March 29, 2020

Choose Faith (The Armor, part 12)

I’m not a morning person. Waking up is a process, and my morning routine seems to happen with little or no conscious thought on my behalf. Sit up, put on my oversize fuzzy slippers, answer mother nature’s call, feed the cats, make the coffee. It’s the same every day, and I go through it without even thinking about it.

Or do I?

Even though I may feel (and look) like a mindless zombie first thing in the morning, each step of my routine is the result of a choice. I choose to get out of bed rather than sleeping in. I choose to put on the fuzzy slippers instead of going barefoot. True, going to the bathroom may be the unavoidable result of bodily functions, but I choose to do that before feeding the cats or making coffee. Everything we do is the result of a choice, even for one such as myself who, upon first waking, has more in common with the walking dead than Mr. Rogers.

What is life if not a series of choices?

Choice is an ever-present factor of human life. Nothing that you do happens without your choosing it. You chose your job. You chose what to wear this morning. You chose what to eat for breakfast - or you may have chosen to skip breakfast altogether. You chose to read this article (and I choose to thank you for doing so!). If any of the above decisions were made by someone else on your behalf, then you chose to let them make that decision for you.

As stated in lyrics penned by the late Neil Peart of Rush, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” There is no escaping the presence of choice in your life. It touches everything that you do.

In much the same way, the Shield of Faith overlaps every other piece of the spiritual Armor of God. Whatever protection is offered by any of the other symbolic elements of the armor, the shield alone can offer, as well. Such is the nature of faith - when all other evidence points to the worst of outcomes, faith alone provides hope. Faith saves you. Faith allows you to stand firm in the face of temptation. Faith is indispensible to the Christian life.

But what do you do if your faith is broken?

We have all encountered challenges to our faith. Some Christians seem to be able to cling to their faith in the most dire of circumstances as if by divine providence, while some fall away when faced with even the mildest of obstacles. What makes the difference?

As with all other things in life, faith itself is a choice. Even if the enemy has knocked you down and seems to have shattered your faith, you can still pick that shield back up and put it on. Remember that Jesus said we only need faith the size of a mustard seed (which is an exceptionally small thing) in order to accomplish great things for the Kingdom. Even the smallest shard of your broken faith can provide great comfort, healing, and protection, if you choose to pick it up.

Now to some of you, that statement may sound like a no-brainer. I have observed a good number of Christians who have endured terrible hardships and, as far as I can tell, have never wavered in their faith. Maybe being raised in the church helps with that - I wouldn’t know, because I had very little contact with the church until my mid-twenties. If turning to God in faith is as natural to you as taking a breath, I would say that you should count yourself as highly favored and greatly blessed, because for some of us, it’s not that easy.

I became a Christian at the age of 26, but I can’t say that I really became grounded in the faith until I was about 40 or so. I’ve seen more than a few new Christians come to God later in life only to give up on their faith when hardships appeared. Truly, Jesus’ parable of the sower is an accurate description of the various ways people respond to faith and adversity.

God gives us free will, and He allows us to use it as we please (the redundancy of that statement is intentional). He also presents us with plenty of evidence to convince us that faith in Him is a real and viable choice, even when other evidence may seem to indicate otherwise.

I clearly remember the moment when it dawned on me that faith, above all else, is a choice. I had been plagued by many doubts, and I was on the verge of giving up, like so many others. I wondered if my faith was real or if I was just pretending to believe, and if so, then why I should even bother. I was involved in a prison ministry, and the inmate teaching the class made the statement that faith was something that had to be chosen.

The power of that statement shook me to my core and is still with me today.

I grew up outside the church, though never hostile toward it. Agnostic would be the best word to describe my younger self. I always wondered if there was really a God or not, but as a student of science (I almost chose to major in Chemistry in college, though music won out in the end), I was skeptical. That skepticism is still a part of me today, to a certain degree. I can’t seem to avoid asking myself questions like…

Do I really believe what I say I believe?

The doubts and questions that I had - and still have - used to cause me great distress. The knowledge that I can choose to believe, in spite of these doubts, has enabled me to move forward in faith when fear would have me remain paralyzed. Faith is a choice that I make daily, and I wouldn’t ask God to make it otherwise.

I truly believe that it is good to face our doubts and ask the hard questions about Christianity. Doing so allows us to grow even closer to God as we learn more about Him and the world around us. The knowledge that I can choose faith in the face of obstacles has allowed me to look beyond the barriers to my faith and find ways to communicate the Gospel to others like myself. I love science, and the more I learn about both science and God, the more I see connections between the two. But those are topics for another time.

I have learned to put on the Shield of Faith by choosing to believe in God. I choose to believe what the Bible says even as I choose to try to understand what it means. I choose to believe even when I have doubts. The power of choice is every bit as important as the power of faith. In some ways, I would say that the two are, in fact, the same.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

It is only by faith that Joshua was able to make the following choice:

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
~ Joshua 24:15 (NKJV)

Joshua openly proclaimed his choice to have faith in God even while others chose differently. Today, more than ever, it is important for us to realize that faith is, above all else, a choice to be made. Faith is something which we must choose to fight for. Faith is that which we choose to hold onto in the face of adversity, lest we fall without it.

When all else fails, choose to stand in faith. It will be sufficient.


The Final Cut (The Armor, part 18)

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