The Higher Faith

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.


— John 20:29

What should I think of my child if I found that he limited his faith in me and hope from me to the few promises he had heard me utter!  The faith that limits itself to the promises of God may be good enough for a pagan, but for a Christian it is a miserable and wretched faith. Those who rest in such a faith try to believe in the truth of his word, but the truth of his Being they understand not. Therefore it is little wonder that they distrust those swellings of the heart which are his drawings of the man towards him, as sun and moon heave the ocean mass heavenward. Brother, sister, if such is your faith, you will not, must not stop there. You must come out of this bondage of the law to which you give the name of grace, for there is little that is gracious in it. You will yet know the dignity of your high calling, and the love of God that passeth knowledge. He is not afraid of your presumptuous approach to him. It is you who are afraid to come near him. He is not watching over his dignity. It is you who fear to be sent away as the disciples would have sent away the little children. It is you who think so much about your souls and are so afraid of losing your life that you dare not draw near to the Life of life, lest it should consume you.

Our God, we will trust thee. Shall we not find thee equal to our faith? One day, we shall laugh ourselves to scorn that we looked for so little from thee; for thy giving will not be limited by our hoping.

Commentary

by Jolyn Canty

In today’s reading, George MacDonald gently speaks of our faith, or lack thereof, which is limited and does not act upon the truth of His being our loving Father who wishes to give us all good things.  We ask only for what our limited knowledge of Him and His word brings to mind.  MacDonald speaks of the bondage in which we live, and that we ultimately fear we shall lose ourselves if we fully give and trust our lives and desires to Him.  Faith is a fearful and mysterious thing.  Faith is the answer to fear, as Jesus reminded the disciples while they panicked on the boat in the storm.  The boat will not sink; it cannot sink when the Master of the seas and earth and sky is with you.  The boat will not sink and the storm will not last forever.

I’ve been studying Hebrews 11, known as the Faith Chapter, using the Amplified Version, and have been struck by the richness and the clarity in the translation from the Greek text.  The descriptions of faith enthralled me.  For example:

Hebrews 11:4 [Prompted, actuated] by faith, Abel….;  vs.8 [Urged on] by faith Abraham….;  vs.13 These people all died controlled and sustained by their faith;  vs.20 [With eyes of] faith, Isaac….;  vs.22 [Actuated] by faith, Joseph….;  vs.24 [Aroused] by faith Moses….  vs.27 [Motivated] by faith he [Joseph]….  Prompted, urged on, controlled and sustained, actuated, aroused, motivated - Faith is a powerful force that leads us to trust and then to obedience.  However, this powerful force, this mighty engine, Faith, is enabled and driven by the knowledge of the safety, surety, and love of our Heavenly Father.

C. S. Lewis describes the precarious walk of faith well: “There are things, say in learning to swim or to climb, which look dangerous and aren’t.  Your instructor tells you it’s safe.  You have good reason from past experience to trust him.  Perhaps you can even see for yourself, by your own reason, that it is safe.  But the crucial question is, will you be able to go on believing this when you actually see the cliff edge below you or actually feel yourself unsupported in the water?  You will have no rational grounds for disbelieving.  It is your senses and your imagination that are going to attack belief.  Here, as in the New Testament, the conflict is not between faith and reason but between faith and sight.  We can face things which we know to be dangerous if they don’t look or sound too dangerous; our real trouble is often with things we know to be safe but which look dreadful.  Our faith in Christ wavers not so much when real arguments come against it as when it looks improbable—when the whole world takes on the desolate look which really tells us much more about the state of our passions and even our digestion than about reality.”  C. S. Lewis Religion: Reality or Substitute? from Christian Reflections.

Let us remember those who have gone before us, the Great Cloud of Witnesses, who are cheering us on and have left us clear footsteps to follow:

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony of the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance—unnecessary weight—and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us,….;  vs.2 Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus.

One day we shall laugh ourselves to scorn

Watercolor by Jolyn Canty, inspired by the January 24th entry by George MacDonald