“If” vs. “Though” Faith


At this present moment, my wife and I have dear friends and loved ones who are going through some very difficult circumstances. Perhaps you also carry a burden for people you care about who are going through tough times. As believers, we often refer to such things as “tests of faith,” and indeed, they are. But even as we pray for them, we are prone to wonder why such things happen and how they will all end.

Author George Everett Ross describes what he calls two kinds of faith:

“One says ‘if’ and the other says ‘though.’ One says, ‘If everything goes well, if my life is prosperous, if I’m happy, if no one I love dies, if I’m successful, then I will believe in God and say my prayers and go to church and give what I can afford.’ The other says, ‘Though the cause of evil prospers, though I sweat in Gethsemane, though I must drink the cup of suffering, nevertheless, precisely then, I will trust the Lord who made me and cry with Job, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.’’”

What I want to make clear to you is this; what Ross calls an “if” kind of faith is really no faith at all. It is a fake one that cannot save. Faith as it is defined and described in Scripture is what the old Lutherans called, “a perturbing thing.” By that they meant real faith brings revolution to a person’s life, basically transforming him or her into a new person. Tozer described it as “snapping on a man’s heart like a trap, capturing the man and making him from that moment a happy bondslave of his Lord.”

It’s this kind of faith that utters “though” amid the crucible of testing. That no matter what burden you are called to bear, or what pain and suffering you are called to endure, your heart cries out with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.”

Over the years I have observed three things about those who possess genuine faith:

1. They expect trials.

They understand that this isn’t heaven and that in this life trials are inevitable. God has ordained that we must “through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:12) Peter exhorted his readers not to think of trials as “though something strange happening.” (1 Peter 4:12) True faith will always be tested.

I might add that the health and prosperity gospel has done a great disservice to young believers who face trouble in life. They’ve been told that God wants them to be rich, healthy, and enjoying worldly success. When adversity comes they often fall into confusion, despair, and even bitterness and anger. And these religious hucksters continue to promise the moon as long as they keep receiving generous donations from these deluded souls.

2. They exercise trust.

The tests of our faith are often unpredictable. James sets this forth as “falling into various trials.” (James 1:2) Modern translation say, “when you encounter” or when “you meet with” or “when you face various trials.” But the Greek word specifically means “to fall” or “to fall beside.”

This also conforms to reality because we know how trials often erupt out of nowhere. Your life could change in a moment. One phone call could alter the course of your life. Job lost everything in a single day.

Madame Guyon bluntly stated: “If knowing answers to life’s questions is absolutely necessary to you, then forget the journey. You will never make it, for this is a journey of unknowables—of unanswered questions, enigmas, incomprehensibles, and most of all, things unfair.” Those who possess “though” faith simply trust God. They don’t necessarily ask God to remove the trial but rather ask for the strength to bear up in the midst of it.

3. They embrace truth.

This means every trial is evaluated in the light of God’s Word and specific promises he has made to those who suffer. We know that “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28) and that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18) “Though” faith understands that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) In short, “though” faith perseveres.

The next time you find yourself in the midst of trying circumstances, take time to evaluate your own heart. Is your faith based on “if” or “though?” Hopefully, it’s genuine faith, the kind that values character over comfort, that prioritizes the spiritual over the material, and the eternal over the temporal.

Three things about those who possess genuine faith