In the first few posts about YouCat, we saw that we have been created to exist in relationship with God, that He’s given us the ability to hear His voice, and He makes the first step towards us. The question is, how do we answer? Simply put, this response is what we call faith. “To respond to God means to believe in Him.” (YouCat 20)
“In many ways God seeks contact with us. In every human encounter, in every moving experience of nature, in every apparent coincidence, in very challenge, every suffering, there is a hidden message from God to us… He addresses us as friends. Therefore we, too, should respond as friends and believe Him, trust Him completely, learn to understand Him better and bettrer, and accept His will without reservation.” -YouCat 20
That’s asking a lot of us: it’s asking us to put ourselves into His hands. And that may, at first, seem quite intmidating, but when you think about it, there are all sorts of situations where we entrust our selves to another person: getting in a car, boat, or airplane; trusting that the cook at a restaurant is cooking us good food and not poison, trusting the doctors who prescribe medication or perform surgeries… in all these cases we entrust a part or all of our life and well-being to the good-nature of another human being. We entrust ourselves to these people because we believe that they, by their own personal qualities or professional qualitifications, are deserving of this trust and would not intentionally do us harm.
Skydivers take this a step further – they literally entrust their lives to the person who packed their parachute: trusting that this person knew what they were doing and packed it properly, to save their life. When they jump, they quite literally put their lives in someone else’s hands.
Faith in God asks the same thing of us- that we take a ‘leap’, and come to know and trust in God’s desire for our good. This is the message God sent through the prophet Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11), and was the message Christ Himself proclaimed “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10.) YouCat explains that faith has seven characteristics:
- Faith is a sheer gift of God (grace): Basically, that we don’t initiate our relationship with God, that He is the one who initiates it. In fact, without the Holy Spirit’s help, we wouldn’t be able to recognize God’s invitation or respond to it.
- Faith needed to get to Heaven – both because it’s something we can’t attain on our own (as a gift), but also because it is never imposed on us. God always respects our freedom, because that sort of love is in His very nature.
- Faith requires free will and clear understanding: basically, God’s not a lawyer. He’s not looking to save or condemn based on technicalities, but He desires to work in our hearts, again in freedom. The parallel in human relationships is married love: we consider a marriage to be invalid if one of the two spouses didn’t understand what they were getting themselves into as they professed their vows. Now no Christian and no married couple can completely understand everything they are accepting in the other on the day they choose the other, but what is free and clear is this choice of the other. God has chosen us in spite of our frailties and failures; He asks us to choose Him wherever that may lead.
- Faith is absolutely certain: more than just believing in His goodness, we trust that God will act as He always has, looking out for our good. We believe in the promises He makes, and trust Him to keep them.
- Faith is incomplete unless it leads to active love. “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But some one will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (James 2:17-18). Mother Teresa was one of the best examples of this, daily going from her knees to the streets of one of the poorest cities of the world showing how her love for Jesus led her to love those around her.
- Faith grows when we listen more and more to God’s Word and enter into a lively exchange with Him. Just like any relationship of love, with time and effort love grows- just look at a couple who has been married for 30, 40, or 50 years. The sacrifices and listening which they have shared by nature help their love to grow deeper and deeper.
- Faith gives us a foretaste of the joy of Heaven. Responding to the love of God can, at times, be difficult. But entering into any relationship of love places demands on the lover and the beloved. G.K. Chesterton said that “Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.” When you bind yourself to another in love (and they bind themselves to you), even though there may be work and sacrifice, there is also a joy and a security in knowing you are loved. The experience of being loved is a taste of what Heaven has to offer us.
The crux of it is this: faith is God is all about relationship. It’s about coming to recognize that God wants to give you good things, whether or not you deserve it. It may begin with a sense of uneasiness, a desire to find something more out of life which leads you to say: “Jesus, I love you, and I want to entrust this life to you.” You’ll discover far more than you will ever give up. There’s a story that Bob Rice tells of a homeless man who, at the urging of his friends, walked into a jewelry store (past a security guard who tried to stop him) and the owner spread out all his finest wares for him. He looked over necklaces, earrings, rings, finally settling on beautiful pearl ring. The owner asked him “How much do you have?” and the man was ashamed, because his friends had given him the impression that the owner would simply give these things away. As he turned to go, the owner said “I didn’t ask if you could afford it, I asked how much you had.” He emptied his pockets: a beer bottle cap, a picture of his ex-wife, some loose change, a ticket stub, and a tissue on which he’d cried. At the site of all this garbage, the owner’s eyes grew wide and said to the man “it’s a deal.” The man was shocked- it was one thing if the owner was giving his jewelry away, but to trade a pearl for his junk… made no sense. That’s the way it is with God. He wants you. He wants to give you good things, without worrying about whatever it is you bring to the table… whether you think it’s worthwhile or not, whether you’re perfect or not- He meets you where you are, as you are. (But loves you too much to leave you there.)
“Someone who believes is seeking a personal union with God and is ready to believe God in everything that He shows (reveals) about Himself.” -YouCat 22
Take the leap – give God a chance to show you the way in which faith can help you to live life in abundance; to see the plans He has for you, and to experience the future full of hope.