In a past blog post, I offered a memorable way to understand hope. In this short follow-up, I want to explain the difference between hope and faith.
As a review, hope can be understood as Holding On to Promises and Expectations. The promises are from God, given to us in Scripture. The expectations are our anticipation that these promises will come true.
Hope anchors us to the Christian worldview. Hope is the determination to continue to believe even when we experience doubt.
Faith is related to hope, as it also involves a determination of the will, but faith takes hope to a deeper level. Our hope arises when we cast out doubt, our faith arises as we endure through challenges, testing, and suffering.
The author of Hebrews describes faith by highlighting the stories of people who demonstrated it in their lives. Each of the people mentioned in Hebrews 11 proved their faith by remaining steadfast through hardship and persecution.
In summarizing faithful people, Hebrews 11:36-39 states:
Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.
This passage implies that faith is demonstrated through hardship. If hope means to hold on to the promises of God as we look toward the future, then faith means to trust in the One who gave those promises while we experience trials and tribulations now.
I think this is what 1 Peter 1:7-8 is telling us when it says:
These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.
These verses show us how to create an acronym out of the word "FAITH."
F = fully
A = and
I = intensely
T = trusting
H = Him
To have faith means that we entrust to God all of who we are (body, thoughts, emotions, and relationships) even as we undergo the intensity and difficulty of living for Him in this world.
To present it as a simple equation, faith would look like this:
Hope + Long-Suffering = Faith.
Once we come to realize that hardship is part of our faith experience, we no longer need to fear it. Indeed James 1:2-4 tells that we should rejoice in our sufferings.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
If we desire to grow in our faith, we must experience suffering.