As you know, I teach on faith quite a bit! I have for well over 30 years! In order to understand what faith is, let’s go to the Bible definition. Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The Strong’s concordance definition of “faith” is: “Persuasion, that is, credence; moral conviction of religious truth or the truthfulness of God, or a religious teacher, especially reliance upon Christ for salvation. Abstractly, constancy in such profession, by extension the system of religious gospel truth itself.” In other reference materials you will find that the base definition of faith is simply “trust.” Easton’s Bible Dictionary says, “Faith is in general the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true (Phil. 1:27; 2 Thess. 2:13). Its primary idea is trust. A thing is true, and therefore worthy of trust. It admits of many degrees up to full assurance of faith, in accordance with the evidence on which it rests.” (Emphasis mine.)
Consider with me… What is “trust?” The dictionary definition of trust is “firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character, of a person or thing.” What is it that inspires trust? It is knowing the one that you are trusting. You have to have that reliance on their integrity and knowledge of their character. Without that trust in their character you can’t have faith in them. That’s why you can’t have faith, true Bible faith, without knowing the God behind that faith! To say that you have faith without knowing God proves that you don’t understand what Bible faith really is! Unfortunately, there are a lot of people today that say they have faith, but don’t really know God. They only have a concept of faith; they don’t really know what faith is.
So, let’s get back to this idea of trust. In order to trust you have to know the true character of the person that you’re trusting. Now, of course, we know that God has deep, perfect character. He’s the very essence of true character! After all, He is God! So looking at who God is and what we know of Him from the Word of God, we can deeply trust His character. But, there are a lot of people today who, because they don’t know God, and they don’t understand His character, have no concept of this trust! In fact, they actually don’t trust God. This is because they’ve been taught, incorrectly, that God is the root of their problem. That He is, in effect, “out to get them.” Of course, this is not true! God only wants what’s best for us! Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” I like what the Amplified Version of the Bible says for this verse: “For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.” Does this sound like a God who is “out to get us?” Not at all, in fact, this is indicative of a loving Heavenly Father who wants the very best for His children. In order to best understand God, and His character, perhaps the best example we can grasp is of a loving earthly father and his “only child.”
Many people say that children who are an “only child” are “spoiled.” Why do they say this? Because from the outside looking in, a person sees that a parent is fully committed to that child, perhaps to the point of indulgence. They are accused of giving that child anything and everything that they want! And, don’t get me wrong, that kind of situation, in the natural, can be taken to extremes! But, the fact is, that child is well cared for, and well provided for, because the parent in question is concerned only for that child, and wants to provide what is best for them. This kind of “indulgent love” may seem foreign to many people. But the doting care of a parent for a child is a good (albeit, simplified) example of how our Father God loves and cares for us as His children. This kind of God is a God we can trust and that we can rely on… and not fear evil from Him. That is the essence of this verse. Let’s consider it again, paraphasing: “I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, and they are thoughts and plans for your own good and personal welfare; for your peace, and never to do you evil… In fact my thoughts are to give you hope for your final outcome.” Consider this… this verse is talking about God’s thoughts. Thoughts are the root of actions. You don’t do something until you think about it, or consider it. Thoughts imply motives. You consider doing something… you take thought about doing something, long before you do it. At least you should!
So this gives us insight into this God in whom we trust. We can have full trust and assurance in God because His thoughts and motives toward us are only good. God is not out to hurt you! God is not out to “get” you! He’s not “the mean old man with a big stick” waiting to hit you over the head! In fact, He’s just the opposite! Tradition, and the teachings of the church, by and large, have led us to believe that God is mean to His children. In fact, some teach that God makes people sick. They teach that God puts people in car accidents. That God breaks people’s legs. Does this sound like a loving Heavenly Father? Does this sound like One whose motives are only good toward us? No! God has been lied about… He is not out to get you. He is, in fact, out to help you! Again, in order to trust you have to understand character. If you don’t know God’s character you can’t really trust Him. You can’t really know Him, and therefore, you can’t really have faith in Him. In order to have the kind of faith that we’re talking about, you have to have an intimate relationship with God. Otherwise, you are just giving Him “lip service.” Otherwise, you just have a concept. A mental image. Not a full, well developed picture of who God is at His core. Of what His character is like. To understand God you have to know Him. In the same way to understand me, Dr. Bill Bailey, you have to know me! You have to know me personally. It is not enough to just read something about me. You have to have a relationship with me in order to fully understand me, and understand my character. That’s why my closest friends, or my wife, Belinda, will know me and how I will react, and what I will say in a given situation, much better than a stranger. To know me well is to better understand me. In the same way, to know God intimately is to better understand His character… His desires, and His motives.
