I recently had the privilege of reading the faith chapter of the Bible, Hebrews 11:1-40. It tells about the faith of so many great characters listed throughout the Bible: Abraham, Jacob and Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, David and the children in the fiery furnace -- now, that's an impressive group!
Obviously, the central message of the chapter is found in its first verse, which says about faith, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (NKJB)."
When I googled the meaning of faith, its meaning was tinged with political overtones, but it basically said "complete trust or confidence in someone or something" or "a strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based upon spiritual apprehension rather than proof." Those are interesting definitions.
A more careful study of the biblical scriptures takes us to the great hymn of faith written by John H. Sammis sometime during his lifetime (1846-1919) with the music written later by Daniel B. Towner (1850-1919) in 1886. No one knows for sure which Bible verses inspired Sammis to write this song, but it has been suggested that maybe it was I John 1:7 or I Samuel 15:22. Both tend to focus upon "obedience" rather than simple adherence to either a person -- e.g. Jesus -- or a goal -- e.g. biblical teachings.
Sammis wrote in verse one, "When we walk with the Lord, In the light of His Word, What a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will, He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there's no other way, To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey." As many have affirmed throughout the centuries, I also would like to affirm that to "Trust and Obey" is at the heart of biblical FAITH.
Certainly, all a person has to do is to look at the examples of faith provided by the author of the book of Hebrews. Yes, they were great leaders who made significant choices that have affected religious people throughout the years, but their greatness does not lie with what they accomplished; it was with their decision to follow God even though the direction before them was fuzzy and blurred, and knowing deep down in their hearts that walking with God was better than anything else the world had to offer.
I know there are a lot of people in the world today who have a lot of difficulty accepting all of the Bible as God's revelation to mankind, and even accepting the many theological interpretations of what those revelations might mean or not mean. If a person has never read the New Testament, just reading the Old Testament could easily lead to migraine headaches and a diversion from any kind of faith in God. I think there is a greater struggle for religious authenticity today than at any time I can remember. Having a simple faith in God that accepts the Bible as the plenary, inerrant and complete truth leads to a contented life; but inquiring into what all of this means creates religious curiosity and too often confusion.
As the Google definition suggests, having faith is more than just religious thinking. Most of the time, it refers to our allegiance to either a person or goal rooted in our political experience. John F. Kennedy boldly suggested, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country," and a country responded. In one church I pastored, I naively suggested that the Christian flag on the speaker's platform in church was stronger than the American flag and should be placed at the speaker's right hand (or, if the speaker was on the floor with the people, the American flag should be on the speaker's right hand). The response was not good, for too many people demanded that the American flag must always be at the speaker's right hand no matter what. I would never denigrate against the American flag, but I will always proudly claim that God is stronger and more important than any country.
I would further suggest that whatever person you are following, whatever goal you aspire to, or whatever conviction motivates you into action serves as the head of your religious fervor and hierarchy -- dare I say, whatever rules your life is your god. As humans, we are going to place our faith in something and "trust and obey" its direction. I am just suggesting that maybe we should place our faith in someone who came from God, taught love and forgiveness, and died rather than give in to the evil men and practices of his day so that others might lead a good life, especially since he had the power to overcome death and to return to bless his followers. Or, to put it biblically in the words of Joshua as he stood before all of the evil and misdirected people of his time, and boldly declared, "But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15)." For me, it is better to have faith in the God who came to earth and revealed the way of salvation than to follow the lesser gods of our time.
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Robert Box has been a law enforcement chaplain for 30 years. He is a master-level chaplain with the International Conference of Police Chaplains and is an endorsed chaplain with the American Baptist Churches USA. He also currently serves as a deputy sheriff chaplain for the Benton County Sheriff's Office. Opinions expressed in the article are the opinions of the author and not the agencies he serves.