Let’s start here. The dictionary defines faith as “a complete trust or confidence in someone or something.”
As I see it, my ability to have faith or trust in this lifetime is not an option, but a piece of standard equipment that comes with the original model. You see, each human being is immensely valuable. A unique commodity – set apart from all other life forms found on this planet. While not perfect by any means, there is something amazing found within each human existence. Mine. Yours. And others.
Human beings, for example, think. We feel. We dream. We do. We scheme. We lie. We cheat. We steal. We trust. We love. We share. We build. We tear down. We care for others. We sacrifice for others. We embrace others. We shun others. We laugh. We cry. We suffer. We prevail. While the list is nearly limitless, each of these traits are uniquely human.
And, while some try to deny it, all human beings are created with faith (an ability to believe) already built in. Each of us, you see, in our own way, believe in something or someone (or both) bigger than ourselves. In other words, we don’t add faith (belief) to our lives, it’s already there.
Now, as we said earlier, many define ‘faith’ (or having belief) as simply believing in or putting our trust in something or someone. I would add that faith is trusting something (or someone) we can’t always see. Which, quite honestly, makes it a pretty frightening thing, because most of us feel much more safe and secure when we put our trust in things that are visible to our human eyes.
But, apparently, true faith is a willingness to trust or put confidence in things we can’t always touch, feel, smell, taste or hear. Or, as one wise person once said, seeing is not believing, but believing is seeing.
So, it’s my belief (get it?) that faith (or belief) is vitally important, because without it, you see, you or I simply can’t be fully human. In other words, a day without faith (or belief) inside us is like a day without blood pumping through our veins or air circulating through our lungs.
So, with that being said, it’s my premise that you & I already believe (have faith) in something or someone. So now, the question is not – Do I have faith? – but – What (or who) do I have faith in?
Now, here’s the rub.
While you and I have been given the unique ability (or gift), as a human being, to have faith (belief) in someone or something, that does not mean that we will freely use that gift. You see, as we mentioned earlier, human beings are very unique creatures. We are, as best we know, the only living beings on this planet that have the ability to choose or not choose. Theologians call this gift – free will. In other words, we are free, as human beings, to make our own choices – good, bad, and/or ugly! And quite honestly, you and I, without always knowing it, are exercising that gift of choice hundreds of times each day.
Let me give you an example. Today, assuming you are not limited in some way by circumstances that are outside your control, you have already used your gift of choice to:
- Get out of bed or sleep in.
- Take a morning shower or skip it.
- Brush your teeth and floss, or no, today, I’ll just brush.
- Fix eggs and toast for breakfast or just grab a Pop-Tart.
- Get gas in the car on your way to work or wait till it gets closer to empty.
- Smile at others as you go into your workplace or ignore those idiots completely.
- Pick and choose which of those in your workplace who are your friends/allies or complete idiots.
- Open up that email from your boss and act on it, or put it off till later.
- Call your friend and apologize for getting mad at him/her, or let them stew in the mess.
- Choose to believe the best about a neighbor who just hurt you, or just screw’ em.
Are you getting the point?
You see, your gift of choice is running 24/7 – only taking a short break when you are fast asleep.
THE POWER OF TRUST.
So now, when it comes to having faith – or belief – in someone or something, most of the time your decision (free will) to choose faith (belief) is based on your ability (or inability) to trust that something or someone. And trust, as you know, doesn’t come easily for most of us, particularly for adults who have, over their lifetime, experienced a large amount of failed trust, betrayal and rejection.
That’s why children – particularly younger ones – seem to be so trusting when compared with adults. In most cases, a child’s faith or belief system has not been polluted (matured?) to the degree that he/she can’t easily choose to trust. In other words, children generally believe (have faith) that their environment – which includes people, places & things – is safe and is trust-worthy, while we adults are much more skeptical about such things. Got it?
Which brings me, now to my first question for you?
Knowing that your ability to choose a positive belief (faith) system for your life, is impacted positively and/or negatively by your level of trust…
How is your trust level today?
Now, since it’s sometimes difficult to answer an open-ended question like that, let’s try putting some numbers to all this.
Based on your level of trust today, give yourself a number that measures your trust level. Below are two examples of the extremes – which means, most people won’t answer this question with a 1 or a 10…
- If you’d say – “I feel very trusting today” – with a high level of trust in yourself, your environment, your current circumstances, etc. – then give yourself a “10”.
- If you’d say – “I feel very little trust today” – with a low level of trust in yourself, your environment, your current circumstances, etc. – then give yourself a “1”.
So, what number would you assign to your trust level today?
