“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
This passage from Hebrews speaks to the power of faith. If you were to keep reading the entire chapter, you would see that the text goes on to inventory a long list of biblical hopers who have lived according to God's promises. These powerful promises of faith both have inward and outward dimensions. The “assurance of things hoped for” speaks to the inward ramifications and the “conviction of things not seen” tell of the outward realities of faith. Faith has power to totally transform our internal and external worlds.
Inwardly, the assurance of faith gives us confidence in troubled times that Divine promises for peace/shalom, justice, mercy, forgiveness, and God’s unwavering love for humanity can be trusted with your whole heart. Actually, the word assurance in the NRSV translation is taken from the Greek word hypostasis, which means the “very being.” The same word, later used to describe the nature of Jesus as both God and human. So: “faith is the very being of things hoped for”. We can have more than confidence, because the reality of these promises in the midst of our sinful and dark world is as if faith in God were an advancing force operating behind enemy lines.
Outwardly, the Apostle Paul reminds us that we are the “Body of Christ.” This means that those who say they trust that Jesus is the Messiah and follow his teachings are to be the living manifestation of him in the world. Which leads us to be agents of peace/shalom, justice, mercy, forgiveness, and love for neighbors as for ourselves.
Inwardly – in faith, we sing We Shall Overcome
Outwardly – with faith, we march at Selma
Inwardly – in faith, we hold to God’s promises of direct action to bring about the end of all crying and mourning.
Outwardly – with faith, we pray with those who mourn, serve tenderly, those who weep, work tirelessly to ease pain and burdens of the wounded.
Inwardly – in faith, our hearts are moved.
Outwardly – with faith, we can move mountains.
Inwardly – we trust in the mysterious transcendence of God, that is beyond our greatest imaging.
Outwardly – we discover the immanence of God, that is intimately close to us and the desire to share it.
But, this two-fold dynamic of inward and outward faith can break down in our attempts to be faithful. We are human, after all. We can either let fear creep into our inward feelings and/or allow exhaustion to overwhelm our outward expressions of faith. Fear can lead to the futile attempt to overcome it by clinging to a sense of certainty, whereas exhaustion can lead to one to fall into indifference. Certainty and indifference, not doubt, are the polar opposites of faith. I have said many times before that doubt is not the opposite of faith, but an evidence of faith because it is a sign of meaningful wrestling. Like Jacob struggling with God until he got a blessing, we too do not struggle with things that we don’t care about. Struggle is part of the faith journey. Remember that the new name for Jacob, that God gave him, was Israel. It means: to struggle with God and humanity and to be spared.
So, if you have doubts, that is okay. It does not mean that you have failed as being a person of faith in Jesus Christ. It means you are wrestling with something. Pay attention to what blessing God may give to you.
If you have made certainty of biblical interpretation and faith your goal, you will be disappointed. Sure, it may alleviate some temporal anxiety, but it cannot encapsulate the whole of God’s purposes. You can never be 100% certain of anything in this life. In fact, even Jesus said that the angels in heaven and even he did not know the “day and hour” of his return (Matthew 24:36), so how can certainty be a goal of faith? It actually wouldn’t even be faith then, right? Faith is trust. Faith is a risk. Faith is personal. Faith is an inward movement of our spirit in tune with the Holy Spirit.
If you have told yourself that to be faithful it is up to you to outwardly solve all the societal problems, you will soon be exhausted. You will get overwhelmed. You will grow indifferent. Faith is also an outward movement of our spirit in time to the beat of God’s justice song. When we know we are not alone in the work of transforming and translating God’s will on earth as it is in heaven, we begin to discover that the journey of faith and growth is a daily one and the destination is unclear. But do you have the faith of a mustard seed? It doesn’t have to be much. Maybe you’ve been beaten down by situations and relationships in your life that were not what you needed. You’re tired, depressed, ready to let go. Please know that the invitation of Jesus to his first disciples still stands for you! They asked him where he was staying and he said to them (and to you), “Come and see” (John 1:39). Jesus did not offer them certainty, but the opportunity to be in a transformative relationship. He offers you the same with the gift of faith that will totally renovate your inward and outward lives.
I'm a follower of Christ, husband, father, friend, pastor, story teller, asker of questions, inspired by biblical narratives, social justice advocate, sports enthusiast, drinker of over priced coffee and general seeker of God's redemptive possibilities. Yeah, that about covers it. (If you discover something else, let me know!)