This past weekend I heard an excellent message on the difference between belief and faith. It was a message that made me rethink my belief system. It made me rethink my faith. It was the realization that belief and faith are not the same thing.
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
- Daniel 3:17-18
The speaker used the previous passage to break down the difference between belief and faith and I believe I got it. I think I am finally grasping hold of what I have been missing.
There is a distinct difference between belief and faith. What is belief? It is a principle, proposition, idea that is accepted as true; opinion, conviction; religious faith; trust or confidence. What is faith? It is the confident assurance in the character and nature of God; a strong or unshakeable belief in something, without proof or evidence.
We looked in Daniel and the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In those two verses above, there is a clear difference between belief and faith that I had never seen before, and as the speaker pointed this out, it all sank in and I experienced another aha moment as well as a moment of peace.
In verse 17, the men declare that even if they are thrown into the furnace, God is able to deliver them from it as well as deliver them from the King. Those are strong and powerful words. They state that God is able. They do not say that God will but that if He so chooses, then He will. They believe in God. They believe in the power of God. They believe He can deliver them from King Nebuchadnezzar. This was their belief.
Now comes the moment when faith steps in, as they proclaim that even if God does not deliver them, they still would not worship or serve the King’s god. Their faith said that even if they were to perish, it still did not change that God is good. Biblical faith is not placed in the outcome of a situation but instead in God. This was so profound for me. It was a moment of realizing that every battle belongs to the Lord and He controls the outcome. My faith says that God is good no matter the outcome of my situation. I believe that God can save the day. I believe that He can work miracles. My faith says that whether or not I follow Him will not be dependent on things working out to my benefit. It says that I will follow Him no matter what.
Then came those great passages in Hebrews 11. (33-39)
“who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[a] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promise.”
As he read that passage, I heard things that I had never paid attention to in the past. Through faith there were those who conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, escaped the sword, and much more, but then there were those who were put into prison, stoned to death, tortured, sawed in two, killed by the sword. What a mix. No matter how good or how bad, whether or not they received what had been promised to them, their faith was not shaken. They chose to follow and obey God even when they could not see the outcome, choosing to follow even when the outcome may not have been one that they would have chosen. They each had a faith in the character and nature of God.
Faith is what pleases God. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6. I learned that my faith is not about all of my beliefs and convictions. I have a ton of those, but those things are not what pleases God. What pleases God is when I put every ounce of my trust, my faith in Him even when I do not know the outcome, when I do not understand and when I may not get my way.
In order to have that kind of faith, I must draw near to Him. I have to pursue Him. “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:8
So where do you find your faith? Is it found in a belief system or it is found in Christ?