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On the Meaning of Faith…

The Meaning of Faith

Faith: What is faith?

The Meaning of Faith

The Meaning of Faith

Content? Doctrines of our church?
The stuff you believe? The stuff we believe?
What the Church believes? What our church believes?
Your beliefs? Their beliefs? Our beliefs?

Which is it? Maybe none of the above.

Faith may be less about “content” and more about “conduct”? Not as in, “behavior” but as in “believing.” Not as in “what” you believe but “that” you believe. That you trust. Rely upon. Enough to take a risk.

Some people are “believers” because they want to take OUT the risks. They use their faith the way a lion tamer uses a whip – to command something missing into existence; to bring some measure of “control” to what feels out-of-control. They, therefore, look very religious. In fact, they are quite religious…to the point of being offensively religious.

I’m not so certain, however, they are anything more than simply religious. You can be a believer but not believing. You can use your beliefs so as to delude yourself into thinking you’re a believer. So, you have the “right” beliefs, as defined by your religion. But, to me, the more important question is: Do you believe? Do you so live as to trust…to let go of your beliefs even…instead of clinging to your beliefs and confusing that for believing?

The writer of Hebrews puts it like this:

“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see” (Hebrews 11:1).

The Meaning of Faith

Trust in God?
Trust when “we can’t see?”
Which is most of the time, isn’t it?

Admit it. Be honest.
You cannot see…

God, can you?
Or, tomorrow? In truth, you cannot even see the very next moment.
Or, life beyond death?
Nope. Can’t see that either. So, pretend all you wish that you “know” what lies beyond the doorway into eternity because, the truth is, you and I no more know what lies beyond the grave than we know what lies on the surface of Mars.

So, what is faith?

It’s trust in God, when you know basically nothing.

And, what is “trust in God?”

Isn’t it the moment by moment practice of letting go of everything…which, includes, of course, your reliance on your religion and the religious cliches’ you and I voice in our hymns? The words sound as if we are “certain” of everything and we sing them with great gusto and certainty. And, of course, we should. This helps us. It’s this practice that enables our growth in faith, which is always beyond our beliefs. But, let’s be real honest, in our more honest moments, we mostly scared to the core. We are mostly out of control. We mostly control very little…

Except, perhaps, our responsibility to make decisions…to practice our faith…to trust, when there’s nothing left to cling to.

Which leads me to say, to trust isn’t the resignation to “whatever will be, will be.” It isn’t abdicating your duty to decide between two alternative paths. You must make a decision and, of course, you want to make the right one…sure you do. Nobody intentionally screws up, makes poor choices. And, if you’re like me, you’re often frightened because, based on the repertoire of poor decisions you’ve made in the past, you have no confidence in your own ability to make a right decision this time.

The Meaning of Faith

But you must.
You can and you must.
So, what do you do?

You look at alternatives.
You talk to a trusted friend.
You pray for wisdom.
You attempt to be as objective as you can be.

Then…
You decide.
You accept responsibility for the decision you’ve made.
You trust God, even as you walk blindly into that decision.
And, you continue practicing this trust that God “will never abandon you.”

Which, of course, she won’t.

I was taught, “Faith is believing in Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.”
Well, maybe it is this, but I know now that faith is infinitely more than this. It is believing the “way of Jesus,” the way of faith…of faithfulness…the way of genuinely knowing God…

So, I practice trusting this is so…and so living as if it were…

When, actually, it would be easier to just give up hope altogether…

The Meaning of Faith

I seek to be…
…Compassionate when it would be easier to hate;
…To be forgiving when it would be easier to nurse a grudge or demand justice for me and mine;
…To be accepting when it would be easier to withdraw and to prefer only those like me…or, like us;
…To be kind when it would be easier to treat another as they really deserve;
…To be loyal when it would be easier to walk away and just quit;
…To be patient when it would be easier to manipulate or control, so as to remove uncertainty;
…To be decisive when it would be easier to recoil in fear and hesitancy;
…To be hopeful when it would be easier to despair.

I seek to live this way…the Jesus’ way, the way he spoke about in John 14:6 when he said, “I am the way…” You follow a similar way and the promise is, “you will come to the Father.”

In the end, it’s not “what you believe” that is important. Sorry. It just isn’t. Don’t tell that to the religious professionals because, just as I did for decades, they thrive on “what” they believe and they pretend that what they believe carries eternal significance. Furthermore, they thrive on the other illusion that what they believe is “right” and that what others believe is wrong or, at a minimum, not quite as “right” as what they believe.

They know none of this. But, by pretending they do, they expect you to pretend right along with them…it keeps them in business, you see.

It’s not what you believe, however, it is that you believe…because…as the writer of Hebrews knew…

“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living” (Hebrews 11:1).

When you get this, life then becomes worth living.
Until you get this, your believing is about your beliefs…and, what belief could ever be more important than believing?

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5 Responses to On the Meaning of Faith…

  1. Master May 13, 2016 at 2:18 AM #

    Thank you for sharing the informative posts. Great employment! You all do an incredible blog, and have some extraordinary substance. Keep doing awesome

  2. Lee Miller May 13, 2016 at 8:25 PM #

    Question- do you believe that Jesus is the ONLY way? Jesus says “I am the way…no one comes to the Father except through Me.” You say just follow a similar way-what do you mean by that?

    • Dr. Steve McSwain May 18, 2016 at 10:56 AM #

      I’m not afraid of such questions Lee. I’m just now seeing it. I don’t go to my website everyday but I am today to post a new thought or two. Actually, Lee, I have written extensively on this question before. No reputable scripture scholar believes John 14:6 is remotely about Jesus setting himself up as the “one and only way to God.” Even the context of his comment would reveal that to a person with only an elementary understanding of New Testament interpretation. Jesus was responding to the grief-stricken disciples who were beginning to realize he was serious about leaving them. They wanted to go with them, had they not been so dense, as of course they and we generally are, so they pleaded to go with him. Had they realized, which of course they didn’t, that where he was going they could not go, or better, WOULD not go – into death on the cross, they would likely have been a bit more cautious in what they asked. But, Jesus, being the kind-hearted soul he was, sought to comfort them anyway, reassuring them that, while he was going to the Father, they, too, would go. He had been showing them “the way,” which was anything but the way of his upbringing – you do remember, Jesus was a Jew. The Jews had all kinds of elaborate ways of coming to God – and, it isn’t much different with us Christians today. We have devised all kinds of ways of saying to each other and telling the world how they must come to God, even tossing Jesus in the ring on that one and developing a whole theology of “belief in Jesus as one’s eternal savior.” So, what does that mean? I ask people to explain to me what it means to “believe in Jesus.” So, what does it mean? You’ll get dozens of different answers and all of them are correct and all of them are wrong at one and the same time. To believe means to trust. To lean on. To follow, which is, of course, all that Jesus EVER DID ask anyone to do. To follow him. That’s what it means to be a Christian. The church is full of believers. I’m one of them. The church is equally deficient in actual followers. And, followers are those Jesus actually wishes for. But if all some can do is believe…I suppose the ever-kind Jesus will accept even those. Hope this helps.

  3. Lee May 14, 2016 at 11:06 AM #

    wow, you afraid to respond to the question I asked you yesterday? I asked you if you think Jesus is the ONLY way. He

  4. Lee May 14, 2016 at 11:25 AM #

    apologizing…it didn’t show up until I asked another question. awaiting moderation. I thought you just threw me out with no answer. I was rude.

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