A Reflection on Faith
“Come and See” (John 1:39)
Faith is a relationship of trust with Jesus Christ. And that trust is based on God’s promise that in Jesus, you will find your redeemer. He is the one you can trust in for forgiveness. He can and will free us from the haunting spector that our failures and mistakes define who we are: that the shame and guilt of the past will cling to us and that we can’t become new people. He is the one we can trust in to give us new life when we have become weary and downcast: when we discover that seeking out one source of distraction and pleasure after the next in a life of consumption will not bring the lasting fulfillment and happiness we seek. He can be the steady and un challengeable presence we need as a source of strength and comfort when we go through times of great fear – when loved ones get sick, when the finances don’t add up, and when our own heart deteriorates and it feels like life is slipping away. He can be the source of life giving love that enables us to feel safe and secure in the midst of the contingence’s and changes that come overtime. And because his love and life are permanent and unchangeable, he is our assurance that death does not have the last word on life.
It is faith that receives these spiritual blessings and thereby brings renewal and strength into our hearts. And it does that because faith receives these blessing from Jesus himself. He provides us with the love that nothing can separate us from. He provides us with the hope that transcends all worldly threats. He provides us with the grace and healing we need when our hearts are broken. And he does that just by being present in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is in his nature to provide these gifts, and so when he is present through faith, these gifts are ours.
Andrew and the other disciple come to realize this precisely because they spent time with him. He gave himself to them when he said, “Come and See.” And the result was their confession to Peter; “We have found the Messiah.” However, like the love two people freely give one another in a marriage, it happens only if we abide with him. It’s not that Jesus’ love is a reward for abiding with him. It’s that we can only receive it in so far as we do abide with him.
From a practical point of view, this means being present where he promised to be present for us. He is present in the means of grace and worships. He is present in our fellowships and our study of the scripture. He is present when we take time for prayer and devotions. And remember Elijah when it comes to prayer. He found God in the silence, and in the still small voice. And he is present when we are active in service. “When you serve the least of these, you serve me.”
All of this requires the commitment of time. It’s no accident that the less time we take for abiding with Jesus, the less important he becomes to us. But this is a dangerous proposition, and I’m not referring to some punishment in an afterlife. It’s dangerous because life is very unpredictable. We never know when we might find ourselves in great need. Without the presence of him who provides spiritual renewal, forgiveness, and new life, we might find ourselves developing a very negative frame of mind due to burdens we can’t shake on our own.
Consider the burdens the first Christians faced. At one point, Paul said, “Even though my outer nature is wasting away, my inner nature is being renewed every day.” For Paul, aging was not just the deterioration of his body. It was the renewal of his spirit, to the point where he could say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Jesus once said, “He who loves others more than me is not worthy of me.” What this means is that when we seek other things or sources of happiness instead of him, then his redemptive love is being rejected or ignored. In that case, what good can it do us?
Faith receives the presence of Christ into our hearts. And as Luther put it, this results in a great exchange. He takes on our sin, our sadness, our misery, our fear, our anxieties, our pessimistic and dour outlook. In exchange, we receive his grace, forgiveness, love, and new life.
This being the case, faith is a lifelong, endeavor, for the challenges, the difficulties, the setbacks, and the worries don’t stop because we have faith. Life in this world will always be a dicey, preposition for many reasons. However, when through faith, we have Christ in our hearts, nothing the world can dish out will become a mortal threat. For as Paul said in Romans, “There is nothing in all creation” that can separate us from the love of Christ.”
And as Luther might add, “This is most certainly true.”