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What Does it Mean to Live by Faith?

Everyone has faith in something.

But the author of the New Testament letter to the Hebrews has a specific kind of faith in view when he writes, “Without faith it is impossible to please [God], for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6).

This text raises questions in my mind. Is the reward of seeking God getting what I’m pursuing him for? Or is the reward finding a God who is infinitely better and wiser than I am.

I also keep coming back to something the Bible tells us about “the father of our faith.”  In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans he says about Abraham, “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform” (Rom 4:19-21).

Paul’s description of Abraham’s faith suggests that God is pleased by the kind of belief that relies on what he has said. Yet other parts of the Bible seem to picture people of faith entrusting themselves to God because of the powerful things he has done in creation and history to reveal the kind of God he is (Joshua 2:9-11). Maybe the common factor is that God asks us to entrust ourselves to him on the basis of what he has told us about himself through his written word and  the wonder of creation (Psalm 19; Romans 1:19-20)

Would be interested in how you think through the difference between having faith in God, and wishful thinking? Do you agree that casually or carelessly talking about “believing God” for something can say more about our desires than his promises?

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30 Responses to “What Does it Mean to Live by Faith?”

  1. poohpity says:

    It seems like the hall of faith came from the people that God had made promises to and they had not lived to see them all fulfilled. I wonder if some of the things we want are not just that, the things we want. I get confused sometimes if there isn’t a difference between our wants or desires and what God truly would like for us. I think sometimes what God wants most of us is to want His will for our lives and not for us to have our own desires because they mostly involve self. I wonder if we do not get in the way of truly hearing from God long enough to know what His Will for us really is.

  2. teena says:

    What God is teaching me right now is patience. In the past I was hasty in making decisions; never truly taking into consideration what God had in mind for me. I have always known He has my best interests at heart. But did I really believe it? I have made some very wrong decisions because of acting without listening to Him.
    I believe that waiting on God is the true test of faith and/or believing Him– no matter how hard the circumstances may be, or what the outcome may be. He will always carry you and He always fulfills His promises. It is what I am now starting to learn and understand. Thanks be to God.

  3. daisymarygoldr says:

    Never wondered about faith and wishful thinking. Our “wishful thinking” is always doing just the opposite of what God wants us to do because there is no one that seeks after God… Faith is from Him and wishful thinking for believing God is due to the desires He places within our hearts. It is through grace that God gives us the faith- to seek Him and His kingdom for the rest of our lives.

    Having faith in God is to believe that He exists; that according to His promise in Eden He faithfully provided in Jesus Christ, the redemptive plan for the whole world. Abraham grasped this by faith and acted in obedience to God’s call: to leave his country, people and father’s household and go to a land with no name in the middle of nowhere. Even upon reaching the land of promise, Abraham continued to dwell as a sojourner living in temporary tents for he waited for that eternal city. Although in his lifetime, he only saw one lone legal heir- Isaac, by faith Abraham “knew” that he was to become the father of a nation from which the promised Savior would come and it was in Jesus that blessing would be for “all nations on earth”

    We believe God not for His promises to fulfill our earthly needs…He is already doing it without our asking and His grace is always more than sufficient. Therefore, I agree that casually or carelessly talking about “believing God” for something “selfish” can say more about our desires than his promises. We believe God for His blessed promise of hope in a better life after resurrection (Heb 11:35) through Jesus Christ our Lord!

  4. ndibaby says:

    A friend of mine describes faith using the acronym Forsaking All I Trust Him. I think that is a brilliant description of having faith in God. I learnt recently that to have faith in Him is to trust that His plans are the best for you and to want His will above anything else. Having faith in Him means that what we want and desire is for His perfect will to be done in our lives. Sometimes we ask God for stuff and we don’t get it. This does not mean that we did not have enough faith, but that what He has in store for you is a lot better than what you wanted for yourself. So, forsaking all, trust Him!!!

  5. pegramsdell says:

    “To God be the glory”! Maybe if that is our goal, then we will know the difference between our desires and His promises. He says that He will give us the desires of our hearts. So, acting on faith, it is possible that our desires were put there by Him. He “gave” those desires to us. And, if we are close to Him, then we will also know His will, so then we can have faith that He will honor our claim or decision. We can lay our plans and desires out there and He will bless them, because He will get glory from them.

