As Christians, we all have our notions of faith; yet faith itself is a very elusive concept. We sometimes hear Christians say, "You need to have some faith." But what is faith? And what do we mean when we talk about faith? This is an important question we must consider in our spiritual journey. Also, most Christians hope for revival and for betterment. We understand the critical situation of "losing our faith". We have just not found the way to rekindle this divine quality. The question that always plagues us is how we can regain or revive our faith once we have lost it. This serious problem is what I call the crisis of faith.
Before considering the crisis of faith, we must understand the nature of faith. Faith, like love, is a dynamic but abstract reality. We know there is faith somewhere, but we do not intrinsically know where faith comes from or, as the case may be, where it goes. And similar to love, we cannot see faith except through the corporeal evidence we experience through our everyday lives.
Looking at Matthew 14:28-31 and James 1:6-8, we find that a common characteristic of the crisis of faith is doubt. Paul once said, "... I know whom I have believed..." (2 Tim 1:12). But many Christians today cannot exhibit this same degree of confidence.
The question that often faces us is: do I really believe what I think I believe?
Jesus once said, "...where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Mt 6:21). This is a simple statement that provides the clue to how we can truly find revival of faith. The message is this: we have to examine where we stand in relation to our heart's treasure (see Col 3:1-4). In other words, we have to re-assess our priorities and goals. If our heart is set on the heavenly kingdom and its principles, this will be reflected in our actions. For instance, if I were to tell you about a secret gold mine but you doubt me, you lose out on the opportunity. Similarly, if I tell you there is a heavenly kingdom waiting, yet you disbelieve, your disbelief will be reflected in your actions. The questions to ask ourselves are: where is our treasure? Where does our heart lie?
The heart is central to our life of faith. The superficial failures we often reflect upon in our church, such as the lack of a beautiful chapel, money, or workers can be traced to a fundamental problem of the heart, the ultimate source of the crisis of faith. The heart is vital in ensuring a generation of growing believers. In this sense, we understand the importance of the Shema (see Deut 6:4-9) of Jewish liturgy and of Jesus' words: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Mt 22:37).
As stated, faith is abstract, yet dynamic. While we never see faith per se, faith, like dynamite, impels people to give up their lives for their beliefs, to travel to distant shores to fight wars, to wait decades for a long lost love, and so forth. From this, we see that the dynamics of faith are fundamental to the direction of our relationships. Without faith, we can never establish a relationship with God, or with other people. Even in looking at this paper you establish a faith relationship; that is, you have faith that this paper will not disappear or change color. Why do you reach out your hand to another person when they fall? Because you have faith that the falling person's hand is tangible. You have to reach out in faith to establish a relationship. Hopefully, in this same spirit, we can establish a firm faith relationship with God.
Each of us has been given something very special as God's people. Ephesians 4:7 says, "But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift." These gifts are to build up the body of Christ - the church. The final goal is to attain the "unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4:13). Now attaining the full stature of Christ is not easy. We cannot expect this to happen overnight; it would entail a growth process, a process by which we transform ourselves from having no principles to having a life complete with God's principles. It also entails a "unity of the faith". The unity we need goes beyond mere rote memory of the basic doctrines; we need unity of heart and spirit - our whole being must follow.
We have a great responsibility upon our shoulders, sometimes more than we feel we can handle. So some shrug their shoulders in despair when they see the inadequacies within the church. Others become so apathetic towards God's kingdom they no longer feel a need to despair. This is a kind of blindness but if we cannot see the kingdom of God, it is not because the kingdom is not there. Rather, it is because we have not opened our eyes and our hearts to it. Just as in the parable of the prodigal son, it was not that the father's calling was never there; it was the son who never heard.
I believe God is still silently calling His people today. But like the Jews in Jesus' hometown, we may not have received Him into our lives. As the Bible says, Jesus went to His own people and yet they did not receive Him (Lk 4:24; Jn 1:11). In Luke 4:16-30, Jesus proclaimed the year of jubilee the year of the Lord's favor and restoration, and informed His audience, "Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4:21). We have all heard Jesus' word of grace. We go to church, sing hymns, pray and hear the message over and again. But like the Jews in the synagogue, the year of the Lord's favor has only been fulfilled in our hearing. We have yet to claim the fulfilment of the year of jubilee beyond our hearing, into our lives.
We stand in awe of God's grace, but beyond that, we must stand face to face with "today." The promised land of Canaan still awaits, God's promise of eternal rest still stands. "...the Holy Spirit says, 'Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion...'" (Heb 3:7; cf. Ps 95:7-8). God calls us to a transcendent present aptly called "today." He calls us to the present, not the past or future. God never says, "Try to get holy later"; God says, "You shall be holy, for I am holy" (1 Pet I: 15-16;Lev 11:44) While I do not want to give the impression we must never look into the past or future, we cannot grow spiritually by saying "I was this" or "I will be that"; we must learn to acknowledge "I am this." I may try to hide from "today." I may reminisce about my past accomplishments or predict my future glory, but all these are meaningless in this light of "today". If we really hope for revival, we need to look at ourselves while it is still "today," because "today" is all we can really claim.
If one message were to get through, hopefully it has become clear that faith is ultimately what we choose to live, not only what we say. I could say, "I love God and humanity" a million times over and accomplish nothing. In a world that often seems like it does not care, we need to once again reaffirm that we do care. This is the wisdom of the book of Hebrews: "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb 3:12-13). We need to reaffirm that we care about each other, about the lost souls in this world, about God's kingdom, and about our journey towards the promised rest.
Failure is no foreigner to the journey of God's faithful. Most of us, l am sure, have one way or another failed in our past, but what we need gain sight of is "today" - the foundation of our spiritual revival and transformation. "Today" is God's grace to humanity; it is His grace to His people. In some sense, everyone is searching for something to fill in the gaps of life. We look for identity, for something with which to associate ourselves. But we often look in the wrong places. We often have so much hope for the future. But when we look at the sorrowful mess we have created, we think, "If only I had another chance." Often that is all we ask - another chance. "Today" is God's way of saying, "I'll give you another chance." So let us grasp hold of "today". "Today" will not last forever. "Today" may seem like an eternity, but all too soon "today" is gone. It is too late when the sun has set (see Jn 9:4), and we have to face the awesome "tomorrow". "So the evening and the morning were the first day" (Gen 1:5). May our Lord Jesus guide each and everyone of us in His abundant grace. Amen.
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul (Heb 10:39).