Belief and faith were words I often used interchangeably, but Dallas Willard helped me see the difference between the two.*
With belief we proclaim our acceptance of statements about God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit. But our belief remains a professed belief until we take action on what we hold as true.
Take for example the practice of a Sabbath Rest. Our automatic response to this spiritual discipline is often, “I can’t do that; I don’t have time”. In theory we believe it is a good idea, but in practice it seems impossible to do. Thus we often ignore it. Life is too busy to even consider trying.
Here we are partially correct. For most spiritual disciplines we practice, we practice on our own. We do the work and leave Jesus out of the picture. But if we choose to be his disciple, he is willing and wanting to train us to become like him in our attitudes and actions.
Trusting Jesus to help us accomplish what we cannot accomplish on our own we put our belief into behavior acquiring evidence that what we say is indeed true. When we choose to train with Jesus he will help us do what he commands us to do.
Let’s say you choose to practice with Jesus the Sabbath Rest this week. (It does not have to be Sunday. Any old day will do.) Later as the rush of the week is experienced remember the restfulness of the Sabbath. Notice if you were better prepared for the week because of the rest.
With this shift we move our thinking into our doing as we learn to apply experiential knowledge to future events. So the next time we find ourselves tired and weary we consider taking a Sabbath Rest.
Choosing to repeat a Sabbath Rest merges your true belief into a living faith. You now expect Jesus to be a part of this aspect of your life and to help you do what you cannot do on your own. You even expect there to be a positive result to your rest.
You have taken belief, added experiential knowledge and ended up with faith as you practice a Sabbath Rest. Welcome to the process of training with Jesus as he develops his Christlikeness in you. Spiritual disciplines are practices that train us to live as Jesus lived, but also train his character in us. Trust, rest, humility, obedience are not our automatic responses, but they could be if we train with Jesus. Because of him we can live a Christlike life. Without him we can do no such thing.
*For further information see Preparing for Heaven: What Dallas Willard Taught Me About Living, Dying and Eternal Life by Gary Black, Jr. 102-104.