The world is getting colder, angrier and deadlier; more violent and desperate, I think. Spirits—that is, hearts, attitudes, emotions—seem to be heavy these days. Or at least that’s my impression after talking to many of my family, friends, co-workers and Facebook friends. The world is an amazing place, to be certain, but like the sunset above, which my friend Dave photographed a few nights ago, it seems the light is slowly going out of all that was once beautiful.
I remember spending nights with my Grandma and Grandpa Weddle when I was a kid. Grandpa didn’t have much money to heat the house in the winter, but luckily Grandma always had a good supply of quilts on hand. She would pile several on top of me and my cousins, to shield us from winter’s bite. Problem is they would get so cumbersome it was hard to move.
I can’t recall how my Weddle cousins felt, but I remember waking up covered in sweat, barely able to crawl out from under the mountain of covers.
That’s the way many people feel these days. Like they’re struggling under their own mammoth stack of quilts and just can’t seem to get free.
I mentioned this to someone the other day, and he just sorta flippantly responded, “We just need to have more faith.”
But how does that jive with Jesus telling His disciples if they only had faith the size of a mustard seed—which is tiny, like the sesame seeds on your Big Mac—they could move mountains (Matthew 17:20)?
Bon Jovi said, “Keep the Faith.” Eric Clapton said he was “Running on Faith,” and Kid Rock described his “Lonely Road of Faith.”
So what does “faith” really mean, and is it really the answer to our desperation?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, there are several aspects to the definition of “faith,” and they are as follows:
- Allegiance to duty or a person
- Belief and trust in and loyalty to God
- Firm belief in something for which there is no proof
- Something that is believed in with strong conviction
The writer of Hebrews says, “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead (chapter 11, verse 1).”
Belief in that for which there is no proof. Certainty of what we cannot see. That’s a tough one. Oh I can show you what I feel is proof, but it’s still up to you to believe it. I can relate to you the story of me receiving a partial healing of my chronic back pain a few weeks ago, after praying for decades, and that my back is feeling 50-60% better. While it’s true, the proverbial ball is still in your court on whether or not you choose to believe it.
While some have sanitized visions of biblical faith, such as Jesus walking on the water, all smiles, or Noah happily building his ark, surrounded by bunnies and giraffes, Hebrews 11 gives us more adventurous examples of faith in the midst of adversity:
- It was by faith Abel obeyed God and brought an offering which pleased God more than his brother Cain’s offering did. This faith cost Abel his life when Cain committed the first murder in the long, sad history of humanity.
- Enoch trusted God too, which is why God took him away to heaven without dying; suddenly he was gone because God took him. Before this happened God had said how pleased he was with Enoch.
- Noah was another who trusted God. When he heard God’s warning about the future, Noah believed him even though there was then no sign of a flood, and wasting no time, he built the ark and saved his family. When the heavens opened up and the rain began to fall, his neighbors and friends tried desperately to save themselves, but were swept away by the raging waters.
- Abraham trusted God, and when God told him to leave home and go far away to another land that he promised to give him, Abraham obeyed. Away he went, not even knowing where he was going.
- Sarah, too, had faith, and because of this she was able to become a mother in spite of her old age (90 years old!).
- While God was testing him, Abraham still trusted in God and his promises, and so he offered up his son Isaac and was ready to slay him on the altar of sacrifice.He believed if Isaac died God would bring him back to life again; and that is just about what happened, for as far as Abraham was concerned, Isaac was doomed to death, but he came back again alive!
- It was by faith that Joseph, as he neared the end of his life, confidently spoke of God bringing the people of Israel out of Egypt; and he was so sure of it he made them promise to carry his bones with them when they left!
- Moses’ parents had faith, too. When they saw God had given them a special child, they trusted God would save him from the death the king commanded, and they hid him for three months and were not afraid.
- It was by faith Moses, when he grew up, refused to be treated as the grandson of the king, but chose to share ill-treatment with God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. And it was because he trusted God that he left the land of Egypt and wasn’t afraid of the king’s anger. Moses kept right on going; it seemed as though he could see God right there with him.
- It was also because of the faith of Moses that God’s terrible Angel of Death could not touch the oldest child in the homes of his people as he did among the Egyptians.
- The people of Israel trusted God and walked directly through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians chasing them tried it, they all were drowned.
- It was faith that brought the walls of Jericho tumbling down after the people of Israel had walked around them seven days as God had commanded them.
These people all trusted God and as a result, won battles, overthrew kingdoms, ruled their people well, and received what God had promised them; they were kept from harm in a den of lions and in a fiery furnace. Some, through their faith, escaped death by the sword. Some were made strong again after they had been weak or sick. Others were given great power in battle; they made whole armies turn and run away. And some women, through faith, received their loved ones back again from death!
On the darker side of faith:
- Others trusted God and were beaten to death, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free—trusting they would rise to a better life afterwards
- Some were laughed at and their backs cut open with whips
- Others were chained in dungeons
- Some died by stoning
- Others were literally sawed in two
- Many were promised freedom if they would renounce their faith, then were killed with the sword when they refused
Yeah, it’s a tough road, man; nobody said it wouldn’t be. But this white-knuckled faith in God unearths a confidence and peace nothing can duplicate. It’s a faith that says, “Though they slay me, I will still trust in the Lord.”
It’s what keeps you alive, and is what will carry you into the next life.
Faith is life, my friends.
“You can never please God without faith, without depending on him. Anyone who wants to come to God must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely look for him (Hebrews 11:6).”
Photograph © 2017 by Dave Slootweg