Thursday, March 22, 2012

Faith

   Recently, I have been looking at the truths of the Bible in a whole new light. You see, I was raised literally from birth in church. Every Sunday and Wednesday, we were there. Every revival service or "camp meeting", we were there. I heard sermons on every possible biblical subject, and I was a Sunday School golden child. I was (and often still am) the go to guy for biblical information. I don't say this boastfully, I am not patting myself on the back, because it actually saddens me. It saddens me because there is such a huge disconnect between my knowledge of all things biblical, and the practical application of those life-altering truths. Having come to the knowledge that what I know is not necessarily what I practically live by has sparked a renewed interest in Christian cliches. They are cliches for a reason, after all; at some point they must have held some power or weight, and it is that power and weight that I want in my Christian walk.
    So, in thinking about cliches, the very first one that came to mind was," The just shall live by faith."(Hab. 2:4, Rom. 1:17), as well as," We walk by faith and not by sight." (II Cor. 5:7). These are commonly used verses, with a multitude of applications. Seriously, I don't think there is a single possible situation a human being can find themselves in where some well-meaning fellow Christian will remind him/her that we "walk by faith, not by sight", and that you just have to "keep on believing". I know their intentions are pure, and they are only trying to strengthen your faith, but what does any of that really mean? What does it even mean to walk by faith? What am I supposed to keep on believing? That everything will turn out okay? That isn't facing reality, because in reality, things don't always turn out "okay". Sometimes, the cancer patient dies; sometimes the prodigal son doesn't ever come home. I can't believe everything is going to be peachy. Some may say that is pessimistic, but look around you; let reality be the judge of the popular faith in "positive thinking". It fails every conceivable test.
     Real faith is simple. Looking at the multitude of books written on the subject, and the complex theological studies into this amazing subject, one would think it was the most complex issue on Earth. The Christian concept of faith, in my opinion, has been over-mystified and explained away to the point of having zero practical application. "It is 'spiritual'", they say (whoever "they" are; everyone seems to be repeating "them" these days). It is "complex", it is only learned "in the fiery trial". These cliches are surely well-known to anyone familiar with church circles; we use them like they are going out of style (I think they never should have been in style in the first place). Somewhere in the course of Christian history, we seem to have lost a very simple and life-altering truth: faith simply means "trust", not acceptance. We don't trust abstract ideas or facts, we accept them. I don't go around believing in gravity; I accept that it is, because I am not floating into space. I trust people; I trust my father, and my mother, and my best friend. Why? Because, in spite of lapses in their trustworthiness, which is inescapably human, they have proven that I am wise to trust them.
     Now, take that concept and apply it on a metaphysical level. God is a person (albeit not in an earthly form), and, being a person, He cannot be "accepted" or "rejected" as a scientific fact (as modern agnostic/atheist scientists seek to do). He can be trusted or distrusted, but He cannot be discounted or rejected as nonexistent. That is a statement that would surely be contradicted by most atheists, but it is a fact (I won't get into the philosophical complexities involved in discounting modern science's efforts to prove God does not exist, as I have neither the training nor the patience to effectively debate the point. For a philosophical perspective, look into the work of Dr. William Lane Craig.) Getting back to the subject, God's character is what matters, not His existence. I don't place my faith in His existence; what would be the point? How does believing He exists affect my life? It is who He is that makes all the difference. I can take strength from the injunction to "walk by faith" because I now know what it means to do so. I take strength because I know that I am to trust in who God is in the face of any and all situations that come my way. I have faith that when I am faced with adversity and am abandoned by my fellow-man, He remains faithful. I can take courage from the fact that when I fall short in any area, He is gracious and forgiving, and hears my penitent cry. I can know that when I lie to myself and delude myself into believing my lies, His truth and Word will cut to the heart of things. I can trust Him, because I know Him.
     Faith, or trust, is based entirely on knowledge and experience. I trust any person (and especially God) because I know them, I know their character. God's character, based on His Word and my personal experiences with Him, leads me to walk by faith. I know who He is, He has proven Himself time and again in spite of my persistent unbelief. From that knowledge comes the peace and security of living by faith, true faith; not the cliche, but something real, something beyond platitudes and emotion. Faith, based in knowledge, is the road to peace, and it is beautiful. So get to know the Christ and believe in His character, not in positive thinking, but in who Jesus really is, and enjoy the peace He has promised.