This second installment continues my thoughts on things often said, or commonly-thought, about the Christian life that sound true but after reflection are not as true as they first seem. Feel free to leave your own thoughts also!
- Faith is thinking positive thoughts about God.There are many diverse views in the church body concerning what faith is, but a common one I run across is this one. Namely, that when the Bible says without faith it is impossible to please God, or it is by faith we obtain answers to our prayers, that the thing we envision ourselves doing is concentrating real hard on God’s positive attributes, or even Biblical promises, and this act is what faith is all about.
There is of course nothing wrong with — and even everything right with — meditating on God’s divine attributes and on Biblical promises. It is one way for us to come to a greater knowledge of God. It is just not, in itself, faith. Nor for that matter is any effort we put forth.
We have come to believe that everything in the Christian life (and life at large) is about effort. And we mistakenly treat faith no differently. We see faith fundamentally as something we do. But faith is not about effort, and it defies any attempt to be placed in that category.
We do try, however. We read our Bibles and call that faith, or think happy thoughts and call that faith, or make positive declarations and call that faith. We do our best to make faith an act or exercise, even when we say it is not and are not necessarily trying to.
For most of my journey with Christ, I would consider a prayer I wanted answered and think, “I do not know if I have enough faith for that,” rather discouraged. It was all about the faith I possessed, or the faith I exercised. Then one day I felt God was saying to me: “Faith is coming to realize the faith you must possess is not necessary.” I was puzzled, encouraged, and suddenly understood: Faith was not what I did or what I possessed. At least not in the way I understood it. It was really all about God and what He desired.
But without some kind of effort on my part, why would God bother to answer me?
This is where the journey of genuine faith begins. Sometimes our efforts to “have faith” is the very thing keeping us from answered prayer. Because we think we are not deserving of any special kindness, we think some kind of effort must be necessary. Inwardly, we are certain we must earn it.
But salvation is a gift God refuses to sell. Coming to understand the height, depth, breadth and width of the love of God, who died on a Cross to purchase us back from death, simply because He wanted to, is the road upon which our faith is walked out. It is no
different from when we first came to Christ. God is so committed to us understanding His love, he will withhold from us if we seek to obtain by other means.
This is not to suggest faith requires nothing of us. In a great sense it is much more difficult to acknowledge the thing that makes is utterly unlovable and to accept that God’s love exceeds what we could ever deserve than it is to engage in a frenzy of religious activity. Unconditional love is, in many ways, the hardest task we face.
Faith then is less of what we do and more of how we respond to the great love of God expressed at the Cross. And that unfortunately cannot be faked. Our opportunity today is to come face to face with God’s unconditional love at a whole new level. If this is the purpose of our meditation, then it will be fruitful. And if we allow the God who has laid down His life for us to love us even deeper, even the parts we fear Him to love, faith will take care of itself.