The Facts about Faith

“You just to have it have faith” is a common phrase mentioned in Christian circles. But, what is faith? Have you ever stopped and considered what it means and the context we often use it in?

I’m not sure about you, but for me, it has most often been used in conversations where understanding is lacking. Say, for example, someone gets sick and we just aren’t sure why. We pray and pray and pray and that person does not get well. What do you say? Does it have something to do with having faith even though we don’t know what God was up to or what he might be communicating?

Or, the job you love gets pulled out from underneath you. Is it faith that stands in the gap when we aren’t sure what to do next? Is it faith we use when life just doesn’t seem fair? If so, faith in what? Is it faith that because you lost the job that you loved God is going to give you a better job? Does there always have to be a reason for everything?

I’m sorry for all the questions. But really think about it.

I have also seen faith used as an explanation for the existence of god in the context of creation. We aren’t sure how the first things got here so we say it’s faith. When we do that, we leverage faith to fill the gaps in what we know and what we have yet to know. Of course, what happens to our faith when our knowing starts-a-growing? Faith goes out of the window. If you’re not sure what I mean, follow any church-going Christian into his freshman year of science at the local university. It’s the drive-through window of “I’m losing my faith.”

It’s not surprising. Especially when we talk about faith this way.

We often turn to Hebrews 11, the “hall of faith!” It reads like this:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen..”

See! There it is! We don’t see it so we have faith instead. Where facts run out, faith runs in. But again, what happens when our facts grow?

Maybe we are thinking about faith wrong.

The verse gets more interesting when we get to this word, “assurance.”

It’s a combination of two Greek words transliterated hupo, which is the preposition ‘under’ and histemi which is a prolonged form of the verb to stand. When used together, the preposition becomes the means by which we stand. The verse literally reads, “Now faith is the thing under us that gives us the means to stand for a long time.” Faith, then, becomes the foundation.

Here’s the first point I want to make. If you have used faith as I have, you would have said faith is the quickrete that patches the holes in the foundation. But, the writer is telling us something different. Faith is the foundation.

Faith is not a stopgap for where knowledge runs out.

Of course, we are not done. The actual Greek word for assurance is transliterated at hypostasis. If you are in the medical field, you may recognize this as the condition where blood pools in the bottom of someone’s feet. However, the word has another meaning. Around the time of the first and second centuries, hypostasis was emerging as an important concept in Greek philosophy “as the underlying state or underlying substance and is the fundamental reality that supports all else.” Even before the first century, the word carried with it the connotations of some “master plan” to achieve a specific end.

From here, the author of Hebrews runs down the list of some of the heroes of the Old Testament and how their faith gave them the strength to do what God was asking of them.

In chapter 12, we read,

“Since you are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (those she had just mentioned), let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so easily, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and the perfecter of our faith…”

Founders are normally the ones with the plan if you catch my drift.

In Ephesians 2 and several places in the gospel, Jesus is referred to as the cornerstone or the capstone. At the end of the sermon on the mount, Jesus says if we listen we build our house on solid rock and not a flimsy foundation.

You have probably figured it out by now, but faith is a person on whom we can squarely stand. It is not what we substitute when we don’t know or understand.

Faith is not a filler for a gap in knowledge. Faith is growing confidence in the authority of Jesus.

I gave this talk to students not too long ago and when I was preparing for it, I came across a picture from Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy. The caption read, “I don’t know what the future holds but I know who holds the future.”

There is a fundamental reality and a person with a plan. His name is Jesus and he’s a solid foundation. He is the reason for our Faith.