“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8 NASB)
All that we do throughout the entirety of our lives is filtered through what we believe. I am not attributing our beliefs to be the same thing as faith in this article; my interpretation of the Word is that the two hold parallels, but at the same time, are different. But I will get into that later. These are simply some of the things I have been thinking about of late, and I pray God speaks through it how He sees fit, and that His words have been recorded, not mine. Nonetheless, please extend grace to me, as I strive to stay true to the Gospel.
The paradox of God’s sovereignty and our freedom is something that defies our understanding, and a good quote to describe this truth says, “God’s truth is too large for the simplicity of either-or. It can be apprehended only by the complexity of both-and.” The intention of this word is to provide a picture of what belief/believing can be interpreted to look like, with the understanding in mind that belief/believing and faith are at the core of Christianity and what Christ preached.
The Root of Our Worldviews
Our whole lives can ultimately be melted down to the pure elements of our thoughts. What we think is determined by what we receive and reject in our minds. At every moment in life, we are provided with two choices in our existence, nothing more and nothing less: yes or no. In the purest form, our thoughts truly only come down to black and white. We can think we are caught up in a gray area, but that doesn’t mean we actually are. Even in the gray areas, we are providing an exact answer.
A belief is defined by Oxford Languages as “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.” Oxford Languages also defines a worldview as “a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world.” Essentially, a worldview is the product of a person’s beliefs that have been gained throughout their lifetime. An example of this relationship can be seen through a fictitious boy in today’s culture. The young boy witnesses on social media that celebrities and famous Tik-Tokers are all drinking and doing drugs, and that because they are famous and successful, are worth mimicking. Thus the young boy begins to believe that drinking and drugging is something that should be done in order to be appealing like the famous people.
Along with the young boy’s belief in the appeal of drinking and drugging, the use of profanity and vulgarity is acquired. The appealing people seem to do it, therefore he deems it something to be done to make oneself appealing--another belief that is added to the young boy’s mind. As the young boy continues to grow up, these beliefs coalesce to contribute to his worldview; the broader lens through which he looks at life. What eventually happens to the young boy is anyone’s guess, but because of his worldview, we can say with some confidence that his future will probably have something to do with drinking, drugging, profanity, and vulgarity--lest he finds new beliefs that replace the ones that are defining his worldview.
Our beliefs ultimately determine our actions. If we are convinced enough in what we believe in, then we will naturally walk a path that brings our beliefs to fruition. Someone--a fictitious girl, for instance--who is told they are ugly and worthless may believe such a statement, and believe it even to the point of suicide. In such a tragic situation, the girl’s belief in the lie eventually led to the action of taking her own life. The belief is what the girl held on to and used to define herself falsely, but her worldview was already determining the requirements of beauty and value for herself--something that, because of the other beliefs she held regarding beauty and value, she determined she was lacking.
Three Attributes of Belief
Now, I think it is important to address the depth that is contained within the concept of belief. To believe something or someone, or to believe in something or someone, is an occurrence that is very simple, yet at the same time very difficult to put into words. This is why I think it is beneficial to address “belief” in a way where it is composed of three attributes: wisdom, trust, and courage--and on the opposing side of that: ignorance, doubt, and fear.
In all instances in our lives, as we have determined, we are seeing through our eyes that are our beliefs, which extend out into the macro scale and define our worldview. The three attributes of belief I am suggesting provide an illustration of the union between our own ability to receive and reject what enters our mind, and the reality that there are ultimately only two options in which we can choose. Allow me to elaborate.
To believe something or someone, one usually utilizes their own judgment to determine if that something or someone--along with what they are claiming--is worth receiving or rejecting; a yes or a no. When the decision-making in this regard is proven fruitful--in that the “yes” or “no” produces an outcome that results in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control--then it can be considered wisdom. Wisdom can be defined as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment.” When we are determining our beliefs day-to-day, wisdom is the decision-making that leads our lives to fruitfulness.
However, outcomes that result in fruitfulness can be difficult to achieve, and to do so perfectly for us mere humans is impossible. When we partner with a belief and lead ourselves to an action that does not bear fruit, then we have not partnered with wisdom, but rather, we have become a slave to ignorance. Ignorance, in its final form, is something that maintains darkness, and darkness is fundamentally defined by what it is not: the light, which is truth. Wisdom deals with truth, whereas ignorance deals with falsehood and lies. Ultimately, to believe something or someone, one must come to the individual conclusion of whether or not it is true; a personal yes or no. Ignorance is failing to see what is true.
