Believe: v. – To have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof.
Basically, believing is what we do when we put our faith or trust in something else. Think about when you believed in the tooth fairy, Santa, the Easter bunny, etc. What are some things we believe in now? The government’s checks and balances, law enforcement, love at first sight? Now, think about being a follower of Christ. We don’t become a part of God’s family because of what we do or don’t do, economic status, nation of origin or our past. What matters is what we believe.
In Romans 1:16-17 Paul states,
For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”
The crucial role of belief is that we believe and are saved. That is what the foundation of being a Christian is. Now, many of us stop there. We believe those facts and believe we have a one-way ticket to heaven, or a ticket out of hell. But look at what Paul says about believing, it is a way of life for Christians not just a way to salvation. “The righteous will live by faith.” Faith is another way of saying believe.
Wait, aren’t the terms “faith” and “believe” contradictory? Faith is just trusting in God where believing in something means we have to work for it. We would agree that we’ve been saved by grace through faith and that’s why we’re going to heaven right? Not because of what we’ve done. But, that’s where believing usually ends for us. From that point on, we live our lives like God’s favor is now dependent, after that initial display of belief, on our works. So we work hard at being good Christians so that God will like us. Enter Christian legalism.
Part of the reason we act like this is because it is easier to work than it is to live by belief alone. When we work, we feel like we can measure it, it’s quantifiable. So that at the end of the day we can say, I’m doing good with God, or not so much because I haven’t done so and so. We act like God likes us more when we do good things. But when we just believe, we can’t see things and that is tough for us to grasp.
But the Hebrew mindset is different. Let’s look at the root word for “believe” in the OT:
Genesis 15:6 – Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Exodus 17:12 – When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
Ok the one with Abram is pretty straightforward. The one with Moses, not so much. The Israelites were at war with the Amalekites. As long as Moses’ arm was raised, they would win. But as soon as he lowered them, they would get slaughtered. The Israelites’ victory depended on the steadiness of Moses’ arm. The Hebrew word translated “remained steady” in Exodus 17:12 is the same word as “believed” in Genesis 15:6. Interesting huh? This shows us the Hebrew translation of the concept of belief. To the Hebrews, belief wasn’t something one floated in and out of. It also wasn’t strictly intellectual. Belief was challenging and required perseverance. Belief was about remaining steady.
So what does this mean? It means believing is tough but we need to work at it. Belief is a choice. You have the power to exercise that choice in every area of your life:
- When you are tempted to be greedy with your finances, you have to make the choice to believe that it’s better to give than receive.
- When you are tempted to slack off and not do your work, you have to make the choice to believe that God wants the best from you.
- When you are tempted to lust, you have to make the choice to believe that God has something better for you when you focus on Him, instead of a hot looking person.
- And the list goes on and on and on.
The temptation is for us to try and replace belief with our works. But God’s intent is for belief to be at the center of everything we do and are. This includes those things that seem like works. Make no mistake, the Christian life is work. But many of us are working hard not to sin. We are working hard to be generous. We are working hard to read the Bible. We need to be working hard to believe in each and every one of those situations. We must believe in each of those moments that God’s resources of grace, power and patience, hope and endurance won’t run dry. We believe that God is the ultimate supplier of what we need and that through Jesus He will sustain our belief.
What’s nice is that we aren’t left alone in this struggle to believe. We have the Holy Spirit that gives us the same power that raised Jesus from the grave, empowering us to believe.
Madeliene L’Engle – Faith is what makes life bearable.
Work hard to believe
- Want more on this? Well you can read this straight from the author (I didn’t come up with this on my own, I’m not that smart ha!), Michael Kelley. Here is the file for the Bible study: Holy Vocabulary Believe.
- This is adapted from his book Holy Vocabulary by Threads by Lifeway
- What does it really mean to live by faith?
- If someone were to ask how important is belief to Christianity, what would you say?