Now, here’s a follow-up assignment in our Trust Level Quiz…
Take a piece of paper and pen/pencil, and make two columns. On the left side – write at the top – TODAY – I HAVE VERY LITTLE FAITH/TRUST IN... Now, take your time and list those people, situations, and/or circumstances that are your biggest concerns where trust is very low or non-existent.
Now on the right side – write at the top – TODAY – I HAVE A GREAT AMOUNT OF FAITH/TRUST IN… Now, ponder a bit and then list those people, situations, and/or circumstances that are totally (or very near) being trustworthy right now.
Take your time and give yourself a lot of grace as you write your answers. Oh, and I’m assuming if your score on our Trust Level Quiz was a high number, your list on the right will be larger than the list on the left. And, if your score was low, I’m assuming that list on the left will be pretty full as compared to what you wrote on the right side. Correct?
Now, back to our original question – WHY IS FAITH IMPORTANT?
You see, while our Trust Level Quiz is not scientific by any means, it can give you a fairly good indicator of how high or low your ability is in choosing to have faith or belief (i.e., trust) in something or someone today. And with the second part, it now gives you some of the reasons your score is what it is.
And as we said earlier, your ability (or inability) in choosing trust (having faith/belief) is a key factor in your being fully human. In other words, when your trust levels are low, life becomes harder. Over time, a person running on low levels of trust becomes unhealthy in so many ways. Often our bodies suffer, our relationships suffer, we become bitter, angry, sarcastic, and yes, jaded and cynical – sometimes to the degree that a dark depression can set in, resulting, at times, in thoughts of death, darkness, and suicide.
In other words, faith (or the ability to trust) is a core building block in our human condition, and without it, things like hopelessness, despair, anxiety, fear, shame, and anger are just waiting to join our pity party, leaving us isolated and alone – stewing in our pot of forgotten self. Yet, on the other hand, when our trust levels are higher, you and I will tend to experience more hope, peace, love, joy, happiness, inner freedom and life fulfillment. And, in a world that can seem kinda dark and depressing at times, I believe we want to choose the latter, don’t you?
One Final Thought…
I’m sure you’re not surprised that this scenario leads me to – where else? – the wonderfully-transparent story of one very honest man who openly revealed his “trust levels” when encountering Jesus of Nazareth. The story appears in Mark’s Gospel – Chapter 9 – verses 14-29.
We don’t know his name, but we do know that this man was a loving father with a child who had been sick for a very long time. Looking for help from anyone he could find, but being let down more times than not, the man finally found Jesus – who was a traveling rabbi with a growing reputation for healing. When asked what he wanted, the man replied with the obvious answer, “If you can help us, please heal my son.” Jesus, who apparently knew what the problem was, and was fully prepared to fix it, pushed back just a bit, asking tongue-in-cheek, “If I can? Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Now, as I see it, this one sentence that’s been assigned in Scripture to Jesus, has, sadly, become the preaching point that so many pastors have used over the years to make folks like you and me feel really guilty about having such little faith or trust. You might be one of those who has been on the receiving end of a pointed sermon like that.
So, today, I set you free from that doctrinal nonsense that tells you that you MUST believe, you MUST have faith, and/or you MUST adhere to all doctrinal statements of the church in order to be received by Jesus of Nazareth.
Today, I encourage you, instead, to be more like the honest man who simply had a mixture of trust levels in his life. In my view, this man, today, in taking our Trust Level Quiz might score a 4, 5, or 6, because here’s his honest response to Jesus, as recorded in the Scripture…
Mark 9: 24 – Instantly the father of the child exclaimed, “I do trust — help my lack of trust!”
Wow. Not exactly a man of great faith & trust, don’t you think?
Yet, in the text, we find that Jesus apparently failed to correct this man’s low trust levels, and He simply went ahead and answered the man’s request – Jesus healed his son. No preaching. No shaming. No offering plates. No ‘repent or burn.’ Just a work of healing – not based on faith levels but on the mercy & goodness of God.
Hmm. Interesting, isn’t it?
Maybe, for you, today, it’s enough to simply be more aware of your trust levels. My job here is not to convince you of anything, nor push you toward any religious belief. My goal is to simply invite you to regularly check your trust levels. Be honest. Be sincere. Believe where you can and let go of areas, as best you can, where your can’t have faith. As I see it, Jesus of Nazareth isn’t looking for perfect scores – but simple, honest confessions.
My prayer is that in your honest evaluations of faith & trust, the God of all peace, hope, and love will meet you there and join with you in your life’s journey!
If you would like more conversations surrounding this subject, feel free to drop me an email.
In faith and trust…