Your probably (hopefully) saying,
“What on earth do you mean by this? Are you falling into heresy again? Isn’t faith the central idea of Christianity?”
Yes, Clearly the Bible teaches that everything worth having and doing in the Christ-centered life comes by having faith.
But no, based on my previous point, I think that what is central is faith IN Christ and the saving work of the Gospel… Which Christ has DONE. Not in faith as a concept in and of itself.
So here is the problem I have discovered with the way I have always understood faith…
We know that we can’t be saved (Justified, Born Again, Loved, Put right with God) by good works, (see Romans 1-3) and so the alternative is that we are saved by faith. So far so good.
Except now the response has often been… Ok so now I need to TRY to ACHIEVE this faith thing which is the thing that I must do to be saved.
And just like that… I have created a huge stumbling block to actually being able to trust in the saving work of Jesus. I have made faith into a WORK, and so am believing a works gospel, but it’s subtle and spiritual and thus the even more insidious. This is what ends up happening:
“If I just really, really, really believe… if I can show God how much I truly trust him and have a faith that is alive and vibrant, then God will justify me. Then he will love me. Then he will heal me. Look how great my faith is God!” – Subtle, but scary. Because now this “faith” (whatever that means) has become a pre-requisite. But the Gospel says this: “There is no pre-requisite for God’s love!”
“Ok you’ve got my attention, but just seems like a bunch of words to me… what does it mean to have faith then?”
I want to look at a parable Jesus gave:
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matt 13:44
Every time I have read this parable in the past I have always felt guilty that I haven’t sold everything I have… Felt shame for what I am not DOING. I have always seen it used as an indication of what we are to do!!!!
But in a re-evaluation, isn’t the point here that the man in this parable KNEW that this treasure was worth so much more than everything he had, so it was just a logical, rational acting out, of the trusting faith that he had in the value of his treasure? Of course he sold everything he had! He knew that the value of the treasure was so much greater!
And this is why I think James says,
“You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18
Works are an evidence of faith… As in, if we know that the treasure is there in the field, ofcourse we would go and buy it, it would be ridiculous not to!
Let me try to modernize this thought.
You stumble across a penny stock that seems like a good business… So you go and research the company, the product it sells, the management, and more and more you become convinced that there is no way it can fail… It’s a gold mine! Its google in 2004, its Microsoft in 1989, What do you do?
You use all the resources you can muster to go and buy as much stock as you can!
“Ok, ok so what’s the point of this whole line of thought then?”
My point is this: Your actions always follow your beliefs. If you don’t buy the field, if you don’t go buy the stock, then it’s because you weren’t assured of the future value of the stock, you weren’t sure the treasure was actually there, or that it wasn’t of enough value to warrant the actions.
If we truly believe something has value, we can’t help but act in accordance with the truth of it.
“But then why is the title of this article, stop trying to get faith? Didn’t you just make the point that faith drives what we do? Therefore we should try to get faith?”
What I am trying to point out is really subtle… We have been told… stop trying to put God in your debt by doing good works! So we turn around and try to put God in our debt by showing how great our faith is: “Look God! I really really believe in you! My heart is in the right place! Look how I am proving my belief! Now you have to bless me, heal me, love me… Etc.”
Faith has become a work, a virtue by which we prove our self worth. God loves us because of our faith. I am justified BECAUSE OF my faith.
This is so subtle, but it kept me in bondage for so many years. I knew that I wasn’t having enough faith, and so I tried to have more faith! If only I could have that elusive mustard seed, if only I could be like the heroes of faith from Hebrews 11… Then God will value me and give me what I want. If only I have enough faith, God will heal me… If only I have enough faith then my prayers will be effective.
It was subtle, and insidious, but I had made Faith into a work!
“Ok so you have convinced me, if we make faith into an abstract idealization then it can become a work… So how then can I have the fruits of faith if I stop trying to get faith?”
If we want faith we need to stop talking about faith in and of itself. Stop TRYING to believe!
Instead… Go look for the treasure! Go investigate the stock! The more we look at the object of what we are putting our faith in… The more convinced we will be of its value, and our actions can’t help but fall I line with our beliefs.
This ties right in with the theme verse of this site, Romans 12:1:
“this is the reasonable way for you to worship.” – Its simply reasonable for us to respond to the Gospel by giving up everything (living sacrifice) to gain such a priceless treasure.
Back to me personally…
I can say that I finally have faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ, and am growing in this faith every day. But, I was hugely surprised when I realized that I had it! Why was I surprised? Because I wasn’t trying to get faith!
Again let me remind you that we are supposed to have faith in something… What?
Faith in… THE GOSPEL PROMISE OF JESUS CHRIST.
I have spent the last year or so of my life, enthralled by a new deeper revelation of this news that is so beneficial for me… That Christ HAS done it and that i AM free. And lo and behold, looking back, my actions, the way I am living, the things I am DOing are different. They are changing… My works have been more righteous. I don’t boast in this, but rather am surprised by this, because I wasn’t trying to change… It just happened! As I stared at the beauty of the gospel, and how it applies to every aspect of my life, I changed. With Jesus Christ now as my end (My goal: the thing I am striving for) and my beginning, (the only way I might achieve this end) then suddenly my middle (what I do every day) has automatically started to fall in line with that.
And as I reflected on that, I realized that this was because of the fact that I actually started to put my trust in Jesus Christ and what He has done.
So in summary my point is this… (and I will personalize it, because not everyone has had this same issue of turning faith into a thing in and of itself)…
Based on my previous rant, I needed to stop having faith in faith, and start having faith in Jesus. Talking about having faith in and of itself, without talking about faith in WHAT didn’t mean anything. It was just an empty concept for me. One more religious abstraction.
And now today’s point:
How do I get faith in Jesus? Not by trying to get faith, but by encountering the Gospel!
(Which, by the way, will start to undermine our faith in absolutely everything else)
Can you guess what my next post is going to be about?