“I believe, Pastor, I really do.” I knew what the person meant. He had this idea about God and liked to think about Him when things were feeling out of control. But, real faith? Every choice the man made, just about every word he said, denied a living faith. He was selfish, chased pleasure relentlessly, and acted if eternity was a myth. Genuine faith is so much more than an idea, a thought, or accepting a possibility of the existence of the divine. In the letter to the Hebrews, we read that “faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, ASV)
Faith itself may be invisible, but like the wind, where faith exists, there is real observable evidence. James told his audience they could talk all they wanted about their faith, but he would demonstrate it by what he did! Does such a transforming faith come easily to us? No. Should it? I think not.
In Finding God In The Questions, (Dr. Timothy Johnson) we read about the many skeptics who wonder if there is a God, why He does not make His existence more plain. Woody Allen jokes, “If only God would give me some clear sign, like making a large deposit in my name in a Swiss bank account!” Somewhat irreverent, but which of us has not, at one time or another, wished for God to make Himself more plainly known? Johnson suggests that were God to speak in a voice we could plainly discern, He would destroy the gift of our will, for we would be overwhelmed into passive submission. He longs for us to choose to seek Him, by faith, and to love Him without terror.
He re-tells Kierkegaard’s parable of a king who falls in love with a peasant girl. He wonders how to make his love known to her without ruining her ability to freely love him in return. He does not want to simply order her to love him though he could. If he gives her liberal gifts befitting his royal status, he can never know if she loves him or just his gifts. So, he decides to assume the guise of a peasant to woo her. This is the story of God! He loves us, leaving us many evidences of that love, but His great act of demonstrated love was in the Incarnation, when He became a man and lived among us. Our response is not compelled, it is our choice.
The evidence of Creation, the beauty of love, the words of the Scripture, the Spirit at work – all point us to the existence of God. If we will invite Him to speak, if we will ‘look’ at Jesus in the Gospels, we will ‘see’ that He exists and faith will begin to grow. From the soil of faith, we can begin to make the choices of love Him. Like any love relationship, loving God is complicated. We bring expectations that are unrealistic to our love for Him. We misunderstand Him. We try His love when our affections wander to lesser loves- YET, even if we are faithless, it does not destroy His love!
The Scripture calls us to understand the greatness of knowing Him saying: “This is a sure thing: If we die with him, we’ll live with him; If we stick it out with him, we’ll rule with him; If we turn our backs on him, he’ll turn his back on us; If we give up on him, he does not give up— for there’s no way he can be false to himself.” (2 Timothy 2:11-13, The Message) Faith will not eliminate the difficulties nor will it even answer all the questions. As my pathway in recent years has shown, faith is tested and can grow stronger in circumstances that defy explanation. In the questions a profound faith can grow. The simplicity of “God said it, I believe it,” is replaced with a love for the Father that anchors our soul beyond the perimeter of time and this visible world.
The more of God we see, the more we begin to know that there is so much more to understand. The greater our love for Him, the more He asks of us in return. That is why the Word reminds us that “it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NLT) Is your faith real or it is mere belief? Press past that shallow faith that demands an easy road, all the answers, and comfortable circumstances. Instead, invite the King, our Great Love, to draw you into His embrace so that you will know Him, serve Him, love Him to eternity.
Our word from the Word is a prayer that a desperate daddy prayed as his faith hung in the balance. “Jesus said, “If? There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, “Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!” (Mark 9:23-24, The Message)
My Abba, my heart opens to you this Monday morning.
My faith reaches out, with all my being desiring You.
Yes, Father, I confess that there are other ‘loves’ that test me.
A creature of time and flesh,
I am sometimes captivated by the things that are so visible and
I crave an immediate kind of experience of faith.
Let me rest myself on Your holy promises,
My heart held by the grip of grace,
My soul soothed by the song of the Spirit.
I do believe, but pray that You will lead me beyond the ideas and
into a deep and lasting faith that can be seen in my life and my loves.
Blessed Jesus, thank you for opening wide your arms
and taking me in, even when I am a rebel, when I resist Your love.
Holy Spirit, sing over me, and let me keep step
with the holy walk of the faithful.
For God’s glory. Amen.