Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Third-Tier Faith

Once in a while when confronting others with the claims of Jesus Christ, Christians run into a response like “I truly wish I could believe that, but I just haven’t got the faith,” or “If only I could be sure what you’re saying is true ...”

Sound familiar? I’ve been thinking a lot about that excuse.

Making Excuses

Because it is an excuse, isn’t it? If we’re honest about it, it’s a passive-aggressive way of blaming God for one’s “inability” to come to Christ because he hasn’t yet blown us off our feet with definitive proof of the truth of what he says in his word. It puts the onus on the Maker of Heaven and Earth to provide an ever-shifting and entirely subjective evidence threshold so high that we require it of absolutely no other major decision we make in this life.

Think I’m making that up? We do all kinds of things without being 100% certain how they will turn out or whether they will produce the results we desire. Consider:
  • You cannot be 100% certain your marriage will go the distance, but you still took vows.
  • You cannot be 100% certain your children will make you proud, but you still had them.
  • You cannot control or predict the housing market, but you probably own your home, or at least some part of it.
  • You cannot be 100% certain about the economy, or the future value of any shares in your IRA or RSP, but you bought them anyway.
  • You could not be certain you would succeed at your job when you applied for it, but you knew you needed to work, so you took a flyer and put in an application.
  • You have no idea who else may have had contact with the various ingredients in your last meal, any of which could easily have been tainted, inferior, or past its expiration date. You ate lunch anyway, and it was very probably a perfectly pleasant experience.
  • When you leave for work each morning, you cannot confirm with certainty that you will ever return home. Absolutely anything could happen. And yet you step out that door five days a week because the alternative is not viable.
Neither is indecision about Christ.

Risk and Reward

In every area of life, our sure knowledge of the future and of others upon whom the success of our projects depends is severely limited. In some cases, we are all but stone blind with respect to possible outcomes. And yet, day by day, we balance risk against reward and make decision after decision on the basis of what seems most likely to happen, or what we hope will happen, or what we believe should happen, rather than in expectation of the worst-case scenario.

How exactly is exercising faith any different?

Some people’s faith is colossal, like the centurion who did not need the Lord to attend at his home because he was convinced Jesus could heal from a distance with a word, or the Canaanite woman with the demon-oppressed daughter who understood Jesus could be trusted even as he was refusing her request, and would not leave without receiving what she came for.

Wonderful faith. But we should not get all caught up in such exceptional examples of trust. They are rare.

Exercising Faith

I think we often have the idea that faith is this magical thing that we need to sit and wait for, rather than simply exercising. That is not the way the Lord Jesus spoke about belief. “Have faith in God,” he tells Peter, as if the process requires an act rather than a particular feeling. “Where is your faith?” he gently chides his disciples, as if they could be expected to muster it given sufficient motivation. His reply to the cry “Increase our faith!” is not to pray that it may be so, but to confirm that the quantity one’s faith is less important than faith’s Object.

A microscopic, flickering faith will do just fine. We need not possess the stellar trust of the centurion or the Canaanite woman; in fact, a second- or third-tier faith of the sort we already possess will get the job done.

It does not require 100% certainty to come to Christ, nor should it. Faith is a choice, an act, a decision ... not an epiphany. Faith is not waiting forever for a mysterious, unassailable conviction to appear in your heart out of the ether. Faith is behaving as if you had one and trusting God for the outcome now.

Do you have faith? How will you ever know if you don’t exercise it?

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