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Live by Faith: What It Means and Doesn’t

What does it mean to live by faith? Living by faith in Jesus means living with belief, trust, and lifelong allegiance in him. Faith may start as an internal force, but authentic faith comes out in how we live.

An Impressive Internal Force

Set in France in the early 1800s, Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas tells the story of 2 friends: Edmond Dantés, a good man, and Mondego, a rich, well-connected son of a French count, but not a good man. Unlike Mondego, Dantés isn’t rich or well-connected, not the son of a count, and yet, Dantés is happy. And even though Mondego has everything he could ever want, Mondego finds himself wanting to be Dantés. He wants Dantés’s happiness, Dantés’s likability, Dantés’s fiancé. Jealousy floods Mondego, the friendship evaporates, and it leaves behind a dark residue of hatred.

The night before Dantés is to be married, Mondego and another jealous accomplice accuse Dantés of being a conspirator for Napoleon Bonaparte, who is in exile. These totally false charges are nonetheless very damaging, and when the judge realizes that this conspiracy of theirs is going to work out in his favor, he sentences Dantés to life on an island prison.

Six years of solitary confinement later, Dantés is ready to kill himself when up through the floor into his cell climbs a man. He’s a priest-turned-prisoner who’s been digging his escape for years. Now, the two begin digging together, trying to escape. All the while, the priest teaches Dantés all about economics and science and languages. Most interestingly, he informs Dantés about a limitless treasure buried on the island of Monte Cristo.


“Jealousy floods Mondego, the friendship evaporates, and it leaves behind a dark residue of hatred.”


Unfortunately, before they are able to make it to the outer wall, the aged priest dies. So they’re coming to take the priest’s body away when Dantés has a great idea. Dantés will use the priest’s body bag as an opportunity to escape. Dantés takes the priest’s body out of the bag, hides in it, is taken out of the prison into the open air, and is thrown into the sea as a corpse. It works, Dantés swims to the nearest island, and from there, he sails until he locates the island of Monte Cristo, digs up the treasure that the priest had told him about, and now is the “Count of Monte Cristo.” The best part is that now he’s got the money and the status to get his revenge.

So, first, for Mondego’s friend who had been in on Dantés’s woes. The guy is now a very wealthy businessman, so Dantés manipulates the economy, ruins him financially, and gets him arrested. Check him off the list. As for the judge that sent Dantés to prison, Dantés exposes his crimes to the public. Disgraced, the judge goes insane. Check the magistrate off his list. Now for Mondego himself, Dantés tells the world what Mondego has done. He tells Mondego’s family what he’s done, and the disgraced Mondego commits suicide.

How in the world did Edmond Dantés do all that? He was driven by something within. It was an internal force called revenge.


“He was driven by something within. It was an internal force called revenge.”


When followers of Jesus do good things for God that make the world pause and pay attention, how do they do that? Followers of Jesus are driven by an internal force called faith.

How did they do that? Faith.

Hebrews 11 narrates some of the outstanding events in the Bible that are traced back to people’s faith in a great God. For example:

  • Hebrews 11:5 – Enoch getting taken to heaven without dying
  • Hebrews 11:8-10 – Abraham leaving home for an unknown promised land
  • Hebrews 11:24-29 – Moses leading his people to freedom

When we wonder how these people did those amazing things, the answer is the same every time: Each time, they did this by faith.

The point of this article is to look at what faith is according to the Bible. What’s at stake here? Well, if we don’t know what biblical faith is, we won’t know whether or not we have biblical faith in our lives. And if we don’t have faith…

“And without faith it is impossible to please God…” (Heb. 11:6)


Live by Faith: “When we wonder how these people did those amazing things, the answer is the same every time: Each time, they did this by faith.”


What faith isn’t

Before we get into what biblical faith is, let’s ask what biblical faith is not. Not every version of faith we see in our culture is biblical faith.

For example, there’s faith according to

  • …skeptics: faith = belief in God when there’s not any evidence for him
  • …Disney: faith = just believe and your dreams will come true
  • …cartoon Christianity: faith = believe the right beliefs and you’ll go to heaven

These versions of “faith” would never bring about the amazing things we read about in Hebrews 11. Nor are they what pleases God.

Josh Groban’s “Believe” is an excellent example of Disney-style faith. The song describes how we should believe our hearts. We should trust what we feel inside. And if we do? Then our dreams will come true.


