I've been thinking about faith often these days. Life leaves me doing so.
Some of it has to do with the unrelenting pressures and stresses we always face here. Some of it comes from noticing how I respond when I'm put to the test as to whether I will trust and believe we matter to God no matter the circumstances, gains or losses.
Here's some realities I've come to understand almost 5 years into this imagine/Northampton adventure:
1. Faith without a steely will to faith is a vapid and limp impostor. Having faith as a religious gesture or duty has no more import than dressing up for church. The will to faith begins the knowing what faith actually is, how it works and what it does in the real world. A sanctified will extends the reach of faith.
2. Faith must be stretched to the breaking point before we really understand its power. To hang in believing anyway reveals the role of the will in choosing despite being at the precipice one step from falling. Willing to faith reveals it's potential for tenacity and courage. Both are very near to the heart of faith's essence.
3. Choosing to believe when the desert stretches as far as the eye can see, or when when a terrifying disaster looms, or when the storm won't abate, initiates all who get there into a freedom only gained by extreme testing. Without it, we can let our faith cool unawares, and assume things are fine and will remain as such.
4. The will to faith unleashes a drive to pray with persisting fervor, and teaches the prayer how to pray from the deep heart. It's called supplication and it gets down to the bone. So much prayer can fall into routine and perfunctory listing things for God until something really needs to happen. Because there is pain or much riding on God's response, we choose to hold onto to him until he sends help or gives a definitive "Not this time." The will is locked like a laser and faith holds the line in step.
5. Faith aligned with a will committed to believing God is really God comes to know him who is worthy of seeking wholeheartedly even when life calms down or smooths out. I suspect what results from the will freely, intentionally allying with faith leads to a person taking on the active identity of a follower of Christ, a disciple on the Kingdom mission assigned to him or her. Volition and belief stir the heart to step it up in picking up our cross, dying to self and going into the mess with our Lord and King. The intensity of faith and will focused opens a door.
6. An engaged will turned toward Christ animates faith beyond being a spiritual position of a person being saved. Yes, we are saved through faith by grace, but that's just the first act of a life turning toward the things of God and away from the things of the passing-away world. It's admission into the fray. By faith, the will begins to see the truth and has a choice to follow or stand in place hoping for blessings, but light difficulties. When the will turns toward Christ and does not look back faith becomes a shield and a weapon. The person is activated to make a real difference with the whole of his or her life, not be a spiritual consumer and feckless spectator. The Kingdom has come and it beckons now.
7. Intimacy with Christ becomes an increasing possibility because faith perceives him ever clearer as it seeks to know his heart and take on his ways. Intimacy with Christ becomes a passion when the will desires to go far into life with him and what he is doing today. Faith apprehends his beauty; the will chooses to align with the example of his servant nature. Faith apprehends and trusts his goodness; the will responds by choosing to believe and act from that trust even if the way forward appears obscured. Faith apprehends Christ is God; the will assents and seeks to make it known in a world gone blind and deaf.
The truth is: ...faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (He.11:1) And without faith it is
impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must
believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (He.11:6) Faith married to will moves mountains, pushes back the darkness, and stubbornly says yes in a world full of no.