What Faith Is and Is Not

March 8, 2018 • Life for Leaders

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

Ephesians 1:15-16


As we saw in yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, faith is one of the essential elements of the Christian life, something you’d be sure to include if you were to summarize Christian living “in a nutshell.” But what is faith?

In common speech, “faith” is often associated with that which we cannot know for sure, or even that which we believe to be false but want to be true. In the beloved Christmas film Miracle on 34th Street, Fred Gailey explains, “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.” Later, we cheer when young Susie Walker says, “I believe. I believe. It’s silly, but I believe.” Faith, for the characters in Miracle on 34th Street, means believing, in spite of reasonable doubt, that a man who calls himself Kris Kringle really is Santa Claus.

A pair of glasses with a sunset in the background.The Bible uses “faith” in a different way. Though faith does go beyond what reason can prove, it is solidly based on experience and thoughtfulness. Faith is not wishful thinking. Even less is it believing something in spite of strong evidence to the contrary. Christians have faith in God because of what God has revealed about himself in history, in Scripture, among his people, and most of all in Jesus Christ.

Now, to be sure, God does not reveal himself in such an obvious way that we have no choice but to have faith in him. In the mystery of God’s gracious wisdom, he shows us who he is, yet allows us to see “only a reflection as in a mirror” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We have to wait for the time in the future when we will see God fully and clearly as we now see another person face to face.

Thus, Christian faith may not always be consistent with what Fred Gailey calls “common sense,” but it is consistent with good sense. It is a reasonable response to God’s self-revelation, yet a response that goes beyond mere reason. Sometimes, believing in God might feel silly to us, even as believing in Kris Kringle felt silly to Susie Walker. Yet, the more we pay attention to how God has made himself known to us, the less we will think of faith as something silly, even though it will always have a childlike quality to it.

Something to Think About:

When you talk about faith, what do you mean?

To what extent is faith something contrary to reason?

To what extent is faith based on reason?

To what extent is faith something that goes beyond reason?

Something to Do:

Take time to think about why you have faith in God. How has God made himself known to you? When have you struggled with faith? Why? What helps your faith to grow?


Gracious God, thank you for giving us the capacity to know you. Thank you for making yourself known to us in ways we can understand. Thank you for helping us to have faith in you, faith that is at the same time reasonable and yet beyond reason.

Show me, I pray, what true faith is. Help me to grow in faith, so that I might know you more truly and walk with you more consistently.

I pray today for those who are struggling with faith, that you reveal more of yourself to them. Draw them into your embrace. Fill them with your truth. Reassure them by your grace. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Gifted Communities (1 Corinthians 12:1–14:40)



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