“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