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Faith

It is usually the case that unexpectedly God brings to sharper focus truths that I have buried and not paid much attention to. I say unexpectedly because the re-focusing more often than not happens through unexpected avenues. And so it was this week as God brought into sharper focus truths about faith as I meditated on the following text from Apostle Paul's letter to the Church at Colossae :
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus [Colossians 1:3-4a]
There are several observations we may note from Apostle Paul’s remark.  The first is that Christians have faith in Jesus.  That is to say the Colossians' faith was found not in anything else but  Christ Jesus.  But what is faith? The writer to the Hebrews says, "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. (Hebrews 11:1). I would paraphrase it like this. Faith is having a deep confidence (conviction) that is settled (assurance) about today and the future. Not wishful thinking, but assured and confident hope.
The Colossians had confident faith in Christ Jesus – and so does every true Christian. That is to say it was rooted and established in him. All their assured confidence was in Jesus. Jesus was the goal (object), sustainer (“in Jesus”) and spiritual geography of their faith (as Paul says in verse 2, they are “faithful brothers and sisters in Christ”). They lived for him, by him and to him. This threefold element is vital because it reminds us that Christian faith is all about Jesus. One cannot say I have Jesus without being in Jesus. And we cannot be in Jesus unless it is by Jesus.
The second observation is that Christians have faith in Jesus that shows. The Colossians faith was “evidential” not hidden. Paul said he thanked God for them ever since believers (“we”) heard of their faith.   The reports of their faith preceded them. It was a faith that was visible, was talked about and in a good way! Paul says later in his letter that their faith came by hearing the good news of Jesus Christ and was bearing fruit and increasing!  As it had been from day one the Colossians heard it!

Christian faith is not a lamp that is hidden away under the bed. The internal reality of knowing and loving Jesus always shows outwardly.  The reason is that when we become Christians by trusting in Jesus, Jesus comes to live within us and gives us his new life. He does not just live along side, we actually die to self and it is him who now starts to live. This is exactly what Paul says to the church at Galatia, “I have been crucified with the Anointed One—I am no longer alive—but the Anointed is living in me; and whatever life I have left in this failing body I live by the faithfulness of God’s Son, the One who loves me and gave His body on the cross for me” (Galatians 2:20, The Voice).

It’s like if God came to live in a football player for the purpose of improving his football skills. We would expect his range of passing to be a bit different. His movement to be a bit quicker. His goal scoring prowess to be outstanding. Well it is the same with a Christian. When God the Holy Spirit comes to live in our dead souls we become alive again. His work gives us new priorities and enable us to do works of righteousness. Righteous is now our new DNA. We now have God living in us 24 hours a day. An infinite resource of strength and power to draw on. That is what faith in Jesus is. Christ in us, the hope of glory!

The final point we cannot afford to miss is that Christians have faith in Jesus that comes from God.  As I read this, I couldn't get past one thing. Paul thanked God for them because of their faith. Why would Paul thank God? Why does he not just say, “thank you guys for having faith in Jesus Christ”? Why thank God for something the believers exercised?  

The answer of course is that Paul believed God was the ultimate (initiator) and immediate (active) cause of their faith - not just at the point they repented from sinful living but throughout out their new life in Christ. The thanks go to God because this powerful posture of faith is not the Colossians' own doing. It is a wonder of God! A marvel!

This truth of course is found in the entire Bible. Hebrews 12:2, encourages us to keep our eyes on Jesus the “author and perfecter of our faith”. Simply put Jesus originates our faith individually (as Christians) and collectively (as the church).  Ephesians 2:8 declares, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God”. Much ink has been spilt by theologians trying to decide whether Paul means the gift is grace or the gift is faith. It is clear that “this” points to the whole process of "salvation by grace through faith” as being the gift of God and not something that we can accomplish ourselves. Romans 12:3 lends further weight when it reminds us that God assigns faith to us in different measure! 

So we can be confident that God is not only the ultimate cause of our faith but also the immediate cause of it. He is the engine that powers our faith through the power of His word (as we read and hear it). And God the Holy Spirit works to convict and strengthens us in our weaknesses. And if we are in doubt, it is due to our sinful arrogance and illusion that we have a role to play. The antidote for that is 1 Corinthians 4: 7 – “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”. And the answer is nothing. Everything we have in this world is received and given by Him. Apostle James also agrees, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” [James 1:17]. And there’s no greater gift than faith!

This truth is a game changer for me.  It is a rebuke and an encouragement. It is a rebuke because too often I try and short circuit God. I get too frustrated when I see people not growing or eager to know Jesus. But I forget that God is sovereign over their hearts. He who “opened Lydia’s heart” (Act 16:14) can open any heart he chooses to!  I need to trust him and not my own strength or intelligence or persuasive powers. It is after all about him!

It is an encouragement because even in my weakness God is still perfect. It ultimately depends on him. I am heaven bound because he has made me heaven bound. I am not about to miss heaven because it is all in him. He will continue activating my faith and guarding it until the last day. I can rest in his everlasting arms. It is finished! Far from making me lazy, it gives me a deeper longing to know this God more and more! To live for him all my days!

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Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

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