You may remember me mentioning recently that I spent some time “jousting” online at an atheist blog. I was fascinated to repeatedly see the attacks leveled at the “blind faith” of Christians. In the minds of these atheists, Christians are incredibly naive because they base their lives on assumptions while the rest of the world bases their lives on objective facts and measurable evidence. They particularly like to rip apart the verse in Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the substance (or conviction) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Atheists find it incredibly ironic that the words “faith” and “evidence” are found in the same sentence – and they find it contradictory. Is it?
Step 1: Grace induces faith. Any discussion about faith must begin with the understanding that God makes even the smallest mustard seed-size speck of faith possible. If we forget that, the rest of what I’m about to say will sound legalistic. Are you ready? Deep breath -- let’s move on.
Step 2: What is faith? Let’s take the offending verse mentioned above and dissect it a bit. “Faith is the substance (or conviction) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” There’re two lines to this verse. The first deals with hope, which is a state of mind, and the second deals with what one does with it. The “state of mind” is what you hope or believe to be true about God – it is the invisible component of faith. So if you are of the Christian faith, line one could read: Faith is being convinced of the faithfulness of God (which we can use our brains to figure out – look at the complexity of creation & the inconsistencies in other religions). Then comes line two – [faith is] “the evidence of things not seen.” Question: What’s the best way to prove the existence of something invisible?--Showing how it affects the visible world (think wind moving the leaves). God’s promises are invisible. So is our trust in God’s faithfulness to deliver on those promises. And yet, the most powerful evidence of this faith that the world will ever see is how we respond to what we believe about God – because those responses are almost always observable.
Step 3: Grace is obligated to faith. Our faith does not determine the outcomes in life – the results belong to God – but faith does define the victory; faith is the victory. And when we respond in trust to the faithfulness of God, grace will follow – always. God will not give us more than Christ can bear – that is grace.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Gal. 2:20. Yes, our faith must be visible for it to be mature, but remember step 1 -- “Live by faith” is not as much a challenge as it is a gracious fact – just like Paul, the life you now live in this physical world you are living (right now!) by faith. And what is the “theme song” of that faith? Christ in you, the hope of glory. Even when you falter in acting out your faith in the eyes of the watching world, yet by virtue of Christ’s faithful life in you, you’ll continue to “live by faith” in the eyes of God the Father. Get up, mighty warrior, and live by faith!