Monday, October 28, 2013

Pastorgraphs: “Doing Faith”


E-Vangel Newsletter
October 28, 2013
[Pastorgraphs now online at ChristSD.com]

Pastorgraphs: “Doing Faith”

When asked “What is your faith?”, I often hear folks reply: “I am a Catholic (or Presbyterian, or Methodist)”. Faith is not a doctrinal position, a catechism, or a systematic theology. Those are beliefs; a part of your ethical structure. Beliefs are important, but faith is belief in action!

Someone recently asked me to explain how belief and faith relate to each other. I used an old illustration. When you walk into a room, you look at a chair and “believe” it will hold you up when you sit in it. Until you sit in the chair, that is just a belief. But when you put your belief into action, sitting in the chair and trusting it will hold you up, your belief is transformed into faith.

That is the way God wants us to live. He does not want us to go through life just holding onto a set of proper thoughts: He wants us to “Walk by faith, and not by sight”.

Here are some guideposts for living a life of faith-in-action.

1.   Faith is something you do, not just something you believe. Faith differs from beliefs in that beliefs are internal (ethical), rational premises, and faith demonstrates itself in acts (virtues) of hope, love and goodness. In my book on Integrity, I said beliefs live in your head, and faith lives in your hands. This illustrates the important connection because your faith emerges from your beliefs. However, you must take care to distinguish your faith and beliefs. In this context, it would NOT be correct to say “My beliefs are my faith”. Faith is your beliefs in action. To illustrate this, the Bible says “The just shall LIVE by faith. And the law is not of faith.” It adds, “Supposing a brother or sister is without clothing, and is short even of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; be warm, be full!” — but doesn’t give them what their bodies need — what use is that?  In the same way, faith, all by itself and without works, is dead.” (James 2:15-17)
2.   Faith makes you whole, complete and healed. Jesus told a sick woman who came to him for healing, “Go your way, your FAITH has made you WHOLE.” Faith involves the mind, the emotions and the will. In one sense, all your actions are expressions of faith at some level. Faith provides a sense of trust and confidence necessary for a successful, healthy and happy life. James wrote, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have PEACE with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
3.   A little faith goes a long way. Jesus said even if you have such little faith as the size of a mustard seed, you can move a mountain. Faith transcends reason. Faith turns “It cannot be done” into “I will do it, with the help of the Lord”.
4.   Faith is a first cousin to hope and love. Faith grounds hope. Hope grounded in faith is strong enough to overcome periods of pain, sorrow and even tragedy. Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who coined “the pen is mightier than the sword”, also wrote: “Faith is hope with a holier name, hope that knows neither deceit nor death.” Likewise, there is a relationship between faith and trust. Faith and trust both involve a venture in which you surrender some level of control over yourself. In the great love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, we read that even if we have faith, “Faith without love is ‘nothing’”.
5.   Faith is the opposite of fear and anxiety. I was extremely fortunate to know Dr. Wayne Oates, my professor of pastoral care and counseling in seminary, who coined the word “workaholic”. We became friends, and kept in touch for many years after I graduated. Dr. Oates’ cross-disciplinary approach earned him the title “father of the modern pastoral care movement”. In his book, Anxiety in Christian Experience, Dr. Oates stated, “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but anxiety.” By that, he meant that without faith, doubts and fears give rise to anxiety and neuroses. Jesus asked his disciples in the boat on a stormy sea, “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”
6.   Faith is essential and powerful. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Leonard Mlodinow, theoretical physicist wrote: “None of us can function without having faith of one sort or another. Entrepreneurs start businesses on faith, immigrants with no concrete prospects move to another country on faith, writers toil for long hours in the faith that people will want to read their words.” Indeed, great scientists like Dr. Mlodinow place abundant faith in such premises as the Big Bang, quantum physics and evolution. The Bible confirms this: “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
7.   The quantity and quality of faith is up to you. Jesus said, “According to your faith be it unto you.” You can have as little or as much faith as you want. It’s up to you.

One of the most humbling experiences of my ministry was when I received a call from a single mother who said, “It worked!” I asked “What worked?” She had responded to my appeal from the pulpit to be faithful in stewardship by placing the last money she had in the offering plate as her tithe to the Lord. It meant she and her daughter had no money for food, gasoline, or anything until her next paycheck, which was over a week away. Before I could say anything, she informed me a large, unexpected check arrived the next day in the mail.

While I would have counseled her, given the opportunity, that I was not suggesting she give her last dollar, she experienced it as an answer to her need. It was, she explained, a blessing for her stepping out in faith to help her church and for being faithful to God in stewardship.

How long has it been since you put your faith into action? It is when we experience “doing faith” that we abound in faith, hope and love.

Devotedly yours, Bill Jenkins, Pastor

From the Quote Garden:
“Faith is about doing. You are how you act, not just how you believe.”
~ Mitch Albom, Have a Little Faith: a True Story ~

Christ United Methodist Ministry Center
“Christ in the Heart of San Diego”
3295 Meade Avenue - San Diego, CA 92116 - (619) 284-9205

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