In my last post I stated that America and some other countries around the world are experiencing a decline in many areas of church life that include attendance, finance and respect, is due to a crises of faith. Today I will begin to explore why I make such a bold statement.
Before we can really address this issue we must define some words that we use so often with many different meanings, so that is where I will focus this blog entry. The first word is faith. It can mean anything from a wish, to a ritual, to a feeling, to a religion. If we are to be able to communicate on the same plane we must understand faith in the same context. So let’s begin with how Webster’s Dictionary definition. 1.Unquesting belief that does not require proof or evidence. 2. Unquestioning belief in God, religious tenents, etc. 3. A religion or a system of religious beliefs (the Catholic faith). 4. Anything believed. 5. Complete trust confidence, or reliance. 6. Allegiance to some person or thing; loyalty . . . As you can see there is a wide variety of ideas as to what is meant by the word faith in the English language.
The biblical definition of faith is much more restrictive in its meaning. I reference the Greek language, and specifically koine Greek, since that is the language that the Bible was written in. Of the 254 times that faith is used in the bible, all but two of them are in the New Testament, and use the Greek word, pistis, which means to trust or rely upon. Both of the times it is used in the Old Testament it uses a word of the same meaning, and Habakkuk is quoted three times in the New Testament where pistis is the word that is translated as faith.
We can therefore deduct that the meaning of faith in the Bible means to rely or trust. It is therefore means to rely or trust is someone or something beyond ourselves. By definition, then, it cannot mean that it is a dependence upon our ability, gifts or effort and is dependent upon that in which we trust. So what is the object of our faith? That is where our faith is validated or invalidated. The object of our faith must be able to control the outcome. If it has no power to perform then it is dead faith, and if it is flawed it will produce a flawed product. The only object that is capable of such power as is promised is God, Himself. That is also the one to whom we are directed to place our faith in. Have faith in God is the directive of the Bible. So we can conclude that any faith in anyone or anything other than God is not Biblical faith. Further, faith in the wrong object cannot produce the fulfillment of the thing sought. This is one of the prime reasons that “our” faith doesn’t work. Faith must have the proper object of trust.
That brings us to another critical point and that is that if we are trusting another (ie. God), then He is in control and not us. You do not have the control of the outcome but you are trusting in the one who knows best and does what is best. You may not understand the why of the outcome but because of who it is that you are trusting, you entrust the results to Him.
In my next posts I will address the operation of faith, the steps of faith and many other aspects of faith that help us to understand why our faith is not productive and our church are so enemic.