Faith

April 5, 2017 :: James Piper, Jr.
Faith

An Article to Strengthen Believers

Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.
Hebrews 11.6 HCSB

I’m not telling you anything new when I say that it’s not okay in our current culture to speak openly about your faith. Some folks are offended and threatened by one propagating their faith. Frankly, some of this makes sense because the object of one’s faith contextualizes faith. If the object of my faith is different than yours, we share but one thing: a need to believe in something. And everyone believes in something.

I understand why many are offended and even threatened by evangelistic efforts. The delivery style can be arrogant and full of pride lacking empathy. In many cases, the evangelist is telling or selling. Most of us dodge tellers and sellers at all cost regardless of what is being peddled!

If there is an absence of true empathy and love, one’s evangelistic efforts are one-dimensional at best. At worst, the motive is self-serving. In most cases, even the best value propositions are heard only when the hearer is seeking or within the context of a trusted relationship. Are we getting the picture yet? If you and I truly believe in something as important as God, it cannot be contained; however, others best receive it within the context of trust. That’s foundational logic. How can we discuss faith without trust? And I don’t believe we are called to create relationships for the purpose of evangelism. We are called into right relationships. Pause for a moment and think about that.

Then there is the side of the hearer. To be easily offended is to reveal one’s lack of love. Like a vitamin deficiency, a lack of love can expose a person to threats otherwise non-existent. This is not just a Christian doctrine (1 Corinthians 13), but is shared by other faiths as well. The depth of one’s love reservoir is directly related to the strength of one’s faith and eventually tests the object of faith.

Some people repel from idealisms (God, heaven, Gospel, etc) for reasons of hurt, disappointment, and lack of perceived evidence. I’ve worked with hurt people all my adult life and I know you cannot simply tell them something and expect it to help. For the most part it doesn’t work. In fact, the whole idea of making your faith “stick” upon someone else is a strange idea. So when Jesus told the apostles to go and make disciples, this was not only a new idea, it was a strange idea.

You and I live on “this” side of the Gospel. The Gospel has had 2000 (give or take) years to penetrate the world. Evangelism is an old idea and maybe “old fashioned” at least in some methods. And no matter what truth there is behind statistics for unreached people groups, Christianity is no secret as it was in the days of Paul. But the first followers of Jesus lived on the “other” side of the Gospel when there was no clear understanding of a way to God for all people. So, the event of Christ along with the explanation was powerful. And the message was often preceded or followed by miraculous deeds seen less today.

So what’s changed? Nothing really. When we follow the history of God, we see him revealing himself to people transforming and informing their faith. The Hebrew people have been a subject of intrigue for thousands of years. They like us (non-Jewish) are far from perfect. Yet even to the novice historian, there is something very different about these people. The difference has nothing to do with them. It has something to do with God. Mysterious? Yes. If you’re a believer in God and in the Gospel you are no better than any other person on the planet. The difference has nothing to do with you. It has something to do with God.

What’s my point? Stop focusing on what others believe or don’t believe and how you can get them to “see” what you see. Instead, develop your faith. Live your faith. Be a person that BECOMES salt and light as Jesus taught in his famous sermon on the mount. Cultures and methods change but salt and light will always be sources of healing, preservation, seasoning, and growth.

How does Christian faith work? It must be exercised to grow stronger and more useful for yourself and others. Let’s follow the principles in Hebrews 11:

  • Faith believes God’s promises
  • Faith is confident of God’s power
  • Faith perceives God’s design
  • Faith acts upon God’s promises
  • Faith esteems Christ
  • Faith overcomes tremendous odds
  • Faith is a focused mind
  • Faith exercises mercy
  • Faith is generous

For the human, faith is energy. It is power revealed from the divine. Yes, you find it in discoveries of science. You find it in the arts. You find it in experiences. You find it in the hidden places of your soul. I know it’s a worn out phrase but without throwing away our ability to reason, if God could be easily comprehended, no wait, if God could be comprehended, would he still be God?

Here’s what I’ve noticed. When I live by faith, a faith with God at the center and exercised in my life, I regularly experience the following:

  • More peace, less anxiety
  • More clarity and direction, less confusion
  • More love for all people, less threat
  • More appreciation of myself, less guilt and shame
  • More wisdom and confidence, less insecurity
  • More productivity, less waste
  • More power to forgive, less bitterness

Like you, I know people from many different paths of life. God graces all in some measure but not all neither understand nor pursue faith. Then there are those who live by faith even in the face of trials and tragedy. I am one of those people and hope to always be. Will you join me?

Jim


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