Now, I know, faith, like "sin" or "self-esteem" is one of those super vague words that we throw around all the time but don't really know that it means, but I had a friend one time tell me a simple story that made the meaning of this word crystal clear and really practical for me:
You're standing on one side of a bridge which stretches across a canyon to the other side. You need to get to the other side. Now, you can believe that the bridge is going to hold you up when you walk across it, and you can keep believing that for as long as you want, but believing alone isn't going to get you anywhere, right? So what is faith? In this situation, it would be walking across the bridge; simply acting on what you believe!
That simple story totally "demystified" the idea of what faith actually is and the role it had in my life. When you realize that faith is simply "acting on what you believe", you suddenly realize that we use faith all the time, even non-Christians. Why do you turn the key in your car in the morning? Some might say, "well, that's how you start the motor". That's true, but I think everyone has, at least once, gotten in their car, turned the key, and the engine doesn't start, right? So there is a possibility for failure; why do we keep turning the key. We turn the key out of faith; acting on a belief that the car will start, even if we're not consciously aware of it. There are even simpler acts of faith of which we're even less aware. How do we know that when we walk on the sidewalk, the ground won't cave in underneath us and swallow us up? Hey, with earthquakes and volcanic activity, it could happen and on occasion does, right? We walk down the street because--even if it is only unconsciously--we believe that it will not cave in, so walking down the street is an act of faith! In fact, if you think of pretty much anything we do--brushing our teeth, going to work, doing homework, going out on a date--you can ultimately trace it back to an underlying belief that is being acted upon, which makes them all acts of faith! No matter who you are, faith defines every aspect of your life! (I've found that it's really hard to distinguish faith from another word that we often use, which is trust)
There is one problem with all of these acts of faith that I've mentioned, however. As we noted before, some people's cars don't start when they turn the key, though the were acting on the belief that it would. Some people do occasionally get swallowed up by a freak earthquake while walking down the street, though--through simply walking--they were acting on an unconscious belief that they wouldn't be. Some people brush their teeth out of the belief that if they do, they won't get cavities, but some will get cavities anyway. Do these people not have enough faith? Is that why what they believed would happen didn't?
By now it should be apparent that faith is more of an on/off switch rather than a continuum; you either act on a belief or you don't. So the problem that these people have is not that they don't have enough faith, it was that these beliefs weren't worthy of the faith they put into them. It's not how much faith you have, it's what you put your faith in that makes it great!
The good news? "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8. You could paraphrase this to say, "Cars sometimes don't start, and jobs aren't always secure, but God always is." The great thing about God is that He is always faithful. We can always put our faith in Him without any hesitation. It is when we put our faith in Him that it becomes great.