What is Faith?

Faith, Trust, and Belief all have the same root word in the Greek language.  Any time you see the word “faith,” “trust,” or “belief” in the Bible, these words are all translating the same idea: a trusting dependence or confidence in something or someone.

I am concerned that the way we throw around the words “faith” and “belief ” today, we have almost vacated them of any meaning close to their biblical definitions.  We encourage kids to “believe” in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and then we turn around and teach them to believe in God.  We tell others that we “have faith” in them, even though they are imperfect, created beings, and then exhort one another to “have faith” in God, the perfect Creator of all things.

What is faith?  The story of Charles Blondin illustrates nicely what faith is:

Charles Blondin was the greatest tightrope walker of his time.  One day, he decided to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope, a distance of a quarter mile.  A large crowd gathered to watch his amazing acrobatic feats.

Not only did Blondin walk across the falls, but he did it multiple times, each time trying something more daring, each time gaining the crowds amazement and praise.  He was so skilled, he even took a wheelbarrow across the rope, there and back again.

When he got back, he addressed the crowd, “Who believes that I can cross these falls with a man sitting in this wheelbarrow?”

The crowd roared with their approval, “Yes, of course you can!  You are the greatest tightrope walker who ever lived!”

Blondin replied, “Then who will be the first to volunteer?”  The crowd was quiet, stunned into silence.

You see, it is easy to say “I believe” or “I have faith”.  To say that I have faith is not the same thing as having faith.  What Jesus wants of you is for you to have faith in Him, the kind of faith that trusts in Him and believes His Word, the kind of faith that is costly because it costs you your hopes, your comforts, your very life.  Jesus says in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it”

Who Was James?

There are two prominent figures named James in the Bible.  There is James the brother of John, son of Zebedee, who was an apostle of Jesus, one of the 12.  The other is James the brother of Jesus.  It is this James, the brother of our Lord, who wrote the book of James.

We know that Jesus had four earthly brothers who were born to Joseph and Mary after Jesus’ miraculous virgin birth.  Matthew 13:55, speaking of Jesus, says,

Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?

Since James is mentioned first in this list, he probably was the eldest of the four, second only to Jesus.  We know nothing else about Jesus’ brothers Joseph and Simon, but we do know that Judas, the youngest, is the author of the Book of Jude (see Jude 1:1)

The Gospel of John gives us insight to how Jesus’ brothers felt about him during his earthly ministry.  John writes in John 7:5,

For even His brothers were not believing in Him.

Jesus’ own brothers, James and Judas included, did not believe in Him during his earthly ministry.  However, we see a very different picture painted of Jesus’ brothers in Acts 1:14, where the apostles and other believers in Jesus have gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem after the ascension of Jesus.

These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

If Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Him during his earthly ministry, but believed in Him after he rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God, what changed?

They had encountered the risen Christ.

Paul records for us in 1 Corinthians 15:6-7,

[Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

Did you catch that?  Jesus made a personal appearance to James.  James, who did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, had the Messiah pay a personal visit to him, and this made all of the difference.

Have you encountered the risen Christ?  He wants to reveal himself to you, and He can be found in the pages of Scripture.  Seek Jesus today while He may be found.