As some of you are aware, I have been on a long journey in search of that mystery called Faith. For me, it was an elusive prey, confounding my attempts to quantify and understand it, much less incorporate it into my very being. How is it, I wondered, that Faith was so simple for some, yet eluded others like myself? I asked, “What is Faith? And where can I find it?” The answer from Hebrews 11:1, as you know, is “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” I still wanted something more (I’m needy that way).
Just before your baptism, you might have been asked a question like, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who was born as a man to redeem us from our sins, who died on the cross and was bodily resurrected three days later?” For those who are Believers, “Yes,” is the unquestioned answer, given without hesitation and with a sense of heartfelt joy and relief. But is this the same question as “Do you have faith in Jesus Christ as . . .?” Is “belief” the same as “faith”? Does “Are you a believer?” mean the same thing as “Do you have faith in Jesus Christ?” or “Are you a Christian?”
To “believe” something is to have a strong conviction that an assertion is true, even if you can’t support it fully with facts. And belief, indeed, is a component of faith. But faith has other components which stem from the heart, whereas belief is a matter of the intellect: trust, fidelity and vision are matters of the heart.
Søren Kierkegaard likened Faith to floating in seventy thousand fathoms of water. If you struggle, as Peter did, you’ll sink, but if you relax and trust, you’ll float. Faith is trusting God as our rock and fortress, the one upon whom we rely, as our safe-haven (see Psalm 18:2).
The opposite of trust is mistrust, which manifests as anxiety and worry. How many times does Jesus say not to worry? “You of little Faith,” he admonishes. If you are anxious, you have insufficient faith. But as your faith grows, your anxiety will diminish.
That statement about insufficient Faith is not meant to be an added guilt-trip to those of us who still suffer from anxiety, or panic attacks, or worry. On the contrary, the statement is there to give hope, that there IS a path to a smoother road in life.
This is faith as faithfulness to God. It means loyalty, allegiance, the commitment of the self at its deepest level, the commitment of the heart. The opposite is to be adulterous in the sense of idolatry, breaking God’s covenant.
“You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall love the Lord your God with all your Heart, and with all your life force, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” To be faithful to God is similar to being faithful to your spouse – being attentive to the relationship.
This aspect of Faith refers to the way we see reality. The way we see the World affects our response to life.
IF you see reality as hostile, then you live your life in fear trying to protect yourself. You focus on the fact that nobody gets out of this alive. Death gets us all: us, our children, everyone we love. Even the solar system will be burnt to a crisp someday. Some people will see God as waiting to get us – unless we offer the right sacrifices, behave the right way or believe the right things. God will judge us and punish those who didn’t “get it right.” Matthew 7:13 can be interpreted that way. Only a few will win the race.
IF you see reality as being indifferent to human concerns, then human motivations and purposes have no impact on the Universe, which is just a mixture of force fields, matter and energy, totally uncaring or even able to care. If we adopt this point of view, we just enjoy the view and do what we can to make ourselves comfortable. Morality and ethics are man-made and optional. Of course, this uncaring Universe will someday run out of fuel and die.
The third way of seeing reality is as nurturing and supportive. It sustains us and is life-giving. This is the version of reality that Jesus spoke of when he was talking about the lilies of the field and the birds. God feeds them, clothes them and sends rain upon the just and unjust. God is generous. This way of seeing the whole leads to radical trust. It frees us from anxiety, self-preoccupation and concern to protect the self.
When I finally took the time to stop searching so hard for faith and just examine myself, I discovered the Holy Spirit setting up housekeeping! I came to BELIEVE that Jesus was my Lord and Savior, the only begotten Son of God who was born as a Man to take on the entire burden of Sin for you and me and everyone who comes to Him. I came to BELIEVE that Jesus was cruelly crucified on the Cross; that He suffered a separation from God when He took on the burden of Sin, and that He overcame Death, being resurrected on the third day by His Father.
When I sank into the waters of Baptism, my TRUST in Him as my Rock and Fortress blossomed, my FIDELITY and commitment to God took form and strengthened and my VISION of His creation as a loving and nurturing vineyard for His workers overflowed my Heart.
Love in Him – Kevin