  6. MarkieMark says:

    I sometimes struggle with faith in the sense that when I get into a bind I feel I am not worthy enough to ask God to get me out of it and I screw it up even more.

    Sometimes it is hard for me to realize and receive God’s graces. I feel ashamed and not wanting to bother God with my problems.I believe the scripture says “Consider it all Joy when you encounter Trials” and I think this has to do with the testing of your faith to make it stronger – I really have to work at this one.

    I am going through the biggest trial of my adult life. Losing a job, losing my house and I am looking for a way to “consider it all joy”. I have prayed earnestly for a transformation of the heart and to be able to rely upon the lord more and this is the road I have been lead down.

    It’s very hard to explain to my three teenage daughters that we must “consider it all joy” when we encounter these trial – Thanksgiving around the corner and Christmas after that – need strength to keep them from seeing me sweat.

    Orlando, Florida

  7. macsisson22 says:

    When I think about faith and trust I turn to the book. Faith is the substance of things hoped for … Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean …. When I faulter I remember that Sampson is in the faith chapter, Lot is called a righteous man, and an adulterer/murderer is called a man after God’s own heart. Then we get the impression from religion that we’ve seen all the sins committed by these individuals but God has really only given us a few snippets.

    Granted, our mindset is to modeled after our maker Jesus Christ, but the Word of God tells me that because of this great cloud of witness I can run this race not only for a prize. I can come boldly to the throne of grace, cry out Abba, Father (Daddy)and do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

    Within His Word we have everything we need for faith and practice. As hard as it may be at times,we must remember that when the material becomes smoke and ash like the ropes of Hannaniah, Azariah, and Meshael we will, if we know Him be standing in the presence of the One that looks like the son of the gods. I know that my Redeemer Lives! “I shall see His face in righteousness, I shall be satisfied when I awake in His likeness” (Ps 17:15). Where can I go from His Spirit …?

  8. violet D says:

    Hebrews 11 STARTS “Now faith is( – )being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see …” I, too, frequently struggle with whether my own desires are what God wants for me. Like others I’ve made some very bad choices in my life and God has allowed me to sink into the biggest of messes before I plead for His help and He has come to the rescue. I would like to say that it gets easier as one ages – but ‘selfishness’ still dictates some of my choices. My faith is in Him who knows my every thought and motive and His promises that one day I will be with Him for all eternity.

  9. poohpity says:


    As a daughter, it would have been nice for my dad to tell me the truth about sweating some stuff. That would have allowed me to know he was human because I had him on such a pedestal. It would have meant the world to me to help with the decisions for the future and share in the sorrow. The last two years I was unable to even provide a holiday meal much less a present and my teenagers were OK after a lengthy discussion. So I thought we would go and help deliver meals to the home bound and ended up doing it alone. I still do not know if they learned anything but oh well.

    The author of our faith is the Lord and it says in the bible that all our needs will be provided. I have to trust in that, at first it was a child like faith now it is because I have experienced the Lord’s provision.

    If Jesus Himself asked for Fathers’ will to be done and not His own, how can I ask for anything more if it is His will and His way I seek. I fight with self and my way all the time but my way has gotten me into so much trouble and I trust that the Lord knows what is best for me and others.

  10. SFDBWV says:

    FIrst of all, MarkieMark…My heart goes out to you brother. I don’t know what pathway God has you on but God will be faithful to “ALL” HIS promises. I will be in prayer for you and your family. I wish I could do more.

    Hebrews 11:1 “NOW FAITH is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

    There is a wealth of information in that simple statement.

    There have been great comments already provided. Each expressing God’s Word. “Make your petitions known to me, and I will give you the desires of your heart.”

    Mart your question as I read it asks, “What does it mean to live by faith?” I can quote the promises of scripture, and lay out an arguement that God says , John 14:14 “If ye shall ask any thing in my name,I will do it.”

    I have seen a lot in my 61 years. I continue to be amazed and disappointed at the results of people who put their trust in God. But it is only an observation.

