Faith Breeds Faith
I’ve written before about working toward a more accurate understanding of what “faith” really is. The focus of those reflections has been to see that the concept of what we call “faith” is more accurately reflected by the word “trust.” If I come across a rickety old bridge but need to cross the river, I’ll only cross the bridge if I trust that in spite of appearances, the bridge is not going to collapse when I’m on it. It’s much more than “hope” which is how we too often define faith. People say our faith in God is our hope that He’s real and can be counted on. While we do have our hope in Him, our faith is much better understood as trust and not just hope.
So there’s a very real sense that living the life of faith is really about placing our trust in God, and thereby doing our best to follow His way as the way we choose to live. It doesn’t require certainty. It doesn’t require confidence. It doesn’t imply any feeling at all. It’s simply a decision we take, then attempt to live out.
But that’s what takes us to faith. Another question is: what does faith produce? What are the results of making the decision to place our faith in God and then trying to live out that decision? To answer that we can look at an arena that can appear to be the polar opposite of theology and religion but that I find very informative: politics.
Since the dawn of cable news, the public has much deeper and broader access to the work (or lack thereof) of our elected leaders. The need to “feed the beast” of a 24 hour news cycle has fed into a much more involved and passionate interest by many people in the political process. So while politics has always had a knack for bringing out deep emotion, our generation has taken that passion to another level. And since we feel very informed and involved, we are tending to have stronger opinions.
Take our current President for example. While he is not the first polarizing figure in American politics, it’s hard to imagine anyone could be more polarizing. On the one hand, you have the millions who voted for him and led him, against virtually every prediction, to be the current occupant of the Oval Office. On the other hand, you have the millions, many of whom are still in the grieving process over his election. And very few in between.
My point in bringing up politics is this: when you see a picture of Donald Trump or read/hear his name, you probably have a subtle but distinct reaction. Your previously-held beliefs about him now set the stage for hearing the latest news out of Washington, and it goes something like this:
The Supreme Court temporarily upholds the travel ban.
- (For the Trump supporter): “Yes! Someone on the bench finally is showing some common sense.”
- (For the Trump opponent): “Unbelievable! How could they be so stupid!”
In both cases, just what is leading to such a reaction? Oddly enough, it’s faith.
The degree of our faith either in Donald Trump or against Donald Trump changes how we see his future actions. We will tend to see his actions as either good or bad, based on our faith in him or our faith that nothing he does is good. Faith tends to breed more faith.
So what does this have to do with God? Our faith in God works the same way: when we place our trust in Him, no matter what happens we tend to see Him in light of that faith—that trust. A perfect example is the death of a loved one. People who lack faith in God experience death and say, “You see?! If there was a God, He wouldn’t have allowed her to die.” People who have faith in God say things like, “God gave her rest from all her struggles.” Our faith leads us to God, and our faith produces even greater faith to place even more trust in Him as we move forward.
And the opposite is also true. Next week, we’ll reflect on how all of this helps us understand why we’re seeing unprecedented growth in people who “reject faith” and claim to be atheists or agnostics. For now, let’s understand the importance of our continual placement of trust in God if we’re going to be people of faith. The placement of our trust in God today—our faith–is a result of our previous steps of faith. And the faith we place in God today is an encouragement to the life of faith we will live as we move forward into tomorrow.