If you spend any time talking to Christians, you’ll find a peculiar word continually popping up in conversation: faith. By the way they use it, faith can sometimes look like a “wild card” in the game of life. It can be used for a whole slew of things: if your car breaks down, you can have faith that God will somehow fix it for you (while you call the mechanic and the tow truck company to haul it away and fix it for you); if you lost your job and you’re struggling to figure out how to pay your bills, then you can just have faith that God will provide—all while hoping that God will do something about this situation; or perhaps faith is how you know stuff, such that you believe what God says because he says it, and that’s the end of the matter for you. To non-Christians, this talk of faith can kind of feel a little…cheaty; it looks like faith functions for the Christian like an easy “get out of jail free” card. And, unfortunately, many Christians often appear to treat faith as just such a concept—as something to get you out of a bind or free you from the requirement to make a plan or think things through. But is this really what faith is?
I am a Christian because of faith, specifically faith in the God who has known me and has invited me to get to know him. According to the scriptures this God inspired (literally, “breathed into and brought to life), faith is a gift freely given to us by God (Romans 12:3; Ephesians 2:8). Faith is the foundation for the hope we have, another big part of the Christian vocabulary (Hebrews 11:1), because it is awakened in us by hearing about this God who has revealed himself to us in Jesus (Romans 10:17)—and Jesus himself is the one who shows what having faith in God and being faithful to God is like (Hebrews 12). The reason Jesus shows us how to have faith in God is because God has already shown himself faithful to us (Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 33:4; Psalm 91:4; Lamentations 3:22-23; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 10:23). Consequently, we are invited to ask for faith (Mark 9:24; Luke 17:5), to exercise faith (Hebrews 11), and to know that God cares about our faith (Luke 22:32), since faith is a matter of trust.
Faith is what makes me a Christian, because it reminds me that I did not waltz myself into belief in God. My faith in God’s existence is not a replacement for actually thinking about God’s existence, nor is my faith that God will take care of me an excuse to not have a plan for my life. Instead, faith isn’t really about anything I do to generate it in my life or make it more real to me or somehow manufacture enough oomph to “believe in God,” whatever I ultimately am supposed to mean by that. Faith is about God—a God who makes himself known, a God who invites me to get to know him, and a God who provides me with the parameters (i.e., faith) to actually recognize what he’s already doing in my life. It is the nature of faith to call forth a response from me; however, my response is simply that—a response to something and Someone already involved in the nitty gritty of my life. And that both clarifies and muddies the waters of faith.