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Does it Matter What You Call "Faith"? By Jonathan Brackens

It matters what you call faith, because the definition will either send you down the circular and abstract way of Hebrews 11 or ground you and your expectations firmly in God.

Remember where we left off: often “if-faith” is devalued, not because the Bible devalues it, but because we are conditioned to believe that a scintilla of doubt is the kryptonite of faith. How can faith be so fragile as to crumble in the mere presence of doubt? We devalue “if-faith” because we let the pseudepigraphic author of Hebrews and our favorite preacher(s) confuse us with the various definitions of faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for. . .” (Hebrews 11:1 KJV). Yea, yea, yea.

Faith is the Greek word “πιστεύω” that means to trust and — when required — act congruent with that trust. Trust in Jesus can exist with doubt and unbelief (Matthew 14:28–31, Mark 9:23–25), be minute — you know, the size of a muster seed — (Matthew 17:20), and may require you to act upon that trust, even when the action is not the most logical recourse (Luke 5:4–6, John 2:1–12). Abundant trust may make Jesus marvel but little trust in Jesus is still powerful and makes God act, both abundant and little trust result in eternal life and answered prayers (Matthew 8:26, 14:31; Luke 7:9).

How to Make Faith Less Awkward:

First, we must have enough self-worth to accept that our trust in God is our own and only involves two entities: you and God. God knows that He plays an active and important role in how much trust you can place in Him. Which brings us to how we can make faith, that is trust, less awkward to deal with.

If we remove the veneer of the word “faith” and see it as it is, “trust”, then we better understand the concept of “if-faith.” Where faith is trust, then “If-Trust” simply means, there are reasons to trust you here, but it concomitantly states there are reasons to not trust you in the circumstance. No big deal! No, really.

Jesus is not looking for the absence of doubt, he is looking for the presence of trust, this is a distinction with a difference: “when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth” (Luke 18:8 KJV). The bar is low, think mustard seed. When you face something challenging, keep saying, “Lord, there are reasons to trust you, here.” Let Him find you trusting.

Mark 9:23–25 shows that trust in Jesus can exist with doubt and unbelief. There, a father of a chronically possessed child — whose requests to Jesus’ disciples were unfruitful — asked Jesus to heal the child, Jesus inquires whether the father believed that his son can be healed, the father responded, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” Jesus healed the son, and the healing momentarily looked like death until Jesus grabbed the son’s hand and lifted the son up. The father clearly admits to his ambivalence; he has reason to believe that Jesus can heal, which is why he came to Jesus, but he also has reason to believe that his son may never be delivered. The existence of these dichotomies — despite their proportion — did not hinder his miracle. Like the father, some of us have sought help from several of Jesus’ disciples and remain unfruitful in our pursuit of a miracle. Just as the father’s co-existing trust and unbelief did not prevent Jesus from granting the miracle, it will not prevent Jesus from granting your miracle. Just like the father’s miracle looked dead after Jesus’s intervention, we may observe what looks like the corpse of a promise. Yet, just as Jesus picked up the son and presented the complete miracle, Jesus will raise your miracle or desired outcome and present it completed.

Faith Requires Two Entities, Not One:

Matthew 14:22–36 and Mark 9:23–25 lets us know that God is no fool, He understands that trust develops and is tested overtime. As you trust God and find yourself in a challenging situation, and while in that situation God presents himself in an uncertain way, God will oblige your request for further assurances. As with a Warranty Deed, the warranty of further assurances promises the grantor — God — will execute any documents [i.e., take the actions] needed in the future to perfect [your] title, that is your trust in him.

Wait, preacher, did not Jesus say “If ye have faith [, that is trust], and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:21–22 KJV). Yes. But as we established, like most things, trust is a latitude that ranges from zero to absolute. The amount of trust to see God act in your life is about 0.1 inch in diameter, the size of a mustard seed. Your daily practice should be to say, “Lord, there are reasons to trust you, here.” As you keep saying this, because you believe it, even if minutely, it will grow. You will trust God more and more.


  • Faith is trust.

  • Faith is not a binary state of either believing or not believing, but rather a spectrum of trust.

  • Faith is developed and tested over time.

  • Trust God while doubting God, because a small amount of trust is enough to see God act in your life.

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