Thursday, March 11, 2010


I remember a poster I had in my bedroom my last year of high school, just after I became a Christian. If I remember right, half of the poster was yellow with black foot prints coming down it. Then at the bottom, one of the foot prints stepped off the yellow side into the black side (that foot print was white on the black background). The caption read, "Faith is walking to the edge of all the light you have and taking one more step." The word "step" was also the only word on the black side.

I tried hard to find that poster on line, but either it has been thrown into the dust-bin of the Jesus People or no one has bothered to upload it.

I've been thinking a lot about Faith this week. The reason is, our Bible study is on Hebrews chapter eleven tonight and I'm leading it. I used to have that chapter memorized . . . now I can only recall the first few verses by heart.

As I've mediated on "Faith" I have this gut feeling, like with so many other things, that I had seriously mis-understood its meaning years ago.

When I was a young Christian, the word "Faith" was a tool of manipulation. Your leader got you to do all kinds of crazy things for him . . . with the challenge "Are you a man of faith" or "Are you faithful?" The worst insult your leader could throw at you (if you didn't do what he wanted) was, "You have no faith." That was much worse than being told as young man, "You are penis-less."

The example I remember most was when our missionary boss saw me in Colorado Springs . . . just before our departure. I was married and had two young boys and one on the way. He told me, "I would really like for you to come and work in the Middle East as a single man." I was blown away and totally confused. However, this man was considered a giant in the Navigators.

I didn't know what meant. Did he want me to divorce my wife?

I remember as clear as it was yesterday when I told him that I could not obey him in this matter, that I had to bring my family (whom I loved dearly). "Curt," I said. "I can't come without my family."

We were in a breakfast buffet line at the Nav headquarters. He smiled. He paid for his breakfast and looked up at me. "Okay. Do as you have the faith to do. Those with little faith do little things." Then he walked away.

So, and this thought is nowhere near completion, I wonder what is Biblical faith and how has "faith" become a tool for manipulating others?

I may be back if I figure out the difference. Maybe you already know and you can enlighten us all.


Recovering Alumni said...

Wow. That is just flat-out toxic control, manipulation and an incredible distortion of the heart of God. I can't believe he said that to you!!

Justin said...

I will take a stab at answering the first question...I'll leave it to everyone's experiences to answer the second part.

And He said to them, "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you."

I would be lying to say I have moved a mountain. However, I have seen first-hand one removed nearly completely. What kind of faith is needed to move mountains? Faith that picks up a shovel and scoops the first load of dirt. Faith that picks up the first stone and carries it away. Hardly a mountain, now. Well after 100 shovelfuls, or a thousand rocks, a significant chunk of that mountain is removed. The faith required is that which continually takes one more scoop, or one more rock, away. Before you know it, possibly after a great period of time, that mountain is gone, moved elsewhere.

I remember, for a certain job, each day I drove past a large cliff which rose hundreds of feet above the roadway. Eventually, I began to see men and machines at the top, working. Gradually over the next 18 or so months, that mountain was dug and hauled away. Millions of cubic yards of dirt and rock were taken. What sits in its place? A new hotel. Surely those men who just moved a mountain didn't need faith, did they? They had machines, not faith, right? Well, for 18 months, each one had to come to work in the cold winter and the hot summer to move their next few scoops of dirt, no matter what machine they used. Isn't that faith?

Jeff said...

This is always the danger of religion, as the atheists will be quick to point out. Because you're so emotionally charged and have a real desire to do what is right, you become open to such manipulation.

abmo said...

Hi MJ, yes what Curt told you was flat-out manipulation. I think it's easy to use faith as a measuring stick especially when you need people to do, what you want them to do. I don't believe it is possible to measure faith. The question that haunts me, is when Jesus said: "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?"

moxie said...

It sounds like your missionary boss was asking you to do something HE desired for you. But God wouldn't lead you to divorce your wife to become a missionary. It's a matter of discernment... if I feel led to go move a mountain, then faith comes into play. But if another person tells me I should go move a mountain, I have to discern if it's really of God first. That can be especially difficult if that person is a spiritual leader.

It's similar to prosperity gospel... sure, the man on tv says that I need to send him $$$ as seed-faith, but do I really feel led by God to do so? Is that the kind of faith God requires? Or is it something more action oriented? Or intangible? Or all of the above?

No answers here yet... but it's good to chew on. :)

MJ said...

Sorry about using my missionary experience again. That all happened a long time ago. But my own experiences are my best source for illustrations of points. In this case, one way that "Faith" is misused or misunderstood.

After reading and meditating on Hebrews 11, "Faith" seems to mean, a full trust in something that has been guaranteed by God. So Abraham we out and did things because God had said to him (and I suggest it was in a very profound way, not a funny feeling in his gut or an emotional church service).

Maybe this is what Justin is talking about. Your story reminded me of some road construction near my house. It too involved the removal of a large hill. At first it made no sense what they were doing. A deep hole dug here and there then filled in etc. This went on for weeks. Then step by step the top of the hill started to come off.

But the workers couldn't carry on their work if they had not seen the engineering drawings of the final outcome.

So maybe this is what true faith is. A confidence and trust in what God has said will happen. But we can put words in God's mouth. Then disappointment will be severe. We can't say, "God promised me that aunt Betty's cancer would be healed" and then it is not . . . even though we believed it would with great "faith."