What is the difference between belief and faith? For many it is a question that causes struggles within their belief system. When exploring this question, one may be led to rethink their faith and realizing that belief and faith are not the same thing.
When breaking down the differences between belief and faith, there is a distinct difference. What is belief? It is a principle, an idea that is accepted as true; an opinion or conviction; a religious faith; trust or confidence. What is faith? It is the confident assurance in the character and nature of God; a strong or unshakable belief in something, without proof or evidence.
By turning to the book of Daniel in the Old Testament you can begin finding some answers when reading an amazing story about three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were thrown into a blazing furnace because they would not worship a false god. There are two clear verses that shed light on the difference between belief and faith.
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
This passage allows us to break down the difference between belief and faith. In verse 17, the men declare that even if they are thrown into the furnace, that God IS ABLE to deliver them from it as well as deliver them from the King. Those are strong and powerful words. They state that God is able. They do not say that God will but instead if He so chooses, then He will. They believe in God. They believe in the power of God. They believe He can deliver them from King Nebuchadnezzar. This was their belief.
Now comes the moment when faith steps in as they proclaim that even if God does not deliver them, they still would not worship or serve the King’s god. Their faith said that even if they were to perish, it still did not change that God is good because biblical faith is not placed in the outcome of a situation but instead in God. This is so profound. It is realizing that every battle belongs to the Lord and He controls the outcome. Faith says that God is good no matter the outcome of the situation. It means believing that God can save the day and that He can work miracles. Faith says that following Him is not dependent on whether things work out to our benefit. Faith says that we will follow Him no matter what.
There is also a great passage in Hebrews that speaks to faith.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promise.”
Reading through this passage there are great moments of faith in God when things are both good and bad. Through faith there were those that conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, escaped the sword and much more but then there were those that were put into prison, stoned to death, tortured, were sawed in two and killed by the sword. What a mix. No matter how good or how bad, whether or not they received what had been promised to them, their faith was not shaken. They chose to follow and obey God even when they could not see the outcome. It was choosing to follow even when the outcome may not have been one that they would have chosen. They each had a faith in the character and nature of God.
Faith is what pleases God. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6. Faith is not about all of our beliefs and convictions and those things are not what pleases God. What pleases God is putting every ounce of trust and faith in Him even when the outcome is unknown, when we do not understand and may not get my way.
In order to have that kind of faith, I must draw near to Him. I have to pursue Him. Come near to God and he will come near to you. James 4:8
So where do you find your faith? Is it found in a belief system or it is found in Christ?