the weblog of Alan Knox

Refusing to trust what we think we understand

Posted by on Jun 21, 2011 in discipleship | 7 comments

Refusing to trust what we think we understand

In Scripture, faith is radical trust in God, especially when the outcome is not obvious or even rational. This is the kind of faith that would cause three men to walk into a burning furnace, that would cause a teenager to stand up against a giant warrior, or that would cause many of Jesus’ followers to continue to profess his death, burial, and resurrection while standing before an executioner.

Today, many have reduced faith to a series of statements or a theological doctrine. Christians often trust what they can explain or codify. In other words, they are leaning on their own theological understanding. They create a faith that is reasonable and logical.

Then, based on that faith, they make decisions that are logical, practical, and expedient. The decisions may be big decisions, and the plans may be described as “God-sized,” but the plans are often accomplished with human effort. The fact that these plans succeed (much like a good business plan) convinces many that God has blessed them and approves of their decisions.

Scripture’s faith caused people to place their lives in God’s hand, even when death seemed imminent and apparent, while today’s “faith” exhorts Christians to give a little more, build a bigger organization, stop watching some television programs, or teach a Sunday school class.

Today’s “faith” is a far cry from trusting God with all of our being and leaning on nothing else, not even leaning on those things that we think we understand.

Trusting God does not mean that we do the best we can with what we understand or what we can figure out.

Trusting God means refusing to trust what we think we understand.

But, while this requires a radical trust in God, in Scripture this kind of faith is not radical. No. This kind of faith is the normal faith of the normal Christian.


7 Comments

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  1. 6-21-2011

    What a challenging post. I wonder how often I’ve ventured outside the camp to follow Christ. Discussing and debating doctrine, the structureless structure of the church (not a dig at AOTC, it is the most helpful blog that I read) and asking God to bless my well laid plans is actually very easy and requires little to no faith.

    If I start blogging again, I think I will title it “Outside the Camp” and simply focus on following Christ and recording my struggles to do so.

    11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. -Hebrews 13:11-14

  2. 6-21-2011

    Interesting…and an example of what trusting God looks like today would be…?

  3. 6-21-2011

    Hutch,

    I wouldn’t mind it even if your comment was a “dig” at this blog. I do not consider writing this blog an act of trusting God.

    Pondero,

    I can’t tell you what trusting God would look like in your life. Look at the examples we have in Scripture… they’re all different. I think Hebrews 11 especially shows us examples of people who trusted God even though it didn’t seem logical or rational to do so.

    I guess the question would be (for each of us), what is God calling you to do that doesn’t seem rational (at least from the world’s perspective)?

    -Alan

  4. 6-21-2011

    Alan,

    Thank you for bringing this matter to the fore.

    You state the popular understanding of faith most excellently, “Today, many have reduced faith to a series of statements or a theological doctrine. Christians often trust what they can explain or codify. In other words, they are leaning on their own theological understanding. They create a faith that is reasonable and logical.”

    The faith, of which you speak, is a work of God in us. We cannot generate faith in ourselves!

    Martin Luther wrote, “Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they’re smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools.”

  5. 6-21-2011

    Alan, in response to my question, you said, “I guess the question would be (for each of us), what is God calling you to do that doesn’t seem rational (at least from the world’s perspective)?”

    I agree, but am still struggling to grasp this. So what (hypothetically speaking) might it look like for you (just as an example)?

  6. 6-22-2011

    Aussie John,

    You’re right. We cannot generate faith, we can only respond to what God is doing. And, I think he’s always doing more than we think.

    Pondero,

    I can give you a nonhypothetical in my own life. I came to seminary in 2002 with the intent of getting hired by a church. I was trained for vocational ministry, and I think I would have been good at it. I even had opportunities as several people in our church encouraged me to be their paid senior pastor. However, God told me not to go that route. I followed him, and still don’t know what I’m going to do “when I grow up.” But, I trust that he has something for me. And, if he doesn’t, I trust him anyway.

    -Alan

  7. 6-22-2011

    Great example, Alan, thanks. Stories help me use principles.