Getting all technical
It’s been said before: we
are pedants. An endearing character defect that causes our mates
to roll their eyes heavenward and sigh those deeply meaningful
sighs that can blow out candles at fifteen paces.
Pedants? We say phrases like
‘none is’. We shudder when shops advertise
CD’s. We even know when to use ‘he and
I’, and when ‘him and me’ is
So what! Our friends remind us
we’re in 21st century Noo Zild, not Victorian
England; and please would we lighten up. And in the real world,
among consenting adults, they’ve got a point.
After all, we’ve all endured
deeply devoted spouses telling – and correcting –
some trivial anecdote. ‘There were half-a-dozen of
us...’ ‘Five, dear; Doris stayed home,
remember?’ ‘...and we parked in K Road...’
‘Symonds Street, dear; we always park in Symonds
Street.’ ‘...and we asked this Indian...’
‘Korean, dear.’ And so the story limps on.
Yet, hey! There’s a place
for accuracy. Like, when we use technical terms. Offset or
letterpress. Jersey or Angus. Diesel or petrol. Faith or...
...or what? And when should
‘faith’ be used in a sentence?
Our reason for asking about faith
is a recent conversation with a bunch of believers. The subject
was a Christian organisation which has just committed itself to
the tune of a million-plus dollars.
‘It’s all very
well,’ said one brother, ‘stepping out in faith
– but can the members raise the money?’
Like we said, we’re pedants.
So one of us (probably the good-looking one) said naively:
‘But if it’s a matter of faith, they’ve got no
problem; the money’s as good as there. However, if
it’s merely hope, then they are of all men most miserable,
like the Book says.’
The temperature dropped some ten
degrees Celsius. The room went quiet. Dear salt-of-the-earth
believers stared at us sideways. And someone changed the
But look! (As Kim Hill says:
per-lease!) Faith is a technical term. It’s in the
Bible. It means something. Let’s leave
spin-doctoring to the media, politicians and big business. Faith
seems to be important. Vital, even.
It’s the way the word is
used in religious circles that throws sand in the gearbox. Even
the way it’s not used. Have three examples of use
‘It’s just a
matter of having faith.’
‘We’ve really got
faith for this venture.’
‘Let’s believe God for
If we were cynical (...which, of
course, we’re not...) we’d say that
‘faith’ and ‘belief’ are simply code
words for ‘Hey, I wish...’ or ‘Guys, I’ve
had this neat idea...’
Sure, we all wish. We all have
neat ideas. In the military, it’s called mutiny and there
are procedures for curing it.
How about we reclaim
‘faith’? After all, who d’you think has a
vested interest in turning something powerful into a vaguely
religious cliché? Answer: Ole Red-Eyes.
To get a handle on faith, flip
through a concordance and see the 240 references. (No
concordance? Start reading at Matthew 1 and stop when you reach
Then have a think about this.
Faith (the real variety) is a gift of God; you don’t fake
it, you don’t sweat it. He gives it to you for
Next: faith isn’t something
you frame and hang on the wall. Faith is something you
do. Faith is obedience. (That’s why James
says faith, without works, is deader than the dodo.)
Finally: obedience is, quite
simply, limiting your options. Nice, sensible humans keep their
options open so they can duck here, there and sideways. Believers
– i.e. fanatics who accept that Jesus is Lord –
voluntarily surrender their survival techniques and pare down
their options to just one: God’s way.
Does it take practice? Absolutely.
‘But,’ (you ask) ‘what if I make a
mistake?’ Didn’t you know? God stamps on your
fingers, blacks your eyes, and you get a puncture on the
motorway. Hey – get real! How did you treat your brats when
they were learning to walk? Did you love 'em more than God loves
But know this: we and you are
complicated beasties. We’re three operating systems in one
major package; and as you might have guessed, sometimes our three
systems have different agendas.
System #1: our body. It manages
pretty well all on its ownsome, which is how we find we’re
still here after eight hours of snoring and shut-eye. Okay,
it’s unsophisticated. That’s why babies can be a bit
gross, yelling for tucker, pooing whenever, that style of thing.
So we also have...
System #2: our soul. Now, that
is sophisticated. Mind, will, emotions, intellect.
Capable of controlling (more or less) system #1. It’s the
interface between us and the outside world. It can get pretty
religious. Which leaves...
System #3: our spirit. Now
we’re getting somewhere. This is the interface between us
and God – in fact, if we were to take the Bible at face
value, it is no less than a bit of God Himself (John 3:6;
1 Corinthians 6:17). And the object of the game we call real life
is (inter alia –Latin for ‘this and a whole
bunch of other stuff’) to make system #3 the control
centre. Try it – to make the spirit in charge - and
you’ll understand why Paul goes on about the flesh lusting
against the spirit. Try it, and you’ll stir up a
hornets’ nest, all the naughty character traits that you
prefer to pretend you haven’t got. Try it, and you’ll
find God is actively involved in everything you do and are.
And faith (the real stuff) appears
in system #3. In our spirit. No fanfare of trumpets. Just a quiet
assurance – at least, until system #2, the soul, realises
it’s playing second fiddle, and starts kicking up
bobsy-dah. That’s where the spirit needs to tell the soul
to toe the line.
Everything that has any value can
be summarised in one word: faith. This is why Satan has tried to
make it a nothing-word. This is why the term
‘faith-healer’ is a put-down, even although –
technically and actually – all the
healing miracles in scripture are by faith. Without faith you
haven’t got a snowball’s chance of pleasing God. Any
action that isn’t triggered by faith is just straight
So, experiment. Don’t start
with parting the Red Sea. Even Moses had to work up to that one.
Just follow the Lord’s prompting in simple little things.
Make a note of how they turned out. And – a word of
warning: don’t go round telling folk what you’re up
to. There are enough blokes out there who carry buckets of iced
water to dampen down any enthusiasm before it gets out of hand.