FAITH YOU CAN COUNT ON
"Waybread" is food designed to strengthen travelers on a long journey. This little weekly column is intended to offer reflections that will strengthen and encourage you in your own long journey in following Christ.
We do hope you find these reflections encouraging! If God has used one to speak to you recently, or if you've had a "God-sighting" elsewhere in your life, we're going to have a Sharing time this coming Sunday, and we want to invite you to consider sharing that to encourage the church! Your words may be just what someone else needs!
FAITH YOU CAN COUNT ON
"And now faith, hope, and love remain, these three, and the greatest of these is love."
~1 Cor. 13:13
Over the course of the next few weeks I want to focus on each of these three–faith, hope, and love–one at a time. If you call yourself a Christian you almost certainly consider these foundational to how you live out your day-in day-out life, but for that reason they sometimes tend to slip right by us. Now, I've always been drawn not so much to new and different ideas, but rather ones like these that we take for granted and too easily look past. Faith, hope, and love fit that bill perfectly.
One of the first places people start when talking about faith (I even mentioned it in my message a couple weeks ago) is Hebrews 11:1, which says:
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
Too often, when we think about faith we think of it as something sort of misty or vague, like a mist or atmosphere or mood. But real faith, biblical faith, is so much more than that. Look at the words used to describe it in that verse: assurance and conviction. These are hardly misty or vague words intended to conjure up a religious mood; no, they're solid, substantial, meaty words.
I really want to see us come to a place of solid ground and sure footing here. When I read these verses this morning I found myself thinking of the word faithful, and I wondered about the connection between faithful and faith. (We don't talk much about Greek on Sunday mornings, but the Greek words for both of these are rooted in the same word: pistis.) I think we can learn a lot in the interplay of these two words.
In one of my favorite dictionaries (how many people do you know who have favorite dictionaries!), Noah Webster's 1828 edition says that faith means "to be persuaded, confident, trusting in, won over, relied upon." Think of that! Far from this wishy-washy moodiness we were talking about a moment ago, true faith means we have been persuaded, won over! When we have faith in Christ, we are persuaded, convinced, reliant upon His steadfast and faithful love which manifested itself in His saving work on the Cross!
Take this a step further and go take a look at the rest of Hebrews 11–what a wonderful chapter! Consider all the faithful men and women described there, and note that each one begins with, "By faith" something utterly unexpected and sometimes miraculous occurred. Their faith led them to act on or carry out some great deed or task that would have been impossible without it.
And faithful is no less inspiring! When we think of faithfulness we think of someone who is loyal, steadfast, true, constant, someone who honors their allegiance and carries out their duties. It's a word filled to the brim with honor and integrity–there's no sense of religious or spiritual moodiness about this, it's powerful, moving, inspiring, it makes us want to aspire to this kind of life!
When we have faith in Christ, we are persuaded, convinced, reliant upon His steadfast and faithful love which manifested itself in His saving work on the Cross!
Indeed, faith and faithfulness are so powerful, and even creative, that they have the power to change our relationship with God and our very nature. In Romans 4:3 Paul says that "Abraham believed [had faith in, was persuaded, convinced, won over by] God and it was credited to him as righteousness." Abraham's faith had the power to do in him and for him what he could never have done for himself: gain him right standing before the God of all creation, Maker of Heaven and Earth!
And here's the good–great!–news, friends: The very same faith that made Abraham right with God, can also do the same for you. True, our feelings about God can change with our circumstances and moods, but we've seen today that true, godly, biblical faith is far more reliable and substantial than our feelings!
I remember sitting in my parents' living room in 1982 reading C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity and coming upon the following words that burned in my heart and stirred up faith in my deep soul:
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to…."
Now that "stirring up of faith" was credited to me by God as righteousness–unbelievable! But you know, when you came to faith in Christ the very same thing happened to you, even though it probably happened in an entirely different way (God sure does have our number, doesn't He?). As Paul says, when we come to faith in Christ, we become a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).
I'll close with this. This is good, great, wonderful news! You can count on, rely on, believe in, be persuaded that Jesus truly is who He has revealed Himself to be in the Scriptures! And when you make Him the solid Foundation of your life, mere moods and emotions will never substitute for a living faith again!
Maybe you don't have this kind of faith but you'd like to. Maybe you don't know what to do next. We can help! You can send me a quick little email (email@example.com) or reach out to Pastor Phil (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let's sit down and talk about it.
Be encouraged, friend, for God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, who spoke all worlds into being, is both with you and for you.