What a thing is Faith!

The movement was slight, but the new manager glimpsed it from the corner of his eye as the HR Director ushered him in to meet his staff. Girls who were lounging on their desks, had suddenly straightened up. Sales were low, morale was low, and the staff were bored and dispirited…    But, move the scene forward a couple of months, and the office buzzed with enthusiasm and energy.  What changed?  The manager inspired the staff to believe in better times. They trusted the manager’s optimism and acted in ways that produced change.  Faith arises from trust in a higher authority. It’s like the child who jumps into her daddy’s arms trusting that he won’t drop her. Tyrants can’t match that. With despots, the driving force is not faith, but fear.

Faith is a thing! Not just an attitude, but a reality you can sense and feel. The Bible says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”[1]  It has power.  It is a force.  It is a cause that generates effects – and it isn’t unique to religion. It isn’t just believing very hard, as if clenching your fists and focusing your mind could change the world. Faith in a good leader can change the destiny of nations – but faith in men or women has limits. It may inspire people to achieve their best, but it can’t do miracles. We are, after all, only human. Jesus pointed to a surer source – “Have faith in God[2]. Faith is not a self-propelled force. It’s a force with a source, and that source is a person who loves. The child’s faith in her daddy is inspired by his love. Faith in God is even more powerful, because “God is love[3].

If faith is a thing, you either have it, or you don’t. “… the Master said, “You don’t need more faith. There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it would do it[4].  Our tiny crumb of faith is a conduit for God’s power. It is like the microscopic connections which drive powerful computers. Faith is like a tiny lightning streamer that reaches up from earth and attracts the mighty lightning bolt. Our connection to God, however small and weak, draws his power towards the things we pray for.   “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”[5]

You may wonder why anyone want to pray for a mountain to move, but when Jesus made that comment, he was gazing at a very specific mountain. The Temple Mount housed the corrupt elite who oppressed Judea at that time – and there’s always a reason to pray for justice. People mock at prayer, saying, “answers to prayer are just coincidences”. William Temple had a reply: “When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t, they don’t.” At times I’ve received unexpected, and extraordinarily accurate resolutions to my needs. And I have sometimes been the donor of extraordinary solutions to other people’s needs. Coincidences work both ways! “Why then”, say the cynics, “doesn’t God grant your requests every time you pray?”, to which I answer, “Neither did my Dad”.  Wise parents know what’s best for their children.

Faith is a thing, and it’s created – “…faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God[6].  It comes to life within us when we hear God’s voice, and that doesn’t mean just reading the Bible. It happens when we sense what God is saying to us individually – when we feel the Father’s compassion saying “pray!” – and it rings familiar trust-notes inside us like Daddy’s voice saying “jump!”. Bible passages can inspire faith, but only when we really hear them.

Faith and doubt are usually regarded as opposites, but doubt need not destroy faith. Could there be a much deeper, or more painful doubt than Peter endured in the hall of justice as he watched his best friend’s life being voted away? Doubt made him deny his Lord.  But, seven weeks later, Peter leaped up fearlessly to address the Pentecost crowd. His strength had been made perfect in weakness[7].  Doubt often sharpens faith by putting it to the test. When your faith has been tested you know it’s real. I thank God for every one of life’s challenges that showed that my faith was so deep-rooted that even doubt couldn’t pull it out.

Faith is a thing. It’s solid, but it’s described by many different metaphors. One of them is “the shield of faith[8]. The aspect of shielding is one of the most valuable things about faith. We need to keep that shield in front of us, banishing niggling doubts, undeserved guilt, and disabling fears. Words create faith and change us. When we hear God’s word spoken in our heart, we know we are in his family – we can jump into the Father’s arms, and he won’t let us down


[1] Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

[2] Mark 11:22 (KJV)

[3] 1 John 4:8 (KJV)

[4] Luke 17:6 (The Message)

[5] Mark 11:23 (NIV)

[6] Romans 10:17 (KJV)

[7] 2 Corinthians 12:9

[8] Ephesians 6:16

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