Thursday, March 17, 2016


We already looked at how and why faith is foolish - not because it dares to believe but because it knows. It knows truth. It knows promise. It knows God. It knows self. And at some point, all this knowing brings faith around to full foolishness.

But even the foolishness of faith is not blind.

There's a story in the book of Daniel that many persons turn to when they think about what hard-core faith really looks like. It's not actually Daniel's story, but the story of his three friends - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The king is highly upset with them and intends to throw them into a blazing furnace and kill them all. Because of their firmness on the issue of worshiping only their one, true God (and not worshiping the king), his anger is stirred all the further, and he increases the heat in the furnace seven times.

In what were to be their last words before their inevitable deaths, the three make this powerful statement of faith:

We know our God is able to save us. But even if he does not....

When we read this, it sounds to most of us like an incredible statement of faith, albeit blind faith. It sounds like they're creating a bit of an "out" for their God. He's capable, sure, but He might not be willing. Or He might not be interested. Or He might not get here in time. Or.... It sounds like the three friends are setting it up so that God cannot possibly fail. He's capable, but He still might not do it, and this does not change the fundamental nature of their God.

That's the way a lot of us live in faith, isn't it? God is absolutely capable. He truly can. But He might not. And if He doesn't, well...we talk about the possibility that He won't in such a way that it doesn't really make Him not God any more, doesn't make Him not who He says He is. It just means He decided not to do it this time.

It's theologically tough. And very disappointing.

Faith simply doesn't talk like this. Faithfulness talks like this, but faith doesn't.

That's such a subtle disconnect of ideas; many of you may be saying, "Is there a difference between faith and faithfulness?" Yes, there is. Faithfulness lives according to the Word of God even when it's not entirely specific. Faithfulness lives according to the knowledge that God is a certain thing, that some things are in His character or nature and He acts in accordance with His nature. Faithfulness is very specific on the human side, but non-specific on the God side. It deals in generalities.

For example, faithfulness knows that God is loving and lives accordingly. It knows that God is just, and trusts in that. It knows that God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and it adjusts its own life to match those traits. Faithfulness believes in the fundamental nature of God, and it lives in light of that knowledge.

Faith, on the other hand, is specific on both the human side and the God side. Faith rests on faithfulness, on knowing the true nature/character of God, but it goes one step further and takes Him at His - specific - Word. Faith jumps because God said to jump. Faith walks because God said to walk. Faith trusts because God said to trust. Faith forgives because God said to forgive. Faith stands on the precipice of fear (as we saw yesterday) and chooses faith, for no other reason than that that is what God has called faith to do.

So going back to our story of Daniel's friends, what we see as they enter the fiery furnace is not faith, but faithfulness. God has not said He's going to save them. He hasn't advised them to walk into the furnace for His glory. They are making a statement based on His character, on His very nature, on all the things that they know God, in a general way, to be. That is why they say, But even if He does not.... Because they know what they have just declared about God is His nature, but not His Word.

Faithfulness, then, is never foolish. It can't be. Faithfulness chooses on only one set of truth propositions. The only thing that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew, standing on the edge of that furnace, was that if they walked in, they would be burned. That's the only 'given' in the equation, for God has not made a promise otherwise. His nature leaves the door open for the miraculous to happen, but faithfulness doesn't choose in hope of the miraculous. Faithfulness chooses in accord with God's character and what God's character requires of us, not what it suggests of Him. It's not foolish.

Faith, however, is frequently foolish. For Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, faith would be stepping into the fire with the direct assurance of God's Word that He would save them from it. Why is this foolish? Because it is choosing the improbable over the definite. If they walk into the fire, it will surely burn them. They will surely die. No one walks into a furnace lit even once and lives, let alone walking into a furnace seven times hotter. But if God tells them that He will rescue them, and they believe that, they have chosen what cannot be known over what is certain. That's foolishness.

And that is the choice that faith gives us. Nearly every time. So the question is: can you do it? Can you choose the improbable over the given? Can you take God at His Word and live in faith?

That's the call.

Make your move. 

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