You know, there’s a big difference between faith and faithfulness. I think, at times, I confuse the two. Two years ago in March I posted, “A Mother’s Musings” on the blog site my sister-in-law, Sandy, set up after the car wreck our family was involved in. It’s also the first blog post I published on Boxx Banter.
In March of 2014 I had things to say, things I wanted others to know or understand, and misconceptions I wanted cleared up. In the months between the collision and that blog post, my Facebook had become filled with comments about my strong faith. That was the biggest misconception I wanted to clear up.
I was bothered by those comments for several reasons. One reason is that I feared people were placing me on some spiritual pedestal I knew I was completely unworthy of, and once there, well, it was only a matter of time before I fell from it in spectacular fashion.
Let me give you an example. Last summer I took Gracen to one of many medical exams. That particular day the doctor had a medical student in tow. During the course of our visit the doctor asked me how Gracen was doing emotionally; how we were all coping with the events that had so drastically changed our lives. Among other things, I commented that humor (dark though it may be) was playing an unexpected role in our recovery. At that point the well-meaning physician interjected something along the lines of, “And faith. Faith has helped you.” While this was true, his comment served as a verbal rebuke. You see, as a fellow believer he knew faith was our anchor. He had an ulterior motive when he asked his question and I failed his test. He wanted a testimony before his shadowing student, and frankly, I missed the cue. Had he said, “I know you are a Christian, has your faith helped you to cope?” or “Have you seen the hand of God in the aftermath of your accident?” he would have received much different response. However, in my own little grief bubble, I didn’t realize his intent. And that quickly I fell from the pedestal he’d erected and as a result set myself up for criticism and judgment – not that he did either of those things. But such is the nature of elevating the faith of any Christian because every single one of us will fail.
But even more worrisome than the exposure of my all too human faults, was the idea that people assumed I had some great faith at all. I felt in failing to correct that misconception, I was sinning by omission. And this is the place where I think my mind blurred the lines between faith and faithfulness.
Faith is being confident of something beyond the reach of total fact.
Faithfulness, on the other hand, is the consistent repetition of an act. People live their lives doing many things faithfully, from the tasks required for their jobs to exercise.
The thing is, a believer can become a Christian (by grace through faith – Ephesians 2:8) without becoming faithful and also without faith becoming an integral part of who they are. Faith can be something we put on and take off in situations we deem appropriate when we continue to feed on the milk of the Word (basic Christian teachings) instead of moving on to the meat of the Word (more challenging Christian doctrines). In other words, if we don’t commit ourselves to learning and growing in our faith, then our faith simply won’t grow to any significant degree.
Quick Sidebar – I love the way these two translations render Ephesians 2:8!
Aramaic Bible in Plain English
For it is by his grace that we have been saved through faith, and this faith was not from you, but it is the gift of God,
GOD’S WORD® Translation
God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God.
Okay, back to business!
When I conceived my first child, I became a mother. However, conception didn’t initially alter the way I thought and behaved. In fact, even after I brought my first daughter home from the hospital, I didn’t think like a mother all the time. One occasion in particular comes to mind; an evening when my husband wasn’t home. I recall thinking, “Ok, after I get the baby to sleep I’ll put a load of wash in then run to Walmart . . . Uh, what am I thinking? I can’t put the baby to bed and run to Walmart!”
It took time for motherhood to become ingrained into my being to the point where every decision I made was filtered through my love for my children and my responsibility as a mother. At that point, I didn’t have to remind myself to think about my children, it became second nature. The more I behaved like a mother, the more motherhood became enmeshed in my daily life, in my very being.
Christianity (faith) works much the same way in a process known in theological terms as “sanctification”. Sanctification is a fancy term that means to be made Christ-like. Sanctification is a three phase process. When a person chooses to accept Christ as their savior, they are deemed “positionally” sanctified, or set apart for a holy purpose. The new believer then embarks upon a process of “progressive” sanctification. Every believer stays in this phase for the remainder of their earthly lives. It is the place where the Holy Spirit in cooperation the believer, changes the believer’s heart, mind, attitudes, motives and behavior in progressive holiness. The final stage is known as “perfected” sanctification which describes what takes place at death or Christ’s return when the believer is actually made fully Christ-like, completely holy.
I became a Christian long ago and while I was positionally sanctified I didn’t automatically starting acting and thinking like Christ.
Faith is an integral part of my life. In many ways it defines me. However, my true nature is that of a sinful human being. Faith is second-nature to me. My first nature, sinfulness, far too often drives me. Yet, I committed to following Christ and over the years the Holy Spirit has been busy. More and more often I find my initial thoughts ruled by Biblical truth. I’ve been changed by God’s unmerited favor with increasing confidence and assurance (faith) that not only does He exist but that I can trust Him to keep His promises.
But regardless of my growing faith, my sin nature can and does lead me away from being faithful to the God I love and believe in. Sometimes I allow human frailties such as fatigue, disappointment, selfishness and anger as an excuse to skip church, quit reading God’s Word, and avoid ministering to others.
I have discovered that I do have a strong faith after all; but that I am less faithful than I expect myself to be. I don’t need Satan to denounce me as a fraud, my own heart and mind taunts me with that truth. However, the same grace that enticed me to faith, is poured from a fountain of unlimited supply.
Men of faith have shown themselves to be completely incapable of maintaining a covenant relationship with God since creation. We have failed to keep our commitments, but God has consistently kept His in spite of our faithlessness. Does God’s grace give me license to sin? Of course not. But His faithfulness, His loving kindness, His gentleness, His mercy and compassion leads Him to fill my cup to overflowing with grace – grace that is greater than all my sins.
I’m not faithless, but I do fail to be faithful. Hearing others say my faith is strong no longer makes me feel like a fraud; in spite of the fact that I am not as faithful as I want to be.
No, I neither lack faith nor do I fail to be faithful. I know this because as much as I’ve wrestled with my beliefs, with God Himself, over the last two years, the foundation of my faith has not been shaken. I continue to seek God faithfully, even if it is little more than trying to understand God and His ways in light of my circumstances. And I think God is teaching me about the fullness of His grace and unconditional love. I am thankful that God is forever faithful even when I’m not.