Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
If we are to obey the injunction of the text it is necessary that we have faith in the fact.
It is implied in our text, it is taught throughout the New Testament, and it is confirmed by experience, that there is nothing so morally helpful as faith in God. We shall not be surprised at the practical value and the moral effects of faith, if we consider for a moment all that it implies. It implies, first of all, a conviction that the forces of nature are being made to work together for good, under the guidance and control of an intelligent and beneficent will. If so, it is worth our while to strive after perfection. On the Christian view the universe is rationally organized and morally governed, and therefore attempting to act morally and rationally is attempting to bring oneself into harmony with one’s surroundings. Whereas, on the atheistic view, since there is no rationality or goodness outside of us, endeavoring to be wise or good is, in reality, going contrary to nature, acting in opposition to the laws of the universe.
Faith implies much more than conviction. Belief is not faith. Suppose a man believes in the righteousness and binding force of the Ten Commandments and breaks them all, his belief, so far from making him a good man, is the strongest proof of his unutterable degradation. The faith which St. James says cannot save is the faith of mere belief. The faith which St. Paul says can save is the faith that worketh by love. The proper synonym for faith is trust, and trust is an affection of the heart, not a faculty of the head. It is the acting out of belief. To have faith in God is to have had one’s heart beating in sympathetic unison with God’s heart; to have been inspired with the Divine enthusiasm for righteousness; to have felt one with God in nature, in sympathy, in aim.
Once more, faith implies joy in the present life and hope for the future; and these are states of mind peculiarly conducive to right-doing. The man of faith may be happy amid external disasters,—ay, too happy to do wrong.