Faith: A Practical, Living Teacher

Photo by Thomas Somme on Unsplash

Years ago, I saw a picture of a child suspended in the air, clutching the string of a single balloon, with the caption: “Faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding on to.”  It was a very simple picture, but it made me think: Where does this kind of faith come from?  A faith that turns intellectual trust into action, especially potentially dangerous action?

One way is that we can learn it from others.  I’ve read a lot of Christian apologetics – or writings in defense of Christian faith.  Writers such as Josh McDowell and Ravi Zacharias were held in reverent awe by many in my college years, the logic being that “if someone that smart can be a Christian, it must be reasonable to believe!”  While there is definitely value in learning from others, there is also the hazard of learning to trust our teachers (instead of our Teacher).  Then when they fall, it hurts us personally and can damage our witness.  We know what ended up happening to Ravi Zacharias[1].

There is also the testimony of the Bible.  In the book of Hebrews, chapter 11 chronicles the faith of many in the Bible, and Hebrews 12:1 calls these our “cloud of witnesses.”  We can learn a lot from these people, but they don’t just teach us facts about God.  The writer of Hebrews adds that because of these witnesses, we should “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.[2] He is our Lord, and these witnesses tell us to follow Him, not just be able to describe Him.

One of the best lessons on this comes from G.K. Chesterton, who is well-known for his arguments in defense of the reasonableness of Christianity.  However, near the end of his book Orthodoxy, he says that he has a better idea: “And that is this: ‘that the Christian Church in its practical relation to my soul is a living teacher, not a dead one. It not only certainly taught me yesterday, but will almost certainly teach me tomorrow.’”  Apologetics is not about winning arguments, but about growing our ability to trust Him and learning to explain that to others.

While we can learn from others and from the Bible to build up our faith, what God has done for us personally is the best testimony because it is the most real to us.  Everything else is hearsay, as they say in court.  We are all learning to let Him tell us where to go and what to do.  To discern not only His truth, but His will, in the testimony of modern apologists and in the Bible.  To make our own Ebenezers, or memorials to His faithfulness to us when we’ve acted in faith in Him, even if it meant holding on to nothing else.  Therefore:

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” – Psalm 34:8

The best way to know that He is good is to try for ourselves, even when it’s hard or doesn’t make sense.  This has been the loose theme of this week’s posts, which will continue in the next post in the Psalms of Ascent series, hopefully tomorrow.

[1] If you don’t know, after Ravi died it was revealed that he had inappropriate relationships with massage therapists and others.  A once-influential ministry ended up in tatters, and many of Ravi’s followers ended up embarrassed and wondering what to believe.
[2] Hebrews 12:1b-2

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