"Almost all who preach or write on the subject of faith have much the same things to say concerning it. They tell us that it is believing a promise, that it is taking God at His word, that it is reckoning the Bible to be true and stepping out upon it. The rest of the book or sermon is usually taken up with stories of persons who have had their prayers answered as a result of their faith. These answers are mostly direct gifts of a practical and temporal nature such as health, money, physical protection or success in business. Or if the teacher is of a philosophic turn of mind he may take another course and lose us in a welter of metaphysics or snow us under with psychological jargon as he defines and re-defines, paring the slender hair of faith thinner and thinner till it disappears in gossamer shavings at last. When he is finished we get up disappointed and go out `by that same door where in we went.' Surely there must be something better than this." (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God)
As a blogger it is tempting to come up with some long-winded reflection and explanation of faith. As a left-brained engi-nerd I could try and approach the subject with logic. Either effort would fall short in explaining the unexplainable.
So how should we define faith? Even Tozer admits that the Bible really only defines faith in action, not in essence. So that is probably the best place to start- faith in action.
The first three steps of AA can be summed up as I can't, God can, Let him. To overcome addiction or even psychological trauma requires a certain amount of self-awareness. The challenge is distinguishing between self-centeredness and self-awareness. They are not the same thing. Self-centeredness seeks to satisfy itself. Self-awareness on the other hand, is a humble admittance that it cannot satisfy itself. And it takes a leap of faith to jump from the former to the latter.
"Faith is not in itself a meritorious act; the merit is in the One toward Whom it is directed. Faith is a redirecting of our sight, a getting out of the focus of our own vision and getting God into focus. Sin has twisted our vision inward and made it self-regarding. Unbelief has put self where God should be, and is perilously close to the sin of Lucifer who said, `I will set my throne above the throne of God.' Faith looks out instead of in and the whole life falls into line." (ibid)
Once one becomes self-aware, it becomes clear that it is ourselves that get it the way of focusing on Christ as the source of our faith, of our hope, of our love. True recovery cannot happen until this truth is accepted. In the secular world, that faith could be in the therapist, or some "higher power" but so long as that faith is accompanied with the humility to get ourselves out of the way, recovery will be successful.
Tozer links faith with sight, citing the Biblical link of Moses to Jesus. I'm not disagreeing, but I think faith without humility is also impossible. It takes faith, just as it takes humility, to admit that I cannot fill-in-the-blank, but God can. It takes faith, just as it takes humility, to get out of the way and let him.
In our recovery group, we had someone come in who was smoking multiple packs of cigarettes a day. He was trying the patch, but it wasn't working. We pointed out that it was the same problem, just a different delivery. The patch weans you off the physical addiction, but isn't God more powerful than withdrawals? He said he couldn't quit cold turkey. We told him he had to. As we went around and around each other we finally said, "if you believe God can overcome this, then he will. Just pray to him." So he did. He had one more cigarette later that night and then he was done. Humility couldn't do it alone. Humility is what brought him to our group to begin with. Faith could not do it alone, or he could have quit any time. It was the combination of the two that had success.
Do you need faith to overcome some trial in your life right now? Add a dose of humility and see what God can do. It doesn't have to be addiction for this to hold true: You can't, God can, Let him.
This blog is part of a book club reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer. Please join the discussion here and at our hosts, Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter. Need a copy of the book? You can get it for free on Kindle.