Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Relying on Faith or on Christ?

Whenever disaster strikes, such as the recent fires in Southern California, survivors are interviewed by news reporters. The question that is often asked is this: “How are you getting through all this?” Then follows a common answer: “I’m relying on my faith.”

Well-meaning Christians will say this in times of trial: “I’m relying on my faith.” Without questioning the sincerity (not to mention the sad situation) of the interviewees, I submit that this answer falls short. It doesn’t really say all that should be said. Relying on “MY faith” puts the emphasis in the wrong place. Faith itself accomplishes nothing unless it is faith in the proper object.

Back when I taught high school, I remember having this discussion with one of my students. She said, “Mr. Onken, it doesn’t really matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere.”

I replied, “Okay, then. I believe that this chair in front of me is truly God. I worship this chair. I believe that this chair will give me life forever in heaven.”

“Yeah, but that would be stupid,” the student shot back. “It’s just a chair.”

“But what if I was truly sincere about my belief? I would be sincere, but I would be sincerely wrong...possibly even insane.”

“I get your point,” she conceded. I don’t think I convinced her of the truth of Christianity, but hopefully I got her to realize that it’s not one’s sincerity that matters. Your faith has to be in the right object. Christians confess that object is the Triune God.

Also, sometimes our faith is weak and wavering. There are moments when we don’t feel very strong. How can we say, “I’m relying on my faith” in the times when we doubt?

That’s when it’s important to remember that the Bible never uses language such as “relying on your faith.” Instead, there are plenty of statements that teach us to rely or depend on God. For example, just to name a few...

• 2 Chronicles 14:11 – Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you.
• Isaiah 50:10 – Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.
• 2 Corinthians 1:9 – But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
• 1 John 4:16 – And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
• Psalm 62:7 – My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
• Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Perhaps it may seem as if I’m overstating the case. After all, Jesus more than once commended the faith of various people (e.g. Mt 8:10; Mt 15:28) and criticized the lack of faith in others (e.g. Mt 8:26; Mt 14:31; Mk 16:14). In each of these cases, however, it was all about the object of faith, and that object was Christ.

When trouble or disaster come your way, you may one day be asked “How are you getting through all this?” When you answer, give a clear witness, not to your own faith, but to the God in whom your faith is placed. God the Father created you and still preserves you even in the midst of trouble or disaster. God the Son redeemed you with his precious blood at the cross and no trouble or disaster can take that away from you. God the Holy Spirit through water and the Word enables you to say in the face of trouble or disaster: “I’m relying on CHRIST. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)

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