“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Two of God’s truths have particularly impressed me in the last five or so years. The first abiding interest is grace, which has given rise to GraceWaves. The second is faith. I suppose the two are closely linked in that they are very easily understood at an initial level, and then plunge to limitless depths that are both wondrous and perplexing. Like God Himself, grace and faith are simple enough for a child to understand, yet complex enough so that you never come close to understanding them fully. They are part of God’s mystery, but the mystery is light not darkness.
The passage for this week’s GraceWaves illustrates this simply complexity and captures perfectly both the confidence and occasional uncertainty in faith. Think about it. In this verse we have “assurance” along with “hope” for things unrealized. We also have “conviction” coupled with “things not seen.” God wants us very much to have certainty, but we live within the constraints of brokenness. We see through a glass darkly.
I occasionally hear or read people on the topic of faith who appear to have all the questions answered and have not the slightest cloud on the horizon. They speak of faith as if it were a motivational tool, the louder the better. I wonder if they are simply in denial or merely foolish. Either way they sound like Peter right before his denials, boastfully claiming of his unwavering commitment and thus rendering himself spiritually vulnerable.
Faith is simply not that easy. It is sometimes hard to believe, and if you do not realize that then you risk making faith, not simple, but so simplistic that you rob it of all its depth. We live in a kind of spiritual bipolar existence where we sometimes enjoy assurance and conviction, but other times struggle with hope and the things not seen.
In this way we are like every other traveler. Abraham had years between reassurances of the first promise, and decades to wait for its fulfillment. Jeremiah angrily cried out to God from the pit. Paul despaired of life itself. These occasional stumblings are nothing more than part of being human. Believing is sometimes hard. We are all occasionally with the father who said, “I believe! Help my unbelief.”
The very good news is that God never leaves us without a clue. He weaves hints of His Presence into the very fabric of the world, and whispers promises to us that are just strong enough to keep you moving forward.
Elizabeth Oakes wrote that faith is the subtle chain that binds us to the eternal. I like the honest combination of “subtle” and “chain.” Faith is sometimes elusive, like a beautiful dream you try hard to remember. But it is also a chain that God holds in His hand to keep us bound to Him. Your best hope, the only way forward is to take hold of that chain and hang on even when other people or forces say that it doesn’t even exist. You believe even in the face of overwhelming pressure not to believe. Take hold of the chain.
Isak Dinesan wrote a story about a man who became a rich author early in life. “Like most people to whom wealth and fame happen unexpectedly, the young man developed significant adjustment problems. He had written out of poverty about poverty, but now he was rich and felt isolated from the condition and the people who had given him his first book. He was estranged from his wife, from God and even from himself. He wandered all night in the streets of Amsterdam, trying to sort things out. He decided that he would never write again and gave away the manuscript of a new book he was writing.
“About at the end of his rope, he was considering suicide when suddenly, he felt overcome with the presence of God. God seemed to speak to him directly that he should write again, ‘not for the public this time, or for the critics, but for me.’ ‘Can I be certain of that?’ he asked. ‘Not always’ said the Lord. ‘You will not be certain of it all the time. But I tell you now that it is so. You will have to hold on to that.’”
My prayer is this week’s GraceWaves will be one of God’s whispers this week, a reminder of what He has told you. Hold on to His promises. Recall the truth you learned in brighter days. The darkness may obscure the truth, but it can never obliterate it. God is real. Love wins. Grace is the theme. Take hold of the chain of faith that binds you to God.
Dr. Terry Ellis
February 6, 2011