    My own life experiance is a testimoy and witness of getting what I wanted, getting what I didn’t know I needed, having my needs taken care of , and yes…daring to hope against all odds.

    This experiance of life has placed me in a constant prayerful condition, and relationship with God that causes me to be thankful for every day. And when troubles come I have a rock to stand upon and dare to face my troubles with the attitude that God will win out. That I will be taken care of.

    That old song says ” I don’t know what my future holds, but I know who holds my future.”

    Bayard,West Virginia

  11. MarkieMark says:

    poohpity – thanks for the words of encouragement and I will take you up on your advice and let the kids know that I must rely upon the Lord in hard times – I know I must set this example.

    SFDBWV – your prayers are more than I can ask for – thank you so much. I have been on this road to much needed brokeness so that I may built back up. As Oswald Chambers puts it – I must become “broken bread and poured out wine”

    God bless both of you! God has really blessed me with your words of wisdom through your posts over the last few weeks – I really enjoy your strength.

    God Bless!

    MarkieMark – Orlando Fl

  12. wretch-like-me says:

    I have a different and very personal definition for FAITH. It’s called SURRENDER. In my own experience I learned to be self sufficient. I believe we all start that journey from birth. We are totally dependent upon our mothers but quickly learn that by making the right sound we can get what we want… food, comfort, warmth (a clean change.LOL). From there its all about learning how to get what WE WANT. When I first met God I thought I could manipulate Him, too. I had managed to manipulate everyone and everything else. In His wisdom, He allowed me to ‘crash n burn’ until I came to the place of total capitulation. I had tried all else and failed. Why not God? I admit it was not a complete surrender. I thought it was and perhaps it was for the moment. (Funny how a Living Sacrifice keeps crawling off the altar of surrender…LOL) My faith moves at different speeds…sometimes leaps; sometimes inches; sometimes it appears even backward. So, in answer to question, Marti, YES> It is both…at least in my case. I relate my faith experiences thru James Chapter Two.

  13. sitsathisfeet says:

    Sometimes when I feel my faith faltering because of the worries of this life I have to cry out to the Lord as David in the Psalms so often did, when he was running from Saul, in the cave, hiding his sins from the Lord etc. And I ask myself Is God still on the Throne?, Yes, Is God still In control? Yes Is the Lord still faithful to all his promises? Yes. And I try to focus on His character and faithfulness. My faith then is not so dependent on my belief, but my acceptance of who God is,and my belief that He really is who he says He is and will do just what He says He will.

  14. rokdude5 says:

    I truly believe that the “reward” of pursuing God is God Himself. Though we all have wants and desires (which God ALREADY KNOWS about), when we find God and submit ourselves to Him, we truly have everything that truly matters. I need to remind myself, when God says “no”, He is really saying “No, for I have something truly better in mind.” Rom 8:28

  15. drkennyg says:

    The Lord has promised us much in return for our faith in Him. Waiting patiently for His return is truly a test of faith. But I feel I can’t just be alone with this; I must bring this Good News (the Gospel) to others – as many as I am able. It is a tough task in this day and age, but we must continue undaunted. On some days I am lost and afraid, but then thankfully remember what my mission is and that I am on a path to eternity with Jesus at my side.

  16. daisymarygoldr says:

    Speaking of trusting God on the basis of “the wonder of creation” for some of us lazy bones who do not want to read His word…didn’t God feed Elijah by sending a raven to bring him food? BTW, Ravens are notorious for snatching rather than bringing food…did experience being preyed upon for my pancake when little…no bragging here…just sharing about growing up with greedy ravens (Aside: Mart, you have made me so painfully conscious of even daring to whisper anything about myself now that I stand here accused of having mastered it all:(

    Having a nice job to provide for a nice and comfy living is walking by sight. So, “What Does it Mean to Live by Faith?” Not having a job and yet see God’s hand miraculously providing for our needs is to live by faith.

