The Heart of Faith
In this post I’d like to talk about what I believe is the heart of faith. The heart of faith is trust. There is the “head” of faith, or what we believe, but the heart of faith is trust. The head needs the heart, and the heart needs the head. In a future post I’ll talk about the content of faith, about what followers of Jesus believe, especially about Jesus himself – about who he is, and about who he is in relation to the Father and the Holy Spirit. The stuff the Bible says about Jesus – backed up by his own words, actions, death and resurrection – is astounding, and if true, must affect our understanding of pretty much everything else.
But thinking isn’t enough. Believing without trusting is just beliefing.
According to the biblical story lack of trust is our biggest problem. The fruit on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had surely always looked good to Adam and Eve. But it wasn’t until the snake tempted them to mistrust what God had told them about the tree that they ate from it. What the serpent implied was that God’s word couldn’t be trusted, that he was holding them back.
Even the so-called giants of the faith had difficulty trusting God. People like Abraham. God had promised that he’d give Abraham a son, and that from this son would come entire nations. When God didn’t seem to be doing his part, Abraham took things into his own hands (granted, by Sarah’s suggestion) and had sex with his wife’s servant. During times of famine Abraham left the land where God had told him to stay put, and even pawned his wife Sarah off as his sister to foreigners, jeopardizing her safety and the fulfillment of the promise. Instead of trusting God, Abraham deceived people – just like the snake deceived Adam and Eve. Later, Abraham’s grandson Jacob would be a deceiver throughout his life – again, in spite of God’s promise to provide for him and produce kings and nations from his body.
This pattern would repeat itself when Jacob’s descendants became a nation. When Israel traveled through the desert, they repeatedly failed to trust God to meet their physical needs. Instead of trusting him, they grumbled and threatened to go back to Egypt. When they came to the promised land, they didn’t trust God to help them inhabit the land. When he did, instead of trusting God to abundantly bless them, they hedged their bets and turned to other gods.
What’s remarkable is that God kept blessing all these people anyway.
A few weeks ago I read this quote from Martin Schleske’s book, The Sound of Life’s Unspeakable Beauty:
The supreme pattern of Jesus’s life is not made manifest in new wisdom or a new morality – what he offered had long been present. Instead, his life shows us how this knowledge can be put into practice. The “lesson” to be learned from Jesus's life is in his complete trust, which made it clear how much a person who relies on God can achieve. What was Jesus’s theology? Trust alone.
Trust alone. Not trust in trust, but trust in God. That’s how Jesus lived. It was a life of complete faith and trust. Yes, he struggled at times. Even though he knew that his call was to die for the sins of the world and for its ultimate flourishing, he struggled near the end, enough to ask his Father if there was another way. In spite of his ministry seeming to implode – with crowds turning on him and his closest followers betraying, denying and abandoning him – he kept trusting his Father. As the apostle Paul put it, Jesus was “obedient unto death, even death on a cross” – the most cruel, shameful, painful form of execution known in the ancient world. And then on the third day....!
Trust alone. The heart of faith. Trust that expects God to bless. As one pastor put it, “Live with great expectancy, but without rigid expectations.” Life isn’t a cakewalk. That’s why trust is needed and why it's so challenging. Trust is both an act of the will and a confidence that's built over time. It also gives us the strength and courage to do what is ours to do. Last night Sharon and I received the following text from a friend:
Down 25 lbs on Keto. I just realized I've made some really good choices for myself these past 10 years. In 2011 I quit smoking. In 2015 I gave up soda and any carbonated beverages. In 2021 I began my journey to give up sugar and go low carb not just for weight loss but for the physical wellness and cognitive awareness I know is happening in my body. I married, first and foremost, my best friend in 2021. We know one another. We are one another's comfortable pair of shoes. We've been through the fire with one another. We've celebrated life and mourned deaths together. We've been down to nothing, to having a warm, peaceful home that we can be proud of and share with others. We've gone from blaming God for the hard times to realizing that those hard times were just teaching us and preparing us for a future we could not see.
Trust alone. The heart of faith.