Sunday, November 30, 2014

Faith: Desire to Know and Obey the Will of God

I work in emergency medicine and often interact with families dealing with end-of-life issues.  Sometimes a patient will come to the hospital in the process of dying.  The process of dying may be delayed temporarily by use of a mechanical ventillator and other medicines and technologies.  Sometimes family members of the dying patient may be reluctant to allow the natural process of dying to finish its course and withdraw care because they see it as giving up and exhibiting a lack of faith.  In a few cases family members have expeessed a well-meaning but misunderstood definition of faith by telling me that "if I can just believe enough, God will heal them".

One way Satan has erroded faith in the world is to change the definition of words. Even the definition of faith has been altered.  While the truth of God sits squarely in the middle, Satan seeks to divert us to one extreme or the other.

When it comes to the modern misunderstanding of faith, this essential concept has taken on two extreme and incorrect characterizations. The first mischaracterization of faith is "blind obedience".  According to this  extreme, the believer may ask questions but shouldn't expect any satisfying answers. The faithful are completely submissive and dependent on church authority. In a way, this kind of faith is more of a spiritual Ophelia Complex (see Hamlet). 

The second extreme, faith is ill-defined as our strength of will. If we just believe in or desire something hard enough then our desire and strength of will can make it happen.  The tendency of mankind to stray to the extremes was also taught by Aristotle in his concept of the "Golden Mean."

The true definition of faith has nothing to do with being blind or satisfying our own will.  The true definition of faith is a desire to know and be obedient to God's will even if we do not yet understand the reasons.  Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge but it "the substace of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen."

Reason follows revelation and believing is seeing.  Both an atheist and a creationist can look at the beauty of creation and the calibration of the Universe and come to different conclusions about who is responsible.  The atheist's opinions will never change until they experience God for themselves.  Only after a person has had a personal experience with God, will they then be able to see and interpret the data in a new light.  They will interpret the world through the lens of a testimony of the reality of the existence of God.  Faith does not cast out reason. But with a knowlege of God, higher reasons and a higher reality appear.

True faith has nothing to do with the strength of our belief in ourselves or the force of our own will.  Our will, no matter how strong, cannot change the will or truth of God or coerces God to act according to our desires.  Instead, true faith is humility to subordinate and accept Gods will whatever it is. 

Furthermore, true faith is the desire and motivation to know and do the will of God even when we may not be given the reason at first.  God can reveal His will even before revealing the exact reason why.  Knowing Gods will before the reason This tests whether we love Him or not. In the pre-mortal existence, we lived with God and the reasons for everything were continually before us. Reason obliged many to believe. In this life, the will of God is revealed before the reason to seperate out the fair-weather fans from those truely love God and His truth.

The key to faith is to obey even when our knowlege of that principle or commandment is not perfect.  That is, like Adam in the Garden of Eden, he was commanded to offer sacrifice even before knowing why he was commanded to do it.  When Adam was asked why he offered sacrifice, Adam gave one of the greatest expressions of faith, "I know not save the Lord commanded me" (Moses 5:6).   Adam didn't require a reason before he obeyed.  Adam's faith was not blind either. It was enough to know that offering sacrifice was the will of God.  After the trial of Adam's faith, the reason was revealed.  Jesus Christ taught the same principle of faith and obedience: "if any man will do His will, he will know of the doctrine, whether it is of God or I speak of myself" (John 7:27).  

Recognizing that there is a God, even a desire to know the will of God changes everything about how we see and interpret the world around us.  People of faith do not ignore the data and the facts or deny reason.  Instead, believers interpret facts according to God's reasons, according to our knowlege of the will of God, and according to the potential eternal life and exaltation of all of God's children.

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