Faith is often used as a term to define a system of belief, e.g. “What faith is he?” At other times it is used to express wishful thinking, “Oh, I just have faith that I will get the job.” Most commonly, it is the acceptance of something for which one does not have proof, “Just have faith it will all work out.” A little boy, once asked to define faith, answered honestly, “Faith is believin’ somethin’ you know just ain’t true!”
But in the Bible these definitions are insufficient. Certainly, last among them would be believing something which isn’t true. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the solid substance of something expected, the evidence of something as yet unseen. Dictionary.com’s first definition is “confidence or trust in a person or thing.”
For an excellent 30 minute word study, do a search by entering “faith” into the text box on Biblegateway.com. Of interest is that most of the Old Testament references come up with “faithfulness” which suggests that faith is something more than just believing, that is, in terms of mental agreement. You will find this word study most rewarding if, as you read the references, you replace “faith” with “steadfast trust”, or in the case of “faithful” read “steadily trustworthy.”
This same exercise can be done for “believe” or “belief;” just substitute the word “trust” for greater understanding of the passage.
Why do we make so much of “faith” and “believing” as we come to prayer to the God Who Is There? Because “without faith [steadfast trust] it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe [steadfastly trust] that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” Hebrews 11:6.
There is much more we could discuss about faith, but let us move on to Whom we pray, i.e. Who do you trust? Some skeptics will say it does not matter to whom one prays; it is the mental energy exerted in prayer that moves the “Energy” of the universe on one’s behalf. But such impersonal efforts are more along the lines of karma as it is found in Buddhism or Hinduism. We would include here philosophies of Jainism, the Sikhs, Confucianism, or teaching of the Tao.
God has specifically revealed Himself, from the creation of the world to His final revelation in Jesus, called the Christ. He is not hiding nor silent as some suspect. He is not an absent landlord who started the “timepiece” of the universe, and then left it to run on its own. He is not a grandfatherly policeman in the sky, looking for whoever is having fun, so He can yell with a lightning bolt, “Stop that!”
Paul told the Romans that “what may be known about God is plain, because God has made it plain. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” Romans 1:19. Consider the amazing vastness of the universe and stand in awe of His might and greatness. Consider the details of DNA or atomic structure and wonder at His brilliance and organization. Look at a sunset or moonrise or the loveliness of a flower or your wife, or the birth of a child, and worship Him for His gentle tenderness and beauty.
He more clearly revealed Himself in history, first to Noah, then to Abraham, and to his son, Isaac followed by Jacob and the twelve tribes that came from him. He finally revealed Himself in the man called Jesus, who was God in the flesh. Now here is a mystery which we can only begin to understand. After all, the only way a being could fully understand who God is would be to be God. (Isaiah 40:13-15).
Thus we can only understand what He has taught us about Himself. To Adam and Eve He was their Companion in the cool of the day, instructing them in gardening and animal care. To Noah He was the Righteous Judge who came to cleanse the earth from the violence and immorality of mankind. To Abraham He was the Promise Keeper who was faithful [steadily trustworthy] to give him and Sarah a “child of promise” in their old age, rather than a child born by natural means while he was still virile. To Moses from the burning bush, He revealed a Name by which He could be called, I AM That I Am.
Now each of us had a beginning. Each of us is the result of our parents’ actions, all the way back to Adam and Eve. But He has no beginning! Even the created universe had a “big bang” for a start, but He was already there! Before anything, He is the I AM, the First Cause. Is there any question as to why we cannot comprehend Him, when we can barely begin to understand what He has made?
And in Jesus He revealed Himself as the Savior, the one who was the Son of God. His sonship is not something He acquired when He was born from a virgin mother. Nor do we imagine something as crass as God, who is a spirit, having sex with a woman. (Luke 1:35).
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit was the One True God from eternity, existing in a relationship within Himself, somehow three persons in one being. The difficulty we have in wrapping our minds around this is due to our limited human experience. Among us, every being is one person and we cannot imagine more than one person to one being. But when God said, “Let us make man in our image . . .” He was not playing with delusions of importance the way a royal refers to him or herself in the plural, “We are not amused.” Rather, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, was conferring within Himself, among Themselves, to make a new creation.
The significance of this is made clear in Jesus words, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” John 14:6. He had earlier said, “I and Father are one,” which the Jewish leaders recognized as a claim to be God. No one in any religion has ever made a claim like this, Mohammed, Buddha, Zarathustra, Guru Nanak, Confucius, nor Hindu.
When you read His biographies there is no opportunity to treat Jesus as a good teacher, a prophet, or a grand example. In Mere Christianity, C.S.Lewis said, “a man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; else a madman or something worse. You can call Him a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us now be done with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great moral teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.”
In Prayer, Timothy Keller states, “The implications of the Tri-unity of God for prayer are many. It means first that God has always had within Himself a perfect friendship. We know of no joy higher than being loved and loving in return, but a triune God would know that love and joy in unimaginable, infinite dimensions. God is therefore filled with perfect joy, the fierce happiness of dynamic loving relationship.” This enables us to encounter in the one true God a Fatherhood, a Brotherhood, and a Spirit of adoption, such that when we “believe [steadfastly trust] that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” we will encounter Him, not as a subject for theology, and not as a ritual of certain positions or times for prayer. Rather we will meet Him as Moses did on the mountain and know Him for who He is.
So where do we pray? See you next week, March 29, 2015.