If fifty different followers of Christ answered this question, there would likely be a wide variety of answers. Each person’s experience and journey with God is unique. However, there are plenty of common threads that bind us together as Christians. The Bible speaks to many of these universal aspects of a flourishing faith and how they impact our everyday lives.
So, let’s take a look at four truths found in Scripture about what faith means in the daily life of a follower of Jesus.
1. Faith means…an awareness of our need and limitations.
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9 CSB)
At the very heart of the concept of faith lies the acknowledgment of a higher power—the idea that we need something beyond ourselves to give our lives meaning, purpose, truth, and hope. Being a “person of faith” implies an admission that we do not have everything figured out—and this is not exclusive to Christianity. We look to something (or someone) beyond the finite human mind or experience for guidance, peace, comfort, and reassurance.
For the Christian, this is not just faith in a concept but in a person—three persons, technically: the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who make up the Godhead, in whom we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). We concede that while we don’t have what it takes in and of ourselves, we do have access to the One who does, and we are infinitely valued by him.
And our access isn’t contingent on our ability to follow some kind of rule book, say some magic words, or appease a fickle deity to ensure staying in God’s good graces. As the late Tim Keller so powerfully put it, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time, we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
Faith means that we can acknowledge our flaws and need for the help of the Divine while also resting in the reassurance that he loves, accepts, and welcomes us as we are.
2. Faith means…acknowledging that God can use trials and suffering to produce good.
Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2–4 CSB)
How can suffering and the goodness of God coexist? This question has been perplexing humanity for centuries. As Christians living in a broken world marred by sin, it is important to acknowledge that there are no easy answers to tough questions such as, “Why would God let this happen?”
Additionally, trying to explain away personal or communal tragedies with simple explanations is not a wise nor loving approach. We’d be prudent to remember to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15 CSB) before we rush to make sense of a situation or respond with a Christian cliché.
However, as we wrestle through painful circumstances—especially when processing our own suffering (both great and small)—we do find hope to cling to: mainly that God is with us in our suffering and does not waste it.
While very few Christians would go so far as to say that God causes bad things to happen so that good can come from them, it is abundantly clear in Scripture (and in the experience of millions of believers worldwide across millennia) that God uses even the most painful, difficult situations to work out his will—which includes helping us to become more like his perfectly loving and wise Son, Jesus.
The point here is not to diminish the reality of hardships but instead to rely on Jesus—his comfort, presence, strength, and goodness—even when we don’t understand our circumstances. We trust that God is working all things “together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 CSB).
God uses faith, in the midst of our heartache, to produce in us the kind of character required to best love our fellow humans who are also facing hardships, and thus best honor God with our lives.
3. Faith means…intentionally serving others over yourself.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others. Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:3–5 CSB)
Actively seeking to serve others puts us in alignment with the heart, mind, and purpose of Christ. It demonstrates not only trust in God’s ability to care for us but also shows a desire to put our faith into action in accordance with the commands Jesus declared were the entire essence of what it means to follow him: Love God, love others (Mark 12:30–31).
Putting our faith in God’s love and provision encourages us to love and serve others without conditions—just as Jesus does. This does not mean that we are unmindful of our own needs, but that we recognize that we are not the center of the universe. We follow God’s lead in caring for others, trusting that God knows our needs and will care for us well (see Matthew 6:30–33, Matthew 10:29–31, Philippians 4:19–20, etc.).
4. Faith means…there will always be hope.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we boast in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1–5 CSB)
For this last point, I’ll get a little more personal.
I can distinctly remember the day that I finally grasped (as much as a fifteen-year-old can) that Jesus was really real and really loved me. As a high schooler, that realization genuinely changed my entire perspective on life forever—but most profoundly, it affected how I faced each day. My belief that Jesus was real, was present in my life, and truly loved me gave me the freedom to grieve my hardships—to take them to Jesus and really let it all out.
And yet, while I held onto the truth that these things that bothered me were difficult, they were not, in fact, the end of the world. Someone’s opinion of me, my grades, or even a lost relationship did not define me; my identity was in Christ and his love for me—and that would never change. The deep-seated knowledge of that truth, on the other hand, changed everything.
While I’m no longer fifteen years old—and the difficulties have only amplified—this concept still is at the core of my faith every day. It still changes everything. When I look at the state of the world or wonder how I am going to face an overwhelming situation, I still find myself asking, Do I genuinely believe that God is real, God is for me, and there is always hope with God?
I might not feel hopeful at the time, but looking at God’s love and faithfulness throughout my life reminds me that I really do believe this, and I do trust that he is still enough to help me face whatever is coming at me—whether I am fifteen or thirty-five.
And he is enough to help you face whatever is before you, too.
While the things, people, or dreams we put our hope in may disappoint us at times, placing our ultimate hope in the faithfulness of Jesus never will. He has proven that the hope he offers us is not based on wishful thinking but on his love for us, demonstrated in his ultimate sacrifice on the cross.
As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, this is what it means to have faith: “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen” (11:1 CSB).