I’ve never been good at picking out Christmas gifts, especially for my wife. I’ll spare you a list of my failures, but I think this year was an exception to the rule. It took some help from my daughter, but I was able to get a pair of small, gold earrings for my wife that were exactly what she wanted. She had another pair of earrings just like them that had lasted for about 20 years. Since one of those had disappeared, though, my wife has been hunting for a replacement. By the way, they look really good on her!

Gold has always been a good gift. Throughout human history, gold has been accepted as one of the most precious and lasting materials on the planet. Because even gold will vanish one day, though, the Bible explains that there is something even more precious than gold. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements [that would include gold] will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).

What is more long-lasting and more precious than gold? The most valuable gift any of us can have is the gift of faith that is given by the one, true, eternal God! If you have real faith, you already have the most precious possession possible.

Let me explain what makes faith in God so valuable.

Genuine faith is eternally precious and totally undeserved. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). If my wife had to obey a list of my demands in order to get the earrings, they would cease to be a gift. She could wear the earrings and proudly explain that she earned them. The Lord, on the other hand, designed real faith as a gift He gives that leaves us with nothing to brag about. All the glory (the credit) for saving faith goes to God.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4–6).

Faith in God is also valuable because it is permanent. “This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life” (1 John 2:25). God’s forgiveness would not be eternal if it could be given and then taken away. The Scripture explains that “whoever believes will in Him have eternal life” (John 3:15).

Because saving faith is a glorious gift, we must guard carefully against accepting a fake or substitute faith.

During the American Gold Rush of 1848 to1855, more than 300,000 prospectors streamed into California. Only a few struck it rich, but all had to be wary of finding fool’s gold. Those are minerals that glitter a lot like real gold but are not genuine. Because they are not durable, they are prone to flake or crumble when they are poked.

So how can we tell if our own faith is the real, durable kind?

When life’s trials poke at our lives, our reactions reveal whether or not we really love God–or if instead we only love what God can do for us. In other words: One solid evidence of real faith is a new and abiding love for Jesus that grows under suffering.

Peter explained it this way, “… for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6–7).

The Apostle Paul is an example. Amid imprisonment, great suffering, and the prospect of his execution, his love for Christ never wavered. During that trial, Paul said that his greatest desire wasn’t less suffering, because for him “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

This is the question we should all ask ourselves: “Do we value our relationship with Christ more than anything else in the world?” Only God’s gift of faith makes it possible for us to feel that way.

What if you’re not sure you have that kind of relationship with God? When should you seek God’s gift of salvation? Why not now? Turn from your sin and give your life to Christ today because God says that “… now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of SALVATION” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

When you do that, you will have a genuine faith that is more precious than anything else–even the finest gold.