What I mean is that it is easy and hard, at the same time, to understand faith. In the room at the Bible study, 7 people had 7 different views on what it is, what it means, and how it works.
My take has been, for a while now, that you can't really have faith if it has never been tested. What I mean is that, if you haven't ever really been to the bottom where you can't do something your self and you have to rely on God, then how can you have put your faith in God.
I realized that I've got it all backwards.
What I had in my head was saying that true faith came after you trusted God and you saw Him come through. Basically, I was saying that when you are forced to trust God (because you really have no choice otherwise) and He PROVES that He will handle things, then you will have faith.
Well, if faith is "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) then me saying that God has to prove something first is just all backwards. It would seem, instead, that true faith is the belief even without the test.
I'm not real sure where I got the initial concept of testing faith to make it real. But it had become dogma for me. I could talk about it, repeat it, even use the sound bite "Is it really faith if you've never tested it", without ever thinking about what I was really saying.
In effect, I had done what many people do today. I had tried to reduce something to a simple label or sound bite that was short and easy. Then I went on to replace the actual concept with the label. That is, for simplicity's sake, I paid more attention to this 'label' than I did to the thing that was labeled.
It turns out my theories and labels about faith are not important unless they keep me from God. C. S. Lewis says, by way of example, in Mere Christianity,
All sensible people know that if you are tired and hungry a meal will do you good. But the modern theory of nourishment - all about the vitamins and proteins - is a different thing. People ate their dinners and felt better long before the theory of vitamins was ever heard of: and if the theory of vitamins is some day abandoned they will go on eating their dinners just the same.
And that is the truth about my theories and labeling of faith. People have had faith in God, been saved, talked with Him, and had personal relationships with Christ without ever thinking about how faith works. They just know that it works.
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22 - 24 NIV)
UPDATE: Professor David Opderbeck has a much more put together and well thought out discussion of this topic over at his site, Through a Glass Darkly. Please read his excellent writings.