The Nature of Faith
A person who experiences being in tune with God enjoys specific extraordinary outcomes in their life. Even those who do not acknowledge God experience what mere human science cannot explain. How much more is this the case for those who are conscious of God’s existence.
The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews wrote under the inspiration of God’s spirit, “For without faith, it is impossible to please God. For those who come to God must believe that God is and rewards those who diligently seek God.” (I switch the humanlike concept ‘him’ in favor of ‘God.’)
Faith is the sole approach that pleases God. Stating this another way: Some please God by faith, and some do not. Let’s get a clear idea of what faith is and isn’t. This verse, Hebrews chapter 11 verse 6, gives us clues. Faith is the attitude of coming to God based on evidence. Intellect, volition, and emotion are all involved in creating faith. I seldom notice something in particular until I form my preferences. I use feeling, intelligence, and decision-making to develop my viewpoint.
We don’t need to overthink the concept of faith. Faith is a conclusion based on observed facts, a subjective judgment based on apparent evidence. The outcome of faith presupposes the value of its object. God is the object of faith.
Faith is coming to our senses about God. Our inner person may fluctuate in confidence like a compass needle spinning at first until finding true north. Heb. 11:6 says, “those who come to God must believe God is…” – to come to God, they MUST suppose God IS (Of course, God exists independent of their belief). God isn’t a figment like Harvey the giant rabbit or Topper the ghost. God is the source of everything and the linchpin of every other fact.
When I was going through a lapse in my experience with God, the saying, “It is what it is,” became my friend. I realized that what was already reality was totally out of my ability to control.
If the Jenga-Blocks of my life had already toppled, then “it was what it was.” Other similar cliches would be “the bullet’s out the gun” or “the cat’s out the bag” or, again, “it’s water under the bridge.” Sometimes I wanted to rewind events of my life and have a do-over. Our experiences are not like those in a video game where we can respawn or restart. When I consciously returned to the ultimate reality of the present moment, then the concept of “it is what it is” was quite liberating to me. I couldn’t go back and redress my errors at all and didn’t need to. “It is what it is” provided a reality-check, reminding me I am not ultimately in control of my life.
This realization was not just a cliche or cop-out for me. Instead, coming mindfully into the moment and knowing that I am not in ultimate control is ‘square one.’ With this realization, I do not resist my existence, but forgive the present (and myself in the present), accept my circumstances, and flow. I am not wholly defined by my past, no matter how unfortunate events may seem to have been. Whether regrettable or otherwise, it is only an opinion. “It is what it is” trumps every opinion and weakens the haywire emotional energy that would try to refocus on the past. We find the only definition of our past in the present.
Guess what I found when I focussed on the present? Yes, you guessed: God is present in the present. I came back to my senses and found God had never left me. I strayed and stumbled into the twilight, but God was waiting for me to refocus upon God’s “IS-ness.” When my mind returned to the moment, God was just there. God is closer to us than our very breath. God is closer to us than our skin.
“Those who come to God must believe God is,” for this is the beginning of sound reason. God is the fact behind every other. God is ‘large and in charge.’ Here is the name God told Moses at the burning bush in Exodus chapter 3: “Go tell them I-AM-That-I-AM sends you.” God’s unspeakable name to the Hebrews is I-AM-THAT-I-AM. The eternal present contains a PRESENCE – the present one. GOD WAS WAITING when I came consciously back to the now moment without opinion or apology. It’s not like God was on vacation, but I was out of sync with God in my mind – because I wouldn’t accept the present or what it contained.
Paul says to the Athenians in the book of Acts, “In God, we live, move, and have our being (our existence).” God’s involvement is actually for everyone, not just believers. So, to come to God is really going nowhere but exactly where I already am. The mind has to recalibrate and realize the current facts continuously. The stories of history show us God’s activities then, but we can only discover God personally in the present. That is the purpose of the stories. They give us the message of what God behaved like then, so we can count on God’s character right here and now. We can find God this very second, split-second when the mind comes into God’s “already-ness.”
