“Oh, I wish I had your faith!”

Has anyone ever said that to you? Many Christians have. Maybe you’ve been talking to a neighbour and spoken of your trust in God, and the neighbour has uttered those words. What do you say in reply to that?

It’s important to ask, “What does my friend think faith is?” Perhaps she thinks it’s a learned skill, like knitting or knotting, fishing or football. Or a facility with languages or music: “I wish I could play the bassoon like you do.” Or maybe he thinks it’s an innate thing – something you’re born with. “Oh I wish I had 20/20 vision like yours.”

What is faith, according to the Bible? Is it really a “thing”?

I think it can be helpful to find another word that means the same thing as “faith.” My best suggestion is the word “trust.” Faith is trust.

How do you develop trust in someone? By getting to know him or her. It’s not enough simply to know things about that person; it’s not even enough to believe that those things are true about her. Trusting someone means being confidant in him because you have come to know him well. And the better you know a trustworthy person, the greater will be your trust in her.

Faith, or trust in the Lord Jesus is not something you can drum up by hard work! In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, he recounts a conversation between Alice and the Red Queen:

“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.

“Can’t you?” the queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again, draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Alice was right. No matter how hard you try, you can’t believe things if you don’t think they are true! And you can’t trust someone you believe to be untrustworthy.

So what do you say to your friend who says, “I wish I had your faith”?

Maybe this: “Well, you can! My faith in the Lord is about trusting him to save me from my sins, and keep me in his love for ever. I can do that only because he has shown me that he is totally trustworthy. And I’ve come to know him because he’s revealed himself to me in the Bible. Would you like to meet together to read the Bible over a cup of tea or coffee? I’d love for you to get to know him, and trust him too.”

Faith is not something we “do” – it’s not a work in that sense. It’s our God-given response to what the Lord reveals of himself, for “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith (trust)—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph.2:8-9).

– Peter Gadsby