The Difference Between Belief and Faith

“I believe with all my heart God is going to heal him.” 

“If I truly believe God is going to ___________ (deliver me from my financial troubles, give me a new car, send me a husband, release me from the job I hate), then he will. But I have to reeeeealy believe it.” 

“God wants you to be healthy, wealthy, and happy. If you’re not, it’s because you don’t have enough faith. James 1:6-8 says so: ‘But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.’” 

Have you ever heard someone say one or all of these statements? I have. 

I’ve also seen people continue to experience illness, financial trouble, singleness, difficult marriages, and challenging jobs, even though they reeeeeeealy believed God was going to answer their prayers for deliverance. Was their faith not strong enough? Did they harbor a smidgen of doubt that hindered God from answering their prayers? 

How can we be sure we have enough faith to tip the scales in our favor when God decides which prayers to answer in the affirmative? And how do we “ask in faith, believing,” when we’re just not sure how God’s going to answer? 

Years ago I was scheduled to have surgery to remove a cyst/tumor. There was some concern that the growth might be malignant, but we wouldn’t know until the day of surgery. As I prayed about the outcome, I wrestled with “asking in faith, believing,” for a cancer-free report. I knew God could heal me if necessary. He certainly had the power. 

But the thought occurred to me that he might not choose to. I’ve lived long enough to know that sometimes God glorifies himself by delivering someone from a difficult situation. Other times he glorifies himself by empowering them to go through it. How could I know God’s will in order to believe with all my heart and get the answer I hoped for? 

Jennifer Kennedy Dean, in Live a Praying Life answers this question better than anyone I’ve ever heard. Listen to what she writes: 

“Faith is not ‘believing real hard.’ Faith is not shutting your eyes and drawing a long breath and willing yourself to believe something. You can make yourself believe anything, true or not. Believing something won’t make God do it. Belief is one thing; faith is something else.” 

Her observations are similar to mine, that because "many believers have mistaken belief for faith, they have had experiences in prayer that are discouraging and disappointing." She describes faith quite differently than belief: 

“Faith has only one focus: God. Jesus said: ‘Have faith in God’ (Mark 11:22). When your faith is in God, not in your own idea of what God should do and how He should do it, then faith has substance. The person who is living a praying life is living a life of faith. That person understands that prayer is always releasing the power of God for the purposes of God. Therefore, once prayer has begun, whatever direction as situation takes, it is taking the direction that will accomplish the purposes of God. That’s faith.” 

And then, she writes the words that parted the faith curtain for me: “You do not have to be able to predict how God will act in order to have faith.” 

What we must know to be able to ask in faith, believing, is that God is all knowing, all powerful, and all loving. Everything he allows into a believer’s life is to accomplish two purposes: my good and his glory. Knowing this allows me to yield my will to his and trust him to accomplish his ultimate and best purpose in every situation. 

Richard Foster, in the book, Prayer, says this: “Frequently we hold on so tightly to the good that we do know that we cannot receive the greater good that we do not know. God has to help us let go of our tiny vision in order to release the greater good he has in store for us . . .” 

This is why the true prayer of faith lifts our requests to him, then ends with, “Lord, not my will, but yours be done.” When we pray this way, we can rest in faith, knowing we can trust the God who has all the power of the universe and all the wisdom of the world at his disposal. Knowing that he loves us and is working for our highest good and his glory allows us confidently to yield our will to his, “asking in faith, believing.” 

I’m so thankful we don’t have to figure out what’s best and then work ourselves into a belief frenzy before we can pray. Instead, we can come before the Lord and acknowledge, “God, I don’t know what the best answer is in this situation, but you do. I trust you. Please work for my good and your glory.”

Now it's your turn. What does this explanation of the difference between belief and faith mean to you? Leave a comment in the box below and share your thoughts. If you're reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online, scroll to the bottom of the post, and leave a comment.

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