[Willow Creek Association] 1999-05-28 - Belief or Faith?

Faith is a word we sometimes throw around loosely. It's one of those words that we use so much that the meaning becomes worn and unclear. People say, "just have faith" or "keep being faithful." People will say to me, "I have faith in your work, David." I will always reply, "just have confidence and belief in my work, not faith." Webster's defines belief as "trust or confidence." Think about it a minute: How would you define faith?

Just what is the real meaning of faith? The writer of Hebrews defines faith for us.

Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Faith is much stronger than belief. Faith is an active word; belief is passive. Surveys show time and time again that if you ask average Americans if they believe in God, they will overwhelmingly answer yes. Many people believe in God, but do they have faith?

Belief in something is when you are stranded on the top of a burning building and down below are firefighters with a large net. In your mind you believe you will be able to jump just the right distance; the net will hold you and you will be safe. You can believe all you want, but belief alone will not save you. Faith is when you jump. Faith saves you from the pending disaster. Faith is acting on your belief.

We often build buildings not out of brick and mortar, but rather out of images in our minds. We build buildings of guilt, worry, resentment, jealousy, anger, despair and so on. We stand on top of these buildings and look out over the edge, and we have a choice. We can chose to stay on top of our burning buildings and simmer or we can take action and have faith in God and His people. We have a choice: Simmer and build the building higher in our minds, or take a leap of faith into God's waiting net. God's net consists of His people. People waiting to help us.

Some of us just need to get off the "I believe in God" bandwagon and onto the "I have an active, alive faith in God" wagon. We need to move from simply watching, to doing. If the 80-90% of the people in America who believe, had an active faith in God that was shown by their works, what a different country we would be. For example, if all the "believers" simply had faith to tithe, there would be no need for government programs to help the less fortunate. The church would do it. James says it best in the verse below.

James 1:22 (NIV) Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Father, help us to move from merely listening and believing Your word, to having a more complete faith in You. Forgive us for falling short of the mark. Give us Your wisdom and strength to carry on. In Christ's name, Amen.