Oh there is a vast difference and frankly, I am really glad to see this question pop up because I have been speaking to quite a few people of late who conflate the difference between belief and faith. While they can be deeply intertwined and are presented this way in the modern dictionary, contrary to popular belief, they are not the same thing in a religious context.
Belief – an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists
For example, you may believe in a spherical earth, as many people do. Whether it is a fact or not is immaterial as most people simply believe the claim and never bother to validate it. For them, it is a belief in the testimony of others, primarily whomever wrote their school textbooks. They are taught this early on in life and there is no serious debate about this in society at large, so we essentially create an echo chamber reinforcing these beliefs. Since the shape of the earth is largely inconsequential to our daily lives, so why question it? I am in no way saying that this belief is wrong, I am merely saying that if you do not personally validate it, then it is indeed simply a belief. These beliefs are perfectly fine to have, and we have countless beliefs of this kind, but we do need to acknowledge them as beliefs.
The interesting thing about beliefs, and what differentiates them from faith, is that we do not choose what we believe. We either become convinced that something is true through means that are beyond our awareness, or we choose to act as though we believe a certain way due to necessity. For example, we may question a popular belief on a topic, but due to our hectic schedules and more important priorities we will decide to just keep moving on, for now, by acting as though the popular opinion is correct. This is more akin to hope – wanting something to be the case – rather than belief. We act as though it is true because we don’t have the time or means to question it, and so we hope that it is true to the extent that our lives depend on it.
With other things in life, like our belief in the value of money, it is apparent to us even if we cannot fully articulate why it is true. For beliefs such as these, we have become convinced of its truth through means that we cannot explain. Money has value only because we believe it has value. If no one believed it had value, then it would not have value and no one would want it. So, does money have value or do we just believe that it does?
For the the casino example, your roulette player may believe in the value of statistics and have a certain level of certainty regarding their statistic probability of winning. Alternatively, your roulette player may have simply lost so much that they feel, or more precisely, hope, that they are about to win.
Faith – complete trust or confidence in someone or something
To continue with the casino example for just a moment, even the most certain player with a vast knowledge of the game and statistical probability would not say that they have complete trust, or faith, in a single bet. This is true regardless of their belief in the value of statistics or even the accuracy of their bet.
Faith in God is different in the sense that it presupposes belief. If a person believes in God, they have come to that belief through means beyond their control and awareness. This is true even of the most scholarly believer, someone who has rigorously studied religion and ultimately came to the conclusion that it is true. In this case, the person came to the decision to pursue such a study as a result of their individual circumstances combined with their biological disposition, or interests. Their pursuit was a result of something which they believed, either out of necessity, hope, or societal influence. Coincidentally, this is true of the unbeliever as well. So, faith in God presupposes belief out of necessity. You cannot have complete trust in something or someone if you are not convinced of their existence.
When you have faith in God, you have faith that every action God takes aligns to your ultimate best interest, even if it seems counterintuitive. If you hope and pray that God will help with a particular circumstance, but He doesn’t, you have complete trust that God abstained from fulfilling your request because it is in your ultimate best interest. If you are hoping that God cure’s someone’s cancer and they instead end up dying, you trust that it was for the ultimate good of all who are impacted by that situation. Now, we tend to conflate our immediate concerns with what is best overall, we just have a hard time seeing the big picture and sometimes you have to wait for things to play out in order to see the ultimate benefit, either in this life or the next.
The roulette player does not have this complete trust, or faith, in their individual bet. If you make a bet and lose, then you miscalculated the odds and lost. You don’t trust that your mistake was the best possible path for yourself, you instead use the information to refine your process and hope that your next attempt turns out better. With God, you trust that it wasn’t a mistake on God’s part, but on yours. You trust that God made the right decision and that you simply misunderstood what the best path would be. This doesn’t mean that you don’t question God, Abraham questioned God as well, but you trust that God is doing good despite your questions. Abraham ultimately did this and was rewarded for his faith as a result.
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