Thursday, July 10, 2014

Proven by faith

The old adage "seeing is believing" is used to describe that physical or concrete evidence is the only convincing evidence something "is" or "exists". In criminal justice, unless the evidence stacks up against the one being placed on trial, the prosecutor knows he has no real ground upon which a conviction may be obtained.  Physical or concrete evidence beats out "hearsay", "inference", or "speculation" every time.  We are a culture raised on the philosophy of "innocent until proven guilty" - where "guilt" has to be proved with absolute and concrete evidence.  For example, when mom came home after I had been indulging of my grandmother's black licorice, she could speculate I had consumed some or she could merely look at the concrete evidence of my black tongue, lips, and the strong odor of anise which obviously emanated from my mouth!  There was all manner of denying it on my part, but the evidence was my undoing!  There are times in this life, though, when we will not see, yet be expected to believe or trust.  In those moments, because we are so "evidence" focused, we often have the toughest time actually moving into this place of full belief or trust, don't we?


You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation. (I Peter 1:8-9 MSG)

I have never "seen" Jesus face-to-face.  I don't know if his hair is short or long, blonde or brown.  I don't know if his teeth are crooked or straight.  I don't know if his skin color is white, yellow or dark brown.  Yet, despite never "seeing" him in the same way I can see mom sitting next to me on the couch in the evening, there are some pretty obvious things I can surmise about him which help me to form a "mental picture" of what he must be like.  I am not saying I know what he "looks like", but I know what his heart is like, how his thoughts are constantly toward me, and how his attention is never diverted from my life.  In these "character traits" I come to know him - not in a physical sense - but in a deeper sense of spirit - the place where I develop relationship with him.

If you have ever watched one of those game shows where the person is challenged to answer simple questions within a category and then advance up to tougher questions in other categories, you know how they seem to pick out the questions they might know more about first, then advance to those which they are a little less familiar with in the end.  I think this is kind of a tactical maneuver to allow them to build up their winnings in the front end, kind of "banking" on these winnings to help them cement their win.  They are placing their trust in what they "know" and not in what they believe they will "come to know" or "discover" within those categories with which they are least familiar. They are not operating in faith, but trusting in what they know as the basis to give them a leg up when they come to the stuff they don't know.

Our faith in Christ is not based on what we know, but upon what we believe and what we put our trust in - despite not knowing.  It is contrary to the way we normally conduct ourselves in the other interactions we have in life. Maybe this is why we struggle so much with it - because we don't see ahead of time, cannot "feel" with out own two hands the reality of something, etc.  Yet, if we look closely at what scripture presents, we have all the evidence we really need to "prove" any truth we might not fully understand.  I have used this illustration before, but it bears repeating:  I don't have to fully understand all the working parts which allow my car to start each morning in order to trust that putting my foot on the brake and hitting the starter button will result in the engine coming to life, producing enough "energy" to propel it out of the garage and down the road.  

If we count on having concrete evidence for everything we are asked to do in this Christian walk, we will find ourselves stumbling like so many religious leaders did when Christ walked this earth.  We will surmise certain things to be true because we see physical evidence, but then balk at the stuff we cannot wrap our hands around.  These things will become stumbling blocks in our growth.  In terms we might understand, I can put it this way:  We cannot limit ourselves to what we can see, feel, taste, hear, and smell.  I don't hear God's audible voice and have no clue whether he is soprano or bass, but I know his voice because I "sense" him speaking into my life through scripture, affirmation of prayer, and words of wisdom from friends, pastors, and teachers.  I don't see his arm physically around my body, but I have walked through some pretty scary places in life when I have known without a shadow of a doubt he was holding me up under the pressures of the hour.

Total salvation comes to those who cross-over from needing to have all the concrete evidence before they make a decision to follow.  It is in taking the first step toward belief that belief is allowed to grow.  It is in trusting the truth you presently have that allows new truth to be added.  I don't know about you, but I learned to add 2 + 2 long before I was asked to adopt the idea of multiplication of 2 x 2.  If I was asked to multiply before I learned to add, I would never have realized the concept of multiplication - I needed the foundation of addition.  I acted upon what I was taught until it became trusted truth in my life - take two apples from the bowl, then take two more and you will now have four apples in your possession.  Put two back and you now have two.  Some truth is simple - easier to grasp than others.  In those times when truth is a little harder to grasp, I have to trust - such as when I learned to solve for "x" in algebra!  Who knew what "x" really meant?  I didn't put it together until I was in nursing school and had to "solve for x" when I need a certain dose of medication, but had to do "math" to get it!  I put algebra into my practice many years after I trusted the truth it would actually help me somewhere down the road!

We often hold back on believing things God asks us to believe - just because we don't have all the concrete evidence.  The step of faith comes in believing when we don't fully comprehend, see, or experience that which we are asked to embrace.  Trust is built upon simple truths embraced - then fuller truths come as we step out in the truths we know and have come to trust fully.  It may be time for some of us to embrace the truth we have and step out a little further in this walk with Jesus than we have gone before, but it will take a few steps forward in faith to do it.  Just sayin!