Faith: What does it look like?
Faith is not just a hidden thing in our lives. It has a tremendous result. We are saved through faith for a start. However, there is a result in our lives by which our faith can be seen by others. This study looks at the characteristics of faith in a Christian seen in the scriptures.
What does faith look like?
Once we have realised that God is always faithful to us and will always do what is best for us (though perhaps we might not realise it at the time), and that He delights to respond to our faith no matter how small, then our lives will display certain attitudes and characteristics.
It is unfeigned:
Our faith is not just for others to see but is real and based on a living relationship with God Himself. “Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Blessed is he who does not judge himself in what he allows” (Romans 14:22)
Joy without fear of the future:
If we have faith in God and His love we will not be fearful about the future but will know that He will do what is best with our lives. With the Lord there is no need for fear even in great storms. “And Jesus said to them, Why are ye thus fearful? how is it ye have not faith?” (Mark 4:40). “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has torment, and he that fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4v18). “Having confidence of this, I know that I shall remain and abide along with you all, for your progress and joy in faith” (Philippians 1:25).
The just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4). If we are looking at ourselves justly we will see that we can only depend on God’s mercy by faith and have no strength to do things as we ought to without Him. We will dismiss anything that glorifies ourselves and rejoice in anything that glorifies God. “Examine your own selves if ye be in the faith; prove your own selves: do ye not recognise yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
A person living in faith will not be involved in many things of the world but will be seeking to serve the Lord and enjoy His presence. “All these died in faith, … and confessed that they were strangers and sojourners on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13). They won’t be concerned about the importance of others although they will give respect where it is due to persons in authority. “By faith Moses, when he had become great, refused to be called son of Pharaoh's daughter” (Hebrews 11:24), “by faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he persevered, as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27). “My brethren, do not have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, Lord of glory, with respect of persons” (James 2:1) i.e. don’t honour some brothers and sisters above other simply due to their social status or wealth. “Hear, my beloved brethren: Has not God chosen the poor as to the world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to them that love him?” (James 2:5).
If we have faith then we will be faithful to God and to His word. “Here, further, it is sought in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).
Dependence and patience:
We depend on God’s grace and power for everything. “That your faith might not stand in men's wisdom, but in God's power” (1 Corinthians 2:5). Paul even said that he “received mercy of [the] Lord to be faithful” (1 Corinthians 7:25). We even need the Lord to help us be faithful to Him. “I am crucified with Christ, and no longer live, I, but Christ lives in me; but in that I now live in flesh, I live by faith, the faith of the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). So we must be dependent on God to serve Him and live in patience for then we shall see His will come to light. “That ye be not sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience have been inheritors of the promises” (Hebrews 6:12). We can become inheritors of the promises here on earth through faith and not just when we are in heaven.
When we pray in faith we do not doubt that God is able to do what we ask. We know that all prayer will have an answer according to God’s will. “And Jesus answering said to them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and do not doubt, not only shall ye do what is done to the fig-tree, but even if ye should say to this mountain, Be thou taken away and be thou cast into the sea, it shall come to pass” (Matthew 21:21). “But the Lord said, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye had said to this sycamine tree, Be thou rooted up, and be thou planted in the sea, and it would have obeyed you” (Luke 17:6). “But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting. For he that doubts is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and tossed about” (James 1:6). We are confident in entering God’s presence knowing are sins are gone. “In whom we have boldness and access in confidence by the faith of him” (Ephesians 3:12). “Let us approach with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, sprinkled as to our hearts from a wicked conscience, and washed as to our body with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22).
Confidence in God’s power:
Having seen how faithful God is and knowing that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1v37) means that we will have confidence in God’s ability to act. “This man heard Paul speaking, who, fixing his eyes on him, and seeing that he had faith to be healed” (Acts 14:9). This means we will have boldness to speak of Him to others. “For those who shall have ministered well obtain for themselves a good degree, and much boldness in faith which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3:13).
Faith gives us the certainty that God will fully fulfil his promises in the Bible. He has already fulfilled many of them. God’s promise to Abraham was fulfilled after 100 years of patient faith “and not being weak in faith, he considered not his own body already become dead, being about a hundred years old, and the deadening of Sarah's womb” (Romans 4:19). Knowing that we have been saved by grace through faith makes God’s promises more certain (or surer) than if we had to try and gain salvation through our own efforts which fall short of God’s glory. “Therefore it is on the principle of faith, that it might be according to grace, in order to the promise being sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of Abraham's faith, who is father of us all” (Romans 4:16).
There are many that we are told in the Bible for which we might not yet understand the reason but nevertheless in faith we obey what we are told and eventually the reason will become apparent. “By whom we have received grace and apostleship in behalf of his name, for obedience of faith among all the nations” (Romans 1:5). “Has now been made manifest, and by prophetic scriptures, according to commandment of the eternal God, made known for obedience of faith to all the nations” (Romans 16:26).
Love and responsibility for others:
Faith and love go together in scripture and therefore a person marked by faith in God will become more like Him and will be marked by love. “And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2). “And now abide faith, hope, love; these three things; and the greater of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision has any force, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). “So then, as we have occasion, let us do good towards all, and specially towards those of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10). “That the Christ may dwell, through faith, in your hearts, being rooted and founded in love” (Ephesians 3:17). “Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God [the] Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 6:23). “Having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and the love which ye have towards all the saints” (Colossians 1:4). Likewise, in this love a person of faith will take up responsibility for the care of others, especially in their families. “But if any one does not provide for his own [widowed relatives], and specially for those of his house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than the unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).
We will be firm, vigilant and strong in faith; able to resist the attacks of the devil. “Be vigilant; stand fast in the faith; quit yourselves like men; be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). A person in faith will be able to endure and resist the attacks of the devil. “Here is the endurance of the saints, who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12), “If any one leads into captivity, he goes into captivity. If any one shall kill with the sword, he must with the sword be killed. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:10). We know that all who attack and even kill God’s people will one day be punished and this helps us to endure the injustices that we face in the world. Though, we would pray that many of those who persecute God's people might be saved before that judgement falls upon them.
So, the person of faith will display many characteristics that the people of the world around us will not be able to understand. Not only that but the “shield of faith” will enable us to stand firm for the Lord giving Him thanks even when others would be giving up. “Rooted and built up in him, and assured in the faith, even as ye have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving”. (Colossians 2:7). God has made faith the founding principle upon which His work in us is being accomplished and so when faced with attack we can stand firm, even as we are told not “to turn their minds to fables and interminable genealogies, which bring questionings rather than further God's dispensation, which is in faith. But the end of what is enjoined is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith” (1 Timothy 1:4-5).
We also endure because we have hope, knowing that one day soon we shall see the Lord and be with Him. Faith has always been connected with confidence in God’s promises for the future. “All these died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them from afar off and embraced them” (Hebrews 11:13) and also “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” (Hebrews 11:20).
Let it be said of us, even as Paul could say of the Thessalonians that he was “remembering unceasingly your work of faith, and labour of love, and enduring constancy of hope, of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).