To give an illustration of ignorance, there is some interesting information obtained regarding drug addictions. According to the most recent information from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), “Among the 18.9 million people aged 12 or older in 2019 with a SUD (Substance Use Disorder) in the past year who did not receive treatment at a specialty facility, 95.7 percent
(or 18.1 million people) did not feel that they needed treatment” (Source, Page 54, figure 70). All people with a SUD were classified as needing substance use treatment (page 70, endnote 70). Essentially, 95.7 percent of the people in this study with a SUD did not think they needed any help or did not think their problem was something out of their control (if they even acknowledged they had a problem), despite their addiction. And, according to Vertava Health, the number one contributing factor for people in addiction not receiving help is denial. And denial stems from ignorance--an inability to see what is true.
Once someone has determined something to be true through the lens of their own wisdom (or ignorance), the next attribute that is activated is trust. When our wisdom--or ignorance--deems something worthy to be received, we place trust in that ideal, person, or thing. Trust is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something,” and “dependence on something future or contingent.”
Where wisdom is the inner discernment of whether something or someone is trustworthy, trust is the state of acceptance that deems it so. The question becomes, however, what is truly trustworthy? And, according to our own wisdom that deems something or someone trustworthy based on fruitfulness (unless one is being guided by ignorance), this would imply that there are limitations in the ways that we can trust. This is because, ultimately, there are limitations in our abilities to bear fruit. Love is a clear example, because, for many of us humans, the extent of our love would probably cease if it came to loving our enemies to the point of dying for them--a limitation on our ability to bear fruit. This is just one example.
Therefore, though our wisdom and trust have limitations, we still continually determine what should be trusted and what shouldn’t be, based on our own wisdom that is marred, due to the impossibility of something or someone of this world that is fully trustworthy. This cycle inevitably leads to conflict because our own wisdom is distorted, due to the incapability of finding something that is entirely worthy of being trusted--which steadily decays wisdom into ignorance and trust into doubt, and makes it continually more difficult to trust in the future. If we were left to our own devices, then the cycle would only spiral downward.
The final attribute that comprises belief from my interpretation is courage. Once someone has determined something to be worthy of their trust--utilizing either wisdom or ignorance--and trust has been placed in that something, then the extent to which that person trusts in it will determine how much it manifests in their life. To give an example; if someone I had a crush on told me to get a specific haircut she likes, I would probably get that haircut. Why? Because I believe she is someone worth impressing, and if I trust in that thought-process enough, it will move me to act upon it--hence, I would get the haircut. In much the same way, I am asserting that the third attribute that comprises belief is courage, where one is moved by the trust they have placed in their mental process (wisdom) and thereby act upon it.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of courage is, “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” When we have received something in our minds; when we have said yes to whatever it is that has entered our thoughts; we will naturally bear the banner of it. If I think the holocaust was a good thing that happened (which it was not), and I place my trust in that determination, and also in the holocaust itself--since that is what I have determined to be good--then to the degree in which I trust in that ideal is the degree in which I will stand under its banner. And, if opposition comes my way (which such a stance will probably entail), the trust in which I have in that ideal will determine how I act in response. If I have been dealing in wisdom, then I will have courage in facing adversity because my trust will be founded upon something I know to be true. But if I have been dealing in ignorance, then I will have fear because I will doubt the truth of what I stand for. Thus, courage and the will to act gives a face to the work of the previous two--wisdom and trust.
The Union of Belief and Faith
In this way, it can be seen that all people are believers in something; for to live is to believe. But, it can also be seen that there is a delineation between the light and the dark; wisdom and ignorance; trust and doubt; courage and fear. All people are believers, but what belief ultimately comes back to is the issue of truth. In essence, what truly determines whether we walk in the light or in the darkness is what we receive to be true. And, as previously acknowledged, the extent of trust when dealing in wisdom is ultimately predicated on fruitfulness, and if something eventually fails to be fruitful, it is something that wisdom would deem untrustworthy. Therefore, according to wisdom, everything in this world would be untrustworthy, since all things are inevitably limited in their fruitfulness.
