According to C.H. Spurgeon, faith has three components—knowledge, belief and trust. A person first must have some sort of information, and then they must believe the credibility of that information, and they then must trust in that information. He describes faith another way,
Faith is believing that Christ is what He is said to be, and that He will do what He has promised to do, and then to expect this of Him.
So we must know the Gospel, believe that it is true, and trust that it will be fulfilled.
According to the dictionary, knowledge is this:
1. acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation
After an investigation, a study or an observation, you arrive at some truth, some facts. This is knowledge. The first step of faith is to know something, to see something, to discover something.
I did Science Fair projects for six years during grade school and middle school. We started with a question, formed a hypothesis, and conducted an experiment. After lots of experimentation and observation, we came out with an answer to our question, and we either proved or disproved our hypothesis. After that kind of process, it’s hard to really doubt what you’ve learned. I never had trouble believing that caffeine caused lively behavior, that plants grew better with sunlight than in darkness, and that water was better for you than soda when exercising. I tested my hypothesis and came out with a definitive answer. In short, it didn’t take much to believe my answer after I had found it.
I think the step of belief isn’t really a step at all, it’s just a consequential and necessary action that follows facts, as long as those facts are concrete. If you are reading this and have no idea how a person could believe in a God, you probably don’t have enough knowledge about it. Keep asking questions, making observations and forming investigations. If you did not arrive at your religious beliefs by first asking questions, and making observations, I would question whether or not you really do believe in anything at all.
The last step in faith is trust. When I think of trusting someone, there are certain people that I do, and certain people that I don’t, think of. Those whom I do think of are close friends, friends who have been through thick and thin with me. When I think of friends I do not trust, I think of friends who have let me down, who haven’t been there, and who don’t have a good track record. Some people trust everyone until they are given a reason not to, some people trust no one until they are a given a reason to. In both cases, however, it is important that the person whose trust is in question does not give out reasons not to be trusted.
I think trusting God works in a similar way. God asks us to trust in him, not blindly, but with good reason. He asks us to trust in him based on his track record. He consistently reminds the Israelites, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt,” because he has already proved himself to them by taking his people out of captivity and parting the Red Sea to free them. He demonstrated himself to them, and he tells them to remember this so that their faith may increase. He reminds them that he is to be trusted.
Trust is the lifeblood of faith; there is no saving faith without it. The Puritans were accustomed to explain faith by the word “recumbency.” It meant leaning upon a thing. Lean with all your weight upon Christ. It would be a better illustration still if I said, fall at full length, and lie on the Rock of Ages. Cast yourself upon Jesus; rest in Him; commit yourself to Him. That done, you have exercised saving faith. Faith is not a blind thing; for faith begins with knowledge. It is not a speculative thing; for faith believes facts of which it is sure. It is not an unpractical, dreamy thing; for faith trusts, and stakes its destiny upon the truth of revelation. That is one way of describing what faith is. -C.H. Spurgeon
I love the idea that faith is not an unpractical thing. It trusts what is knows to be true. God is not asking me to have faith without reason. He is asking me to have faith that is evidenced by his consistent work in my life. He tells the Israelites to remember him bringing them out of Egypt so that they might be reminded of the basis of their faith: knowledge. They knew that God had worked in their lives.
I always thought that the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac was kind of strange. I was under the impression that Abraham’s faith was “accredited to him as righteousness” because he trusted God enough to kill his own son. Then it occurred to me: Abraham’s faith was “accredited to him as righteousness” because he believed that God wouldn’t kill his son, or at least wouldn’t keep him dead. Abraham knew that God had promised to keep his covenant through his son Isaac, so he must have kept Isaac alive. Abraham even told his servants that he and his son Isaac would return after the sacrifice, showing that he knew Isaac would not die, and he also told Isaac that God would provide the sacrifice on the mountain. Abraham had faith in what God had already told him, which was why he was willing to go so far as to tie up his one and only son and hold a knife to his heart. He knew God would provide the sacrifice, because he knew God keeps his promises.
Why did Abraham have faith in God? Because he had every reason to. This is the Abraham that laughed at God for making a promise that was impossible for him to fathom. The Abraham who had slept with a maidservant to try to help God’s plan move a little faster. But God told Abraham to wait for him, and he promised him that he would receive a son–a true son– through whom his promise would flow. And then God did exactly that. Abraham learned to trust the Lord because he had reason to.
I’ve always loved the idea of building altars to the Lord, like his people did in the Old Testament. Not physical altars, but metaphorical altars. I love the idea of taking time to recognize and remember when God is at work in our lives. I am just starting to realize, though, that God didn’t command that of his people just for them to increase in praise and thankfulness to him. He asked his people to remember for their own sake, and for the growing of their faith. I think this idea of building altars strengthens our faith because we commemorate the goodness of God, and that builds our trust in him.
So remember what God has done for you. Increase in faith by taking time to commemorate how the Lord has pursued you in your life. Base your faith on what you see and experience, because our God is a God that loves to reveal himself to his children. Know God by noticing him, and “building altars” to remember what he has done. Faith is not unpractical, but is based on what it knows.