Many try to belittle the faith of the thief who was crucified next to JESUS. The belittlement is often an attempt to nullify a faith that is justified by works.
Consider the following:
Compared to Jesus, the thief next to Jesus was fairly comfortable hanging on the cross. The visage of Jesus was marred more than any man; He was surrounded by many merciless and cold men who hated Him without a cause, so much so, that all they did amidst His suffering was publicly shame Him in front of His weeping mother.
Jesus was crowned with thorns and repeatedly mocked. The thief had a few nails and maybe a few stripes.
Now consider this: Perhaps the thief counted the cost before publicly acknowledging Jesus? Perhaps he thought within himself, "If I confess Him and call Jesus Lord, then these wicked and hateful men may decide to attack and to further torment me and all of the hatred currently hurled at Jesus will become fiercely turned against me and I will be worse off and suffering more than before"?
The thief obviously had a genuine faith. He showed more faith than many ever will amongst this faithless and lip service generation. He publicly confessed his faults, confessed Jesus before men, feared God, admitted his guilt, defended the innocent, reproved the works of darkness, comforted Jesus in His sufferings, and was willing to be hated by all there and potentially further tortured for all of this!
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“Reason dictates that persons who are truly noble and who love wisdom will honor and love only what is true. They will refuse to follow traditional viewpoints if those viewpoints are worthless...Instead, a person who genuinely loves truth must choose to do and speak what is true, even if he is threatened with death...I have not come to flatter you by this written petition, nor to impress you by my words. I have come to simply beg that you do not pass judgment until you have made an accurate and thorough investigation. Your investigation must be free of prejudice, hearsay, and any desire to please the superstitious crowds. As for us, we are convinced that you can inflict no lasting evil on us. We can only do it to ourselves by proving to be wicked people. You can kill us—but you cannot harm us.” From Justin Martyr's first apology 150 A.D. Martyred A.D. 160