, money, and energy reveals what we think is important. Where does God fit into your life? How important is prayer and Bible study as opposed to making sure you do not miss your favourite television show? The Bible tells us to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Our relationship with God should be the most important thing in our lives…if we have true faith.
“Belief” can be simply a passive mental acceptance which amounts to nothing when it comes to how it affects our life. Simply to say “I believe in God” means very little if it is merely coming from the lips and not from the heart. People can, and do, say that they ‘believe’ in God, but their lives never change at all. However, when one has true faith in God, one’s life cannot help but reveal this truth. True faith, dependence/reliance/trust, in God reveals itself in our actions, our thought life, and our priorities. A saving relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe can result in nothing less than a radical readjustment of our entire worldview. We will love God with all our hearts and we will love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 19:19, 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8, and more Old Testament references). If we claim we are Christians, but this is not the attitude of our hearts, it would be wise to ask God to search our hearts, cleanse us, mold us into the people that He wants us to be, and strengthen our faith.