Younger Christians are leaving the faith-expression of their parents because they have been told faith means believing certain ways about certain propositions: theories of creation, definitions of gender roles, even specific political ideologies. But rules are easy, finding faith is hard.
Jesus criticized religious legalists because their expression of faith included rules and protocols for every facet of life--entering and exiting your house; the details of what to wear, even how far to walk on a sabbath day: “you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”
One day a man brought his son to Jesus because the boy suffered from seizures:
“If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."The Lord responded with powerful grace: the boy was healed and the lives of the father and son were never the same again. I believe this account reveals something of how the Lord works: he asks for faith, but he also gives faith. This father was desperate to help his son. In the conversation it appeared Jesus asked of him something he did not have: sufficient faith. The father’s answer was instinctive and instructive, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” The father’s answer also revealed his posture: he leaned toward faith and away from doubt.
" 'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."
Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
Jesus offered more than the help of healing. I believe Jesus helped establish a faith that would last a lifetime within that family. They saw firsthand the mercy of God meet their need. What if their greatest need was not healing, but faith to believe God knew them and loved them?
In John’s gospel Jesus tells us that the work God requires is to believe in him. (v 6:29) Unlike the legalists, though, Jesus does more than demand. He supplies. Jesus is not the kind of person unwilling to lift a finger to help us in our deficiencies. He bears our burden of doubt and demonstrates the Father’s heart toward his creation. The gospels reveal his method: Jesus celebrates faith, and provides faith to each of us like a host passing out party favors to each guest. We can come to the party just as we are, he will provide the proper attire.
Over the years I’ve heard people explain, “faith just doesn’t come naturally for me,” as if some are born credulous and others are more naturally incredulous. In truth I suspect we are all inclined toward doubt. We need to find the spring of faith and drink deeply because it is foreign to our nature. But lately we have been told by religious authorities that we are responsible to will ourselves into faith. We are told to get with the program, to give intellectual agreement to the propositions set before us as matters of faith. The only problem is, faith is in a person, not a proposition. Faith is relational long before it is intellectual.
Consider the famous faith-words in Hebrews 11:6, “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” God invites us into a relationship directed toward him, filled with expectation that he responds.
I cannot imagine that God himself stands, clipboard in hand, checking off a list of religious positions we must hold. “I’m sorry,” he eventually says, “it seems we only agree on seven of the ten necessary positions required.” He closes the doors to the banquet hall and feasts only with those who agree with the required tenets of the correct religious group. No. I suspect God is confident that simply coming to know him more and more will put all questions to rest, and end the arguments among children who don’t understand what they are talking about. We argue about this and that while he says, “Come, get to know me.”
As we place our faith in a Person, I suspect he will love us into complete understanding. I suspect the Holy Spirit had it right when he inspired the words,
Where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.He is the object of my faith, and I simply want to know him more each day. Where does your faith rest?