"Uniting Christian & Jewish Clergy from Around the World"
Building a strong Christian Faith
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His Might.” (Eph. 5:10)
The recent passing of Chuck Colson to his final reward brings to mind a lot of memories and thoughts as I had some association with Prison Fellowship in the past. Fred Barnes of The National Standard wrote of Colson as presenting a “muscular Christianity” to the world. Certainly this ex-marine and political hatchet man did present a tender but tough image of living the life of a Christian. In the world we are living to live a muscular Christianity takes dedication, commitment and a whole hearted passion to emulate within the truth, “Christ in us, the hope of glory.”
But how does one build a strong faith? Isn’t enough to be “born again”? Surely just being a member of a church and saying I am a Christian is enough, isn’t it?
The apostle Paul uses several metaphors for the development of the Christian faith and the strengthening that is required by God. He compares faith to a race that is a marathon and not a dash. He speaks about pummeling his body as an athlete in training would so that it does the work that the person wants it to and not of its own wishes.
Jesus repeatedly exhorts his disciples to be strong in their faith as they face the animosity of a sinful world that seeks to destroy and diminish faith.
In our present day world there are people dying for their faith in Africa, China and other parts of the world. These outright attempts to exterminate the faith in those countries had been met with strong resistance by the faithful. In western cultures attacks on the faithful are not so much physical as attacks on the belief system of those claiming the grace of God through Christ. These attacks have caused Christians to ignore the attack, circle the wagons defensively or collapse and surrender. As the vibrancy of a living faith becomes diminished people begin to understand that the faith we proclaim isn’t really a faith worth defending.
The first faith building is to understand that “while we were sinners, Christ died for us” and rose to new glorious life of faith. So to the Christian is called to “die daily” in order to be renewed by the Spirit of God. We are to die to the temptations of the world that would lead astray and be raised to a new level of belief. The Christian faith is perfected by the overcoming of troubles in a manner that glorifies God.
The second exercise for faith building is simply to endeavor to understand the Scriptures. It is not someone pounding on a Bible and saying “Thus says the Lord” that builds faith. Rather it is individuals reading and seeking to understand the Word through the guidance of the Holy Spirit that will bring a new power in the believer’s life. How often did Jesus chide the scribes and scholars as they parroted their understanding of Scripture? Man is not made for the Scripture but rather the Scriptures are given for man to live in faith. People spend hours in the gym as well as in other exercise activities to keep physically fit. It is imperative for the Christian to spend hours in study and meditation on the Scriptures to maintain a strong faith.
The next exercise is to remove faith from a Sunday-go-to Meeting practice to a practice of everyday life. Faith to be strong must be exercised. One can only exercise his or her faith by living in accordance to that faith. This may mean taking stands that are unpopular, straining to maintain a Christian identity in the midst of an anti-Christian culture and saying no when the world seeks to conform one into its image and not the image of God in Christ. The Church is often told that it should not take stands on moral issues that are contrary to popular thought but Jesus often stood up to the status quo and castigated them for their sin. The phrase “If you were really Christian then you would…” is really an excuse to remove the sting of rebuke that when issued in love shows the wrongness of the issue.
The fourth and penultimate exercise, at least for this newsletter, is prayer and praise. Together these bolster the heart and help renew the spirit within man. Prayer is serious conversation with God. Praise is the heartfelt glorifying of God made strongest by the lives we lead. It is a praise that helps focus on God as well as on our fellow persons.
Lastly, is the exercise of total surrender to God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit who moves into the soul, cleanses and purifies in order to bring the holiness of God so that we might be one in body, mind and spirit with our Creator.
There is no better time than the present to begin our faith exercise program and to develop the life that God has fully promised to all who are His children.