Faith is neither static nor instantaneous. It is not something we stumble upon and immediately understand. Neither is faith a one-size-fits-all proposition. In saying this, I am not rejecting the idea of truth and error, but rather acknowledging that faith grows as we grow. The faith that sustains me in my walk as a disciple and in my circumstance may have properties and characteristics that would be wholly inadequate for your walk as a disciple and your circumstance. The faith I embrace may differ substantially both in character and degree from the faith you embrace. Even within the individual, one’s faith today will most likely differ from the faith embraced last week, last month, or last year. Faith grows and morphs over time as our understanding and insight grow.
Carefully consider Paul’s words to the church in Philippi.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. – Philippians 3:12-16, NIV-1984
For the longest time, I wrestled with the meaning of this passage. Obviously, Paul is saying he has not arrived, he is not yet complete. He says all who are mature should hold such a view of themselves. Those who are mature have the healthiest understanding of their immaturity.
Then we come to the puzzle in the last two sentences: If you think differently, God will make it clear to you, but live up to what you have attained. The older I get, the more I have come to believe this passage is describing exactly what I said above, that my faith today is quantifiably different than my faith ten years ago. The key is in the last sentence: “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
I suggest this means we should live in light of our understanding. Be true to what you understand right now. Do not violate your own conscience. You understand things to be a certain way. For the sake of your soul and your walk with Christ, be true to that understanding. Over time, your discernment will grow and mature. Continue to be true to your sincere belief. Live up to the understanding you have attained.
Faith is not a monolithic, one-dimensional, singular entity that has but one face, one color, one fragrance. It is multifaceted, multidimensional, and appears differently depending on one’s angle to the Son.
Victoriously in Christ!
– Adapted from Finding Faith in Slow Motion, Introduction, by Damon J. Gray
Over to you: Where do you struggle with believing your faith is adequate as it stands today?