What Exactly Is Faith? How Can We Have True Faith?

By Anxin

With regard to faith, it is said in Scripture: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). From this verse we can see that faith involves the belief that everything we hope for shall be realized, and the confidence that things we cannot see shall be achieved. In the course of following God, faith is particularly important because it represents one’s true dependence on and admiration of God. Only those who possess true faith can witness God’s wondrous deeds and be made perfect by Him. So what does faith refer to? Let’s look at some biblical records to find the answer.

It is recorded in the Bible, “And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried to Him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, You Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and sought Him, saying, Send her away; for she cries after us. But He answered and said, I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, help me. But He answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said to her, O woman, great is your faith: be it to you even as you will. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour” (Matthew 15:22–28). These verses tell a story about a Canaanite woman who asked the Lord Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter, and how her daughter was cured because of her faith. So why did the Lord Jesus commend her that her faith was great? What exactly showed her faith? Was it her willingness to be a dog?

As for this question, let’s look at a passage of words and then we will understand: “Why did the Lord Jesus praise the faith of this person? It was not because she was willing to be a dog, nor was it because she was willing to eat bread crumbs. This is all secondary. What was it that the Lord Jesus praised her for? It was that she didn’t care whether the Lord Jesus saw her as a dog, as a person, or as the devil Satan. She didn’t care what He saw her as. The most important point was that she regarded the Lord Jesus as God, and that she affirmed the Lord Jesus to be the Lord, and to be God. This is a truth and a fact that is eternally unchanging. The Lord Jesus was God, was the Lord, was the One affirmed as such in her heart, and that was enough. Irrespective of whether the Lord Jesus saved her or didn’t save her, whether He saw her as someone to eat with together at table, or as a disciple, or a follower, or whether He saw her as a lapdog or guard dog, it was all fine, she didn’t care. In any case, it was enough for her to acknowledge that the Lord Jesus was the Lord of her heart; this was her greatest faith.” It can be seen from this passage that the Lord Jesus praised the faith of the Canaanite woman not because she was willing to be a dog, but because she affirmed the Lord Jesus to be the true God in her heart no matter how He treated her or what He saw her as. She believed that He had authority and power and regarded Him as her God, her Lord. From the perspective of our notions, the Lord Jesus could have granted that woman’s plea and cured her daughter, given that He had displayed so many signs and miracles, and had healed the sick and cast out demons many times, yet the Lord Jesus spoke something that didn’t conform to our notions. The Canaanite woman, however, didn’t become disheartened and walk off, nor did she doubt or blame the Lord. Instead, she acknowledged the Lord Jesus as the Lord and God irrespective of whether He would save her daughter or not, and in her heart this is a fact that is eternally unchanging. Having seen her true heart, the Lord Jesus praised the Canaanite woman that her faith was great.

There is another story in the Bible: “And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came to Him a centurion, beseeching Him, And saying, Lord, my servant lies at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus said to him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it. When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to them that followed, Truly I say to you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say to you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said to the centurion, Go your way; and as you have believed, so be it done to you. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour” (Matthew 8:5–13). This is a story about how a centurion asked the Lord Jesus to heal his servant. So why did the Lord say his faith was great? What is the manifestation of his great faith? Let’s look at what he said to the Lord to find out.

The Centurion asked Jesus to come and heal his servant
Sweet Publishing/FreeBibleimages.org/CC BY-SA 3.0

When hearing the Lord say He would come to his house to heal his servant, the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” Why would he say these words? On the one hand, he was aware that his status was too low and insignificant while the Lord’s identity was too honorable and great, and so he felt he wasn’t fit for the Lord to come to his house to heal his servant. On the other hand, he recognized from his heart that the Lord’s ability to heal the sick wasn’t possessed by any human being. Maybe he had seen or heard that the Lord could cure the sick as soon as He spoke, and so he believed without doubt that the Lord’s words had authority and power. Therefore, it was built upon his true faith in the Lord that he could say the words “but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” By “shall be healed,” he meant that he believed from his heart that as long as the Lord spoke the word, his servant would be cured, about which he had no doubt or conjecture. This is the faith of the centurion.

No matter it is the Canaanite woman or the centurion, they both saw the Lord’s deeds through their faith, which the Lord praised as great because they had never doubted His authority or power but firmly believed that His words could accomplish all. Just as the Bible says: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:3). Then take a look at our own faith in God: During the course of our following God, we often lose confidence in God when things not in accordance with our notions befall us. For example, some, when the Lord doesn’t cure their diseases, lose confidence in Him or even complain against Him; some blame the Lord for not protecting them once unfavorable things happen to their families or their work doesn’t go smoothly, and they choose to rely on their own abilities to solve those problems rather than entrust them to the Lord through faith; there are also some who have faith in God and rely on Him in small matters, but when it comes to major issues, they mistrust God and don’t dare to depend on Him but instead choose to rely on the people, events and things that are beneficial to them. It is just because we hold such kind of attitude toward God that we are unable to see His deeds or authority.

There is a passage in a book which explains more clearly about what faith is: “People’s faith is required for when something cannot be seen by the naked eye, and your faith is required for when you cannot let go of your own notions. When you are not clear on God’s work, what is required is your faith and that you take a firm stance and stand witness. … That is, it is only from within your faith that you will be able to see God, and when you have faith God will perfect you. Without faith, He cannot do this. God will bestow upon you whatever you hope to gain. If you don’t have faith, you cannot be perfected and you will be unable to see God’s actions, much less see His omnipotence. When you have faith and you can touch His actions in your practical experience, God will appear to you, and He will enlighten and guide you from within. Without that faith, God will be unable to do that. If you have lost hope in God, how will you be able to experience His work? Therefore, only when you have faith and you do not harbor doubts toward God, only when you have true faith in Him no matter what He does will He enlighten and illuminate you in your experiences, and only then will you be able to see His actions. These things are all achieved through faith, and faith is only achieved through refinement—faith cannot develop in the absence of refinement.

It can be seen that faith is gained through personally experiencing things we encounter. No matter what befalls us, we should first believe that this is a situation arranged by God, and then come before God and constantly pray to and seek Him to obtain His leadership and enlightenment and get to know His will, during which we should believe that every word of God will be accomplished and that God is absolutely righteous. This is the manifestation of true faith. Perhaps some of us are suffering from serious illness, some are in a slump in their careers, some who have just entered society after graduation are feeling perplexed about the future—no matter what kind of environment we are in or what things we encounter, as long as we have true knowledge about God’s authority and sovereignty, we will be able to put aside our own intent, desires and demands, and possess the rationality of obeying God’s orchestrations and arrangements. Just like the Canaanite woman—she firmly believed in God as her Lord and that He was capable of accomplishing all irrespective of what He called her or whether He would heal her daughter. It’s also like the centurion who acknowledged the authority and power of the Lord’s words, so much so that he believed they could cure his servant regardless of where they were spoken by the Lord. If we can possess such true faith in God, we will be able to witness His deeds.

 

Extended Reading:

Do You Possess the Faith of the Canaanite Woman?

Two Stories Tell You What Real Faith in God Is

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