For many years, I have struggled to understand what Faith is. This world has many definitions of Faith. Various religions have their own interpretation of faith. Even mass media has it’s own paintbrush for their idea of Faith. Even more disturbing to me are the times when I ask “people of faith” to define Faith and Belief, and are unable to adequately do so…in terms that I can understand. They usually revert to examples to attempt to describe them, which is usually a limited understanding of them. Belief and Faith are not things we usually think about.
However, ever since my college days when I started to question faith…even up to now, I’ve noticed events in my life that have taught me, little by little, the meaning of faith and belief and their relationship to each other. I feel like I have a better idea now, after all these years, and I know that Heaven has had a hand in it. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Belief is not faith. Belief can be defined as: “Your willingness to accept an idea”. You haven’t tried it out yet, or maybe you’ve just started. You haven’t fully accepted the idea. It still needs time and effort. It currently makes sense to you as it is presented to you, but you just haven’t experienced its results for yourself just yet.
Start to Do Something
Once you’ve started trying it out, little by little, you’re now beginning to practice that belief. Still, you’re only trusting someone’s word…whoever “they” are. Trusting their word only…that’s only the beginning of faith. It’s not “faith in the idea” itself…but “faith in their word”, their assurance, that the promised results will come based on the premise that “if you do this, you’ll get this result.” You do not have faith in the idea just yet.
This is this initial trust that magicians, cunning salesmen, marketing, and shifty politicians count on from the people they intend to deceive…trust in their word only. However, it is also what employers do when they look at a resume. It is what we do when we answer a doorbell. It is what happens when we pick up a phone, turn on a computer, turn the key to the car, or unlock a door. There is an initial trust that we place on someone or something based on an expectation we have on them. That initial trust is not lasting, though. It is only enough to test out a belief, a claim. That initial trust is not Faith.
Once you start noticing results, and they match what’s been promised to you, you begin to have faith in the idea itself. You’re not trusting someone’s assurances alone anymore. Rather, you’re beginning to trust the idea itself…that it might actually have some merit! Some Value! As you continue practicing the idea, and you compare it to someone’s assurances, and the results are consistent with what’s expected, your confidence in that idea begins to grow…and so does your faith in that idea.
In other words, when an idea presents itself as “reliable”…or, you can count on getting the expected results every time you test it, you gain Confidence in it. As you gain more confidence in it, you begin to trust both someone’s claim and the idea itself as a whole. This is what faith is: it is your relationship of trust with a given claim and the idea itself. This Trust is a growing and developing trust. That claim isn’t just an idea you’re willing to accept anymore; it’s not a belief. You’ve tried it out, tested its merits, and seen the results first hand. And you keep doing it over and over…getting the same results. You now trust it to do as it’s expected to do…and you have confidence now, and in the future, based on the past, that it will perform as expected. This is Faith.
In short, faith is trust in something you’ve tested out and proven. Is that all? Nope. It’s not a complete definition.
When Things Don’t Turn Out
When you try something out, and the results aren’t coming up as expected, you may begin to doubt what was presented to you. Not that what you’re experiencing is bad. It may not be that at all. It could be bad…but it isn’t necessarily bad. It may just mean that someone didn’t understand what they claimed to understand…or You didn’t understand what they claimed. You may actually be getting the results you’re supposed to be getting. They just don’t match what was claimed. This is one reason many people would reject the claim (when you do not accept it)….or, in other words, you don’t believe it. You’re not willing to accept what was claimed because the results aren’t coming up as expected. You do not have to reject the idea itself…just the claim.
But…Hang on! Do you throw it all away? Do you fully reject everything you’ve been presented?
Well…let’s think about this.
Was it them? Did they really understand what they expressed to you? Did they explain it well enough? Or did they mis-communicate something?
Or was it you? Did you hear it right? Did you understand it the way they intended? Did you do as you were supposed to do? Did you give it enough time…or were you impatient?
Or was it both of you? Maybe you both got it wrong…or the claim was a false idea to believe, or a false premise, to begin with.
Or maybe it wasn’t either of you…and it was just that you both had incomplete information? You were both in the right direction…but you were just operating on what you knew at the time. You were just missing some important piece that neither of you knew about.
