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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

What is Faith About Anyway?

My greatest passion is not what you might believe. It's not books, films, stories, music, video games or sports. I love all these things, but my great passion is found in all God has created - such as his people. The art of the previous things mentioned provides a gateway to connect and learn about people again. It's like how I can learn about God through the creation, so I can learn about people through their art. It's why when I contemplate ideas and thoughts, often I'll turn to a song or a poem or another narrative that tells it perfectly.

Kutless, in their song I Do Not Belong sing "I do not belong in a world of broken pieces/I was meant to be in the arms of your redemption/ I am moving on to the place of your perfection." And it's the realisation, more and more, of what 'being set apart' means that has lead me to decide to create a new seperate blog to reflect upon different spiritual ideas that God is 'running me through the gauntlet' with, so to speak (or in this case write). 

I'm coming to see that what my life, like any life, is a progression. It might have its detours, it might end up going in circles, I might run backwards every so often. But even if I stumble and fall and with the beasts that fight inside of me, I still want to continue to push on: to move closer and closer to the version of me that Christ is calling me to be (even if I know that I am and have been justified, sanctified and glorified). Either way, I hope that makes sense as a long-winded intro as to why I've titled my blog the way I have.

But let us move on to what I really wanted to talk about: faith. What is faith about? Is it some static thing that I just 'have to have?' Is it just for the here and now? Am I not getting all the promises of God because I don't have enough faith? Why can some non-Christians pray and see the power of God move while I don't?

Let me look first at the story of Jonah before moving onto the famous chapter of Hebrews about faith. At the beginning of Jonah we see Jonah run from God when God asks him to go to Nineveh and preach against it. And when Jonah flees, God sends a storm after him. Jonah then ends up being thrown overboard and rescued by a huge fish of some sort and this incident leads to the men on board that ship actually worshiping God himself for calming the storm. And then God gives Jonah the same choice again to go to Nineveh and finally Jonah gives in, goes to Nineveh and the people there repent to God. And when God spares them you know what happens? Jonah feels that this is unjust. The guy who runs away from God's desires? From Gods will and is given grace to spare him feels its unjust that a whole city can be spared. In the end to me, Jonah becomes a story about God's grace towards one man just as much as to a whole city and Jonah doesn't even seem to get that!

I'll be honest now: the future at times scares me. Why it scares me is because of my human capacity for doubt despite God's unrelenting grace. I worry that my human emotions will control my choices rather than God's will. And the reason I have to share this is because when you share it, speak out your fear, the power it can hold on you lessens. Because it is ridiculous that I can feel that I can have more of a say over my own life than God's will if he wanted to step in. It's ridiculous to think that I can stuff anything up to the point where God can't redeem it. It's ridiculous to think that God's choices for me cannot be made more visible than my own desires. And so on. In short: GOD'S WAYS ARE NOT MY WAYS!

As God said to Job when Job questions God's ways:  

Job 38: 2 - 3 (NIV) " 2‘Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me...'"

Because we are not God it's incredibly audacious of us to think we can question God's will and consider that we might have the ability to in any way truly confuse or damage his plans and purposes. Yes, we have choices but like with the story of Jonah, in the end it might become a choice of facing a storm (or trial) without God or with him.

So what then, is faith about anyway? Well here's the small scratch in the surface that I am starting to realise. Faith is in a sense trust, but it's more that trust is an aspect of what faith is overall. It's not some static force that you just need a particular amount of, it's a dynamic power of God to shape and define.

Hebrews 11 in the amplified really highlights why I've come to see this (cheers to Jay Mitchell for helping to point this out):

Verse 1 "Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]."

So faith is about assurance and proof of things we cannot really understand alone. Things like God himself and the trinity, or saving grace. If you continue to read the amplified version of Hebrews 11 it points out that faith is doing different things (prompting, actuating, urging on, motivating etc.) for the men and women of faith who came before Christ. So you know what that suggests to me about faith? It suggests that it's a dynamic force: a power of action to spur us to act on any belief in the eternal. As verse 3 in Hebrews 11 points out: "By faith we understand that the worlds [during the successive ages] were framed (fashioned, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose) by the word of God, so that what we see was not made out of things which are visible."

All of Hebrews 11 can really be read as a chapter not just giving many great examples of faith acts: but a chapter that teaches, that shows, that faith really is active. 1 Corinthians 13 mentions that "12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Hope: my true anchor to God's saving grace.
Faith: the active power of my hope.
Love: the very nature of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

So, yes, I guess this is all very interesting theologically. But what does it all mean? Well, here's the conclusion I've reached at this point: James 2: "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." Faith without action is not true faith, it's power that isn't being used. Show me a car that just sits in a garage all of its life. You can claim it has power and a battery, but until I see that battery in action and working, then it's not really a car. It might look like a car, but it's really just a piece of decorative artwork - or furniture. It's the same with faith: unless you are actively living out, working out, your faith, then is it really faith?

This is not a post to condemn but to prompt and encourage. It's why I brought up Jonah - God had to prompt Jonah to stop living out of his fears and to remind him that really being a prophet wasn't just about Jonah: it was about a city of living souls. The same goes for anyone reading this, and for me too, I can't live my life out of 'what might be' or 'what if I get that wrong'. I need to live in the power of faith - and sometimes that means being taken into uncomfortable situations (like Job) or being corrected by God like Jonah. What is faith about anyway? It's about God's power living and working in my day to day life!