The Difference Between Faith and Presumption

What is faith? The Book of Hebrews tells us:

“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

What is presumption? The dictionary tells us:

“An idea that is taken to be true, and often used as the basis for other ideas, although it is not known for certain.”

They sound the same, at least in a sense. And surely the most cynical among us take them to actually be the same thing. After all, both faith and presumption are about a lack of sight and tangible evidence. It’s believing something as real even without empirical certainty. But despite this, they are not the same. Not at all. And perhaps the biggest difference between the two is about result.

Presumption assumes a certain result – a specific end game. But faith is bigger than that. Faith is deeper than that. Because in faith, we are not “outcome” driven; we are God-driven. That is, our faith is in God Himself: His wisdom, His providence, His love, His justice. It’s in Him, as opposed to a certain outcome. To that end, there’s a specific phrase in the Bible that points us to the difference:

“Even. If. He. Does. Not.”

Remember this phrase? Three exiled Hebrews said it a long time ago. They spoke these words to an angry potentate in the most dire of circumstances. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood before the gigantic golden statue the king of the foreign land had erected in his own honor. The law had been passed; every citizen of the kingdom was required to bow low and pay homage to this statue and the king the statue represented. This went too far for these Israelites.

Sure, they had lost their home. Yep, they had been stripped of their families and national identity. Absolutely, they were living in the midst of a foreign culture. But they would not bow, and they were ready to face the consequences. In this case, those consequences meant sudden and certain death. In light of the serious threat before them, the king was curious about their resolve, so they were questioned:

“Now if you’re ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, fall down and worship the statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will be immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire—and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?” (Daniel 3:15).

Can you hear the arrogance in the question? Can you see the sneer of the one who seems to hold all the cards? These three men could. And that’s what makes their response all the more remarkable:

“Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king” (Daniel 3:16-17).

This is boldness, is it not? Standing firmly in the face of an adversary, declaring the power of the unseen over that which is seen? And if we stopped right there, we might have our measuring tool. We might conclude that the measure of faith is not only results, but includes confidence that those results are actually going to happen. But the story goes on:

“But even if He does not rescue us…”

What’s that? Is it a chink in the armor? Is it a thread of doubt in this God and His power? On the contrary, this is the true measure of the boldness of faith. Faith is not measured by results; it’s measured by confidence in the God behind the results.

Even. If. He. Does. Not.

This is faith. It is NOT presumption. That’s because the end game is still left in doubt, but the character of the One who decides the end game is not.

This is looking a ruler, a situation, a circumstance, directly in the eye and humbly admitting that we don’t know the best outcome, but we know the One who does. And because we do, we trust the ultimate outcome to Him. Christian, don’t stop short in your faith today. Don’t assume you know the right answer. Don’t let your confidence drift into arrogance. Instead, refocus your faith not on the results but on the One behind them. And then, even if He does not, we stand even still.

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