Strong Faith Indispensable
Rightly did wise Solomon declare that God made men upright, but they have sought out devices (Eccl. 7:29). The devices, subtleties, and complexities in which fallen man boasts and upon which he relies were no part of the first man whom God made and declared to be very good before his fall. It was when Adam sinned that he concocted the device of covering himself with fig leaves, while prior to his fall our first father lived in upright integrity and simplicity before God and before his wife.
One of the devices which we as believers are tempted to employ is that of twisting the Scriptures so that the sense we think we derive from them justifies our wrong doings and desires rather than rebukes and exhorts us with the truth that truly sanctifies us. For example, we find that although Jesus Himself chides busy Martha and commends devoted Mary (Lk. 10:38-42), there are always plenty of believers prepared to criticize what they deem to be Mary’s indolence and defend Martha’s purported diligence.
A similar device of Scripture wresting is the determination that some have toward what our Lord calls little faith. Repeatedly our Savior chides His disciples for their little faith (Mt. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). Not once does He commend such faith, or even grant the concession that it is true faith, which it obviously is or else He would not refer to it as faith at all. Yet hosts of believing Bible teachers and students, while acknowledging that little faith has its defects, tout it as though we should rest contentedly in it, and that if we strive for anything more, we are being excessively pious, proud, or legalistic.
It appears that our day and culture especially favor this exaltation of little faith. A minimalist mentality seems to have gripped many, so that they are asking the wrong questions and seeking the wrong answers. Such minimalists are always asking in one way or another: What is the least commitment to Christ and His Church that I can give and still be saved from hell? The reverse side of that coin is seen in the question: What is the most of the world and the flesh that I can indulge and still be considered a Christian?
The answers that such questioners hope and even demand to find is an approbation of their little faith. They are seeking not the truth of God as revealed in Scripture, that speaks of our cross bearing, self-denial, sacrificial loving, costly service, and trusting of God though He should slay us. Rather, the minimalists want easy, uncritical approval and assurance. They refuse to accept that the Christian life is a walk by the constant exercise of a strong faith, and a standing in the evil day by a great faith. Instead, they adamantly maintain that faith is an occasional leap, a flight, a quick fix for petty annoyances and mundane challenges, and not much use for anything else.
Part of the reason so many in our day are enamored of and committed to little faith is that our technologies deceive us to expect that all things should take place quickly and easily. Coupled with the growing swiftness of our travel and communication is the technological trend toward miniaturization. We laugh at old television shows or films where the characters brandished cell phones the size of a loaf of bread.
We must, however, resist the notion that theology adapts to our ever-changing technologies. We may have come to accept as a matter of course that most, if not all, of our physical and psychological maladies can be healed by our taking pills; however the plight of our souls requires nothing less than the application of the blood of the Son of God apprehended by a great and grateful faith.
In the early 1970’s, my friend, Tom Swanston, wrote words that I have kept in my Bible since then. They do not appear at all dated, but ring as true and vital today as they did nearly 35 years ago. I share his words with you in closing:
We are living in an age of instant custard, instant puddings, instant soups, instant cake mixes, etc., and this kind of thing has infected and poisoned the Christian church, and Christians now have come to expect the quick sale, the sudden gimmick, the short-cut road to sanctification. But there are no such things. Sanctification is a process; holiness is a way of life, and it is a long, hard slog, believe me. It is an uphill journey with devils in every bush and evil eyes peering at you through the darkness, and in your face, a cold, frosty wind with hail and snow. On the road there are few houses, and it is a long, long road. This is the meaning of sanctification and holiness, and so I think that really, in order to benefit from the Word, one needs to sit under it Sunday by Sunday, year by year, for a long, long time until our personalities and characters and psychologies have been changed by its gracious influence under the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let us therefore not be content with little faith and minimal commitment to our Lord and the means of His grace. Let us rather determine to exercise the precious and potent gift of faith that our God has graciously given to us, so that our faith will grow pure, deep, strong, and unshakably unite us to Christ, the sole and saving object of all truth faith.
Pastor Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, Virginia
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Hope in the Face of Hostility 24 July 2020
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