Faith

Faith

Faith is a key word in the Bible.  It is also is a word embedded in our daily thinking.  We ask questions like, “do you have enough faith to be healed?”, “of what faith are you?”.  Songs are written about it, poems and greeting cards abound using the words faith, believe, hope, trust.  There is even a “Faith Movement”.  What does the Old Testament say about faith?  What does the New Testament say about faith?  How does our 21st century American culture define faith and how is that different from Biblical definitions?

Our culture (religious and secular) has hijacked this word and twisted it grossly away from its Biblical roots.  In our culture, faith is almost a mystical “rub the Genie bottle three times and “POOF!” out pops God to grant you your three wishes”.  We then put God back in the bottle, that is, until we get in “trouble” again and put Him to only rescue us once more.  The problem with this is God tends to get out of the bottle when we least expect Him.  As the character Tumnus stated at the end of The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe, “He [Aslan/Christ] is not a tame lion”.  Precisely!  We cannot domesticate God.  He is not the latest little puppy we bring home to raise and train to fetch at our commands.  But that is often the view our culture (secular) gives of God – a boy to do our bidding.  That thinking has too often bled over into the church.  We pray a certain way, use certain “code” words and God is surely to answer.  Almost, then, making it an effort on our part.  But what does Scripture say about ‘faith’?

In the Old Testament, there is no one single word.  But the word most often used is the Hebrew noun Aman.  From this we get our English word “Amen”.  Aman means several things, depending on context, but includes “faithfulness”, “truthfulness”, “trustworthy”, “fidelity”.  Hence, when we say “Amen!” at the end of a great point by a preacher we are saying “your statement is trustworthy, faithful, truthful and one of fidelity (as opposed to infidelity).  While the word “faith” only appears in many English versions two times, synonyms  like “believe” are very frequent in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, the Greek word Pistis most often communicates ‘faith’ and is used more than 200 times.  I the vast majority of places it means “faith in Christ”, as in salvation.  It is the word the Greeks used (ca. 250 B.C.) to translate the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.  Those translators took Aman and made it Pistis and therefore it brings forward the same Old Testament definitions we looked at above.

Ok, you ask, “so what?”.  What does all this mean for my daily living?  Daniel said, “there is a God in heaven”.  It was a point of fact for him.  God was not contrived or imagined.  God exists.  Hebrews 11:6, “he that comes to God must first believe (Pistis) that He exists”.  The great church father and theologian Augustine is reported to have said it this way, “I believe that I may understand, not understand that I may believe”.  It begins and ends with faith.  Faith is not a step into darkness as is often quoted, it is a step into Light because God is the object.  He exists.  No amount of “code words” I use can alter this fact at all.  God EXISTS!!  Faith is the trust, believing, truth and fidelity I have in God.  Even when I can’t see the end of my long dark tunnel, “there is a God in heaven” who can.  I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know that God in His omnipresence is already there.  God doesn’t disappear when my life sours, when things are going badly.  Job, in the face of breath-taking loss, continued to praise God.  Job had “faith” in God.  Are there any mountains too high or valleys too low for God?  NO!!!  He is the one constant in the universe and my “faith” is in Him, not my abilities to work out my problems.  And hence the various admonitions in Scripture, “stand still and see the salvation of the LORD”.  Perhaps we need to do more standing, being still rather than using our own devices to bring answers to our problems.  Have faith in God.

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