What Faith Isn’t

In Candid Christianity: The Blog, Christian RealTalk by Antwuan Malone

Faith may be the most saturated, improperly used words in American society. Pop singers, athletes and star actors refer to “having faith” in their songs, in after game interviews, and in their acceptance speeches.

But what the heck does having faith mean?  And further, faith in what?


For most, faith refers to one’s religion in a politically correct way. Rather than state the particulars of our belief in a particular religion or god(s), we simply say we“had faith” or “our faith got you through.”  We’ve diluted faith’s real meaning. As American society seems to define it, “having faith” blurs together some combination of religion, determination, hard work and self-reliance. We’ve come to believe faith, when used correctly, promises achievement of our goals and dreams.

Does the Bible support this view of faith, or is there something more to it?

Perhaps it is better to say what faith is not.  Faith is not hope. Hebrews 11:1 says “faith is the substance of things hoped for…” but it does not equate the two. Faith, like love, needs an object: something to empty itself into, something to lean on. For Christians, that something is Creator God. Faith is not hoping things will work out the way we want. Nor is it the belief that hard work pays off the way we imagine it should. Faith is determined, but is not defined by our determination or mental fortitude to continue through obstacles to reach a goal. Those things are valiant, but they are not faith. In fact, faith is not really about us at all.

Faith is knowing that God is with you. No, trusting God is with you.  Faith trusts God’s leadership and accepts the results of his promptings in your life as part of the plan, whether they seem to work in our favor at the moment or not. It is not situational, and often yields unsuccessful results by (as we may define success). Faith, like love, should not teeter-totter on how promising or detrimental life may feel, but is meant to remain steady through all circumstances. Like love, it is unconditional.

In anything  faith, like love, shines through the brightest in our tragic moments. Faith is Job saying “though he slay me, yet will I trust Him!” It’s Joseph never giving up on God, even after he’s sold into slavery by his brothers, thrown into a pit, and unjustly imprisoned. Faith shines brightest in the face of  tragedy: the sudden death of a loved one, a miscarriage, a divorce, a lost job, a disease.  Faith trusts that, despite the dire nature of our various situations, God is still with us working toward the greater good. Thus, faith is not expectant of delivery or salvation, but expectant of his presence, and of his continual, unconditional love.

This sort of selfless faith is fundamental to the Christian experience, and we must guard its meaning and power. We have to resist the urge to add “faith” to the toolbox we use to get ahead in this life. In the end, faith does not feed our earthly success as much as it forms the bond of our heavenly relationship with God.

There’s a reason Paul lists faith, hope, and love as strong pillars of Christian principles in 1Corinthians 13. Love is king, but Faith is right there next to it.

How would you define “Faith?”

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.