Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Significant Faith - Part 3

Significant Faith is not merely obtaining knowledge about God through diligent effort and becoming - through the provision of God's Spirit - convinced of its truth. It also includes the difficult concept of Trust.

One of the most famous passages in the Bible reads:

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Trust does not mean stepping entirely beyond the certainty of Assent, but it does involve a conviction that God's design and purposes are ultimately beyond our complete comprehension. We can be assured of His character and lovingkindness towards us - that He is working all things for the GOOD of those who love Him (Romans 8:28) - but we may not understand exactly HOW He is doing this in any given situation. I have admitted to you that while I trust that God is working in my own situation for my good (and the good of others, such as you, if you're reading this!), I don't understand exactly how this can be. But He has graciously provided His Word (the Bible) and some indications - which I've shared with you - to assure me that my trust is well-founded.

Looking at the Proverb, quoted above, there is a contrast between trusting in God and in one's own understanding. If one examines the evidence for the existence of a Creator God and has assented to its essential truth, by definition, it would be foolish to pit our own finite understanding against God's infinite knowledge and wisdom. He is the Creator - we the creation. So, why is it so hard, sometimes, to trust Him? Why do we so often lean on our own understanding?

The answer lies in the third chapter of Genesis. Here we find the story of The Fall. Whether one believes the Genesis story to be literally true or symbolic is not important, right now. The essential element is that God originally created us in His image. "Image" can (and does!) mean many things, but I think it points to our self-awareness, our ability to make choices, our inner conviction of right and wrong (the so-called Moral Sense that is universal among humans, even those denying God's existence; secular philosophers struggle as much with human altruism as they do with the idea that the physical universe had a Beginning).

But in Genesis, we find that even though the first humans "walked with God" in an earthly Paradise, they ultimately chose not to live under His benevolent rule, but rebelled. The temptation to which they succumbed is one every person ever since has struggled with: The desire to be one's own God. We inherently want to be in control of our own lives, and fight against the notion that even the One who created us and knows us intimately should - in any way - tell us what to do.

I know when I was critically examining Christianity over 10 years ago, this point was the biggest struggle for me. I remember saying, "I've become convinced that the God of the Bible is real, but I don't want to go any farther, because I'm not sure I want to change what I'm doing."

I can tell you, now, that I have NEVER regretted that moment when I finally gave in and put my trust in God. If God is who the Bible says He is, He alone is Sovereign over all things, including our lives, because He is the Creator of all things. If God is who the Bible says, He alone understands exactly what we need to grow into His people. He has kind intentions towards us. He is truly working all things for our good, if we love Him.

This doesn't mean life will get easier - that prosperity and harmony will always come our way. Like a human parent that sometimes has to teach his children lessons "the hard way," sometimes God allows suffering and trials into our lives, as He has allowed in mine right now. But if we trust in Him and forsake our own limited perceptions, He will be faithful and use those trials to shape us into the people He knows we can be. He will certainly "make our paths straight."

Trust is a big step - but a necessary one on the path to significant faith. And it starts with humility, with admitting that even though we WANT to be the God of our lives, we really aren't. Indeed, thinking that we are in charge is an affront to the One who created us - we are simply repeating Adam's rebellion.

Like Assent, Trust requires the help of God's Spirit. If you are just starting your journey to faith, pray that God will open your heart to the truth and that He will enable you to trust Him. He will certainly honor and reward such a prayer.


Anonymous said...

Dear Friend Robert,

I have been praying very earnestly for you and your family ever since first hearing of your "incident" and the subsequent diagnosis. I pray for you multiple times every day - you are one of my dearest friends. I'm writing this at the time when I think you're undergoing your neurological testing at UCLA - and I'm praying for a good outcome for that, as well as the final outcome.

- Larry LaCom

Robert Hommel said...

Thanks, Larry! Your prayers are - as you know - much appreciated. They are availing much, my friend!