Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Most people relegate faith to some kind of religious feeling. I was watching a TV show last night where the main character commented that he was going to make sense of a particular situation, not by faith, but by science. His comment highlights the bias that faith belongs exclusively to religion and has no place in the rest of the world. But that understanding of faith is completely wrong.
Every human being exercises faith on a daily basis. We are hardwired to live by faith, we just don’t often recognize it. The question is not, do we have faith, but in what are we placing our faith. Unconsciously we place our faith in a variety of things on a regular basis. For example, every time we board an airplane, we are placing our faith in the laws of aerodynamics. Every time we get in our car and head out onto the highway, we are placing our faith in the other drivers abiding by the rules of the road. Our faith is tested when things don’t go the way we expect them to go. When that happens, we experience a wide range of emotions; anger, disappointment, fear, apprehension. If our faith is strong, we quickly overcome this temporary setback. If our faith is weak, we change our behavior to avoid those objects of our faith that have disappointed us.
All of us have an overriding faith system that we use to organize and make sense of our world. This faith system guides all of the other objects of our faith and places them in order. Let me suggest four common faith systems that people routinely rely upon. They are not the only faith systems, but probably the most widely used. They are self, science, community, and religion.
Many people look to self as the foundation of their faith system. This is especially true in North America, with our rugged individualism. Most of us grew up in an environment that lauded those who could pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. We pride ourselves in making our own way in life, as Frank Sinatra is famous for singing, “I did it my way.” When self is the basic faith system in a person’s life, they measure everything against their own abilities and perspective. Things are deemed good or bad depending upon how they directly affect the individual.
Many other people place their faith in science. They see science as the ultimate determiner of what is true and right. If it can be “proved” scientifically than it is true. If it can not be “proved” scientifically then it is false. For many, science has become their savior. They trust science to deal with all of the problems we face in life, from aging to global warming.
Another faith system that is very common is community. In some Asian countries this is the most prevalent faith system. It has gained popularity in American recently. A component of this faith system is politics. People who put their faith in community are trusting the collective to guide them. They believe that whatever the majority decides, that is the right course of action. They also are depending on the community to take care of them and to supply their needs.
Of course, one of the most dominant faith systems is religion. By nature, we are religious beings. We are constantly looking for something bigger and more powerful than we are. That something may be viewed as the God of the Bible, the multiple gods of pantheism, or the overriding force of the universe. Depending upon the form a particular religion takes, a person’s life is guided and directed in a certain direction.
Our own experience tells us that the boundaries between these faith systems are not clear. There is extensive overlap, and most of us dabble in all of these, even when one system is dominant. It is important for us to be honest with ourselves about our own faith system. What is the dominant faith system in our life? What is it that we are trusting above everything else?
For those of us who are believers in Christ, our dominant faith system is Christianity. At the very core of our faith system is a foundational truth. It is stated in Hebrews 11:6. And 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. Our faith system is anchored in these two truths: God exists and He cares about us.
We were all created with a God-consciousness. Every culture or people group on earth is in one way or another looking for God. The way that they do this is different dependent upon the culture, but the goal is the same. This is true because God has revealed His reality through this world in which we live. As Paul writes in Romans 1:20, For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Even though all people are searching for God, they don’t all choose the same path. Many choose a path of their own making and end up with a god of their own making. The outcome has been all of the alternative faith systems that seek to take the place of faith in God. As Paul tells us, they settled for something other than the real thing.
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen. Romans 1:22-23,25
But it is not enough to believe that God exists. We also need to believe that God actually cares about us. So many images of God are negative. God is seen as distant, uninvolved, angry, vindictive, callous. None of these images align with the God of the Bible. Although God is revealed as the final judge, He is also revealed as loving, kind, merciful, forgiving, and ever present. Out of His great love for us, He sent Jesus into the world to save us from all of the false faith systems that dominate our world.
Science has much to teach us about our world. We have benefited greatly by what science has done for us. A strong community is a very positive thing. It gives us a sense of belonging and security. Exploring and developing our individual potential is an important part of finding our way in the world. But all of these good things will lead us astray, if they are not placed under the authority of God. To rephrase Jesus words, when we seek first the kingdom of God, all these other things will be ours as well.
So where are you placing your faith? What is your dominant faith system? What are you looking to to help you navigate this life?
2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.