Trust is derived from knowledge at a deep, personal level. Trust is the essence of faith. We talk about “the faith of a little child.” My son, Benjamin, when he was very young, loved to jump off of the diving board into the deep end of the pool, even though he couldn’t swim at the time… because he knew that I, as his father, would always catch him. He would jump off that diving board with wild abandon! Sometimes he would even do it when my head was turned, or I wasn’t watching. He didn’t care. Because he knew daddy would always catch him! And, praise God, I did! I had to watch him closely! I caught him, and I protected him, because I loved him… and still do! But to see that open, simple, childlike trust, was an amazing lesson for me as an adult, and as a parent. That’s the kind of childlike trust and “wild abandon,” that we need to have as believers! We need to wholly trust in God! We need to have “wild abandon” in our faith! There’s a song by Steven Curtis Chapman in which he talks about stepping off into the deep water. That song is an excellent illustration of faith! The kind of faith that “takes a leap of faith!” That’s the kind of faith we need to have in our Father God.
But as I say, this kind of faith only comes from personal, intimate knowledge from a personal, close relationship. This is not a “Sunday morning” kind of faith. What do I mean by that? There are a lot of Christians that do show up in church on Sunday morning once a week to do their “religious duty” and then “get on with their lives” day in, and day out. That does not provide the kind of relationship that we’re talking about here. That’s merely a passing acquaintance. You don’t get to know someone by just being with them one hour, once a week! You can’t get to know God by only giving Him one hour, once a week. You live with your spouse every day and every night, all day and all night. You do everything with them. You talk to them all the time. You share your innermost thoughts and feelings. You know they care for you and you care for them. That’s relationship. That’s intimacy. And that’s what we’re talking about… that’s what you need to have with God! Once you get to know Him that well, and want to start sharing things with Him that often… that is what is called “prayer!” Not the formal “thee and thou” kind of prayer. I’m talking about the kind of prayer that says, “Hey, God I’ve got a question.” You may say, “Well, Dr. Bill, that’s awfully abrupt… That’s awfully informal!” That’s the point! We’re not talking about a formal, stilted relationship. We’re talking about a close, friendly, intimate relationship. The kind in which you “let your hair down,” and just be yourself! That’s what God’s looking for! He’s looking for fellowship with you. Now, that word “fellowship,” I know, is a “religious word” in some circles. Let’s put it this way; He’s looking for a friendship with you! Look at all the places that God called “mere humans” His friend… He said Abraham was His friend; Jesus said to the disciples, “I have called you friends.” (James 2:23; John 15:15) God is looking for a close relationship with His people and that’s what engenders this kind of trust; this kind of faith. It’s knowing God’s motives and knowing His care for us; knowing that He wants to bless you… knowing that He’s a Friend. That’s what brings faith deeply into your life and allows you to fully trust Him.
The point of this article is that you have to have this close daily relationship with God in order to operate in the life-changing, mountain-moving, kind of faith that we teach about here at Word of Faith Ministries! You can’t just have a passing knowledge of God and a passing knowledge of His Word… a one hour a week relationship, and operate in the kind of faith that we’ve been teaching about. If you try to operate in this kind of faith with this shallow relationship, you’ll only be frustrated, and you’ll say “that faith stuff” doesn’t work! No, “the faith stuff” does work… It’s your relationship that doesn’t work! Faith is trust and trust is earned. Earned trust comes from the intimate knowledge of a person’s character. And that’s how you’re going to develop in this life of faith! That is how you’re going to become successful in “walking out” all the great things that you have heard about a life of faith. You can live out all that you have heard that is available in faith teaching… but none of it will come about until you have this close personal relationship with God!
So my advice to you, if I were to take you aside, and take you “under my wing,” so to speak, and “mentor you” personally (which, between you and me, is exactly what I’m trying to do here on this website, and in these articles) is encourage you to seek for, and have, this kind of close, personal relationship with the Creator of the universe! A relationship with God Himself… because until you do, you’re not going to understand God… you’re not going to understand His Word, and you’re going to have misconceptions about Him. You’re going to be frustrated. But, once you have this kind of intimate, close relationship… once you know God the way you should, you will commit to Him and spend time with Him as a friend! Day in, and day out, you’ll find that the life of faith is really simple, childlike trust in our Father God who truly loves you and wants only the best for you!