For much of my life I had an understanding about faith that was really little-to-no understanding at all. It was a perception that faith was something that one conjured up - the result of intense prayer or bible reading or perhaps faith simply inhabited those people who were favored with a certain amount of “holiness,” (which wasn’t me!) Faith was more of a nebulous feeling that mysteriously came and went, especially in times of uncertainty.
It was when I became familiar with this passage from Ephesians (2:8) that my understanding began to change: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Faith then became less about me - the receiver of faith - and more about the giver of faith: “For great is God’s steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever…” (Psalm 117:2) Faith then comes to us – all of us - as a gift - a gift from God in the person of Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit. So began this journey of seeing faith in a new way.
For me, it is often easier to recognize these “faith gifts” in hind sight rather than in real time. It can be a simple call from a friend that only later I realize the impact it had on reassuring my faith in some way. Have you ever been struck by an image like in a stained glass window that suddenly takes on new meaning? How about that worship service that you reluctantly dragged yourself to, and mysteriously had the sense that God was speaking directly to you – in Word, or song or liturgy – and the “peace that passes all understanding…” becomes profoundly real to you that day. There seems to be no limit to the myriad ways in which God’s grace and blessings uphold our faith on a daily basis. The challenge is recognizing them as God’s gifts coming to us both as individuals and within the body of Christ – God’s church.
On a trip to Ireland, I found this violet-like plant growing out of solid rock, and it reminds me of one of my favorite hymns: “My hope is built on nothing less.” The refrain is: “on Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” This flower has no earthly reason to grow out of solid rock, but not only is it growing, it is blooming! Hebrews 11 says that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Our rock in Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives – though physically unseen - perseveres in feeding, supporting and sustaining our faith.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” (Psalm 23:6)