And this is the reality to which our beliefs are ultimately subject: is what we are believing bearing fruit? We can continue throughout our entire lives and believe in something or someone to the fullest of our being, but if it doesn’t produce fruit then it means nothing. And if what we are believing is not bearing fruit, then it is not wise to continue to believe in it. I can base my entire life on what people think of me, or how much I am liked by others, or how much money I make, or how much power I have, or having a family, or getting an education; but does it bear fruit?
The eyes of our lives are our beliefs, and we will be searching for something worthy to believe in for all our days until we lift our eyes to the Almighty. Wisdom deals in truth, and if we seek to utilize its treasures, we will have to understand what truth is. Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV). Our own wisdom is limited, due to the limitations of our trust and the shortcomings of this world, but that is why it is written: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10 NKJV). Wisdom deems something trustworthy if it bears fruit--Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NASB). And from the wisdom that God gives us through trusting in Him, we can know that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV).
God fits the need of our beliefs perfectly--nothing else can complete the picture the way that God can, and provide a worldview that leads to life, and life abundantly. But this is the crux: though we can believe in whatever we will, faith in God is ultimately found only in one place--the cross. Is Jesus who He says He is? Is Jesus God? That is the question, and if one seeks truth, they will have to ask it honestly. There is only one answer that God gives: “For unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24 BSB).
We know that faith is a gift and something that cannot be earned or deserved--which differs from our beliefs because what we believe in is the manifestation of what we have received within ourselves. We can only do two things, as previously stated: receive and reject. And what is it that is either being received or rejected? What is it that we are either saying yes or no to? Truth. At all times within our lives, we are being offered the choice of receiving truth or rejecting it. God is the truth.
Christ died at the cross so that our relationship with God might be reconciled. Jesus died so that we could receive faith. Jesus is the gift; He is synonymous with faith because faith is something that can only come from Him. God alone is perfectly faithful, and it is His faith that He has given us at the cross. Therefore, since Christ died and rose again on the third day so that we could receive faith, faith is God’s gift that removes the scales from our worldly eyes--but this is something only God can do. And because only God can give faith, and because it represents Himself, faith is something that is not bound at all by our means of prediction, measurements, control, anticipation, or definition; it is entirely determined based on how God dispenses Himself, and His own personal will… But what we also know is this: God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
Suffice it to say, Jesus wants us to believe in Him--He is constantly saying so in the Gospels. With the three attributes previously put forward, to believe in Jesus means to think about what He offers: a relationship with the living God; life; a life full of fruit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, self-control; an eternal hope in Him; forgiveness and a renewed mind; freedom from the bonds of sin, shame, and all the powers of darkness; perseverance; victory over death, and a home to return to. Once having considered the gifts that Jesus has given us by His shed blood, we must decide if He and what He has done is something worth trusting in and if it will bring fruit into our life. If we deem Jesus to be worthy in this regard and thus commit our trust to Him, then we will inevitably have to put feet to our trust through courage. This is because the world, our own wisdom (which is ignorance without the Word--which is truth), and the devil are all contrary to God, and therefore our trust in Him will be tested.
And it is in the impossible-to-comprehend process of our own belief in Jesus being united with God’s divine gift of faith that produces a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-21 NASB; letter is addressed to the church in Corinth, but Paul establishes a broad truth). And it is only with God’s injection of faith that we are able to walk--believing in Christ--in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24). But, we can stand firmly on the foundation of God, knowing His character, and that He wants nothing more than for all people to come to Him and be saved: “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NIV). Therefore, it can be claimed that if one honestly believes in Jesus, then God will be faithful to bestow His faith upon them, as God gives good gifts to those who ask and keep asking (Matthew 7:7-12). But, exactly how God does this is entirely in His control.
Overall, there are two things that God commands that sum up everything: “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’” (Luke 10:27 NASB; Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:17-18). Christ assures us in this, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28 NASB). Ultimately, to believe in God and carry our cross daily will require a relationship of love--first for God, and then for others. If a relationship or belief is without love, then wisdom will turn into ignorance, and trust will decay into doubt, and doubt fosters fear--and spiritual fear, not of the Lord that leads to righteousness, but a fear of the world, leads to sin. But there is hope, and Christ died and rose again so that we could walk in a relationship of love with Him. “I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in favor and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD.” (Hosea 2:19-20 NASB). And, when God opens our eyes, we will be able to see that perfect love that casts out all fear: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (John 4:18 NIV).