Believe is an action verb

October 20th, 2010 · by Tom Stuart · Growth & Development, Prayer

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)

Did you know that in twenty of the world’s most primitive languages the word for believe is the same as the word for doThat is something Wycliffe Bible translators have discovered in years of working to translate the Bible into the native language of remote people groups.  In other words, for those cultures, to believe something literally means to do something.  Faith and action are inseparable. Truth be told, that is the way God intends it.

Genuine faith is expressed through action.  This is a discovery that one readily makes when studying Hebrews 11 the great faith chapter of the Bible.  A careful reading of the account of Abraham, the father of our faith, in verses 8 through 19 underscores this truth like none other. 

The writer of Hebrews uses twelve different action verbs in describing how Abraham activated his faith.  These verbs can be grouped into the four different ways that faith is typically expressed.  These ways are delineated by what Abraham chooses to think, to see, to say and to do.

Faith is an action verb.

1. Faith Thinks –Abraham “considered him faithful who had made the promise” (vs.  11)  He was “longing for a better country.” (vs. 16)   And he “reasoned that God could raise [Isaac] from the dead.”  Thoughts are the seeds of reality.  “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7)

2. Faith Sees – Abraham “saw … from a distance” the things God had promised. (vs. 13)  He was “looking forward to the city . . . whose architect and builder is God” (vs. 10) and he was also “looking for a better country.” (vs. 14)  Faith is visionary in that it fixes its gaze on that which is promised and envisions its fulfillment.

3. Faith Speaks – Abraham “welcomed” the things God had promised (vs. 13)  He also “admitted” he was an “alien and stranger on earth.” (vs. 13)  In other words he confessed his allegiance to Kingdom of God and not to this world.  Our words water the seeds of faith and have creative power.  “You will decree a thing, and it will be established for you.”  (Job 22:28)

4. Faith Acts –  Abraham “obeyed and went even though he did not know where he was going.” (vs. 8)  “By faith, he made his home in the promised land.” (vs. 9)  “By faith Abraham … offered Isaac as a sacrifice.” (vs. 12)  Peter was the only apostle to walk on water.  Why?  Because he actually stepped out of the boat and did it.  “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20)

Modern day sophistication and ivory tower theology have separated our believing from doing.  Belief is much more than simply assenting to something.  It is taking action by stepping out and doing something based on that belief.

Are you believing God for something?  Let me ask, what are you doing with that belief?  How are you translating your faith into action?  What are you thinking, where you are looking and what you are saying?  Is God waiting for you to step out of the boat and do something about it?

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9 Responses to “Believe is an action verb”

  1. Thanks Tom!!! this really hit home with me today! Really thought provoking. As I’m trying to figure out my FIT, I think I’ll just jump out of the boat 🙂

  2. For me the definition of FAITH is — Forsaking All I Trust Him. It is a clear message that brings us to live by acting on our Faith. The Word Faith is more in Old Testament & replaced by Believe in New testament. Which does not convey so well.

  3. Thanks for the acrostic for FAITH – I had not heard that one before. I like that. The one I’ve often quoted is Functioning As If Trusting Him.

  4. my question is this. if believe is an action verb. and grace is a gift from God that cannot be earned or people will boast. then we are predestined by God and don’t have a choice because like the bible says we all have evil wicked hearts and would never choose the spirit over our flesh. so is it safe to say that we do not have the free will to choose God and that he chooses us?

  5. David, thanks for your comment. Your question of the God’s sovereignty versus man’s free will is one that has been wrestled with and debated through the centuries. I am not a theologian, but from my study of the Scriptures I believe that we have a free will to choose whether or not to respond to and act upon God’s sovereign initiations in our lives. For instance John writes, that we love because He first loved us. God’s love for us instructs us as to what love is and how to love. Sadly however there are many who choose not to love others or Him in return. And so in the realm of exercising faith it is again enabled by God’s sovereign revelation of truth in our lives. But Whether or not we act upon that revelation through some tangible expression of faith is left up to us. I like the analogy of two ends of a rope that has been looped over a beam high above us. To effectively utilize the rope to pull ourselves up to the beam requires holding on simultaneously to both ends of the rope. Holding on to only one end will get us nowhere. For the purpose of our discussion, one end of the rope represents the sovereign choice of us by God and the other end represents our faith response in choosing Him. It takes both to complete the salvation process. Just my take on it. Blessings. Tom

  6. Thx for ur speedy response Tom. I understand what ur saying. Now that me ask u this: Adam was perfect without sin, living in a perfect world without sin. I believe he has the free will to choose. Since then we have to deal with our sinful nature in a broken world that is run by Satan and his demons. I can safely say that’s Adams free will and out free will are not the same.

    The next question then is if I choose to grab the other side of the rope then isn’t that an action or a work on my part making my salvation partly based on my works?

    Just thoughts that I ponder

    Thx david

  7. Regarding Adam’s free will being different from ours, I’ve never considered that to be the case myself. A definitive answer would necessitate clear scriptural arguments indicating that. About your “works” question – using the rope analogy, our grabbing onto the other end of the rope happens through repentance and faith. Jesus made it clear that one must repent and believe to be saved (Mark 1:15 Matthew 21:32). That same truth is confirmed numerous times in the Epistles. The answer to your question hinges on the interpretation of the word “works.” If repentance and faith are considered “works” then the answer to your question is yes. But, if as most would agree, repentance and faith are NOT “works” in the sense the word “works” is commonly used in reference to trying to earn salvation through righteous deeds or behavior, then the answer to your question in no. Hope that helps – Tom

  8. David, Tom,

    Having read all of your comments, I would like to make a comment as well.

    First off, Faith IS an action verb. It is not passive. You cannot have faith sitting passively on the couch at home. Faith is evidence and substance, visible and demonstrable. Said another way, faith is obedience.

    God told us in Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19, Mark 16:16, and many other passages that Belief, Repentance, Confession of the Name of Jesus, and Baptism are all required to receive forgiveness, eternal life, redemption, and salvation (these are all synonyms). If you do not do any of these things, you are not a faithful servant. If you do all these things, you are a faithful servant, but still an unprofitable servant (Luke 17:7-10).

    The “free will” of Adam did not change after the “fall”. We still have the need for God in us. But the majority of the people in the world choose not to act on that need. Scripture does not say that no one can seek after God, It tells us, in poetic form, that no one does seek God. This is clearly an exaggeration of the truth, just as the prophet claiming that he was the ONLY follower of God left alive in the world was an exaggeration. It is clear from the passage in Acts 10 that the Gentile, Cornelius, was seeking God, and found God. Paul, when speaking to the people of Athens, explained that they were doing a good job seeking after God, even having an idol to “the unknown god”, and then he went on to explain that the “unknown god” was really THE GOD. (These men were clearly seeking after God).

    Gentlemen, Satan loves to get us believing most of the truth, but to have us leave off one essential step, or idea, or bit of information that leaves us lost in sin.

  9. Doug – thanks for weighing in on this discussion. You make some good points!

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