I used to complicate faith. Instead, it is the easiest thing ever. It is easier than breathing. There is nothing to do but receive the person who is already here. Having faith makes nothing happen. It only takes hold of what is already here. Faith is anything but unreasonable. God is far beyond our reason, but so is the nature of reality itself. I don’t know why a chair is solid, but it certainly doesn’t stop me from sitting on it. I don’t have the faintest idea of how God can exist, but it certainly doesn’t stop me from trusting God for my next breath.
I innately know God must exist, which is quite good enough for me. How do I know this? I know it because I live. Descartes said, “I think therefore I am.” I say, “God is; therefore, I am.” Believing I am created in God’s image, I say, “I am, therefore God is.” A logical assumption is that the created being is proof of a Creator. There is a familiarity between the source and the sourced. In his message to the Athenians regarding the “Unknown God,” Paul refers to all humans as “God’s offspring.”
Humans are proud of our godlike achievements. We live in the age of technology and look at the stars and planets as destinations for travel. We have mastered wireless energy transmission in radio, television, and computers. The world is connecting at ever faster speeds with our information highway. Since we have exceeded our grandest expectations of ourselves, we assume God is less relevant than ever. Many want to strike the very idea of God out of our vocabulary and thinking as being archaic and uncivilized. Our attempt to create AI would replace relying on a godlike being. We’ve designed it to oust the idea of God. We are trying to construct a god in our image.
Yet, we cannot solve the most simple problems in our daily lives for all our self-dependence and arrogance. Living has become more complex and complicated, with careless detachment creeping into our social psyche. Social media hasn’t satisfied our deep yearning for true communion and connection. Digital communication may have some benefits, but there is also a considerable downside. A glut of communication happens all at once, mostly noise.
To listen to our lives and those in them, we must slow down. The environment of our digital lives pushes us to speed up. Whether it is the connection to your family, friends, or God yet, we hurdle on, going faster and faster to catch up to something we do not know why we must. We outran the “rat” for the race decades ago. Now we are in a VR bubble speeding through the cosmos, yet always the ‘behinder’ we go.
And where is God in all of this? God is here right now. God waits for those dissatisfied with the mirage of digital society. When I enter God’s presence by faith, I realize God in a still small moment called “now.” If anyone were to ask me why I have faith in God, I’d say, “God is the most reasonable fact in the universe. God’s gravity pulled me to God. Without God, I am incomplete.” The writer of Hebrews chapter 11 tells us that this kind of faith is the only attitude that pleases God. God wants to communicate with every one of us, but the channel of faith alone makes this possible.
God is an open-ended declaration: my shepherd, father, and righteousness. Anything essential to my life, God already is. The ruling fact of all facts is God. I recently saw a new book on the market titled Factfulness. The idea of ‘Factfulness’ is to be empirically observant. ‘Feelingfulness’ (a word I’m making) means subjective and ruled by emotional whims. If my feelingfulness tries to direct my factfulness, I become like a raft tossed around on a stormy ocean. I am in danger of being ripped to emotional and psychological pieces. This dependence upon mere feelings causes many a crash and burn. What is crucial here is to realize that faith is not a fancy or whim. Instead, God is the constant fact of life, close and personal. God is, and God is on my side – yours too (see John 3:16).
Hebrews 11:6 concludes with, “And God rewards those who earnestly seek God.” When our hearts adjust to the fact of God – that God is – we desire to draw nearer to know God intimately. Seeking God becomes my quest. God loves for us to seek God for God’s own sake. God becomes my chief aim and desire. As the Westminster Confession asks, “Q. What is the chief end (purpose, aim) of man (of human existence)? A. To glorify God and to enjoy God forever.”
When one adjusts to the fact of God, this person will enjoy knowing God personally and want to please God. God is not just a sterile “fact” for the game of Trivial Pursuit. Theology has often reduced God to a bunch of systematic dogmas. This flawed reasoning can suck our idea of God dry. God isn’t an impersonal study or science. The God of the universe won’t fit in a test tube and isn’t subject to some law of physics. Nor will they will reduce God to lines of computer code.