This is the tricky part about beliefs…and faith..because if our beliefs and our faith are based on mere observation alone…based on our own perception and understanding alone, we could be easily fooled. Someone could make us think that what they claim is the truth…using illusionary techniques…whether sleight of hand, clever wording, and even psychological manipulation. This is why Hollywood spends so much money making movies that promote certain messages…cloaked in entertainment. This is why Marketing Departments spend millions of dollars to try to convince us that their products are desireable, safe, reliable, sexy, whatever….when really, they are not. This is why corrupt government officials keep getting elected into office. This is why we keep thinking that our world is normal…when really, we’ve been deceived into thinking that. This is how philosophies of men find mainstream acceptance, and God gets put into the recycle bin of our hearts…you know, He’s still there, but ready to be discarded when I feel like it.
It’s easy to change someone’s untested beliefs. It’s more difficult to change faith anchored with truth.
This is why discerning, believing, and having faith in the truth requires another component: Confirmation.
The conclusions we make after proving our beliefs must be backed up by a second witness, preferably a source of truth…even God, through the Holy Ghost. You must have confirmation outside of yourself that what you think or perceive is true is actually true. We, our senses and understanding, alone, are not the best measure. This is what’s called “The Testimony of Another” (a.k.a. Testimonial or Testimony)…or, The Testimony of the Spirit.
We often rely on the testimony of another as we try to make decisions. We find someone else’s experience valuable. Today’s world uses Comments and Consumer Reviews as these “testimonies”. But this assumes one thing: Everyone is truthful. For the most part, that is the case. But it is unfortunate that we have been taught to mistrust each other. From false advertising to identity theft to false claims to espionage and surveillance…slowly, our ability to trust each other…and to tell the truth to each other…is being eroded. Still, we are, by design, beings who desire to trust each other. And, in our private moments, we really do tell the truth about ourselves and long to do so to others.
So, relying on Man to tell the truth has its flaws. There are honest people, and they can be found among us. They’re the ones we rely on. However, once we recognize that God sends a Messenger, even the Holy Ghost, as a witness of truth, and we have learned to discern how He shows us how something is true or not, then we can use this “tool” of a second witness as our meter of True-ness.
Putting it all together
Having faith takes time. It takes work. It takes practice. It takes study. It means sifting through all the things that I’m willing to accept (a.k.a. my beliefs), and trying them out. It’s taking the things that work, that have shown merit…and then, getting confirmation from the Source of Truth, even God, that what I think I know is true is actually true! It’s taking the beliefs that I’m not fully sure of yet…and working on them, testing them, proving them, to see if the results of my beliefs are actually the results I should be getting. And if they’re not…asking myself “why”, asking others “why”, and asking God “What else do I need to do?”
Having faith requires us to believe something first. It is Belief that should motivate us to do something about it; it should encourage us to act. It may also discourage us from dangers…but even the act of avoiding danger is, in itself, a conscious act of preservation. However, we cannot rely on beliefs not acted upon, alone, to sustain us in the hard moments of life. We cannot live our lives just “believing”. No…we must try out those beliefs. We must prove them…or we will be proven along with them. Beliefs alone cannot stand…for they cannot prove themselves. They must be proven through experimentation, study, and practice. Once proven, and we’re confident with the ideas and people that make up our beliefs…then those beliefs transform into a set of ideas that WE TRUST! This is what the scripture “Faith, without works, is dead” means. Faith, without works, is really only a belief. The “works” part is really our testing out those beliefs…and once proven to be true, continuing to act accordingly.
In other words, Beliefs in ideas, practices, and people that have been tested and proven, whose results have been confirmed as true by the source of truth, even God, can be yours to claim as FAITH. And when you have FAITH in an idea, a practice, and in a person…you KNOW how reliable it is. You know you’ll always get the results you’re expecting…and sometimes even more if not better. It will be difficult to shake you from what you trust as reliable. Those things that you trust become anchors in your life; they are your Go-To’s whenever you’ve got a problem…and you can rely on them to help you out or get you out. This is why FAITH is really Trust in reliable things that have been confirmed as true by the Holy Ghost, and that keeps you anchored. With this kind of relationship with these ideas, practices, and people, you can weather whatever problems come your way.
The question then becomes: Who, or what, can I TRUST that will always produce reliable results…that will never fail me, never betray me, never will be used against me, helps me through the storms of life, and helps me be a help to others? Believe that these things exist, and then…prove them for yourself. Then, have FAITH in these things…and do not waver. Remain anchored in that FAITH….and be not moved.
I have my own set of ideas that keep me anchored. I’ve tested them. I’ve seen their results. The results are reliable, repeatable, and unfailing. I’ve received confirmation on those tests many times over….both from people who have tried them, and from the heavens. I know what I believe in…and I know what I already trust. And this set of ideas begins…with God.
Belief, alone, is not Faith. But it is the start.