July 31, 2012
This issue of Sage Commentary is dedicated to the memory of Emma Lee Mashburn, on her 80th birthday, July 31. A lovely, loving and compassionate woman, Lee Mashburn’s gentle hand and generous heart touched many lives in many parts of the world. This humble writer was blessed to love her as my wife for more than 61 years, and was richly blessed to have known and loved this lovely girl and woman, and to be loved by her, for more than 62 years, when she was called to her eternal rest and peace on May 15, 2009.
Faith Divinely Woven From Belief and Trust in God’s Promises
By Donald G. Mashburn
We can look back to the past and analyze it for meaning. We can ponder the present, if we aren’t too busy. But none of us can know where we will be tomorrow, or what tomorrow holds. The best we can do is to know the One who holds all our tomorrows, and all things that for us are to be. The ability to ponder and analyze given to us by our Creator helps us accumulate the ingredients of a complex thing we don’t understand, can’t accurately describe, or write a formula for. It’s that thing called Hope. Hope is not something that just happens. Yet it does seem that we all have within us the thing we call “hope.” It is true, also, that some people can get into the “hope mode” more easily than others. Still, we don’t just wake up on a given day and say, “Today, I’m full of hope,” or “I’m going to hope no matter what.”
Belief is even more complex than hope, as are, in most contexts, trust and faith. We use these terms too casually at times, often as a self-psyching slogan rather than as an inner conviction built on a foundation of belief or faith.
Belief, hope, and faith are so interwoven it’s hard to say which comes first, or how we get from one to the other. Someone has said that it’s possible to hope without faith, but it’s not possible to have faith without hope. I’m not sure the author of that comment was speaking of the same kind of hope King David referred to, when he wrote in Psalm 31:24, “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the lord.”
David’s words in Psalm 31:24 seem to put hope in the same category as “have believed,” or “have trusted in,” or “have placed their faith” in the Lord. Thus, we see that in many contexts the terms become interchangeable. Indeed, in the English language and other languages the context of words plays an important role in how we understand the meaning they convey.
Examples are faith as used in Christian faith, and the grace extended to those who “hope in the Lord” (as David put it). On reflection, it seems to me that faith is woven from the multiple threads of belief, trust, and promise.
Any fabric is woven of warp and weft threads, and which is most important depends on one’s point of view. The warp threads are the strongest, as they must be because they are the longest and are stretched the tightest. The weft threads are the cross-threads that convert many individual threads into woven fabric. The weft adds special qualities of finish, texture, color and strength to the finished fabric.
In considering what transforms a sinner, condemned to eternal punishment and separation from God, into a Christian, a “child of God,” we can’t get away from the word Faith. And when we look into faith, we can’t avoid the words Belief and Trust. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, we are given a definition and several examples of faith. Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” The same chapter also speaks of the solid faith of several Old Testament believers, including Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Moses.
Notice that these were Believers who accepted God’s promise and trusted Him to perform what he said he would do. “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen … prepared an ark” (Heb. 11:7). “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place ….” “By faith Sarah … bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised” (Heb. 11:11).
Noah, Abraham and Sarah, and Moses trusted in God promises. The promises of God became the focal point of their capacity to Believe, a capacity our Creator put within all of us. God’s word teaches that belief is the key to claiming the promises of a generous and loving God, whether the promise is salvation or His promise to lead us in doing His will.
Often said to be the most quoted verse in the New Testament, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (NKJV).
In John 13:1, Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.”
We see that belief in God and His Christ is essential if we as sinners are to be saved by God’s grace, and to claim any of His promises for our lives. We also see that faith is essential to our having a saving relationship with the Lord. Both these points are clearly stated in Hebrews 11:6, which says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is ….”
So if we are to please God, we must have faith. And following the examples of faith given to us in His word, we must believe that He is, believe in His promises, and then act on our Belief and Trust Him, and like Sarah, judge “Him faithful who had promised.”
Belief and Trust (in His Promises) are the warp and weft of the Christian’s fabric of faith. We need only to believe, trust, and obey, and the Master Weaver will do the rest.