This is a term that’s tossed around the religious community so consistently and half-heartedly that it’s becoming cliche. I know in my mind I have to remind myself of the importance of faith every time I hear someone start to talk about it because I’m immediately distracted and turned off. It’s like that conversation with someone that uses the word awesome too much...You never really know if something was truly “awesome” or not because you’ve heard that term used to describe everything from a cold drink of water to someone winning the jackpot on this week’s lottery! “Faith” is much the same. It can reference a denomination, belief, spiritual vision, a mythical, abstract cure all that you’re told to have every time something isn’t going well. Today we’re going to look at faith in the connotation of belief or conviction. The biblical, God inspired, spiritual faith is a topic for another discussion... Now, I’m not saying that I have all the answers and have “arrived” and have the secret to unlock the mystery that faith can be. But I do have some thoughts that I’d like to throw out there and get your feedback on...We’ll learn this and maybe get the answers we’re looking for together!
First of all, we all have faith and it’s necessary for salvation. Romans 12:3, …”God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.” Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.” The Bible tells us this and we can see it in the world around us. I have faith that when I sit down the chair is going to hold me up. I have faith that when I press the brakes in my car it’s going to start slowing down. I have faith the sun is going to rise tomorrow morning. Faith that time is going to pass and that if I jump in the pool I’m going to get wet (given there’s water in it). I could go on and on...
Faith is a choice. That’s right! We can pick and choose what we’re going to have faith in. I don’t have to trust the chair I’m sitting in but I’d probably look pretty silly if I didn’t... The truth is, we all choose to believe in something. Every act of disavowing faith in something shows that you have faith in something else. Look at science, we choose to believe what others have told us. It takes faith to believe in Creation or evolution. Either way we’re making a choice to belief in something and discount something else. So when it comes down to it...what do you choose to believe in?
Second, we are required to use our faith and the Bible has some pretty strong statements regarding whether or not we use our faith. Take a look at Romans 14:23, “...and everything that is not from a faith is sin.” Ouch! Everything we do must be done or approached through the filter of our faith in God or it’s a sin? That’s harsh, don’t you think? Maybe but we have to realize that faith is the foundation that we build our lives on. Everything we do, say, have, the way we act, etc. can all be traced back to faith. For example, if I were to own a huge house, multiple nice cars, a boat, expensive clothes, and all the niceties associated with success in the U.S., what would that tell you? Looking at it from the perspective of faith, it becomes clear that I’ve placed my faith in the sense of security that comes from material possessions and money. If I were the opposite and owned nothing, live in a van down by the river and ate only what I could catch or harvest myself it would appear that I place my faith in myself alone. I trust only in my own ability to provide for myself and don’t trust those around me with any aspect of my life. Are either of these examples necessarily wrong? It depends on the motive behind the lifestyle. What Paul is saying to the Romans is that it is absolutely necessary that our faith in God determine how we act in life and the decisions we make. We have to shift our paradigm to make faith the focal point and everything else in our life will show the reflection of our faith.
This reflection of faith is what we see discussed in II Peter 1:5-7, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” Here we see that we are encouraged to build our valuable qualities and character on the foundation of faith. Without building on faith our goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection (or as the Message translation puts it, “warm friendliness”), and love are subject to the winds of culture, bias, pride, and human nature rather than the unchanging, consistent character of God. Only with our feet firmly planted in our unwavering faith in God will we be able to navigate the flood of relative truths, moral relativism and decay, and the attacks of our narcissistic culture that focuses only on what feels good and “what’s right for me.” I get the mental picture of the “ents” (tree-like beings) in Lord of the Rings when they break the dam and flood Isengard standing firm against the destruction wreaked by the flooding waters. In the same way we must stand firm against the tides of our culture and have an influence for good rather than being swept away with the currents.
So what does this look like in “real” life? How can we grasp hold of faith and use it as the filter and foundation for our lives?
- Acknowledge that we are going to believe in something whether we consciously mean to or not.
- Rest your faith, belief, conviction in the Word of God. This is the foundation that our lives need to be built on. There are always going to be religious debates but if we decide that we are going to accept the Bible as truth until it’s proven wrong rather than the opposite approach we’ll have a firm foundation to build our lives on.
- Pray that the intellectual decision to have faith/belief/conviction in God will become a passion and become part of who you are. The problem I’ve seen with many “Christians” is that their entire walk with God is an intellectual pursuit...If they truly believed God to be who they profess He is their lives would look completely different.
- Spend time in prayer (simply communicating with God like you would a friend) and reading the Bible. Romans 10:17 says, “...faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” We have to take in the Word of God as often as possible and allow it to change our thought patterns and to place that filter over our thoughts and actions. The Word is our foundation and filter. The of it we have the better off we are!
These steps are the beginning of the journey of faith. Truly pursuing relationship with God will lead you through great times and lead you through times where you feel completely alone and lost. It’s in these times that making the decision to hold to God despite the circumstances will get you through when the emotions and “closeness” that we all enjoy have disappeared. Its during these times that we keep making the right decisions and hold to the faith that we have established and it grows stronger. There are too many metaphors to list that demonstrate that the victory, growth, change, great times, etc. are preceded by a time of trial and sometimes suffering. It’s during these times that we have to stay connected...Will you make the decision with me to believe? It’s our choice!
Will we be connected, or not?
About the Author: Michael Henson is a Christ seeker, husband, father, son and brother. His goal in life is to grow in relationship with Christ and help others do the same by finding relevance in radical pursuit of Christ. He enjoys music, singing, and songwriting and would probably enjoy a long walk on a beach if he ever makes it to a coast...
His writings, struggles, and discussions of spiritual growth can be found at www.connectedornot.com.