Two of the most vital elements of human and Christian life are faith and repentance. They are key to living and enjoying the full and purpose-filled life God created us to live.


Exercising trust or confidence in someone or something we believe to be right or true is faith. We’re born to live by faith. Whether sitting in a chair we’ve never sat in, using a light switch for the first time or passing traffic going the opposite way on a two-lane road, we’re exercising a basic level of faith or trust.

God has gifted us with the capacity for faith, to have “hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). We could not daily function living on a diet of constant doubt or fear. We would be paralyzed!

Faith and belief are inseparable, but not identical. Our beliefs are those things we affirm to be accurate, right or true. At its most basic level, Christian faith begins when we exercise the beliefs that God exists, is good and “rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). We come to recognize his desire for a relationship with us, specifically through Jesus Christ. This same verse even reminds us that faith and what we believe do not just happen but are choices we make.

The Bible teaches that salvation (being made right with God) comes through faith (Ephesians 2:8) — a confessing, exercised belief (Romans 10:9). Jesus challenges us to exercise our faith by believing in him for eternal life (John 3:16).

Our faith, or confidence in what we believe, must lead to action. James, the half-brother of Jesus says, “I will show you my faith by my deeds (what I do)” (James 2:14-19). A belief is specific content and believing is exercising faith in what or whom we believe.

Can faith grow? Absolutely! Our capacity for faith is a gift from God and he wants to help us grow in our faith and maturity. Surprisingly, the very testing and trials of life are useful to help us grow our faith in perseverance and maturity as we ask God for help (James 1:2-8).

Can faith and doubt co-exist? Indeed, faith and doubts might reside in us at the same time. In Mark 9:24, a man said to Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” You may be able to identify with that. Life will throw us curves, causing us to wonder what to believe. But Jesus knows, and the Spirit reminds us, our faith always has room to grow and expand.

Years ago, I gradually descended into a sustained period of depression. It was very confusing and led me to doubt many of the tenets of faith I had been taught and weekly preached to others. As a pastor, I was desperate for a solution. Eventually, the meaning and power of Hebrews 11:6 dawned on me. I began to rebuild my belief system on two chosen things: God exists and is good — and he will not bail out on me. My faith was tested and eventually it prevailed and grew. I knew, deep inside, that God existed and loved me. I have lived that belief with a passionate and determined faith ever since.


I think repentance is widely underappreciated and misunderstood. Repentance is often seen as a kind of regret, remorse or conviction of our sins that leads us to God’s grace in forgiveness and salvation. While this is correct, repentance is far more.

The pathway to salvation and life transformation is repentance, at any and every point where that kind of change is needed. It’s how we are made new.

Repentance was the core teaching of Jesus (Matthew 4:17) and the message Jesus challenged his followers to preach after he departed (Luke 24:47). Repentance is of such great importance that the Apostle Peter tells us the Lord is patient with us, “not wanting anyone to perish,” but desiring that everyone come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

Our word “repent” comes from the Greek, metanoia, which means to change one’s mind and heart in a way that leads to positive change. Metanoia leads to a supernatural transformation of our lives, like the metamorphosis that happens when a creepy-crawly caterpillar changes into a beautiful butterfly.

Have you ever tried to help a person make life adjustments and they resisted? The reasons could be several, but one may be that they have not sensed the need to change. The early influence toward repentance is a sense of need within us. In the Christian context, this is what we call conviction — sensing that something is wrong — and that opens the door to forgiveness and life change.

The Bible supports a threefold nature of repentance. First is the sense of conviction or regret from the Holy Spirit that the way of life that has been needs adjustment. The second aspect of repentance is a needed change of mind, attitude and/or perspective (2 Corinthians 5:16-17; Romans 12:2; Psalms 73:17). The third dynamic of repentance is to launch a new way of living. All three of these aspects are clearly stated in Ephesians 4:22-24, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self … to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” — conviction, correction and conformity to Christ.

Faith and repentance are vital elements of life. For the Christian, it is a God-given and chosen faith that believes God exists and is good. And it is God who leads us toward repentance so we might be made new.

Dr. David Holdren is a retired Wesleyan minister and author who lives in Ohio. Prior to retirement, he served as a pastor, assistant district superintendent and interim district superintendent of the former Eastern Ohio District, executive editor of curriculum and leadership development at The Wesleyan Church headquarters and General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church from 2000-2005.


Questions for reflection and conversation

  • Faith and belief are inseparable but not identical. How would you clarify these two terms to someone seeking a greater understanding of faith?
  • Faith grows most often in times of trials and testing. Identify specific trials and tests in your life that have grown your faith. What were those trials and how did they strengthen and solidify your faith?
  • It is not uncommon for faith and doubt to co-exist. Have there been times in your own life when both faith and doubt co-existed? In what ways did you embrace your knowledge of God’s promises to sustain you in that season? How did God help your unbelief?
  • The word “repent” comes from the Greek word metanoia which means a supernatural transformation. Think of a time when you experienced supernatural transformation. Perhaps, it was when you first placed your faith in Jesus. Is there an area of your life that needs a supernatural transformation today?


All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.