Faith is something we humans take for granted. We seem to just assume that we “have” faith or we “keep” the faith merely by wanting to do so, but is that true faith?
Is faith something we simply “think” about and so we “have” it? I don’t know about you but this seems to lead us to magical thinking or, worse yet, self-delusion. Is it really true that the merest intention to believe is belief itself?
We live in a day and age where there are whole denominations of Christian believers who emphasize faith it seems not from any deep devotion to God or love for Him as much as faith as a means to live a comfortable life. And others who use the idea of a faith to justify horrible acts of violence all in the name of their religion. And still countless others say they have faith but their lives aren’t really very different from those who claim no faith at all. What gives?
St. Paul declares in Hebrews 11:1 that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It seems that faith requires some beginning in the heart and mind but then goes on to affect my choices, priorities, and behavior. Or else it just lies dormant in my head, and that doesn’t seem to be what the Scriptures understands as true faith.
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Matthew 21:18-22. We see the Lord confront the empty fig tree and the disciples marvel at the power of the Lord’s words to wither the fig tree so quickly.
At that time, as Jesus was returning to the city, he was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside he went to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and never doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
It sounds like the Lord is teaching His disciples that all obstacles and outward circumstances will be able to be endured and overcome if they will have faith and not doubt. Faith here seems to clearly be not just a set of ideas or concepts that I pay lip service to but a way of life that sees the whole purpose of life and even the end of life while life is going on! This faith the Lord describes seems to instill such confidence and hope in the heart of him who has faith that nothing is an obstacle too big to block the faithful person’s journey toward his purpose and plan for his life. This “faith” seems to be much bigger and more comprehensive than mere “make me happy and comfortable” or “it’s an old habit” or “I have to defend this idea.” It sounds like this faith defends the person, not the other way around! It seems true faith is the actual living out of my beliefs, not just some mere membership in a club. Belief becomes true faith when it is practiced and actually put into action. Before that, it seems mere belief is just potential faith.
Today, do you have faith? It’s easy to say “yes” but it would probably be better to stop and really examine the nature of what you think faith is. That work may reveal an opportunity in your own heart to “grow up” your faith into the vision of faith Jesus reveals to His disciples and us today. Your faith (actually His faith in you) is meant to both reveal your real purpose AND give you the strength to see that purpose through to the end. True faith is a purposeful Orthodoxy that crosses the huge mental divide between thinking something is true and actually living like it’s true! That’s being Orthodox on Purpose!