Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." John 6:28-29
What is belief? One of those somewhat nebulous words in our time, it isn't always easy to nail down what someone means when they say they believe. But here is what the Bible says:
- Belief is an act of the will, a choice
- Belief can't help but show in behavior
- Belief is the only thing we bring to God
Belief is a choice
"I Find That Hard to Believe" How many times have you heard someone say that? We like to think that belief is emotional and intuitive. Something just overcomes you and you believe; you have no choice, it's a natural consequence of having all the facts. Either you believe or you don't; the will is not involved. But that's not true, is it? When we say things such as the above statement we unwittingly admit that belief is a choice. As the expression above implies, to believe is to choose to believe. It's as much a choice as whom you choose for a mate, where you go to college, and any number of life's myriad of choices. The will is central to them all.
Belief is fleshed out in behavoir
The Bible in many places makes belief a choice, by equating belief with obedience.
Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God...lest any one of you be harderned by the deceitfulness of sin...those who were disobedient...were not able to enter because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:12-13,18-19
The event being reviewed in Hebrews 3 is the Jews' exodus from Egypt. Almost all the adults in the party of over 2,000,000 people (600,000 men) died during that 40-year sojourn, because even after experiencing one supernatural event after another, they doubted God. The following verse from the book of John puts it more simply
He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey ... John 3:36
In other words, what we believe is borne out in how we respond to God. In fact, God requires belief in spite of the lack of evidence, and even despite contrary evidence. Moreover, the Bible says that that is what faith is, believing God in no matter the objections.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen...By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going...By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised Hebrews 11:1,8,11
This chapter in Hebrews records dozens of examples of faith, including the fall of Jericho,
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. vs. 30
Walk around the walls for seven days? Ludicrous! But it's what God said to do. The book of Hebrews goes on to comment on the faithful of history in saying they died without seeing what they were promised, but nonetheless believed because they were told it was coming, vs. 13.
Belief is the one thing we bring to God
Contrary to what religions tell you, God does not require you go to Mecca, crawl on you knees 120 steps, do good deeds, live right, give money, or anything like these things. He told us plainly that our part in salvation is just one thing, to believe.
"They said to Him, what shall we do that we may work the works of God? Jesus said, This is the work of God, that you believe."
Belief is not automatic; it doesn't just happen. You decide to believe, and you may have reasons or "proofs" to back up your faith, or you may not. Belief does not depend on them. Furthermore, the fact that you believe is borne out in your actions. You act on what you believe, or to say it another way, what you do shows what you believe. No actions, no belief. And finally, the only thing God requires, the only effort, of someone coming to Him, is to believe.
"These things I have written that you may believe..." I John 20:31.