I have spent much of last week reflecting on the subject of faith, trying to understand what it really is (and is not) and learning practical lessons for application. It started when I was asked to share in our local church on the subject as part of a teaching series. When faith is mentioned my immediate response is to think of risk, daring men and women, extra ordinary stuff and all that is associated with miracles. However a closer look this past few days has helped me see and appreciate faith in new dimensions.
The most precise definition of faith is found in Hebrews 11 – the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. From this, it seems to me faith is a guarantee of fulfillment of a promise made. It is a collateral held in trust that the promise will be fulfilled. I realised that faith is not an idle notion, a wishful thought or a selfish ambition for anything but it is the certainty that God will fulfill His Word. This led me to the conclusion that Biblical faith is founded on God’s word and any emotive or rational thought process outside the remit of scripture is effectively not Biblical Faith.
A lot of what goes round as faith is mere positive thinking and not to say bland triumphalism /heroism branded as faith simply to give mileage to those who ‘possess’ it. It is viewed as a special ability to trust God and ‘get certain things done’ based on our capacity to trust God. Contrary to that I have come to to the conclusion that Biblical Faith is simple (as opposed to complex) and natural. I wish to summarise a few lessons learnt on Biblical faith.
1. Faith rests on God’s faithfulness. Human faith and divine faithfulness are the obverse and reverse of the same coin. It is precisely because God is faithful that faith is reasonable, for there is no more trustworthy person than God. So, to trust the trustworthy is hardly daring or adventurous – it is plain, sober common sense. Faith is built solery on God’s word to build up expectation and even prayer on what God has not specifically promised is vain and deceitful and the results are often disillusioning and even disastrous.
2. Faith is a gift. We do not believe because we are anymore special than the non-believers. We believe because we are enabled by God’s grace to do so. In other words, faith is itself a response to grace. Faith comes by hearing God’s word and that capacity to hear and respond in obedience and trust is simply a gift from God, not a work of our own for which we can/should take credit.
3. Faith = Believing+Trusting+Taking Action. Biblical Faith is more than merely accepting facts. It involves complete trust that He who said those words is completely trustworthy and he will accomplish what He has said. The big contention for the christian, as was for the Old testament Jew, is – will God fulfill His word? Biblical faith moves individuals to act in obedience to God’s word even though the results are uncertain. James warns that just believing is not sufficient – even demons believe and shudder (Jas 2:19) we need to move to the next level of trusting and acting in obedience.
4. Faith is natural, built on father-child relationship. God is not only the Faithful one but our Father too through Jesus Christ. He invites us to call him ‘Father’ and to share our concerns and needs with him as children do with their parents. Hudson Taylor says: I notice that it is not difficult for me to remember that my children need breakfast, lunch and supper. Indeed I could not forget it and I find it impossible to suppose that our heavenly father is less tender or mindful of His children. God is a good father, He cannot forget His children. I have come to appreciate that great faith is usually simple faith. It is not a secret formula, mantra or code that unlocks God’s promises. It is simple – taking God at His word and living in obedience to it.
5. Faith is necessary in the material realm as in the spiritual realm – both for physical needs as well as spiritual needs. I had an interesting conversation with a friend on the nature of faith. On the one hand was the thinking that we need pure faith and no action for spiritual needs (like the conversion of a friend or nations) and for physical needs more of action than faith (like growing a business). Whatever you think, it seems to me to be a continuum extending from pure faith to pure action where either extremes are not helpful. The thinking then, ought not to be either but both. Faith is necessary for both material and spiritual needs and a fair balance between faith and action needs to be sought.
6. Faith is not incompatible with the use of means. During Hudson Taylor’s first voyage to China in 1853, the vessel in which he was sailing was caught in severe storm. He had promised his mother that he would wear a life-belt but when the captain ordered passengers to wear them, he felt it would be a sign of unbelief and thereby dishonouring to God, so he gave his life-belt away. Later on he reflected on his action and saw his mistake thus “The use of means ought not to lessen our faith in God, and our faith in God ought not to hinder our using whatever means he has given us for the accomplishment of His own purposes”. Similarly, a farmers trust in God is not incompatible with ploughing, sowing or reaping nor a patients faith incompatible with going to a doctor or taking medicine or a leaders faith incompatible with necessary organisation or fundraising. We must remember that Jesus is Lord over both the means and the ends.
In conclusion, authentic Biblical faith is not superstition or credulity or lazy inactivity – it rests on the faithfulness and fatherliness of God and is accompanied by sensible precautions and actions. 
When we are afraid we need to hear Christ asking His disciples – where is your faith? (Mark 4:40) Faith arrests all our fears – even the greatest of them all. What do you think?
 Steer, Roger: Hudson Taylor: Lessons in Discipleship, OMF International /Monarch Publications, Crowborough UK, 1995,Pg 14.
 John RW Stott(Foreword); Hudson Taylor: Lessons in Discipleship, OMF International /Monarch Publications Pg.15