Monday, March 15, 2010

What is Faith?

According to Websters's Dictionary faith is "firm belief in something for which there is no proof."   In the book of Hebrews, also known as "the book of better things", we read that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."  (Heb 11:1 NIV)  I like this translation because there is so much power evoked in the words "assurance" and "conviction".   Assurance means that we can have confidence of mind or freedom from self-doubt or uncertainty.  Further, assurance graces us when something inspires (breaths the breath of life into) us.   The word conviction is equally as strong as it stands for having a strong persuasion or belief in the state of being convinced or certain!  I don't know about you but for me, especially when I go through the rough times in life I need something to hold on to, to be convinced of, to be persuaded by.  My faith in God through Jesus is assuring, convicting, inspiring, and persuading!
In his book, "Mere Christianity" C.S. Lewis devotes two short yet powerful chapters to faith.  If you have not done so I recommend you read some of Lewis' works.  He has been referred to as the most original Christian writer of the twentieth century;  his writings are both thought-provoking and wisdom-filled.    A few things stood out to me regarding his writing about faith including his observance that even though a person once accepts a thing as true he or she doesn't automatically go on believing it as long as nothing can disprove that it is so.   Not at all.  He goes on to say that "the human mind is not only ruled by reason but also by emotion therefor the battle between faith and reason is on one side and emotion and imagination on the other."  Further he says, "I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his (or her) best reasoning tells them that the weight of the evidence is against it.  That is not the point at which Faith comes in.  But supposing a one's reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it.  I can tell that person what is going to happen to them in the next few weeks.  The emotions can rise up at anytime and carry out a sort of blitz on their belief...I am talking about moments when a mere mood can rise up against it.  Faith is holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods."
  This writing reminds me of the last video blog I did a few weeks back when I talked about a particular chapter in Robert A. Schuller's book, "Leaning Into God...." and how it is so easy to accept God's gift of life and blessings when things are going good.  In fact we often take God for granted in the 'good' times. At the same time when the painful things of life come up (and they will) it is so easy to blame him or turn away from him.   We can accept, reject, or measure our faith depending on our circumstances.  I think these are the some of the "moods" C.S. Lewis was referring to.  He also points out that "when he was an atheist he had moods where Christianity looked terribly probable."   How interesting!
A few years back Robert and I had lunch with an entire table of Noble Laureate scientists.  This group of all men consisted of astro-physicists and mathematicians, all who had been awarded the coveted prize at some time in their careers.  We were the only ones at the lunch table who had not received this esteemed prize and  naturally when we sat down we were asked, "what do you do?"  The conversation became very interesting from there and the one thing I will never forget is where the faith discussion took us.   Even though almost all of them were professed atheists not a single one of them would say he knew for sure that the heavens and earth was NOT created by God!   This brings me back to Lewis' writing and his thesis that he believes most people think of believing in God as passing an exam which proves he exists.   He goes on to say that once you are a Christian you need to take that thinking and "blow it to bits" and he says that after that some people will believe Christianity is a failure and give up.   "God has been waiting for the moment at which you discover that there is no question of earning a pass mark in this exam, or putting Him in your debt."  
I say it this way, you believe because you decide to believe and you go from there.  It doesn't have to be a radical conversion like Saint Paul's either.  Mine was not that way.   Once I recognized the power and comfort I could have by not only believing but practicing my faith,  the evidence for my belief continued to grow stronger.  One goes on to develop faith by reading the Bible, joining a small group of other Christians,  and going to worship in public places.
Your life will be more fulfilled once you make the decision to believe that God is real and can be your partner through the ups and downs of life.   I am not saying that your life will necessarily be less troubled or that you will never doubt.  Doubt is where faith really comes into play.  It is okay to question and wonder.  You can even get angry, yell,  or curse at God.   He can handle it much better than your best friend, your spouse,  your boss, your employer, or your kids.   If you do not yet have an active and committed faith I want to challenge you to make the decision to start trusting God with your life today.  What do you have to lose?   Remember that there is no passing or failing with God.  He only asks that you work on developing a close relationship with Him.  Start where you are today.   And always remember...
God IS blessing you always,  Donna