What is Faith?

When talking to non-Christians, the nature of faith can be a tricky topic. For some followers of the aggressive ‘New Atheist’ movement, faith is something that stupid, ignorant fanatics use to cover up the fact that there is no evidence for their beliefs. Thankfully, I don’t know many people who actually hold this view, but there can still be a lot of uncertainty over what faith actually is. Without a doubt, as a concept, it can be very hard to pin down.

Whilst at Soul Survivor last week, I heard a talk from a Malaysian pastor called Clement Wong that was called ‘What is Faith?’ As part of that hour long seminar, he gave us five levels of faith to help us see the different ways that it can come into our lives. In this post, I’m giving you those five levels, keeping as much as possible to the ideas that he was communicating. I’d never really thought about faith in levels exactly like this, so I’m still going through it in my own mind, but I want to get these out there as a particular point of view that might help people to come to terms with what this thing called faith actually is.

Level 1: Natural Faith – This is the faith that everybody has, regardless of religious beliefs. It is the everyday acceptance of things that can’t necessarily be proved. For example, before sitting down on your sofa, you don’t check that it can take your weight, you just have faith that it can because it has never failed before. There is an almost endless list of examples of this kind of faith: faith that your pilot isn’t drunk when you fly to America, faith that your car’s engine won’t explode, faith that the food that you bought from the supermarket isn’t poisoned…the list goes on. In a sense, this faith is unremarkable; it just allows us to go on living normal lives.

Level 2: Saving Faith – This is the basic level of faith required to be a Christian. It is faith that Jesus, whom we can neither see, nor touch, is still alive today and died on the cross to save us from our sins, rising again 3 days later. This is faith because it cannot be proven to us, and even though a Christian may see that there is a lot of evidence for the historical truth of the death/resurrection of Christ, we can’t prove it, and thus faith is required for us to take it as truth.

Level 3: Living in Faith – As Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, Christians ‘live by faith in the Son of God’. This means that once we have taken that (cliché alert) ‘leap of faith’, or in other words, applied that saving faith, our lives become lives of faith. This goes beyond simply believing the words of God as written in the Bible, this is applying them to our lives, in order that our faith can be demonstrated by our good works (James 2:18).  James 2 is a very good passage for explaining what this sort of faith looks like, so rather than trying to do a better job than the God-inspired apostle, I’ll let you read that if you want to understand it further.

Level 4: Miracle Faith – I suppose that the best way of describing this kind of faith is to refer you to the attitude of the centurion in Mark 8:8-9. This is the confidence that God has the power to do the miraculous, to heal the sick and raise the dead. As Clement Wong was at pains to point out, having the faith to see miracles is more than just hoping that God will answer your prayers, it’s knowing that God will answer your prayers. Instead of praying ‘God, please heal my friend’, we should pray ‘God, thank you for healing my friend’ and believe it. In some ways, faith is practical belief, and this sort of faith – miracle faith – involves letting belief in God’s power become a real, tangible expectation for awesome things to happen.

Level 5: Gift of Faith – This is the one that is hardest for me to explain from the talk, but in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul mentions a gift of faith in 12:9. I’ll explain this the way I’ve always understood it, because I don’t think there was anything in the talk that contradicted me. Basically, this faith is a complete trust in God whatever is going on in your life. No matter how hard things get, you can always thank God for his mercies, like Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22-24. I believe that God doesn’t just give this gift to people for their own benefit, but for the benefit of people around them. If those who aren’t as strong in faith see someone going through hard times and still praising God, then their faith will be strengthened. Because it is a gift, I don’t think that this kind of faith is something that everybody can receive, just as not everybody will be a prophet or an interpreter of tongues, but it’s certainly something that we should all desire and pray for.

Well there you have it, five different levels of faith. I hope this makes things a bit clearer for anyone who might have been struggling to come to terms with what faith looks like.

Remember, the Biblical definition of faith is this:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Gene says:

    Kinda cool, never thought of faith broken down in these terms either but it makes sense. That “gift of faith” he refers to is a tough one to understand. Do we all get that or is it given to certain people in certain circumstances… hmmmmm. Thanks for the post!

    1. bengarry says:

      Thanks Gene! I’d never heard of it like this until he spoke either, but I think the breakdown works. I suppose that how you understand the gift of faith probably largely depends on how you understand other spiritual gifts, but it’s hard to know how many people get it, when they get it and how long they get it for.


    What is faith? Faith is believing in something you cannot prove.

    Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (New International Version-1984)
    Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of thing hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (New American Standard Bible)
    Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (King James Version)

    I have faith that Jesus is the Son of God. I have faith that He performed miracles. I have faith that Jesus was resurrected from the grave by God the Father. I believe this because I have faith that the historical record of the Bible is accurate, yet I cannot prove it. There are no living eyewitness to confirm that Jesus was who He said He was or that He was resurrected from the dead, I accept it by faith, I believe it, however, I cannot prove it.

    Atheists do not believe the fact that Jesus was the Son of God or that there even is a God, they cannot prove their unbelief, they accept it by faith.

    Romans 8:24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what he already sees?(NASB)

    We have hope we have been saved, but we hope because of faith. We cannot prove we have been saved. We believe that we have been save because we believe, by faith, that the Bible is accurate and trustworthy.

    John 20:27-31 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with you finger, see My hands and put them into my side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!’29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” …… (NASB)

    Thomas had proof that Jesus was resurrected from the grave. Men today cannot prove the resurrection of Jesus from the grave, they accept it by faith.

    There were more than five hundred brethren, including the apostles, who saw Jesus alive after He faced death on the cross. They were eyewitnesses, they had proof of the resurrection of Jesus. (1 Corinthians 15:3-7)

    Those of us alive today have to have FAITH that the Biblical accounts of Jesus and His resurrection are true. We cannot prove they are true. NO ONE IS ALIVE TODAY WHO WAS AN EYEWITNESS TO THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS.


    NOTE: Atheists believe, by faith, that God does not exists, but they cannot prove it.

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY CHRISTIAN BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

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