Live by Faith: “These versions of ‘faith’ would never bring about the amazing things we read about in Hebrews 11. Nor are they what pleases God.”


What faith is

To find out what true, biblical faith is, let’s look at the beginning of Hebrews 11.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Heb. 11:1)

Faith is

  • something you have (e.g., “you have great faith” in Matt. 15:28)
  • something you do (e.g., “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” in Acts 16:31)
  • something you can be full of (e.g., “kindness, goodness, and faithfulness,” in Gal. 5:22)
  • something you can grow in (e.g., “your faith is growing more and more,” in 2 Thess. 1:3)
  • something you hold fast to (e.g., the “faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people,” in Jude 1:3)

Live by Faith: “Faith is something you have, something you do, something you can be full of, something you can grow in, and something you hold fast to.”


Faith is a word that includes a range of meanings. Having faith in Jesus means we

  • believe what Jesus says (e.g., John 2:22)
  • trust in Jesus to save us (e.g., John 1:12)
  • remain faithful/loyal to Jesus (e.g., 2 Tim. 4:6)

Living by faith isn’t just one off these facets of faith; it starts with belief and blossoms into lifelong, embodied loyalty to Jesus. Becoming just/righteous by faith comes before living justly/righteously by faith (see Galatians 3:11 and Romans 1:17).

Attacking Your Faith

Your faith will be attacked. Your enemy Satan hates when you place your faith in God and refuse to budge. He will try to undermine your faith in God any way he can. In fact, that’s what he’s been doing since the early pages of Scripture; he’s been trying to get us to doubt that God is good:

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4-5)

In C.S Lewis’s children’s book The Silver Chair, two children and their guide are sent to find the missing Prince Rilian of Narnia. They finally find the missing prince underground. It’s not just like a few feet underground, but rather there’s this whole underground realm they discover ruled by a sorceress who has kept Prince Rillian a captive under her spell all this time. They find Prince Rillian, and—spoiler alert—they’re able to snap him out of his spell. Not surprisingly, it has something to do with a Silver Chair.


Live by Faith: “Your faith will be attacked. Your enemy Satan hates when you place your faith in God and refuse to budge.”


They’re about to make their getaway, when into the room comes the sorceress. Interestingly, she doesn’t seem upset. Rather, she speaks to them kindly and reassuringly. Rather than call the guards, she takes some powder, sprinkles it into the fireplace, and begins to strum on a small stringed instrument, pretending like nothing was the matter. A little random.

Then she asks some questions, such as, “Where are you off to?” “Narnia,” they answer. “Narnia…where’s this Narnia?” “Up there,” they point. “How?” she laughs sweetly. “Is there a country up among the stones and mortar on the roof?” “No, it’s in Overworld,” they explain. “You know, the world over this world.” “What? Overworld? That doesn’t make any sense!”

Now her enchantment is beginning to affect their minds. “But we’ve all seen the sun up in the sky,” they protest. “What is this sun that you all speak of? Do you mean anything by the word?” she asks. And after more questions, they become convinced that the sun must have been just a dream. “There’s Aslan. He is the great lion,” remembers one, mustering every last bit of memory she can. But the witch replies, “What is a lion?” “Well, it’s like a large cat,” they say, to which the witch responds, “I love cats.”


“Now her enchantment is beginning to affect their minds.”


After the witch’s explanation, they become convinced that the lion must be a dream, too, derived from the idea of cats. Soon they have accepted that Overworld (kind of like our heaven) was simply a dream they pieced together based on the things they had seen in the “real world”: the down here world.

Living by faith means seeing through lies.

Satan will try to undermine your faith in God at every step. He will do it subtly and persuasively. He will get you focused on what he calls the “real world” so that you are numbed to spiritual, eternal realities.

Yet we signed up for a faith that lasts for a lifetime. Throughout the Bible, we see that true faith is a faithful faith. It isn’t just a matter of feeling feelings or believing beliefs. Faith in Jesus means lifelong loyalty to Jesus—which means not allowing Satan’s lies any real estate in our minds.


Live by Faith: “We signed up for a faith that lasts for a lifetime.”


Am I living by faith?

In light of the Bible’s definition of faith, you might ask yourself, “Am I really living by faith?”

  • Do I believe what Jesus says?
  • Do I trust in Jesus to save me?
  • Am I committed to remaining faithful/loyal to Jesus until the end?

Since our faith is meant to grow, let’s pray this prayer from Jesus’ disciples:

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’” (Luke 17:5)

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