The Red Queen lecturing Alice, by John Tenniel
Some folks think that faith is about trying to believe the impossible, but as Alice noted:
Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Through the Looking-Glass
So, successful Christians would be like the Queen—basically out of touch with reality, possibly even certifiable. And this understanding is not entirely reserved for atheists either, some Christians really struggle with what it is, why it’s so important, and do they actually have any? So the Mouse has been looking in to it.
Faith is important to God for four reasons I’ve been able to discern:
- If we believe what He says, just because He says it, we show Him honour and respect. This is why Abraham was so honoured in return for His faith: “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6.
- Because God has designed everything of spiritual value to work by faith: if we try to make it work any other way we end up with something which He cannot use, and we can get no credit for. This could be called “faith in action”—never doubting that His promises are true so that we can go out and do what He calls us to do—“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)—with power and confidence, and thus successfully bearing fruit in service.
- Then there’s what might be called positional faith—knowing who I am in Christ. This is very important for a peaceful heart and confidently living my life without fear. God repeatedly tells not to fear as He wants us joyful, faithful, and at peace.
- In Hebrews we have read, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” RSV. This is often quoted as the only definition of faith in the Bible, but it’s not at all clear what is actually meant by it. The most tricky word here is “assurance” which has variously been translated with ‘assurance,’ ‘substance/substantiating,’ ‘reality/realization,’ ‘confident/confidence,’ and ‘sure.’ It puts a certain strain on most translators.
If a blind person is taken to a glorious view, it will mean nothing to her, as her sense of sight is incapable of accessing the reality of the landscape and delivering it to her mind. This in no way disproves either the reality or beauty of the view. Similarly, playing a concerto to a deaf man will fail to move him, as his sense of hearing cannot reach the reality of the music and deliver it to his mind. This equally cannot disprove the existence or melody of the music.
This is the idea behind this word ‘hypóstasis’—making real to me something spiritual which, though perfectly “real,” I cannot apprehend by any other sense. Our sight makes the visible world real to us, while our hearing accesses our audible surroundings. In just the same way, faith brings the spiritual world into our cognitive awareness as a simple, practical reality, not a vague commitment to ‘six impossible things before breakfast.’
So it’s a kind of sixth sense—by which we can grasp the realities of God, sense the heart of God, hear the voice of God, and see by the light of God—a sensitivity to spiritual truth.
Jesus shed His blood and died on the cross. This is historical fact, but it was too long ago to necessarily prove. However, it is also a spiritual fact. People without faith cannot benefit from this fact, since faith alone can prove this to be a fact and therefore benefit from it.
All the spiritual facts—the truths of the gospel—on which we need to build our discipleship, are proven by the same method: by the deliberate application of faith. So this is entirely different from the “if it works for you…but it doesn’t work for me” relative truth of modern philosophy. A philosophy of relative truth cannot ever work since it makes no allowance for any solid, eternal truth at all, so it has nothing tangible to work with.
All of which is to say, ‘anywhere you may be struggling with your discipleship, choose to believe the promise of God, and you will discover it is truth—applicable and powerful truth.’
Faith makes it real, and therefore we can actually step out on it.
Bless you folks, Geoff >ᴥ<