How do we keep faith for a lifetime? Does it involve screwing up our eyes, gritting our teeth, and suspending reason?
I’m not writing on this subject as a claim to great faith. I am no man of faith in the sense of doing great works or of being notably godly or holy, because I am most certainly none of those things. I speak here of faith in the sense of trusting, following, hoping and leaning on the One I believe in. Read the gospels and you will find several examples of the disciples of Jesus “placing” their faith in him.
I sometimes liken this view of faith to stepping onto an airplane. You have no idea how to fly a plane, you just believe and trust that the pilot does. You have no idea how those incredible machines do what they do when they roar up into the sky, you just know that they do. You entrust yourself to the pilot, the crew, the designers and the engineers, and you step on the plane, accepting fully (but perhaps with a few fears and questions) that you will reach your destination. That’s my view of faith. And that’s what I did forty years ago. I entrusted myself to the Son of God, being as sure as I could be at the time that that was what I wanted, and I stepped into His world, giving myself to Him.
I shared my testimony on this blog, if you would like to search for it. There was a day-the greatest day in my life-when I made the decision that I would “step on that plane”: when I got down on my knees and I asked the Creator of the universe, and His Son Jesus Christ, to forgive me for being a fallen, sinful man, and to come into my life, and to one day take me to be with Him. And the journey of faith is not without reason by any means. I’ve written many blog posts outlining the reasons for the faith and confidence I have. History, archaeology, science, reason, life and nature itself all confirm for me what I have chosen to believe. The truth is there for anyone wanting Truth. Don’t listen to the liars (see my last post, or “Ex-ing the Experts”).
FAITH IS NOT WORKS, BUT IT IS A CHOICE
There are those who believe that God “picks” those who should be saved, otherwise, goes the theology, faith would be works and not faith. I don’t believe that for a moment. There is, however, an element of truth to it. If it were not for our God drawing us to Him, we would not even seek Him. But it’s not just a chosen few who are so honored, because Jesus said,
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me (John 12:32).
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).
That’s not to say that everyone in existence will be going to heaven. What would heaven be like if everyone here were there? Would it not be like the world is now, with murder, corruption, hatred, immorality, and bitterness? Wouldn’t at least half of the people be wishing they were not there?
CONTINUING IN THE FAITH
Once that step is taken-the first of many-how do we continue in the faith? Salvation and faith are about far more than the first step, as important as it is. How do we battle through all the struggles of life, the temptations, the “other” gospels and messages and philosophies and ideas which war against that faith we first accepted and loved? Many people fall away from the faith, or prefer a sinful lifestyle, or get led away into another belief which is always the antithesis, or a charlatan version, of the faith once delivered to the saints. Jesus spoke of such things many times, and warned of them continuously. On one occasion, he likened the the gospel life to a “narrow way” to life, while all other philosophies and lifestyles comprise the “broad way”, which leads to destruction. How do we stay on the narrow way?
From my point of view, it’s vitally important to be aware of those two paths right from the start, and that we remain aware. We have to know that we are in a kind of a war. The natural ways of man are opposed to the ways of God. Stay focused on that fact. The world around us is moving away from God, or at least, ignoring Him totally. The life and direction of most of the world is on that broad road, which leads away from God and from life. It’s a road which offers everything to try to find life and meaning without doing it God’s way. It’s lifted up in pride, and it says to itself, “I can do this. God doesn’t know everything. He isn’t right about everything. He’s a killjoy who wants to stop me from having fun. He can’t create anything-I came from monkeys. He can’t write a book-He isn’t able to pass a faultless message onto us. His way is not the only way. I can do this my way, and actually, I want to do it my way”.
TRIALS: A PRESCRIBED PART OF OUR JOURNEY OF FAITH
There’s a reason that we have trials and temptations in life, and that our God does not keep us from them. Remember that even Jesus Christ himself was led out into the desert to be tempted by Satan. The Father, in fact the entire spiritual universe, had to see exactly what the Son of Man was made of. Was he going to obey the Father and serve Him, or was he going to put himself first, giving into the promptings of the one who hates the Father? If we really love Jesus, and if we really love the Father and all that He stands for, we are going to follow Him to the very end…with slip-ups, yes, and with weaknesses and doubts and questions and failures, but we will keep going, and we will keep following. Here is the test our God has set us. Are we “good soil” in which the word of God can grow and produce fruit? Do we really love our God, and His word, and His Son, or not?
To be sure, throughout our lives we are presented with all kinds of distractions and discouragements. It’s a tough world and sometimes a tough life. But God is faithful, and He is able to take us where we need to go. No, we cannot “lose” our salvation (but we can give it away):
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand (John 10:27-29).
My part involves reading what He has written, meditating on its import and significance for my life, and applying it to my life. The Bible claims to be the inspired Word of God, and when I took my first step of faith, I committed myself to that fact. Since then, I have worked to back up that conviction, and that work has paid off. I’m aware of the origin and the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, and that they are packed with meaning and depth and significance. I have lived long enough to see firsthand that the ways of God, as described in the Bible, are right, and good, and true. They are a shield and a sword. They are a light to my path, especially when things all around are dark. They are an invaluable instruction for staying on the good, the healthy, the beautiful path to life. After forty years of Christian life, I am more convinced that the Bible is God’s word to man and to me. It isn’t the invention of people wanting to enrich themselves or abuse their followers. It was written over the course of many hundreds of years by at least forty different authors, and yet it tells one story. That story goes from the creation of the world, all the way through the earthly genealogy of Jesus (and of course his spiritual one), to his life, death and resurrection. It then moves on to our ultimate future, when the world will be restored to perfection. It gives us the origin, the meaning and the destiny of life.
So I have committed myself to my shepherd, Jesus Christ. I am convinced that my God has given me a message; the instructions for following the path to life. I have become convinced after decades of being on that path that it is the right way, and that it is the good and the beautiful way. Why would I turn off the path now? Why would I go back? What would be the good of that? What is out there that could possibly be better than total forgiveness of all my sins, and an eternity with my God?
He has me in the palm of His hand. He cannot lose me. And for my part, I think that my God, and His son, are beautiful, holy, just, faithful, and altogether good. And when testing times come and it doesn’t seem that way, I’m going to trust and go on. There is nothing I could want more than to spend eternity with Him. I’m on that plane to stay, and my pilot is totally capable. His motives are only good, for me and for anyone who takes the first step. I am committed to the entire journey, and there is nothing worth turning back, or aside for.