What is faith? According to Hebrews, it is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is more than feelings, more than correct belief, more than holding to a specific doctrine. When Abraham heard the voice of God calling him to leave his home and go to the place that God would show him, his response – his action to go without knowing where he was going, was faith. Faith combines action, thought, will, and heart. Faith embraces the mystery without having all the answers, without having certainty, but still having assurance that the path chosen is real, is true.
The church leader Paul says in Romans 3:28: “We are made right with God through faith.” Paul made the distinction between obeying the Law as a way to be made right with God versus having faith. Paul challenged the religion of his day that based their identity and connection with God on strict adherence to the law given to Moses. Obedience to the law was a standard that Jesus did not think was possible -- in fact, Jesus taught that such striving for obedience to the law is futile and self-destructive, it leads to pride and hypocrisy.
A Roman commander came to Jesus with a request. The commander’s young servant was dying and he asked Jesus to heal the servant. The commander said, “Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come.” Jesus was amazed. He said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” (Matthew 8)
A father brought his son to Jesus and the disciples for healing. The son suffered from severe seizures. The man said to Jesus, “Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9) Jesus healed the son. It was enough.
Jesus has done all that is needed for salvation. In Jesus Christ, God has taken all the sin and brokenness of the world upon himself. Isaiah prophecies the coming of the Messiah: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him and by his wounds we are healed.(Isaiah 53:5).” Jesus has revealed through the cross that God does not hold our sins against us, but instead God takes the blame for all that is wrong in the world so that we can be made right with God once and for all. Jesus gave his life all for love. Paul puts it this way: “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).” It is the love of God that is revealed in the sacrifice of Jesus that takes away the sins of the world.
In 1 Corinthians 13, the church leader Paul articulates some of the most beautiful words said about love, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” Paul goes on to say in the same chapter, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”
What does Jesus count as faith? Faith cannot be narrowly defined as correct belief. Between faith, hope, and love, the greatest is love. What it comes down to is this: we are not saved because of our faith. We are saved because of God’s love, God’s grace, -- his unconditional love and acceptance of everyone, revealed to us through Jesus.
Do you have faith? Do you have faith that God’s will, will one day be fulfilled? Do you have faith that God can redeem every person on the planet? Do you have faith that God’s love is great enough to forgive everyone’s sins and heal everyone’s brokenness regardless of their belief or unbelief? Faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains and change hearts, even your heart, even my heart, and even the world. God gives us faith – not always in the same measure, it is expressed in many different ways; faith is so much bigger than how it is manifested and understood in our world today and so is God. Faith, hope, and love will last forever. But the greatest is love. Love -- God’s love trumps faith every time.