Many claim to have faith in God, but what does faith actually look like?
Growing up religious, I often purported to have faith, yet lacked the fearless dream, transformative change, and selfless impact that characterized those in the Bible who deeply believed in God’s power and lived for his purpose. I’ve mistaken good intentions for faith, and settled for intellectual insights rather than an actual change of heart and character.
From studying the following scriptures I’ve learned that faith is the difference between those who change lives and those who don’t. It’s what sets apart those focused on what’s impossible and difficult, from those who change and inspire others to dream.
When we have a genuine faith from walking intimately with God, we are not afraid to dream, imagine, sacrifice, or take risks. Our confidence is in the God of Scripture, whose presence and power flow through those who have chosen to believe.
This is God’s call for those who not only claim to believe in God, but live with eager expectation that God will fulfill his destiny for their lives. One of the greatest examples of what faith looks like is illustrated in the life of Abraham.
There are 3 essential choices he made that resulted in a life that demonstrates for us today what faith looks like.
Dream against the odds
Without faith, dreams remain only fantasies. It takes faith in God’s promises and purpose for our lives to keep moving forward in the face of uncertainty or adversity.
Against all odds, when it looked hopeless, Abraham believed the promise and expected God to fulfill it. He took God at his word, and as a result he became the father of many nations. God’s declaration over him came to pass: “Your descendants will be so many that they will be impossible to count!”Romans 4:18 TPT
Sometimes life circumstances get difficult and we can find ourselves believing more in the physical or emotional odds that stand against us, rather than choosing to take God at his word against all odds.
Abraham chose to take God at his word. He put his faith in God’s power and promise that he would become a father of many nations, rather than in his age and physical inability to have children with his wife Sarah.
When my father had cancer, the odds were stacked against his life. By the time we discovered his cancer, it was beyond stage 4. Not only were the facts of his cancer’s extent impossible to reverse, but the greater challenge to my faith was changing my relationship with him.
My dad and I were distant and I had unresolved bitterness toward him. How could my detached and bitter relationship with my dad change to become an intimate relationship where I could spiritually influence him?
There were many times spiritual friends had to direct me back to the Scriptures and challenge me to repent of my unbelief, residual resentment, and refusal to love my dad. I had to face that much of my hopelessness was rooted in my refusal to believe in God’s power.
I had to choose to believe in God’s dream for my dad to discover a relationship with him. After wrestling through these sins that kept me from having hope and seeing God’s power beyond the odds, God began changing my relationship with my dad.
This began with me no longer blaming him, but facing my own selfishness, and learning from the Scriptures to love him deeply. Several months later, my dad studied the Bible, decided to become a Christian and was baptized.
Had it not been for the Bible and spiritual friends challenging me to change by applying the Scriptures to my life, I would not have seen God’s power and possibilities beyond the immediate odds. God’s plan was not only to help me resolve my relationship with my dad, but to change my dad’s life.
As we see through Abraham’s life, God’s dream is not limited to our individual lives. His dream always intended to reach and change the lives of many around and beyond us. God’s promise to Abraham was not only for him to become a father, but to become the father of many nations.
- What odds do you believe in more than God’s promises in the Scriptures?
- What 3 obstacles or sins stand in the way of responding to the Scriptures that would lead you to build your faith? Is it pride, unbelief, greed, bitterness, impurity or hidden addiction?
- Who does God want you to engage and care for beyond yourself, to help them discover God’s vision?
Take a risk
There is no great dream that comes true without taking a risk. Faith is what compels us to take risks, because we believe more in God’s destiny for our lives than in our immediate circumstances.
 In spite of being nearly one hundred years old when the promise of having a son was made, his faith was so strong that it could not be undermined by the fact that he and Sarah were incapable of conceiving a child.[20–21] He never stopped believing God’s promise, for he was made strong in his faith to father a child. And because he was mighty in faith and convinced that God had all the power needed to fulfill his promises, Abraham glorified God!Romans 4:20-21 TPT
Despite being nearly 100 years old, Abraham was still willing to become a father all over again (after having had Ishmael born 13 years prior), convinced of God’s destiny for his life. He was well past the prime age for parenthood, yet chose to take a risk then settle for something far less than God’s promise of a future nation.
Love for others inspires us to take risks. Abraham’s love for God inspired him to trust God and risk his own comfort to pursue God’s purpose for his life. I grew up spoiled and having everything done for me as the youngest of three in my family.
My goal was to play it safe, by having others such as my sisters blaze the trail ahead for me – whether it was in school, applying for college, or looking for a job.
Yet this was all motivated not only by fear, but my love for a self-indulgent, comfortable life, not wanting to consider anyone else’s life greater than mine. Those who live small, risk-averse lives will always miss out on God’s destiny and the relationships he desired for us to impact.
No meaningful relationships of depth can be built without risking possible disappointment or moving beyond what’s familiar. In life there are plateaus that everyone hits, especially as we get older. It’s at those stages, we can either decide to settle and become stagnant, or risk moving forward with faith to change, believing God has something greater planned ahead.
Abraham chose the latter by trusting God, allowing God to change his life, and as a result, saw God’s promise come true beyond the past plateau of being childless with Sarah. Faith only becomes stronger when we’re willing to risk moving beyond such plateaus and embrace the necessary changes which prepare us to live out God’s dream!
- What form of comfort or compromise are you unwilling to risk losing in order for God’s dream to come true in your life?
- Do you believe God’s dream and future for your life is greater than the past you are holding onto?
- What risk is God calling you to take, and what personal change are you resisting that stands in the way of becoming who God destined you to be?
The ultimate evidence of faith is inspired sacrifice. Abraham later was willing to sacrifice his own son Isaac (Genesis 22), because he deeply believed and trusted God would ultimately come through. This same faith is also shown in how God sacrificed Jesus for us, so that we could build an intimate and dynamic relationship with God, just as Abraham did.
22 So now you can see why Abraham’s faith was credited to his account as righteousness before God. 23 And this declaration was not just spoken over Abraham, 24 but also over us. For when we believe and embrace the one who brought our Lord Jesus back to life, perfect righteousness will be credited to our account as well.
25 Jesus was handed over to be crucified for the forgiveness of our sins and was raised back to life to prove that he had made us right with God!Romans 4:22-25 TPT
Sacrifice is inspired by faith. God desired for us and those in future generations to be in an intimate and dynamic relationship with him. God chose to sacrifice Jesus so we could have a future with him, regardless of how we would respond to him. He did this because he had and continues to have a great faith for us and our future.
This is love. It was the ultimate demonstration of God’s power sacrifice to change our lives through the cross and resurrection of Jesus.
When our faith compels us to love God and love others, God credits this as righteousness — being in a right and pleasing relationship with God. This is why God credited Abraham with righteousness when Abraham chose to obey and trust God’s plan for his life, willingly and sacrificially. He also believed that it would lead to influencing many others lives ahead.
I have a son with special needs, and there’s nothing I would not sacrifice for him. This is because I see him for who he can become, and don’t define him by his physical limitations. Faith believes that any sacrifice is worth the destiny God has planned ahead for us. This was the faith Jesus had for us that compelled him to sacrifice his life, so that many could discover a life to the full (John 10:10).
- When was the last time you truly sacrificed because you deeply believed in someone? Does your faith inspire you to sacrifice for others?
- Do you view sacrifice as inspiring or burdening? What scriptures can change your mind and conviction about sacrificing the way God does?
- Who does God want you to serve and sacrifice to help them discover God’s vision for their life?