"I have faith." I was surprised to hear this from my friend, because she prided herself on being an atheist. So I asked her what she had faith in. She replied that she didn't have faith in anything, she just had faith. That sounds OK, but it doesn't add up. Faith is a noun, but not a standalone noun. Faith, by definition, has to be in something. Faith needs an object.
So what could the object of a person's faith be? Some people have faith in the goodness of people. Others have faith in government (well, maybe not too many). Some have faith in nature. Or in karma. Some simply claim faith in themselves. Many have faith in God.
Do you have faith in something? What do you place your trust, your hope, your confidence IN? This is a tough question to be honest about, whether or not you claim to be religious.
Many people treat faith like an entry on their resume. If they go to church a certain number of weeks in the year, or contribute money or time to ministry, they feel that they are "covered" in the faith department. Others think of faith as a series of religious rituals that need to get "done." Many Christians think this way about baptism or confirmation or having a church wedding. I even had someone tell me that they had "graduated" from my church years ago. This makes me sad, because faith is not a transaction, it's a whole life. In fact, faith is the only thing from which we do not ever retire.
Christian faith colors all of life. It teaches a grace-filled orientation toward people because all people are made in the image of God. (I very often fail to live this out fully, but I'm trying.) It reminds us that this world is not our home and that we can't take it with us, therefore it affects our views about money and stuff. It helps set priorities, too. For example, happiness is not more important than integrity. Or, fun is fine as long as it's not at someone else's expense. Or, there's a higher purpose in life than "the American Dream" of gaining a house and two cars. Or, beauty is a gift, so let's not miss it.
I won't presume to explain other religions, but my Christian faith starts with believing that the Creator of the earth and the galaxies cares about little old me. That God made me on purpose and loves me. And that this is true of every human being. From that ancient truth, my faith finds a home in the person of Jesus Christ, who led and taught and loved and suffered in order to open a way for any human being to have a relationship with a holy God, including forgiveness and eternal life. Faith is a choice. People can choose to follow Jesus or not. Finally, my faith depends on the Holy Spirit, the person of God who is present day by day with followers of Jesus as comforter and guide. The Holy Spirit is what makes God an empowering reality.
This faith in the three persons of God provides guidance, direction, purpose, and joy. It makes some sense out of this crazy life, and gives us something bigger than ourselves with which to be involved. Most importantly, faith provides an actual relationship with God. We all know that nothing affects a person's life more than their significant relationships. When our relationships are good and healthy, so are we. When they are not, neither are we.
A real, living, growing relationship with God is both the point and the payoff of faith. God is the object of faith. Without its object, faith is just a word. So what is your faith in?