Friday, August 19, 2011

Faith – Same Word, Different Meanings

One of the most frustrating things for me as a pastor occurs when I realize that people are using the same Biblical words but different dictionaries. It happens more often than we realize. And when it does, it can result in true words leading people down a false path.

For instance, tolerance used to mean having patience with people who were wrong. Now it means acknowledging everyone is right. So if I take a passage like 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 or 2 Timothy 2:24-26 and plead with people to be more tolerant, they don’t hear gentleness, humility, and patience toward those who don’t yet know the truth. They hear a call to support and defend alternate lifestyles no matter how bizarre or sinful.

I’m convinced the same thing has happened to the word faith. It no longer means what it used to mean.  Worse, for most people, it conjures up an image that has nothing to do with the Biblical concept of faith.

For instance, most people today (Christians and non-Christians) define Faith as a feeling of optimism and confidence. It means believing we can still win the game even though we’re five runs down with two outs in the ninth. It means planning a three year project even though the doctors have given us two months to live.  It’s the mental gymnastics of positive thinking that rejects all thoughts of defeat.  It's the notion that is you wish hard enough it will come true.

That’s why I like using the word trust whenever possible.  It’s much closer to what Jesus and the apostles had in mind when they talked about faith.  Faith means trusting God no matter what the outcome.  It never means being magically shielded from hardship or defeat if we are optimistic enough. 

Trust is what Job had when all hell broke loose. It’s what Jesus had in the garden. It’s what the ancient prophet Habakkuk had when he penned these powerful words:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength . . . Habakkuk 3:17-19

Isn’t that the kind of faith we need in these challenging times?

No comments: