I work with words all the time. Lately I’ve been thinking about three words that are all related but don’t share the same meaning. Namely, “belief,” “faith” and “trust.” Many times, in talk about everyday things, any of the three would do. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty of the spiritual realm, the distinctions between them come into play.
Being sort of picky about expressing my meaning clearly, especially when it’s about something of eternal importance, I try to use just the right words. With that in mind I set out to understand the difference between belief, faith and trust, particularly in the context of the Christian faith.
Here, I’ll share my notes with you…
Belief is an intellectual agreement but may not be internalized. A belief could simply be an opinion. I believe that hummingbird flying around in the yard is a Thalurania refulgens, but I could be wrong. Does it matter? Not really.
But suppose a particular belief of yours–an important one–is true. Does believing the truth benefit you? It depends on whether or not you choose to act on that belief. You may believe smoking is bad for you, but that won’t keep your lungs healthy if you chain-smoke three packs a day.
As a spiritual example, consider what the apostle James wrote: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.”
Clearly, the demons’ belief in God doesn’t put them in his good graces, since they are still working against him.Faith builds on belief with action. Belief may agree a jet will get me safely to Denver, while faith actually walks into the jet and sits down. In the Christian faith, you believe that God means what He says in the Bible and you act on that belief. My relationship with Jesus started when I agreed with him that I had failed to live up to his perfect standard, and asked him to forgive me. I committed myself to follow him, flaws and all. I “got on the jet,” as it were.
Faith moves you to act, but aren’t you sometimes afraid to do the thing you know you should? I sure am. Faith may be plagued with fear, doubts or worry, but still acts despite these nuisances. With experience, I’ve become more comfortable obeying Jesus’ instructions. As he keeps promise after promise, my faith has grown to more often illustrate the third word…
Trust confidently expects Jesus to do what he says he will do, for me. I have spent some time pondering the difference between Faith and Trust. In my mind they are almost the same, but trust is always characterized by calm confidence. Going back to the jet example, Faith could worry all through the flight to Denver and hold its breath during the landing sequence. Trust is more likely to sleep or enjoy a book, never giving a thought to possible danger.
It’s worth noting, though, that both Faith and Trust arrive safely in Denver. The difference is in how much each enjoyed the flight.
As near as I can figure (and I’m no expert), the bottom line is your attitude toward Jesus…
Belief: Jesus exists, but I’m not sure I want anything to do with him.
Faith: I want to obey Jesus and I will, but I’m afraid I may fail, or not like the results.
Trust: I can do whatever Jesus wants me to because he’s got my back. I’m safe.
Growing from belief to faith to trust is quite an adventure. Frequent slip-ups and general human frailty being what they are, I expect to spend the rest of my life at it.
What about you? Have you taken a leap of faith? How did Jesus come through for you?
Thanks for reading,
This week I am linking up with Jen for the Soli Deo Gloria party!