What does it mean to live by faith?
What a great question! The Upper Room Dictionary of Christian Spiritual Formation describes faith as a "personal, positive, and dynamic relationship with God involving one's whole being and life.
"As the Bible predominantly sees it, faith is trust. Trust is lived, experienced as an assurance, a motivating force. It is not a theory or an idea.
"Luther called it 'a confidence on which one stakes one's life,' building on the claim in Hebrews 11:1 that 'faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.' "
The article continues, "Faith as trust is complemented and explained by faith as belief: a set of theological propositions arrived at through the use of reason and logic. Theological belief is intentionally more impersonal, objective and analytical. It explains the experience of trust. ...
"Belief is knowledge about God. Trust is knowing God firsthand, made possible through prayerful receptivity and allowing God to live in us and work through us. Both knowledge and knowing are necessary, and each complements the other. Otherwise trust can be mindless and irrational, and belief can be empty and irrelevant."
United Methodists understand that faith is about having one's life transformed by the One in whom we put our trust, not just assenting to some ideas that may comfort us in difficult times and get us into heaven.
John Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, organized people into small groups whose members could "watch over one another in love." They helped each other live lives that honored God.
They got together and talked about their struggles with sin and the difficulties of life. They encouraged one another to pray, to read the Bible, to attend public worship, to fast and to reach out in love toward their neighbors. They worked side-by-side to offer health care to the poor, to advocate for safe working conditions, and to abolish both slavery and debtor's prisons.
It was a holistic approach of personal and public piety paired with public and personal service to neighbor.
Today, we continue in this approach. We pray, study and worship with other Christians in order to connect to God and to deepen our knowledge of and love for God.
As we respond with acts of compassion to people's needs and acts of justice to put right what creates some of those needs, we strengthen our ability to love our neighbor.
We also confess and repent of our sins, ways in which we fall short of God's way, and we recommit ourselves to living a life of faith. In this way, our inner thoughts and motives as well as our outer actions and behavior are made more like Jesus.
So, to live by faith is to live in a trusting, loving and ever-deepening relationship with God and every neighbor in which our own lives are transformed and we become part of the way God's love transforms the world.
Check out these sermons by John Wesley about faith:
This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications. First published April 30, 2018.