Thursday 28 February 2013

Thoughts on Faith

Recently in my daily devotional I came across the title of this article. In it, the writer made an interesting statement that caused me to think about my own faith, the faith of the members of my family,and the faith of those I fellowship with:
"Many people think faith may be a helpful protection in case they need it—like a spare tire for their car. Many turn to faith when facing struggles, but then turn back to something more “reliable” when a crisis passes."

The bible talks about faith a lot.  In fact the New King James Version mentions the word 252 times. For me one the most  important instructions on faith is found in Hebrews 11:6
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."
Here is faith in a nutshell.  How can you ask anything of a God you don't believe in? And if you do believe in Him, to what extent? Does He just exist - out there somewhere, scarcely interested in us mere humans? Or will He turn His attention to us,just and only when it suits Him? And what makes us think that He would even consider  us anyway?

But Jesus lays the cards out on the table for all to see.
"I and the Father are one," He declares,"Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest". And: "Believe in Me and you will never die..."
And in Matthew 10:30,31 " But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows
All this certainly gives us a clear indication of how God feels about us and the fact that he really does think of us...all of us...individually! And what's more, he wants to have relationship with
us; Not like a man with an aquarium whose fish only come to the face of the tank when they think they are going to get fed.

I had a bit of a think about the different types of faith we 'mere humans' tend to operate in:

Just-in-case faith

This is the type of faith we tuck away for a rainy day. We believe in God- a God; an "up there somewhere-" God who may or may not care or even know I exist. But just in case He really does exist, I'll say I'm a Christian and that way I'll be safe. I'll even have the kids "done" (christened) just in case something goes wrong.  Just incase Faith says: "I'm ok. I'm a good person and I do alright. I don't hurt anyone or steal or cheat and I pay my taxes and donate to charity. If there is a God and a heaven, I'll probably go there when I die.”

Crisis Faith

This is the faith that we call on when things are going pear shaped. Job lost, illness in the family, mounting debt, or even a natural disaster or accident..."God if you are up there, please help me. I
can't do this on my own, I need You."  I have seen leaders of nations get up and call people to prayer; to end droughts, to prevent floods, to help people through earthquakes, fires...
Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with praying for God to intervene, to stretch out His mighty hand and to deal with a difficult situation. In fact I wish it happened more often. What I am talking
about here is the people who turn to God only when these sorts of situations arise.  It's almost like a 'last resort' faith.  I am reminded of a story about a sailor who got washed overboard in a
terrible storm with no chance of getting back on the boat. He called out to God: "Lord, if You're out there, save me and I will dedicate the rest of my life to serving You". Just then a wave picked him up and threw him back on the deck of the boat. He stood up and declared, "Never mind God, it's ok, I'm back on the boat!" Crisis faith is the kind that calls out to God but when answered by Him, it often isn't recognised as being answered by Him.

Mustard seed Faith

This is the kind of Faith Jesus talked about. He calls it mountain moving faith. Mustard seed faith is not about size, but about the potential that comes from it. A small mustard seed has within it all
the DNA to become a tree of significance when planted, cultivated, nurtured, watered, and shielded in its infancy from destruction, the elements and the trampling foot.
I see faith as a resoluteness and a determination to allow God to be God and to have His way in any given situation. I see this faith as the kind of faith that ultimately trusts God in His wisdom to answer my petition in such a way that brings maximum benefit to me. I wrote a song once and a line of it goes like this:
"And when I ask for a blessing that you know will hurt me, then you keep me from it so that I won't fall..."
That is faith. Faith not only says God can, but God will, and God will for me because He loves me.
And when He doesn't, it's not because He isn't listening, but rather because He loves me enough to keep me from myself.

Faith and religiosity

There is a difference between faith and religiosity.
When I look at other religions, I see people motivated mainly by fear. Incense is burned, mantras are repeated countless times, offerings are made, people bow to statues and images of "celestial beings"... Even we westerners do things out of a religious compulsion rather than a
relational faith. People try to earn their salvation by their religious deeds; rosaries, oft repeated mindless prayers, even dietary changes at certain times of the year. We do 'stuff' because we think
it makes us look good, and people will respect us for our religious fervour. People might, but I'm not sure that God does. Romans 12:3 says
"Serve God with Spiritual Gifts, For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith."

Turning to faith

I mentioned before about the mustard seed and its potential. The Bible teaches us that we have all been given a measure of faith.  I see this in the same sense as the mustard seed. What will strengthen that faith and make it grow ultimately depends on what we do with it. Nurturing
and exercising our faith will build it.  Jude exhorts us in Jude 1:20-21:
"But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life."
Notice the instruction is to build yourself? Nobody else can do that for you. The faith bank.
The instructions in Jude are quite plain: pray in the Holy Spirit,keep yourself in God's love. Building ourselves up is putting the deposits in our Faith Bank. Other forms of deposit are:

Building the faith bank is like building a love relationship; The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. The more I nurture my marriage, the more successful our marriage becomes. The more I love my wife, the more she reciprocates that love. It's the same with Faith. The more I get to know God by building my faith bank, the closer and more intimate I become with Him. 
One of my favourite faith building instructions is found in Psalm 1:
"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,that brings forth its fruit in its season,whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish."
We all believe in something. Where is your faith at? Are you praying in faith or are you praying in vain? Is your faith religious or is it relational? Do you have the Mustard seed DNA that will bring you to great faith?
Jesus said "With God all things are possible"
Have a great week.