    MarkieMark, you are being prayed for…Know this, that Abraham worked with his frail 100-yr old body to have the promised heir. We should also appropriate our faith in words by living them out as actions. Do not worry…God will take care of you and your girls who will grow up to learn and trust God more than ever! Keep looking and applying for jobs…you may not get the same type or the same pay…but believe that God will provide. He faithfully provides for the fowls of the air and clothes the flowers of the field…

  17. poohpity says:

    I woke this morning with my faith being tested in regards to my mom’s cancer and the next step we are to take and I cried out to God with just the simple word “help”. Well we called Mayo and within an hour we got the schedule for the next thing she has to have done this Friday. The Lord provided answers so we know what steps to take next. One step at a time, one day at a time, Sweet Jesus!! I still stand in amazement at the things he does when so undeserved. Praise’s are rising up in my heart. The faith of a mustard seed. YEAH!

  18. Mart De Haan says:

    daisymarygoldr, a new day– am enjoying so much your comments, your gentle sense of humor/prodding– and the rest of this conversation!! :-).

  19. christ4life says:

    My take on FAITH……I define it as “Total Obedience and Absolute Trust”. To expound on my definition would take gigs of space. I leave the rest of our bloggers to ‘chew on’ this.
    My faith is exercised in every instance when I am forced to make a choice as to what I (my ego) would do versus what God would want me to do. Major challenge!!!!!!!!! This is when wretch-like-me and I concur—I have learnt the hard way that the only way to freedom and victory is to SURRENDER.
    We should be demonstrating our faith to the extent that, like Peter, we are prepared to “walk on water” if Jesus called us to do it (that’s absolute trust); we should be demonstrating our faith to the extent that we obey the rules of Christlike living (as given by The Master Himself in Sermon on the Mount: Matt. 5-7)just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, even with the threat of being thrown into a fiery furnace (that’s total obedience). The exercise of our faith is as important now as it was then because this is the route to Salvation.
    I believe that “all things are possible with God”. Those who casually talk about “believing God” (and there are too many such) are those who- when the ‘big’ problems come- resignedly say “my problem is too big for God”. In so doing they not only extinguish their little mustard seed of faith but also ‘diminish’ the Power of THE ALMIGHTY GOD HIMSELF.

  20. MarkieMark says:

    daisymarygoldr – Thank you so much for your words of encouragement! In just a few short days of reading and writing in this blog – I have found so much comfort! I can’t wait to get up every morning and start my day with Oswald Chambers and this blog – God has lead me to this blog (never participated or even read a blog before).

  21. christ4life says:

    MarkieMark–My prayers are with you. You feel you’re not worthy, none of us is; but remember in spite of our doubts, fears or shame, it is through Jesus Christ we approach The Throne of Grace. So look to Jesus first and always. He is our Way to the Source of Limitless Blessings.

    St.Ann, Jamaica

  22. rokdude5 says:

    For MarkieMark, To echo Christ4life, Heb 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

    For Poohpity, my mother-in-law has been recently given a 2 year prognosis WITH CHEMO. We are blessed that she is still here though she has a long road ahead of her that we are hoping is short on the treatment and long on the recovery. You guys are on my prayer list among others.

  23. blowentw says:

    An Bible teacher of mine from many years ago defined faith as “believing what God has said and acting upon it.” I’m not sure that God is so concerned with what motivates our faith -either what He has said or what He has done-, but by the reality of the effect it has on our behavior. Eventually both will impact our lives. James tells us faith without works is dead, and Paul tells us that we are created to do good works.

    It seems to me that real faith moves us to do good works; wishful thinking causes us to wait for something to happen to us, to make things better. As someone mentioned earlier, I think David’s point in Psalm 37:4 is that as we grow in our relationship to God, as our understanding of Him deepens (the delighting in the Lord), then those things that are important to Him also become important to us, and God is happy to grant us those desires that conform to His will.

    Someone else also made the point that for most of us we rarely need to rely on the Lord for what we need. Usually we are self sufficient, or think we are. It is only when we face crisis times, when we know we cannot take care of a situation ourselves, that we are forced to rely on God and His promises. Maybe one of the reasons our collective faith seems weak is that we rarely have or make the opportunity to exercise it. Even now when 401ks and 403bs have tanked, we still have not lost it all. But are we worried, or are we trusting God for our security and future?

