“But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” 2 Timothy 1:12
I have learned that faith is a gift; and yet, it is also a discipline.
First, faith is a gift. We are illumined by Scripture that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. We are instructed to have sober judgment and not to think too highly of ourselves because grace and faith are gifts, and—as Romans 12:3 reminds us—we receive “…each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
God has assigned even my faith to me. It is a gift given to me. I’ve received it apart from works.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…” Ephesians 2:8
But, again, I have also learned that faith is a discipline. I have had to exercise my faith. I have to practice my faith. In a sense, I have to prove my faith. Faith’s opposite is sight. Sometimes sight is okay, but sometimes it is really not okay.
Immediately, on February 18, 2019, sight became an adversary in my life. Everything in my life’s line-of-sight was horribly unimaginable. Undesirable. Sight was not my friend. I recoiled at what I saw. Sight, in an instant, became my enemy.
“We may allow our mind to dwell only on material things, and keep our eyes on the narrow patch of earth on which we walk in our daily rounds. Or we may persist in lifting our thoughts to things that are unseen and eternal.” J. R. Miller, The Ministry of Comfort
Like a parent forces a child to lock eyes by cupping their little face, I had to submit to God to allow him to hold my face, turn it away from the “sight” invading or flooding my “eyes,” and point me to faith’s proactive, disciplined engagement in the middle of my unwanted circumstances. In a sense, I was at war. It was an unseen war, but it was waged in my thoughts, emotions, and choices.
So many aspects to our beliefs are theoretical. No less true. But oftentimes theoretical. It’s why we practice our faith. By practicing the discipline of faith, we are in spiritual shape. We are ready and equipped to prove our faith in a moment’s notice. We are subject to the effects of the fall, and faith is a necessity. We may be clever and advanced, but we are powerless to change the impact of the brokenness delivered by the fall.
“Man will never by his scientific skill erase from earth the fruits of his transgression.” Vance Havner, Though I Walk Through the Valley
With every tragedy or loss I hear about, I am reminded that fallout from the fall continues its march onward. From my experience, the need for the readiness of our faith is crucially important when the gift of faith transitions to the discipline of faith. We must remember that the repetitive march of loss born of brokenness is a march with numbered days. Temporal. So, we walk by disciplined faith.
We each have to receive the gift of faith, but we have to exercise and prove the discipline of faith.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” James 2:14
Amen brother, amen.
I understand the war! My thoughts and emotions, agitated by visual reminders, sounds, smells and choices rage wildly! But they all serve to remind me of something very dear and beautiful. My Jan and the hope we have!
Press on, Dad. I know of those many reminders of Mom…and of hope. I’m proud of you for the way you’re walking but also for the way you loved Mom and cared for her. You kept your promise to her.
I’m reading this post again this morning. My faith is at an all time low, D. Ray. Your post is very timely in my life. A hundred people prayed intensely for my husband to survive CoVid, yet he died. I don’t know what to do with the verses about God being our rescuer in times of need.
The promise of answered prayer can definitely be a mystery. The short answer is God has the full redemptive story in view and by faith I can know his ways are trustworthy. His answer to our prayer includes teaching us many things beyond the immediate answer of restoring life or not. I’m reading a book right now that reminds me that God seeks resurrection over simple resuscitation. Even if months of prayer had resulted in restored life it’s only for a while. Resuscitation (think Lazarus) is not nearly as wonderful as resurrection (think forever with Christ). Lazarus was resuscitated, but he died again. There are more glorious answers to prayer than avoiding temporary death. I tell everyone I meet that I do not like that I have lost my bride. I will never be happy about it. But I can still trust him and learn and grow in my walk with Christ through it. And you are uniquely equipped to walk with other people now. Praying for you as I write this reply to your comment.