“And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 2:3-5
“Just have faith, Sharron, God is going to do XYZ.” That was the regular advice I received in the early days of my walk with Christ. So I would pray. I would wait for God to act. I would have faith.
More often than not, things didn’t work out the way I expected. No way forward opened up. No greater understanding of how God wanted me to act or respond to a particular situation. I had to presume that my faith was inadequate. My prayers became more earnest. I read the Bible more. I would bargain and pray to let God know I had the faith that God was going to work and do “such and such.” Slowly, I began to question what prayer was for and what this faith business was all about. Perhaps I’m the only one.
Yet, perhaps not. Greater minds than mine have grappled with the nature of faith. Paul Tillich, the great 20th Century philosopher and theologian, suggested that “…doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” Good news: I am not alone! Yet, this still doesn’t answer the bigger question of what faith is.
Here’s what I’ve come to understand, guided by God’s wisdom and power rather than by my own puny human wisdom, as St. Paul’s parses in the quote above. We Christians sometime use the words “faith” and “belief” interchangeably, when in reality, belief is what we believe to be true, and faith is those things or people in which we place our trust.
Faithfulness is not just Abraham and Sarah pulling up their tent stakes and taking off into the unknown. Faithfulness is what God modeled to them as they responded to God’s call on their lives. They had to have faith in God, they had to trust in God, as God made these wild promises to them of fruitful land where they would become a great nation. Yet, it was God’s faithfulness to them, moment by moment, year after year, that bore fruit from their faithfulness.
Our faithfulness is a response to God’s faithfulness. In two Sundays, we will have the annual celebration of the pinnacle of God’s faithfulness to humankind. Jesus responded in faith to the Father’s call on His life, relying on the faithfulness of His Father. And through the resurrection, God demonstrated God’s faithfulness, not just to Jesus, but to all of us.
 Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. 2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975), 116-7.