What is Faith?

Twenty-five years ago, my friend Brian asked me the pointed question, “What is faith?” I did not have an adequate answer even though I thought I did. I had been raised in a Christian home where we discussed faith often. We talked about our faith in God, our faith in one another, and our faith in the Bible. I had also participated in organized sports from the time I was old enough to join a team. Coaches had instilled in me the importance of faith in my teammates, faith in the game plan, faith in my coaches, and faith in my preparation. I knew a lot about faith as a result of these experiences, but I didn’t know what it was. Looking back on Brian’s question, I think that’s the reason he asked it. 

Brian was a staff member with the Christian organization Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru). He was specifically assigned to Cru’s ministry on NC State’s campus. His job was to ask hard questions of student leaders to help us grow in our understanding of the Christian Faith. He did his job well. 

As I have replayed our conversation in my mind over the years, I’ve been repeatedly struck by the simplicity with which he defined faith. He said, “Faith is trust in someone or something.” In the Christian context, it’s trust in the Triune God of the Bible that is expressed in a personal dependance upon the Lord Jesus Christ who is the perfect revelation of God in human flesh. In more general terms, faith is trust in someone or something that provides certainty for your life as a whole or in a particular aspect of your life. For instance, children inherently trust their parents and find security in that trust. 

Now, you may have noticed that in Brian’s definition as well as every other example I’ve referenced in this column, the little preposition “in” is central to defining faith. It’s trust IN someone or something. The reason for this is that faith must always have an object. We understand this implicitly. We do not have faith for faith’s sake. We have faith in someone or something. Think about it. Our modern society tells us to believe in ourselves. Coaches tell us to believe in the game plan or in our teammates. Public health officials tell to trust in the science of the vaccines. Faith is always placed in someone or something. 

So, the challenge for all of us is to determine what is the ultimate object of the faith upon which we build our lives. Is it someone or something that will stand the test of time and empower us to overcome the multitude of challenges we will face throughout our time on this earth? As a Christian, I am convinced there is only one who can do that as we sink the roots of our faith deep into him who is the eternal rock of our lives and creator of all things. Perhaps you would like to know more about him. If so, you can find him throughout the pages of the Bible. 

** This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, April 21, 2021 edition of the The Chester News and Reporter from Chester, SC.

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