Practical Theology: Faith

Originally published Wednesday, 30 January 2013.


The door to my room bursts open. It’s too early for my son to be out of his room for the morning, but he’s motivated by his need for food. “I’m huuuuuuungry, Mom. Will you fix breaaaaaakkkkkkfast?” he whines.

In a half-hearted reply, I mumble “In a minute, Jude.” I’m in the middle of something and really have no intention of getting up immediately to respond to him. He knows his alarm will go off in twenty minutes and then it will be time for me to come to the kitchen. But still, I offer him the false hope of “in a minute.”

Jude has little faith in this answer.

He’s learned, time and time again, that I don’t really mean it. “In a minute” could me twenty minutes, an hour, or not really ever. It’s essentially a blow off. / / CC BY-NC-SA

Having faith in God can be similarly challenging. We may claim to believe God’s promises, but when it comes down to putting our emotions and belief behind them, our actions prove we have little faith in God.

In chapters two and three of Wendy Alsup’s Practical Theology for Women, she examines what faith is and how it works. Alsup begins by examining the disconnect between what Christians claim to believe and how they act.

“What enables one man to face open-heart surgery with calm assurance, while another man’s devastated because his car’s transmission needs to be overhauled?”

Alsup states that as believers, “we expect those who don’t know Christ to react to negative circumstances with fear and worry.” She asks, “But does it fit with our belief system when such reactions characterize those who claim to believe in Christ and trust in his Word?”

What does the Bible say about faith?

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

According to Hebrews 11:6, we are to be certain “He exists” and “He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” This type of belief is different than the false hope I promised my son. Unlike me, God doesn’t have a flaky history. His word and promises have the backing of centuries. He is faithful by definition and this is our reality.  Knowing God exists and rewards our seeking, equips us to have faith that he is who he says he is.

“God must be big in our minds. God needs to be the forefront of our thought processes. He needs to be the first consideration in all of our daily circumstances, not the last resort that we consider after exhausting all other options. Believing in this existence – focusing with trust on his reality – is fundamental to a faith that pleases God.”

What does faith look like?

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

In chapter three, Alsup writes, “God asked very different acts of faith from different Bible characters.” This is a freeing statement for me because it means my relationship with God isn’t formulaic. God knows my heart and my challenges and insecurities and he has crafted unique situations and trials to strengthen me in my weakness.

“Acts of faith, the practical steps that result from confidence in God’s working in our lives, stem from a relationship with God that is real and personal.”

Examining the link between a lack of faith and sin, Alsup points out that God calls our doubt, treacherous. Unfaithfulness is scattered all throughout the Old and New Testament, and it’s never without consequence. Whether we doubt God’s goodness or forget his constant provision, we sin when we fail to have faith.

God has provided us contrast in scripture. We also have clear pictures of the faithful. From the centurion (Mt. 8:10) to the paralytic in Matthew 9:2, Jesus recognized and was pleased by the demonstration of faith. It was belief put to action.

“Many in the church think we demonstrate faith when we say we believe that Jesus is the only way to God or when we verbally claim to trust him for salvation. We may forcefully tell others that God is sovereign, and we believe him to be in control over our lives. We may stand on our soapbox and proclaim Jesus to be the way, the truth, and the life. But how do we respond to trouble? How do we deal with the hardships of life? What good is it if you can verbally defend Christ with the best of believers if your life contradicts your words through anxiety, fear, and worry?”

When I read this for the first time a few years ago, this quote sucker-punched me. You too?

Ask God to reveal areas of your own life that evidence a lack of faith. Ask him to help your unbelief.

Next week we’ll wrap up part one of the book by looking at “Appropriating What You Believe.”