What is Faith? This is a question I’ve been asking myself in recent days. In search of answers, I have looked into several scriptural passages where faith was commended or those reprimanded for lack of faith.
I considered the Syrophoenician woman and the Roman Centurion, both non-Jews with pagan backgrounds, who were commended by Jesus as having great faith (see Matthew 15:28 and Matthew 8:10). This is contrasted with Jesus’ own disciples who were on more than one occasion rebuked as ‘men of little faith’ (St. Matthew 8:18; St.Matthew 16:8).
The New Testament letter to the Hebrews chapter 11 is the scriptures ‘Hall of Fame’ of men and women of faith. Named heroes of the Old Testament are applauded for their ‘faith’ such as Abraham ‘…get out of your country…to a land I will show you.’ (Genesis 12:1) Moses, the epistle of Hebrews records, by faith, chose to identify with the sufferings of his fellow Israelites, putting at stake, his privileged position in Pharaoh’s household.
Some observations about Faith
Faith is often evidenced by our obedience to God. It may be a deep conviction, or small inner voice prompting some action to help alleviate some situation or person. The characteristic of faith is that the resources or capacity to help or change the situation may not be evident at the outset. In a very rudimentary example, if I need a car or house and I have enough money in the bank, then the action to purchase is not one of faith.
Faith appears to be asking for what only God can do or accomplish in a human circumstance. The healing of the paralytic comes to mind from St. Mark 2:1-5. Jesus was teaching to a packed house in Capernaum. Four men carrying one paralyzed on a bed, so determined to get him to Jesus, opened up the roof of the house and lowered him down in front of Jesus. Having done all they could, the scripture records that Jesus seeing ‘their faith’, healed the paralytic man.
My own encounters of Faith
In 2015 there was a prolonged and serious drought in my country. Rivers which emptied into our two main reservoirs for the capital city of 1 million-plus people were dry and reserves down to only days of supply. The nations’ Christians were earnestly praying to God for rain, in as much that people gathered for prayer with umbrellas in hand, all expecting God to answer. The heavens were shut.
I remember distinctly, on July 6, 2015, at about 10 pm I was at my desk working when I rose and walked to the bedroom window and uttered a simple prayer asking God to bring rain as only He could. I returned to my desk and within 15 minutes I saw lightning and heard thunder in the distance which in fact made me a little scared so I shut down my computer and jumped into bed. In a matter of minutes, there was a deluge of rain. I’m not saying it was because of my prayer that the rain came but it was so coincidental in timing with my prayer.
In 1997 I left my country to study in the USA. I was 48 years old at the time so it meant giving up my job, gathering all my little savings to facilitate this major move. I didn’t have all the money for the 4-year program at the time so it was a complete step of faith. Even though in the end it did not turn out as planned, it was an important stepping stone in my life.
I am but a child in the realm of faith even though I came to trust Jesus at the age of 11. I am seeing that there is a common theme of ‘not knowingness’ about faith. It is ‘not knowing how’ the desired outcome will be obtained but rather knowing ‘HIM’ who can. Faith replaces the ‘how’ with ‘HIM’.