    Barry, New Jersey

  24. DarleneJoy says:

    Faith is, as Scripture says, “Being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” But how to explain this? Faith is believing God is who He says He is…even when things don’t go the way we want them to or think that they should…and surrendering our lives to Him to accomplish His purposes in them (knowing that He will).

    My faith is being tested right now – I’ve just found out that the company I’ve been teaching English for here in Lithuania has terminated my contract as of Dec. 19th – and am now in the place of having to make a decision about what direction to take. I want to follow God’s leading, not my own, but that’s often easier said than done.

    Yet, I know God’s faithfulness and character as He has proven Himself to me so many times before, so I am confident that He will guide me and help me even as I struggle with the emotions and everything else. This is not a surprise to Him and He has a plan through it all.

  25. tu4shore says:

    I’d like to offer a couple observations on Abraham. First, I’m greatly encouraged by the fact that Abraham was thoroughly human. While he is known for his faith consider: sure he left Ur when told but took along family including his nephew Lot who wound up having a large impact later; after arriving in the promised land for a while he promptly ‘went down to Egypt’ (the first time this regrettable practice, which symbolizes trusting the the world rather than God is mentioned in the Bible) to escape a drought without asking God; he lies that Sarah is his sister rather than trusting God to protect; and of course he and Sarah become impatient so he has Ishmael by the maid rather than wait on God, and so it goes. If this is walking by faith then there is hope for the rest of us!

    The most remarkable thing about Abraham wasn’t his performance but rather that he “was a friend of God” — his relationship. We don’t see Abraham seeking after something but rather living and we see God showing up to talk with him and Abraham responding. How often do we just turn away? Instead, Abraham engages – even dickers with God on how many righteous people it would take for God not to destroy Sodom. There wasn’t anything Abraham could do to earn this relationship other than show up, engage and obey. The point is underscored when God fulfills both sides of the covenant by walking between the sacrificed animals. Who is worthy to cut covenant with God? No one, of course. Abraham was a friend of God. May it be so with us.

    Lincoln City, Oregon

  26. nankel_23 says:

    These are all good comments that will help us continue our christain journey helping us to seek the mind of christ in all we do. From my experiences, God has a perfect plan for us for “his plans for us are for good not evil that he will bring us to the expected end. God also grants us our desires that are founded in him. We should always seek the face of God in our desires and “work our faith”. When we put in our best in achieving our desires and it does not work out, then it is not the mind of God.
    I once lost my job in a very unjust manner and wept bitterly to God and it seemed like he let me down. I was very bitter with life and living until one day during devotion and weeping the only work that came out of my month was “the latter rain will be better than the former” Since then that has been my prayer and it really came to pass in my life—when I evetually got another job it was indeed better and more rewarding than the one I lost.

  27. NurturingLife says:

    Faith. . .

    “A giant leap in the dark,” you say?

    “Believing Gawd for a miracle,” you presume?

    There is one verse that never fails to shine boldly from the pages of Scripture for me, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”

    The Word of God is THE key to understanding what faith really is because faith is infused in the Word of God and imparted to us when we have ears to hear. It is the very Voice of God vibrating throughout our being (spirit, body, mind, and emotions)in a tone that puts us in harmony with our Creator and HIS will.

    It is this same mega-powerful Voice that spoke the Earth into existence that enables me to say, “Amen” to whatever God calls me to do when I haven’t got the slightest idea how I am ever going to be able to do it.

    His Word tells me that He is going to gently lead me, give me knowledge, understanding and whatever resources I may need to accomplish His will. He is going to shine a light unto my path–not push me over the cliff into the dark. If darkness does surround me, He is still going to be the light in the darkness.

    This is not a game of “chicken” or a test to see if I have “faith” enough to succeed. He has already promised me that He is the author and finisher of my faith. This is not about me. It is about clay in the hand of the Potter and the Potter has SAID that He will accomplish HIS will. Surely anything the Creator of Heaven and Earth can come up with has to be way better than what I think I want, even on one of my “best” days.

  28. Jules says:

    I’m up early this morning and came across your thoughts on faith. I read a wonderful quote the other day that fits in here.

    “I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings.”

    — William Sloane Coffin

    Thanks to everyone for writing here. I enjoyed all.

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