Basic Faith

Perhaps if I gave it a chance, I might get into Downton Abbey, but something about watching stuffy aristocrats having tea just makes me restless. Give me heart-pounding, thriller action. Maybe that is why I’m drawn to Hebrews 11. It is about giants of faith who resolutely held on to what they believed was true, in the face of painful and life-threatening coercion. Some of those guys (and gals) were sawed in two and thrown to the lions because they would not deny their beliefs. Dozens of jaw-dropping acts of faith are attributed to sixteen individuals by name. But the first act of faith listed isn’t specific to any one of them; it was shared by all of them – and, hopefully, you too. After first explaining what faith is (See: Loud and Clear), the author of Hebrews gives examples of faith, beginning with this one:

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. (Hebrews 11:3)

Since that was written, we’ve advanced quite a lot, from swords to drones, from parchment to the cloud. But how the universe came about is still being actively debated. Faith understands that God formed it, by commanding it to be. That sounds old and religious. But, more contemporary and mind-bending, it says faith knows that the tangible universe was formed out of something invisible. Scientists in the field of quantum mechanics talk like that.Notice, please, that the quote from Hebrews didn’t say faith knows when God did it, but that He did. The understanding that God made everything out of nothing (or at least out of something intangible) is a foundation stone for faith. Why start there? Perhaps because, with that understanding and perspective, everything else we do in life is colored by deep respect and reverence for God. We live with a profound awareness that this is His place, He made it.

The antique tea cart in our living room was hand-made by my wife’s great grandfather. It is a thing of old beauty, adorned by hand-carved, swirling trim, and slender, wood-spoked wheels. It is a visible expression of great skill and passion. We don’t put cans of paint on it, don’t use it as a workbench. Sometimes I gaze at it, losing myself in the details of its construction. I imagine the man I never knew, hunched over in his shop, wiping sawdust off his glasses and leaning in to get just the right cut from his old, but carefully sharpened gouge.

That type of humility and reverence (greatly multiplied), in the midst of God’s awesome creation, is foundational for the faith that connects us to Him in a living relationship. Conversely, the arrogant attitude that dismisses such awe and humility disconnects us from that relationship with God. With tragic consequences. As the Apostle Paul said, it’s not that people don’t know that God created the tangible universe, but that they suppress this truth.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:20-21)

Looking for faith, real faith? Open your heart and mind and take a good look around at all that God has crafted so intricately and beautifully.

Stay tuned; there’s more…

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