Hebrews 11:1 (TNIV) 1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
What do you think of when you hear the word faith? For much of my life the image that has come to my mind has looked a lot like the following clip from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:
In the clip it looks as if Indy has come to an impasse but, despite his doubt and confusion and fear, he musters up the courage to step into the impossibly… hoping that he will somehow survive and walk across. I think every pastor/youth pastor in the US (myself included) has used this as a visualization of faith (or something like it) at some point or another. As I am being stretched in my understanding of faith, however, I'm no longer convinced that this clip illustrates clearly what faith is. According to Hebrews 1:11, "Faith is being sure…" Indy has the courage (motivated by the fear of losing his father, as well as the apparent inescapability of his current predicament) to step out into the divide, but it is clear on his face — both as he takes the first step and after he places his foot on solid ground — that he as not "sure" of anything. He obviously hoped that things would somehow be ok, but I think if we want to better understand faith we have to learn to distinguish it from hope. Hope isn't a bad thing. Don't hear what I'm not saying. It's good to be hopeful. God is in our hopes, but it is not hope that moves mountains… it is faith. If Indy had faith, at least as the writer of Hebrews describes it, he would have run across that divide without hesitation. One of my mentors puts it like this, "Faith is not spelled 'r-i-s-k'. Faith is spelled 's-u-r-e.'" If I'm being honest, I often struggle with faith. I pray hopeful prayers far more often than I do faithful prayers. Again, not a bad thing. God listens to the prayers of the hopeful, and I am often surprised (in a good way) when God bears fruit through those prayers. But if I ever want to come to terms with the question I posed in yesterday's post (Click Here to Read it) then I think I am going to need to learn what it means to really trust God… to pray with the utmost confidence that God is who he says he is and that God will do what he promises to do in and through my life. So, I guess the question for me is not simply, what is faith? The better question for me is how can my faith increase? If my faith is too small at this point to do with confidence what Jesus says I can do… to live as he says I can live, then how might my faith increase so that the mountains in my life might be moved? I long for that kind of faith, don't you? I know the intent of these Wednesday posts is to offer a clear, simple way of understanding some of the "churchy" vocabulary we use, but maybe faith is something that is better understood by wrestling through some of the tough questions about it. So, today I am again trying to not jump ahead too quickly… to allow God to come and meet me in my questions and stretch the limits of my little brain even further in hopes of coming to a greater understanding and practice of faith.