These last couple of weeks have been hard. The Christmas season is supposed to be filled with joy, happiness, and endless movie marathons about couples who broke up in middle school finding their way back to their hometown and reconciling under the mistletoe in 20 degree weather. For believers it’s a time to rejoice and reflect on the night our Savior was obedient to our Father in Heaven and wrapped Himself in flesh to save us from our sins and ourselves. So all in all, this time for everyone is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year! What exactly makes this time the most wonderful time of the year? Hope. The entire Christmas season is built around suspense, excitement, and hope. We hope for the presents we want, we hope we get to see family members we haven’t seen in a while, we hope this time off from work is actually relaxing. Our hopes fill the air we breathe around this time of year. But hope is not a stand-alone trait. Hope needs to be filled with something in order for it to truly be considered hope. This virtue that fills hope is called faith. Faith is what makes hope work.
Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (ESV). Notice how this sentence is worded. Faith is the assurance of the things we hope for. Faith is the filling inside hope that assures us our hope is real. Hope is not merely wishing something to be true. Hope is knowing and believing a promise is true. Hope says it WILL happen; faith is the reason why we KNOW it will happen.
Faith is so important to the Christian life. From beginning, middle, to the end faith is the vehicle by which we see, trust, and hope in God. Faith is necessary for numerous reasons:
- We are saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8). It is by God’s freely given and totally undeserved grace we are saved. But our faith, a faith He provides, is the channel through which that grace flows to equal salvation. Salvation is totally a God-given, God-produced and God-wrought event. It is by the faith He gives that we believe in the work of Jesus to be sufficient for our salvation, regeneration, justification, sanctification and glorification.
- Without faith it’s impossible to please The Lord (Hebrews 11:6). Hebrews 11 and 12 are awesome chapters on the faith of Christian believers, past and present. Verse 6 of chapter 11 says that without faith it is impossible to please the Lord. This isn’t simply acknowledging He exists. This is a believing faith that results in pleasing actions to God. We know this because chapter 11 of Hebrews is referred to as the Faith Hall of Fame. The author shows us that these horribly flawed and sinful people pleased the Lord by having faith in Him that spurred actions that glorified Him. These people were murderers, adulterers, prostitutes, and a host of other types of sinners. Their works alone were pathetic. But God is the only Being alive that can take total imperfection and, by faith, use sinners to perform amazing acts that sanctify the sinner and glorify the Father
- Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Through Jesus Christ our faith is found and perfected. He is the source of our faith and the finisher of it. It is through Him, from Him and by Him we have our hopes. 2 Corinthians 1:20 says all of the promises of God find their yes in Christ Jesus! That is why He is the perfect and only place to truly put our hope. We have an empathetic high priest who, through trials and sufferings, perfects our faith into one that is pleasing to God. Jesus is our never failing hope.
My pastor is currently going through a sermon series regarding hope. A lot of time has been spent in self reflection on where I have been putting my hope. The answers to this question have become boldy clear in the sadness of recent weeks. I started off this post stating how difficult its been recently. After searching and praying, crying and failing, pouting and doubting, the Lord may have finally answered from His holy hill. Faith and Hope. My faith is weak; my hopes aren’t secure. With a weak faith and an insecure hope, anxiety, worry and depression seem like the only outcomes. My hopes have been in all the wrong things. I had hoped people would respond to my text messages, that people would like my blog, that work would get easier, that people would like me and think I was a good enough Christian. None of these things are necessarily in-and-of themselves wrong to want. But none of these are strong enough to bear the weight of my hope. They simply can not hold me up nor were they meant to. But God can. And this is where my weak faith came into play. I have an eternal God who can eternally bear the weight of my eternal hopes. But I did not have faith in God’s goodness. I doubted His intentions. I fought against his sanctification. I chose the created over the Creator. Simply put, I called God a liar by not believing in His revealed character. Weak faith that refuses to be strengthened combined with a misaligned hope that refuses to be corrected can only lead to sadness. The psalmist puts it this way: “Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.” (Psalm 16:4a NIV)
I’m not naive. This time of year is not the most wonderful time of the year for most. Life may not be filled with bright lights and sweet carols. There is sadness that looms softly yet very presently over some of us. And although I know that this may be due to external circumstances as well, the good news is that the answer is the same. Faith in Christ brings hope. I don’t write this as someone who has “cracked the code” and now lives this truth out effortlessly. To be honest, the smog of sadness still hovers silently. But my hope can not only be in the lifting of this sadness. My hope can and has to be in the One who meets me in the midst of my sadness before bringing me up out of the sadness. And my faith can and has to be in the character of Him who will do it. I have the same God present with me in the valley of the shadow of death as I do in the green pastures and still waters. So if you find yourself in this place of being “ye of little faith), you have some company. And you can join me in my struggle in praying the prayer found in Mark 9:24, that I think is most helpful for those wrestling to have faith, “I believe; help my unbelief”.