Friday, January 10, 2014
Faith, Part 1
Have you ever stopped to consider what it means to have faith? Perhaps more to the point: have you ever paused to contemplate what faith is? I know there are various definitions of the word, especially by today’s standards. But the word “faith” suffers from a blanket definition so broad that it has become vacuous. We hear the phrases all the time encouraging us to believe in ourselves, to have faith in ourselves, or simply to have faith. But what does this mean, exactly? It brings us back to the one simple question of definition; what is faith?
The Bible has its own definition for the word “faith” which makes sense, since it appears no less than 350 times in Scripture in its various forms (faith, faithful, faithfulness, etc). The Bible defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” Hebrews 11:1. Faith is the only vehicle by which we may accept or reject a given cosmogony. “By faith we understand that the worlds (Greek aion, meaning ages of time) were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible,” Hebrews 11:3. Evolution is a theory, untested and untestable, that sets itself against Biblical cosmogony; both are either accepted or rejected by faith. No human being was there at the beginning to record history’s unfolding; that is how the universe came into being. Christians understand through the Bible that God was there; He was a witness of what transpired, and the Creator, therefore we can have confidence that what He says happened in the beginning was how the historical creation of the universe occurred. Otherwise our faith is in the conjectures and hypotheses (void of substantial evidence) about how billions of years and trillions of accidents happened to create matter, planets, organic life and finally consciousness.
I use this as an example to demonstrate one aspect of faith that is inescapable. Faith finds its place in an object. Whoever (or whatever) our faith settles upon, that is the thing we are trusting to achieve the unspoken results. For example, if someone tells me to have faith in myself, it is the unspoken assumption that within me lies the potential to achieve whatever it is that I am attempting to do. I assume that the simple slogan “have faith” also implies oneself, otherwise this generic statement takes the term farther down the degenerative path of vagaries, since it essentially asserts that we should have faith in faith; both a redundant and hopeless idea. The Bible stands in stark contrast to this definition. Jesus tells us more than once “your faith has saved you” but the unspoken assertion here is that it was faith IN HIM that saved; not some nondescript power waiting in the ether for mankind to tap into. Christ was the object of that faith every time we find this phrase or the like in the New Testament. Jesus clarified when He said “you believe in God, believe also in Me,” John 14:1.
Faith is a spiritual investment. The bank of choice can be many things, and the returns we see will depend entirely on where we choose to bank. I have said it before, and I will say it again: one’s faith is only as good as the object that faith rests in. God commands that we approach Him in faith: “for he who comes to God must believe that He is (that he exists), AND that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him,” Hebrews 11:6. Hebrews chapter 11 is a character sketch, not so much of the various “heroes of the faith” but in the power of God as He works in the faithful, showing Himself mighty in those who trust in Him. In effect, this chapter is devoted to demonstrating that investing one’s faith in the eternal Creator and Redeemer of mankind is the wisest choice one could make. Faith is the vehicle God uses to mold our character as we live out a life whose actions demonstrate where our faith is stored. Who would invest money in some enterprise, and if they happened to receive a huge return, pretend as if nothing has changed? Some still do, but they are living like a pauper when they could be living like a prince. The same is true with God. Our faith leans on one whose strength never fails, and whose supply never runs dry. We have entered into an infinite inheritance, received only by the medium of faith.