One of my favorite scriptures in the Bible comes from 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. The Apostle Paul lays out an argument for the supremacy of love in all things. We refer to this chapter often when 2 persons are joining their lives together. Paul tells us if we exhibit all the different attributes of one who is steeped in their religion, but somehow we have neglected to be guided by love, then we have done essentially nothing. Paul tells us what love is, and what love is not. It really is a beautiful statement about how we ought to love. Paul concludes the chapter by stating, “And now faith, hope, and love remain, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”
Since Faith, Hope and Love are what Paul says remains, why don’t we delve into understanding these three.
Faith is one of those slippery things we seem to know when we see or experience it, but somehow we can’t seem to quite get a handle on. When we look it up in the dictionary, the definition says…”Complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.”
So that’s interesting. If I have faith in someone or something I am placing my compete trust in them. This is like a child with a parent, isn’t it? Children learn to trust their parents to care for them, to protect them, to guide them. There is a bonding that goes on with child and parent. When a child is afraid, they run to the parent for protection, believing the parent will always shield them from their fears. As the child grows, they learn about the world around them from their parent, they take instruction on what is good and bad, right and wrong, true and untrue. It is an awesome relationship between parent and child, one that is based on complete trust.
So I have faith in my parents’ ability to care for me, to protect me, to provide for me, to be truthful and honest with me. These are important things for my faith development. But parents are human, humans are fallible, and faith can be weakened when those failures occur. To describe faith in terms of parent and child helps us in our understanding, but it doesn’t quite reveal the complete meaning of Faith.
Let’s look at a the biblical definition of faith we find it in Hebrews 11: 1…”Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” I really like the words and how they sound. They sound so certain, so honest and open. Assurance and conviction, they work in my mind to tell me faith is based on something concrete, something rock-solid. But when we step back and look at the verse, its concreteness seems a little shaky. Assurance of things “hoped” for? So what we are hoping for we are told we can be assured of? But hope isn’t concrete, its like a wish, isn’t it? I hope for lots of things, and that hope doesn’t always materialize. So how can I be assured of what I’m hoping for? The same thing is true when we are told faith is the conviction of things not seen. How can I be convinced of what I cannot see is real?
Now we’re really getting down to the matter of what faith is. Faith cannot be what we know by sight, smell, touch, sound, or. taste. It doesn’t work that way. Those senses apprehend or know the physical world, but faith is based in the spiritual world. Now we’re getting somewhere. Faith is a knowing, an understanding, to use the fancy word, an apprehension of what exists in a different realm, a different place of existence. If our faith can only be certain because of what we know from a physical standpoint, then it really isn’t faith, is it?
We are called as finite beings, to believe in a supernatural world where all things are possible. Its in that place that God exists. God exists in the physical world also, but its in the spiritual world where our faith has its basis in truth. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. Hope occurs in our minds, our thoughts, in the ethereal. So if hope is found in the spiritual realm, then the substance of that hope is also found there. Faith is the conviction of things not seen. So if we are convinced of things we cannot see in the physical, that means they exist in the spiritual. So our conviction also is based in the spiritual.
What we know about the spiritual versus the physical worlds is, time is not measured the same. This means we have to take a much longer view when it comes to the spiritual world. What we hope for, what we look for, what we long for, and are told to have faith will occur, are things that may or may not happen in our timing. This is why the people of God had hoped for a messiah to come, but that hope had to continually be renewed and revived down through the centuries. That hope culminated in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The faith of all those generations was realized in what we call the Christ event.
In our own lives, our faith will be tested, and stretched, and tried. Real faith, will stand the test of time. Real faith will lead us to know our future is certain, even though our current situation may be less than ideal. Our faith will tell us God ultimately will secure us, provide for us, and save us.
Let’s not kid ourselves, our faith has its ups and downs, just as we do. It will seem more certain on some days than on others. It will give us a sense of peace at times, but at other times we will have questions about the certainty of our faith. God knows all of this, and understands our human condition. If we will take the long view of our lives and look back at all God has brought us through, our faith will be strengthened. Our faith is strengthened also in our prayer life with God. God is present to us and will shore up our faith when we ask. You’ll remember in Mark 9: 23-24 Jesus is being asked by a father to heal his son who is afflicted with fits…”Jesus said to him, ‘If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out, ‘I believe; help my unbelief.’”
God stands ready to help our faith to become strong in those circumstances where we find ourselves less than certain. God will renew again and again our faith, and each time, our faith grows stronger still.
Please stay tuned for next week when we talk about Hope.
My prayer for all of us this week is…May God continue to work in our lives in such a way that our faith is strengthened and made certain to us. May our faith lead us to do the works of God in the world around us, knowing God is in our saying and our doing.”
Your fellow traveler on the Way,