Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NRSV), “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
Faith may not come in first, but it still medals, which makes it extremely important.
Well, that’s great and all, but what exactly is faith? After all, it’s such a large part of any relationship with God. Even the belief of God itself is referred to as one’s “faith.” Experience would probably tell us that such a large concept has no easy meaning.
Do you remember being in school and having to answer questions that seemed really hard, but after you thought about it, it was really just writing down definitions? Thankfully, that’s the way it is with figuring out what faith is. The Bible – which is filled with many fascinating stories, characters, and concepts – contains a few definitions, and one of those is faith.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” –Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)
It’s a pretty definition, but a definition nonetheless.
I kind of get a little uncomfortable when I hear sermons on faith. It’s not because I have trust issues or issues with the concept of faith. It’s because I suddenly start wondering if I have enough faith.
It’s like when someone brings up blinking or breathing, some involuntary action. You never think about it until someone or something makes you think about it. I’m that way with faith. I obviously have some faith in God or I wouldn’t consider myself a Christian. On some level, my faith is involuntary. When someone discusses faith, I begin to wonder if I have enough and if I exercise it often enough. It’s not to say that I dislike messages of faith because I really do like them. They just make me reflect more than I usually do, which can be a great thing. A great thing that I don’t necessarily want to do.
It’s so easy to lose faith. One thing happens then another and then something doesn’t happen, and before we know it we have way more doubt and bitterness than we do belief and trust.
The cool thing about faith is that it goes both ways. We believe in God, and God believes in us. The only difference is God’s faith never runs out on us. He knows us so well, and He’s certain of His expectations of us. Sometimes if feels like He believes in us a little too much. We don’t think we can do it, but God knows we can because He knows we’re not doing it alone.
Maybe that’s it: the loneliness. Why exactly do we lose faith? Sure, something undesirable happens or something desirable doesn’t happen, but it’s more than that. In those moments, we feel like God doesn’t care if He’s even around. We feel neglected. We feel ignored. We feel very much like God has just checked out on us.
I believe at that point God is exercising His faith in us as we are trying to keep our faith in Him. No, He won’t leave us. That’s not in His nature. It’s more that He’s mindful of our doubt and temptation to turn on Him, but He keeps holding on to us.
Pastor Alan closed with a powerful statement on Sunday. He said, “God doesn’t call you to the bottom of a mountain to face defeat, but to gain strength.”
I’m usually a visual person. When he said that, I got this image of this guy standing at the foot of a steep, dark mountain that seemed larger than life.
This guy looked up at the mountain, and he was dirty and tired. He was standing in a valley. We often talk about valleys and the climb to the mountaintop, but we never talk about the descent from the mountaintop to the valley. It’s not very much fun either.
We typically think of going downhill as being something fun, but really, it’s not terribly great either. First of all, you have to keep your balance while gravity is pushing you down. If not, you’re going to fall down that hill. Second, it’s not so bad on your lungs, but it’s awful on the joints, especially your knees. (As a girl with an old knee injury, color me not excited about that.) Third, you know that to at some point you had to or will have to climb that hill to get to get to the top. And fourth, it happens really fast, which isn’t ordinarily bad, but in terms of spiritual descent, it doesn’t really rock too much.
So this little man I was imagining had been going up and down mountains, and here he was standing at the foot of another one that was gigantic. Ordinarily, I would feel bad for the guy and want to give him a hug, but it dawned on me that this little guy had this. He wasn’t alone because God was with him. And he was so strong because he’d done this so many times before. Yeah, this was a new mountain, but it was still just a mountain. That’s it! And he was a very experienced hiker by now. After he looked at the mountain, he just started climbing it. What else was he supposed to do?
I learned a lot from that guy, even though he wasn’t real. What if I stopped looking at my problems as these big things that I can’t handle and started looking at them as just another thing that God and I can get through together? And what if I stopped shaking in fear at the task in front of me and just dealt with it through faith?
I was privileged to spend four years going to college in the mountains of North Carolina. Say what you will about Western Carolina, but it is surrounded by gorgeous landscapes. It’s “in the mountains,” but it is actually in the valley of the mountains. That means that from just about anywhere on campus, I could look out and see mountains covered in trees or snow. It’s a sight that everyone should treat himself or herself to because it truly can be breathtaking.
Now, I’m not much on hiking, and by that I mean I’ve never done it nor do I particularly want to do it. But from what I understand the view from any point on those mountains, no matter how many times you’ve tripped or how out of breath you are, is amazing.
We should stop looking at our mountains and valleys as these overwhelming struggles and start looking at them as the journey of our faith that happens to be really scenic and beautiful if we stop and appreciate what’s really happening and the goals we’re reaching.
By Carrie Prevette