Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The necessity of faith

Have been busy and decided to spend more time with God on Sunday, so there's no weekly meditation last week. Anyway, due to certain issues that have cropped up, here is something that would hopefully be edifying.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. ... And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:1, 6)

Faith is integral in the life of a Christian. Not only it is vital for salvation (we are saved by faith alone — Sola Fide), it is vital for the entire living out of the Christian life. As it is written, the righteousness of God on our behalf is revealed "from faith for faith" (Rom. 1:17), not only for the initial work of salvation, but also for our whole walk with Christ our Savior and Lord. In fact, whatever is not done out of faith is ... SIN (Rom. 14:23b). As Christians, our whole life should be categorized as living totally and entirely by faith in the promises of God.

Heb. 11 is the classic passage on the topic of faith, and something which tell us a lot about faith. The type of faith presented here is something which perseveres, not the type of flippant "faith" which is here one day and gone the other. This passage describes the faith of our forefathers in the Faith, not to awe us into 'venerating' them, but that we should use them as examples to work towards. And for this verses 1 and 6 are instrumental in their description of true biblical faith; a faith that God is truly pleased with.

In Heb. 11:1, we are told that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen. Note the words 'assurance' and 'conviction'. Faith therefore is not false humility or epistemological agnosticism, as if saying I don't know is a badge of honor, nevermind the fact that such a person is so arrogant in claiming to know for certain that nobody can know the answer or truth either. Rather faith is expressed in assurance and confidence and conviction about its object, never in "humble orthodoxy". The person who shares God's truth as if he/she is embarrassed about it is most definitely not exercising faith, neither is the one who treats God's truth as one opinion to be evaluated by its hearers among other equally valid options.

The object of our faith is stated as being things 'hoped for' and 'not seen'. They are believed in in hope, not that it is some sort of blind faith, but that through the eyes of faith, we know that it would come true. Through our spiritual eyes, the objects of our faith in God are as good as realized, in the same way and even more real than any goods that we have ordered, paid for and have yet to receive their delivery from a very reliable company. They are as real as God, who is in fact our most glorious hope Himself. They are also 'not seen', in the sense that they are not physically present and therefore subject to empirical evaluation. Rather, they are all seen with the eyes of faith, which all true believers in Christ have as part of their new nature in Him.

Verse 6 of Heb. 11 points us to the reason why faith is so important. Without faith, it is impossible to please God, period. Although God can manifest His presence physically, which He did most importantly through His Son in the Incarnation, God has ordained that He should be approached by faith, and faith alone. As we have seen, whatever is not done out of faith is sin, and therefore exercising faith as a child of God pleases our Father who loves us.

Practically speaking, this is where the difficulty comes. For although it is known that we are to live the Christian life by faith, are we really doing so in all that we do? Or are we living by sight instead? (2 Cor. 5:7) An example of this would be when it comes to finding and getting a building for the church. Do we look only at the dollars and cents and plan accordingly, as if this was a purely commercial decison, even making contingencies if 'all else fails'? Where is faith in all this decision-making? Of even about other decisions, especially it seems when money is involved? Is Money god somehow? Yet why do we find it so hard to have faith in God instead of thinking like a financial advisor? Where is the praying, the seeking of God's will, and trusting Him to provide even in the finances? Is God a 'god of small things', and therefore cannot provide $1 million if there is such a shortfall in funds?

Now, of course this is not to say that we shouldn't plan or that we should just presume on the will of God, as if God must provide because I claim His promise by "faith". No, but God will show the way if we just but submit to Him and humbly seek His will. The idea is one of principles and priorities, not of actions. The Christian is to live His entire life by faith, and most definitely corporately as the Church we must live by faith. It is ridiculous, even unbiblical, to claim that we know we must live by faith, and that we will 'sortof' live by faith, but only doing so as a measure of last resort , as if God is the one we turn to only when we have trouble, and not during other preriods of time. How hypocritical! How dare we say we believe in living by faith yet practically live as if faith is not important at all in any and every thing that we do? As it has been said, Some churches function in such a manner that they can continue to function and thrive even if the Holy Spirit is absent from the congregation! Shame!

Let us therefore learn what it is to live by faith — a faith that is living and vibrant in Christ Jesus our Lord. Submit everything to Him by faith, and do not treat Him as a fire-engine. May we grow in our exercise of faith in all that we do, and therefore may it be said of us that 'Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city' (Heb. 11:16). Amen.

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