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Lesson 3
What True Faith Is

There is an old Chinese saying that goes like this:

"A journey of a thousand miles
begins with the first step."

You may know this saying, and I want you to feel that there is a sense in which the truth of this Chinese saying applies specially to you! You too, have begun a long journey, a wonderful journey, which is going to lead you all the way into eternal life, and you have already taken the first step.

The First Step

By completing the first lesson, you took that first step. You now know something about the Holy Bible and about its great importance for every one of us. The Bible is our spiritual map to guide us in our journey through life. Without it, we would be like a ship without a rudder, like a traveller on a road that has no sign posts.

Therefore decide now to buy yourself a Bible (if you do not already have one) and to love your Bible. Read from it every day. If you find anything that you do not understand immediately, please do not let that upset you -- pray to the Lord for wisdom and understanding. Then seek help from someone who is a Christian, or write to us.

After introducing the Bible to you, we shall now take a few more steps. First we'll explain what faith is, and what its role is in life.

What is Faith?

Let us now seek together to get a clear understanding of what true faith is in the Christian life. Unfortunately there are even many Christians that do not know what true faith is.

Most of us have strange ideas about faith. Very few of us are sure what we are talking about when we speak of faith. To some people, it is like "wishful thinking," a kind of desperate attempt to believe in your heart something about which you are not sure!

True faith is not like that. The faith that we are speaking about is altogether different from "wishful thinking". Faith is not something that we turn to when everything else has failed. Faith is not the last resort of one who has tried everything and has nothing left but "faith".

The reason why we discuss this is simply because there is a verse in the Holy Bible which says:

"No one can please God without faith,
but whoever comes to God
must have faith that God exists
and rewards those who seek him.
(Hebrews 11:16)

If it is impossible for us to please God without faith, then we had better find out quickly what Christian faith is.

Faith Like a Child

To get to the very heart of the matter, we must understand that faith is not something difficult and mysterious. Faith is the simplest thing in the world. Faith is trusting God as a little child trusts his father. Faith is a personal relationship with the living God who speaks to us in the Bible. That is all that faith is. If you can get this truth firmly fixed in your mind, you have taken a great step forward!

The Lord Jesus once talked about faith. If you look in your Bible in the book of Matthew (look for it on the "Contents" page of your Bible) in Chapter 18, you will find what he said. In verse 3 he describes the kind of attitude we all must have if we are to be true followers of His. He said:

"I assure you that unless you change
and become like children,
you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven."

You see, dear student, how much hope there is for all of us if we choose to follow him. We do not need a great education or a clever mind -- all we need is a child-like attitude of trust in what God tells us in his Holy Word. If we truly believe what the Bible says, we will be full of faith.

The Signs of True Faith

True faith has results -- otherwise it would be a dead thing. For instance, we all accept and believe that the earth is round, but that belief does nothing to us -- we just accept it and put it away in the storehouse of our minds. Christian faith is much more than this kind of acceptance. True faith consists of the following:

1. We must get to know God and his promises as he reveals himself in the Bible and accept it as true with our minds (intellectually). This is the first of the three elements of faith: to believe what God says in the Bible is true. True faith is based on the Bible.

2. The second step is, not only to know and believe the Bible but also to apply it in our lives, and to trust God's promises. We all believe that Mount Everest is the highest peak in the world, but that belief remains only in our minds. We accept it and there it ends. With the truths of the Bible it is different: we not only believe them, but also believe in the God of the Bible. We put our whole trust in him.

3. The last step follows from what we have said -- we go on to obey what God teaches us in the Bible. For example, if the Holy Bible says that all men are lost and need God's help urgently to be saved, then I do not only believe that. I also act on it and begin to do something about it in order that I may "get right" with God. This leads to obedience to God's Holy Word.

Thus the three elements of faith are:
1. Knowledge of God and his Word.
2. Trust in God and his Word.
3. Obedience to God and his Word.

The Lord Jesus once spoke of this faith that we all need so urgently. He said that if we had faith "as big as a mustard seed," it would be enough (Matthew chapter 17 verse 20). A little faith in such a great God is enough!

Test Yourself No. 3

See how much you have learnt in this lesson. Compare your answers afterwards with the answers given when you click here [answers].

1. How can you please God? (See Hebrews 11:6, that means the letter to  the Hebrews, chapter 11 verse 6.)

2. Do you need to be a learned, university trained person in order to have  faith? (See Matthew 18:3.)

3. How much faith do you need to become a Christian? (See Matthew 17:20).

4. Name the three elements of true faith.