Three ways to live

Which is your way?

What does it mean to believe and how do you know when you do?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 9:08 am on Thursday, July 26, 2007

I was doing a word study on the Hebrew and Greek words meaning “to believe”. Here is what I found:

1) The verb “to believe” is closely related to the noun “faith”; basically “to believe”=”to have faith”
2) At the heart of the meaning is the idea of certainty. So, to believe means to be very certain about something. This is in contrast with modern English meaning, which can range from certainty to a guess, as in “I believe there will be good weather tomorrow”.
3) As a logical consequence of 2), having certainty about something often results in action, as you put your trust in it
4) The degree of certainty may vary, e.g. you can have little faith or faith to move mountains.

How do you know you believe in something (in the biblical sense)? I often find people to be poor judges of their faith, tending to overestimate it. The easiest test, quite independent from personal opinion, is to see whether your faith naturally results in a corresponding action. I am intentionally highlighting the word “naturally”, because

1) It is possible that outside circumstances, a punishment or a reward can make you behave in a certain way even though you don’t believe you should. In this case your behavior is not a sign of the faith.

2) You can force yourself to behave in a certain way precisely because you lack faith. This often happens when Christians do not have certainty that God has accepted them as they are, and hence are trying to make up for it with “good behavior”, “acts of righteousness”, as to earn God’s favor. This is the basis for so-called “salvation by works”. Compared to 1), here the action is a sign of having no or little faith.

So, does this mean that if we cannot detect a trace of reward expectation or punishment fear, or lack of faith in our behavior, then it is natural? Well, again, I find people (including myself) to be poor judges of why we do things. Most of us like to think that we do not steal because we are good people, but take away the potential punishment (as often happens in times of war, revolution), and the true character sadly shows up.

I would like to propose the following two tests. They might not work ideally in all circumstances, and may sometimes misclassify some natural behavior as unnatural, but I find them more reliable than others:

1) The natural behavior lasts. This is in contrast with the punishment or reward-based behavior, which only lasts until this punishment or reward is withdrawn. The natural behavior is caused by great inner certainty and hence depends little on outside circumstances.
2) The natural behavior is easy.
Here by easy I don’t mean it does not require any effort, but that regardless of how much effort it requires, you can accomplish it with joy. This is in contrast with trying to compensate for the lack of faith, which is emotionally straining, and makes you lose joy as you feel you are never good enough.

While I was trying to be general in my description so far, the Christians, in particular, are called to believe (have absolute certainty) in the gospel. For a Christian, every trace of unnatural behavior should be a sign that he does not believe the gospel nearly as much as he might think. How to change? Admitting this unpleasant truth should be the first step. In the words of boy’s father from Mark 9:24, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” And He will help.



Comment by Herdingcats

July 28, 2007 @ 9:59 am

Your topic is an intriguing one. It mirrors a podcast I heard the other day on the difference between being an “adherent” or “follower” and a “disciple”. The disciple is taught powerful knowledge in the hopes that they will then teach others. When someone has a disciple they don’t own knowledge but see it as something that can produce good and therefore must be shared (like Love must be shared). People who have followers don’t want to be surplanted by their students and therefore the intention behind the teaching is very different.

Your juxtopposition of believe with faith is similar. Faith does not mean that you are lobotomized and unable to reason. Faith is belief with Love and mystery attached. We are born capable of faith, but are never forced into it.


Comment by Josiah

January 13, 2013 @ 6:29 am

Yes very intriguing
, it definitely has an amazing truth to it, in regards to us being saved by Grace and not by works, which in essence is the gospel. And it’s is by that same grace that God wants to do the work for us rather than us doing it, faith it’s self can turn into a work, rather faith is just trusting in God and knowing He will do what He says….how awesome is that!
Here are some verses

1 Thessalonians 5:24
“The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

Philippians 1:6
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion “until the day of Christ Jesus.”

what your referring to as “unnatural behaviour” which according to you is a sign that the person has imnfact kess faith , than they thought thwy did, is just simply is called the flesh, not the skin of the body but the part of you that wants to do wrong, romans 7:14-25

If I may leave oh with one last verse,

“Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” Ephesians 3:20

Be encouraged You have way more faith than you think , if You trust that God is faithful , it’s not our faith in our own faith but our faith in His faithfulness

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