Faith is Not Denial of Reality
Although the Bible constantly speaks about faith, there is only one passage in the Bible that offers an explicit definition of faith. As stated in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (ESV) Or, in another translation, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (NIV)
Faith, then, is not the denial of reality. It is not a convenient escape mechanism for those who want to put their heads in the sand. Instead, faith takes hold of the highest reality — the reality of the unseen realm, the reality of God. But for that very reason, it is faith: because we do not see it with our physical eyes or experience it with our physical senses.
Yet, to repeat, faith is not the denial of reality, an escape mechanism for the weak-minded. To the contrary, it is an unshakable confidence that there is a higher reality than what our physical senses can discern, a higher reality that is just as real (in fact, even more real) than anything in this natural realm.
Trust in Someone Who Has Proven Trustworthy in the Past
We can have faith on a totally human level, trusting that someone will come through for us even when it looks like all hope is lost. “Dad promised me that he would get those funds into my account, and I know that Dad will never let me down.”
You’ve seen the faithfulness of your Dad for decades and you know that his word is as good as gold, even down to the last minute. So you remain confident. “I know that Dad will come through!”
There’s a scientific faith that makes certain assumptions based on logical deductions: “We know that B and C exist, but we also know that there can be no B and C without A. So we posit the existence of A, even though we cannot go back in time to prove its existence.”
When it comes to biblical faith, it is similar to these natural and scientific kinds of faith, and yet very different.
It is similar in that it is relational (as in trusting Dad to keep his word) and it is rational (as in making a scientific deduction).
On the relational level, we know God as Father. Jesus becomes our closest Friend. We walk with the Lord over the years and see His faithfulness. We test out the promises of Scripture, we learn of His character, and we determine that what He says He will do. His character is unchangeable. He is good in His very essence, and we can rely on Him in this world and the world to come.
On the rational level, we see unmistakable evidence of His hand in the creation of the universe and the unique crafting of our planet. We see the hand of the designer in human DNA. We see clear signs of His intervention in the course of history and through undeniable miraculous interventions. We can even recognize the reality of God through the Bible itself.
Yet real faith is also different than the human and scientific examples I gave.
That’s because God is God, meaning, He cannot truly be compared to anyone or anything else. He is absolutely and utterly unique. Consequently, faith in God is unique as well.
It’s Hard to Deny the Reality of a Life-Changing Experience
For some of us, He intervened in our lives when we were not looking for Him, making us aware of our guilt and our sin and then radically transforming us when we put our faith in Him. Who can deny such a life-altering experience?
It’s like the man born blind whom Jesus healed in John 9. When questioned by the religious authorities, who claimed that Jesus was a sinner, he responded, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25)
So too, for many of us, when questioned by family or friends or critics as to our new faith, we replied, “I can’t answer all your questions. But I can tell you this: Jesus changed my life!”
But there’s another way that our faith in God is unique: He often tests us to help us grow.
You see, there is nothing more important in our lives than that we truly trust and know the Lord. If we do, the other areas of our lives — our character and our conduct — will fall into place. Put another way, it is impossible to be in right relationship with God without also living rightly.
The Lord Proved Himself to the Israelites Before Asking Them to Make Covenant With Him
And so, because of the importance of faith, the Lord will often test us. As Moses said to ancient Israel after wandering in the wilderness for one whole generation, “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:2–3)
But remember: the Lord only did this after rescuing His people from Egypt through many signs and wonders, after splitting the sea for them, and while sustaining them miraculously in the wilderness for 40 years. He made Himself known in unmistakable ways, and then He called on His people to trust Him.
I could also mention that, unique to our faith in God is the power of faith, namely, that through faith we can actuate His promises. In other words, our believing actually does something dynamic because it is living faith in a living, all-powerful God.
To be sure, many times, to non-believers, we look like people living in denial, as if in a bubble of religious fantasy. And on some occasions, this is true: we are living in our own, self-made religious fantasies.
But for those of us who have put our faith in the one true God, who have truly trusted His Word and His character, and who have come into a real relationship with Him, there is no denying of reality at all. To the contrary, we have taken hold of the highest reality, the ultimate reality.
It is a reality that was here long before the universe was formed. And it is reality that will be here long after this universe, in its present form, is gone.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is The Political Seduction of the Church: How Millions of American Christians Have Confused Politics with the Gospel. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.