May 21, 2017

Finding Faith (part 1)

What is faith?

We use the word so often that it can become cliché, nothing more than a buzzword. Believe it or not, every human being relies deeply on faith every single day. The differences between people with vastly divergent beliefs, values, religions, or worldviews can often be reduced to a matter of what one chooses to place one’s faith in. In other words, we all believe something, and our every action is a product of what we believe.

The American Heritage College Dictionary (1993 ed.) lists six definitions for faith…

1) confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing
2) belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence
3) loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance
4) the theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God’s will
5) the body of dogma of a religion
6) a set of principles or beliefs

Notice that the first definition describes faith as confident. For the believer in Christ, a faith that lacks confidence can be a painful paradox; “I believe; help my unbelief!” Just as the desperate father of a demon-afflicted child chose to believe that Jesus had the power to help, so we too must make the choice daily where we shall place our faith.

And what of the remaining definitions? The Bible tells us plainly that Jesus is “the truth,” and that God is trustworthy, or faithful. Much can be said about faith being the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Certainly the Lord demands our loyal faithfulness when he says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Indeed, the ultimate goal of faith for a Christian is the trusting acceptance of God’s will.

Herein lies our dilemma: God has given us the inexplicable gift of free will; the power to choose one option over another; to do one thing while choosing not to do something else. He even allows us, if we dare, to disobey Him completely. We may choose to place our faith in Him, or to trust something else, be it money, power, education, another person, an institution, a government, or perhaps worst of all, ourselves. Every choice we make, every action taken, is dependent upon what we think is true.

In short, we do what we believe.

If we believe the stock market is a good way to make money, we make investments. If we believe the stock market is too risky, we do something else with our money.

If we believe that vaccines are beneficial, we take our children to get shots. If we believe that vaccines are only marginally effective and possibly even dangerous, we may refuse to vaccinate our kids at all.

If we believe that telling the truth is always the best option, then we do so, even when it means admitting to our mistakes and accepting the consequences. If we believe that telling the truth is optional based upon our circumstances, we can become comfortable using lies (small or great) to protect ourselves from painful consequences.

If we believe that there is a God and that the Bible is His inerrant word, we should be making our choices based on what the Bible says. Furthermore, we should be confident that living a Biblical life is in our best interests, and we should desire to fully commit to such a life.

We should be striving to become more like Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

James declares, “I will show you my faith by my works.” God’s word makes it abundantly clear that faith by itself, if it does not prove itself with actions, is dead. At the end of the day, if your professed faith doesn’t affect your actions, influence your decisions, or guide your behavior, can it really be said to be faith at all?

© Lanak | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Do we really believe what we say we believe?

That’s an excellent question which we all need to ask ourselves from time to time. And let’s be clear: questioning what you believe is not the same as doubt. Doubt is a weakening thing which makes us unsure of our choices. It leaves us second-guessing ourselves and always looking back wondering what we might have done better. Positively formed questions, however, steer us away from areas of uncertainty and strengthen us to act upon what we are certain is true.

It is worth noting that we are all imperfect. We will make some poor choices along the way. We may sometimes find that we have believed things which prove to be untrue. We all have times of doubt. Fortunately, God is always faithful and true, even when we are not. When we fall and fail, God forgives – and that’s certainly good news!

The greatest faith we can have is to trust in the Lord’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness. 

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