YGod? #1 - What is Faith? Why have it?

Class:   “YGod?” Adult Forum Class #1
Date:    August 17, 2014
Title:    Why Have Faith at all? What is it?  How does it work?

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.”
                                                                                                             C.S. Lewis

In today’s conversations, people place “faith” in a strange category – “faith” = … um …
Nothing!  Our culture understands faith to have no rational basis.  Seeing is believing is the common formula for the world’s ‘faith.’  So faith in something that is not seen is thought to be simply “blind.”

I once was blind …
Our quote from C.S. Lewis above hints at what we in “the faith” have experienced of what is true of faith:  by it we see more fully, more clearly than ever before.  In fact, the song has it exactly right!  The Apostle Paul said it this way:

            “The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers…”
                                                                                    2 Corinthians 4:4

Spiritual blindness is a malady imposed by our enemy and cooperated with by those who close or cover their eyes, so as not to see!  Jesus said that we, his followers, are “the light of the world.”  He instructed us specifically to “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:16)  

Making God Visible …
Jesus makes a direct correlation between the things we do for others and “light!”  Mother Theresa once said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love!”  Even though small, a candle still sheds enough light in a blackened room to “see” by.  According to Jesus it is the application of this truth, that sheds light in the world – like a city set on a hill!

Faith is something we all have, the difference is just in What?!  Scientists have faith in the “laws” of science – things that they can prove to exist.  You cannot see gravity, but you can see its effects.   It is, in fact, the effect of gravity that has become its definition!
Scientist define it as a quantifiable “constant” in the universe:  “Big G” is the “gravitational constant” that Newton and Einstein used in their calculations of the gravitational fields of earth and other celestial bodies, as they effect each other and us. 

Even scientists are faith-filled people!  They have faith that through exploration and experimentation, someday, they can understand the universe!  It is what fuels scientific pursuit.  Faith is “evidence” of things not seen, the writer of Hebrews tells us.
Today’s commentators want us to believe that faith is a myth.  All we can believe is what we can actually see, but that is NOT how life works.
Having faith in …
Faith always, always, always has an ‘object.’  Gravity, a chair, the car or plane, the glass walkway out over the Grand Canyon!  We put our faith “in” things or sometimes, people.
As Christians we have faith “in” Jesus.  We believe in Him as a person – a historical, real, flesh and blood person.  Not many dispute that reality these days.  Beyond that we place our faith “in” the Bible – the record of God’s relationship with mankind and God’s action through the ages – the Missio Dei (Mission of God.)  Our faith is not blind, but is “reasonable.”  Jesus was a real person and the Bible is demonstrably, the most well attested book in history, in spite of its detractors! Faith is not unreasonable or illogical, on the whole.  It is a part of the warp and woof of every day life – it is woven into the fabric of all that we are and do as human beings!  It is not, in fact, optional equipment!  It is something everyone has!  Even the staunch unbeliever is exercising faith – in fact, the more extreme the view, the more faith it takes.  I’ve come to know that I do not have enough faith to be an atheist!

Faith and Doubt
On the Mount of the Ascension, in Matthew 28, the disciples are said to have worshipped Jesus and “some doubted,” just before Jesus was ascended as King of Kings into heaven!  Faith and doubt are not opposite poles of the spectrum!  Doubts are always a part of the faith “equation” if we are honest – the question is whether the doubts prove to be insurmountable.  The questions we will deal with in the weeks ahead are some of the questions that arise from doubts, that should legitimately be asked of the faith.  Doubt is like a purifying fire that keeps us from believing in the “idea of God” and drives us to seek for God Himself. Thomas, the Apostle, had such doubts that he gained the name “doubting Thomas” yet died a martyr in India. Our prayer should be “help Thou my unbelief!”

            “It is much easier to raise doubts and manufacture outrageous objections
            than to consider the possibility that [relationship with] God could actually
            trigger a revolutionary turn-around in such a depraved and degenerate life.”
                                                                                    Strobel, Pg. 225

Faith and Feelings
Feelings are fickle!  They swing with mood or time of day or coffee!  We dare not trust in our feelings at any one time.  They are like a blinking stop light – stop, no, GO! No Stop! Etc.  What we need to have faith in is God’s Word – something that is eternal and unchanging in nature.  “Thy Word is Truth.”  Paul instructs Timothy that the Word is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness.’ (2 Tim 3:16)  t is the Word of Truth that will be able to “set us free” so we are “free indeed.” Our feelings are  blind guides indeed and can lead us into places that are dead end circles.

Faith and Works
The issues of faith and works are huge in our culture.  Most people, if asked why they believe they are going to heaven, will say something about being “good.”   A correct understanding of faith and works must include the “grace of God.”   Paul wrote “for by grace are you saved through faith, not of works, that anyone can boast.”  Our understanding of faith and works in one of priority and order.  Faith comes first in the order, and works follow our faith.  Matt 5:16 above seems to equate our works with being “salt and light” in the world – it is the stuff, along with our testimony, of our witness.  But James is clear that works DO follow faith, as surely as “May flowers” follow “ April showers.”  Works are what grows out of our faith, planted with the good seed of God’s Word and the sunshine of His love.  A changed life is the necessary fruit that is the evidence of faith and a lively relationship with God, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

So, faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1)  It is also clear that “without faith it is impossible to please God – faith is that which causes us to diligently seek Him and to know that He rewards such seeking.” (Heb. 11:6)  Doubt is not the opposite of faith – fear is.  Doubts are the sign of a mind that honestly seeks God and doubts are to be expected alongside our faith, on a day-to-day basis.  God is fond of faith; it attracts His presence and gives it place inside our lives.

Questions for Consideration:

1)    How do you struggle with “faith?”  Have you accepted God at His Word and what questions remain for you?  Have there been some questions that must remain unanswered, or are there questions that remain as blocks to your full faith in God?

2)             What has been your idea of reward from God?  Is heaven a “reward” you believe
            in and look forward to?  Are there other “rewards” from God for “faith” that are
            manifest in this life, here-and-now?

3)            In the weeks to come we will be covering many of the big God questions.  Which
            ones are of particular interest for you?  Are there any others you wish were in the
            que of questions to be discussed?  If so, please forward them to the teaching team
            by emailing them to FrPhil@RezAnglican.org

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