Friday, June 1, 2012
Faith, Unbelief, and Growing in Grace
The ultimate cause of all spiritual depression is unbelief.
For if it were not for unbelief, even the devil could do nothing.
It is because we listen to the devil instead of listening to God that
we go down before him and fall before his attacks.
Last month at youth group, I asked, "What is faith." I got some shallow answers and then one of my youth leaders commented, "You know, I just do not know for sure sometimes." (Notice the lack of confidence in the way the statement was made! Why do we feel we lack permission to doubt?) He continued, "In the end, I still have to live just like everyone else. I still have to go to the grocery store like everyone else. I do not know how much difference faith makes."
That got me thinking. I did offer some observations about that statement last evening, but I bet others feel the same way. What difference does faith make in the small things in life?
First we must define faith. What is it? Is it a magic formula to get what we want? Is it something everyone has? What is it?
I think the answer to this question has many different angles. First, we all have faith. Faith at its most basic is trust in (something). We have trust that when we brush our teeth, we will not poke our eye out but instead get the brush in our mouth. Why? Because we have done it before. If we have a stroke, all bets are off. On our own, in normal conditions, we trust so much of our experience to teach us how to deal with reality.
Thus, faith in how to drive to the grocery store is the same for believers and for unbelievers. Faith that we can pick our groceries is the same for all. We all exercise faith daily.
Yet, what I am talking about is a different kind of faith. Faith in God does not mean that we believe He exists. As scripture tells us, even the demons do this and they shutter! No, faith means trust. Trust means to acknowledge the presence of God moment by moment in our daily, common activities.
I believe this type of faith was inherent within humanity before the fall. After the fall, this gift was completely lost. We still have the ability to trust something, but we lack the ability to trust God by acknowledging and living in His presence always.
Ultimately such a trust in God, such a faith, is supernaturally given by the Holy Spirit at conversion. Yet, it is not given in whole. Because we live in a fallen flesh, we struggle to believe/apply our faith moment by moment. In other words, we believe, but we have so much unbelief! Growth in Christ-likeness implies growing in our ability to have faith moment by moment. It does not come naturally. In fact, our flesh will attempt to instruct us to run the other way!
Here is where we use the means of grace- scripture, prayer, spiritual disciplines, Church, Christian community, the sacraments, and any combination of the above- to grow and develop. Without people around you to remind and assist you, failure to grow is almost assured! With growth in faith, we gain increasing victory of our flesh, our worldliness, and the devil.
So what does this faith look like in real life? Here is a great quote from Chip Ingram's The Invisible War.
This ability to quench arrows that have the potential not only to pierce but also to start a destructive fire is what faith does for us. Faith in this context means absolute confidence in God, his promises, his power, and his program for our lives. It is rooted in the objective reality of the gospel and our new standing with God- the saving faith that justifies us- but it is more specific here. This kind of faith refers to our present trust in Jesus for victory over sin and demonic hosts. Its purpose is to quench all the fiery missiles hurled at us by the enemy. Claiming God's promises by faith, trusting in his unchanging character, and holding up his trust will deflect and extinguish all the enemy's lies. Regardless of the form which these incoming flames take, faith overcomes.
I so appreciate his definition of faith as absolute confidence in God, his promises, his power, and his program for our lives. Such faith is truly a supernatural gift! I know I do not have it latent within me. I also agree with his final statement that faith overcomes. The problem is that so often on the road to overcoming all we can do is persevere. Yet, faith means persevering while clinging to God, his promises, his power, and affirming trust in his program for our life!
May each of us grow in our faith in the living Lord! Use the means of grace and pray for God's grace and help to grow!