What is faith?

Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.

Mark 11:23
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In this verse, the Lord Jesus clearly shows us the power of faith. All Christians want faith and want to see it at work in their life. But it is difficult for faith to really do all it can do in your life unless you understand what faith is. Truly, it’s impossible to explain something as supernatural as faith. God makes it that way because faith itself cannot be explained. But we can get a better understanding of what faith is and how it works by comparing it to things we do understand. In this post, we’ll comb through the word to understand three characteristics of faith.

Faith is a house

All houses have something in common–a foundation. Big or small, there has to be a firm basis upon which the weight of the house can rest. Faith is the same. For us Christians, the foundation of our faith is the Bible, the Word of God.

In this aspect, faith is a choice. You choose to accept the Bible as the inspired Word of God. No one can teach you that. No one can make you think like that. As an individual, you make the choice to accept the Bible as God’s Word regardless of what sociologists, scientists, archaeologists or theologians etc. might say.

This is because God’s Spirit expresses to your heart that the Scriptures are the product of His thinking. This in an inexplicable interaction between God and you. It anchors the Word to your heart and transforms your mental outlook.

But even though God starts this process, you choose to accept his Word of life or reject it. In Matthew 7, Jesus taught a parable in which a wise man built his house upon the rock (faith) and it resisted the storms. The choice to put God’s Word into practice is what proved the wise man’s faith was real.Like I said, faith is a choice. Its foundation is the Bible.

But faith is like a house in another way as well. Just like you build a house, so you will either build or tear down your faith. The friends you keep, the entertainment you enjoy, the ideas that are presented to you in school, advertisements, and society in general are all either going to tear down or build up your faith.

While we cannot control what messages society sends to us, we must be on guard and make sure that we’re not quietly letting them erode the rock-solid foundation upon which our faith was built. Over time, Christians often let social messages or earthly priorities–like large crowds, dynamic speakers, and excellent acoustics–impress them. While there’s nothing wrong with these things per se, if they are what attracts us, it is a sign that we are becoming focused on doubt instead of faith.

Faith looks at the unseen cloud of witnesses that Hebrews 11 says surrounds us. Doubt focuses on the senses (the amount of people we can physically count).

It is our responsibility to make sure our faith is being built and reinforced. Otherwise our house will automatically be torn down.

Faith is a highway

Let’s look at faith another way. Faith is a channel, or a highway, that connects you and God. The ancient Persian empire developed a network of roads that allowed mail to travel from Europe to Susa (about 2,400 miles) in about a week. Ideas, trade, and mail flowed back and forth along the Royal Road. Faith is a highway that allows our prayers to flow up to God and His power to flow down to us.

The entire Bible is filled with examples of God doing supernatural things in the life of men, women, and children who took advantage of this highway. When we align ourselves with God in this channel, we become part of His divine program. Then anything becomes possible. Not because of us but simply because God’s power is on the highway, moving toward us.

This is not emotion. Faith isn’t emotion. There’s nothing emotional about a highway, right? We can feel good while cruising on the highway but our emotions aren’t what’s taking you places. You get somewhere in your journey because there’s a road beneath you and you’ve got a vehicle–which we’ll call the Name of Jesus Christ–that’s designed to get you to where you need to go.

Emotions are good. I love little better than the feel of the road humming beneath me. But my emotions alone won’t get me anywhere. Let’s focus on faith, the highway, and the emotions will automatically follow. Does that make sense?

Now, what happens if there’s an accident or a roadblock?

My wife and I were recently on the Autobahn in Germany. There’s no speed limit in certain sections. But, in literally less than 30 seconds, we went from doing about 120 mph to zero. Why? Because of an accident that shut down the road.

There was nothing wrong with the highway nor with our vehicle. But because there was an obstacle, we couldn’t move forward.

The same happens with our faith. Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with our faith per se, but there are obstacles in the way that need to be removed so the power of God can keep hurtling down the road. You need to do what the German authorities did. Investigate what’s going on and remove the roadblock ASAP so divine traffic can keep flowing!

Is there unconfessed sin that’s keeping you from believing? Or sometimes, it’s just Satan trying to get you impatient and make you give up. He tried that with Daniel, remember (Daniel 10)? Whatever the situation, don’t let doubt block up the road.

Choose to believe.

Faith is transformative

The Bible shows us that everything was made by faith (Hebrews 11:1). God believed His own creative word would come to pass. The result was the ground that you walk on, the gravity that holds you to the earth, and the air in your lungs. Everything that makes up creation came as a result of faith.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Creation didn’t exist. Faith brought things that were not into existence. It is transformative. Jesus taught us this principle when He said that faith can move mountains. We don’t move mountains to show off. Or to see if it will really happen.

That’s not faith.

Faith knows the will of God and speaks only what is necessary to bring it to pass. For example, the faith that created this world brought it into existence because it was part of God’s eternal plan. The earth had to exist for the Father to place Adam and Eve upon it. Trees had to exist for God’s Son to be crucified. All of creation had to exist for the Holy Spirit filled sons and daughters to work for the glory of God.

Faith brought God’s will into existence. Nothing more and nothing less.

David faced off with Goliath because God’s Word had already stated that the children of Israel were to be conquerors. Because Goliath wasn’t a circumcised believer, he did not have access to the same covenant that David did.

So David transformed the circumstance.

From a boasting giant, Goliath became a headless giant. Why? Because David knew what God wanted to be done and aligned himself with the will of God, then spoke to the giant.

1 Samuel 17 shows us that David promised to cut off the giant’s head so that “all the world will know there is a God in Israel.” Did it happen?



Because faith is transformative.

But to have that kind of faith we need to know what God wants. Only then will we be able to move beyond emotion and move mountains.

Closing thoughts

Faith is something that cannot be explained. It is a supernatural reality that defies logic and brings the power of God into our life to change our circumstances. It’s like a house that must have a strong foundation in the Scripture, must be built up, and maintained. Faith is like a highway that connects you to God. As your prayers go to God on the highway of faith, his power comes back down to you. Be sure there are no roadblocks that can stop progress. Finally, faith comes when the will of God is made known. Then we act on that will and change the situation that stands in our way.

Words to live by

1 John 5:4

James 5:13

1 John 5:14